RIU Palace resort in Cabo San Lucas on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Photo by Clemens Vasters.
Best beach season
Mid November to May are the best months for regular sunshine and calm seas on Mexican beaches, whether it’s the Pacific Coast (west side) or Maya Riviera (east side).
Naturally July-August, Christmas and Easter seasons attract huge numbers of vacationers from both inside and outside the country, but the heat is on as well as overpowering humidity and the storm clouds are gathering. . .
The worst are the hottest and most humid months, August – September, with heavy rain, cloud, and an insect problem too.
However, note that during the winter months trips to higher altitude locations such as Mexico City may be very chilly.
August-November has the possibility of rough seas on the Pacific coast due to storms.
For diving off Baja California August – November is best, with warm, clear water.
Beware the famously boisterous US college Spring Break that happens annually, mostly during March with a handful colleges vacationing in early April. Mexican destinations that suffer (enjoy? ) the youthful madness are Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco. Prices up, tranquility down, but if you’re young and wild then this season could be perfect.
Mexico’s beaches can be divided into three zones:
The Gulf, Maya Riviera, Pacific Coast
Gulf of Mexico
Not a lot of great beaches on this curving, tropical shore, though plenty of oil wells.
The state of Veracruz occupies a large part of the coast and is scattered with still unspoilt towns and archeological sites as this is a less-travelled part of the country.
The state’s best beaches run along the Costa Esmeralda, a 31 mile (50km) strip north of the Veracruz port (5 hours drive from Mexico City). The sand tends to be grey-brown, waters warm and large stretches are devoid of crowds so this is one of the better places in the country to find isolation. Nearby is the UNESCO World Heritage site of El Tajin, a ceremonial center of the Totonacs.
Maya Riviera, Caribbean coast
An unusually low-rise Cancun beach seen from the Fiesta Americana resort. Photo by Serge Melki
Mexico’s most famous beach resort zone on the Riviera Maya, Cancun, is overbuilt but nevertheless home to some superb beach resort hotels, fine white sand beaches, warm shallow waters, cool strong drinks and everything else a tourist might need except real ethnic colour, style or unspoilt serenity.
Puerto Moreles, Excellence Beach. Photo by Tony Hisgett.
A fishing village and small beach resort between Cancun and Playa del Carmen with fine sand, warm water and for a great bonus, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef just 500 meters offshore for snorkelling or diving. . . more
Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen on the Maya Riviera (Caribbean coast). Photo by Haakon Krohn
A cool, casual beach scene with plenty of accommodation (though there’s an increasing imbalance towards huge, all-inclusive hotels these days), excellent bars, restaurants and shops. Although it is very popular Playa del Carmen is reasonably low-key and relaxing.
This is one of the better places in Mexico to buy high quality crafts, especially jewellery.
Playa also has boats to Cozumel island – for world class diving, pricey shopping (catering to cruise ships), a couple of fine beaches and a marine park for swimming with dolphins – at considerable expense.
The Pacific mainland coast from north to south
A vibrant port town, both a transport hub with ferries to Baja California and a beach destination with huge stretches of sand and warm waters, Mazatlan is a popular budget Spring Break destination due to its variety of low-cost accommodation.
Bahia de Matanchen, San Blas
This small and very Mexican fishing village of San Blas (nearish to Tepic)has an excellent town beach, but the best in the area is just 4 km away – Bahia de Matanchen, a broad crescent bay with splendid beaches of prime soft sand and a relaxing atmosphere.
The main drawback is summertime mosquito and sand fly problems.
Between Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco
Puerto Vallarta. Photo by Khayman
The central Pacific Coast has several hundred miles of coastline with fine sandy beaches and excellent facilities. The choices are enormous from international resorts like Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco for monster all-inclusive resorts packed densely, to smaller resorts with local colour such as: Chamela (the prettiest, 165 km south of Puerto Vallarta), Barra de Navidad and Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo. Great activities, fantastic seafood, and lively night life.