The 9 Most Beautiful Beaches in Mexico

Explore the pristine, wildlife-rich waters surrounding Baja and beyond.

Playa Carrizalillo, Mexico

Whether you want the calm waters of Playa Carrizalillo or some surf-worthy waves, Mexico has many beaches worth visiting.

Photo by David Liceaga/Unsplash

With nearly 6,000 miles of coastline along the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific Ocean, and Sea of Cortez, travelers can spend a lifetime of beach frolicking in Mexico and still not dig their toes into every stretch of sand. And while we like to honor the beauty of all beaches, there are, of course, certain ones that turn more heads than others.

From the velvety white sands of the Caribbean coast to the wild, rugged shores of the jungly Pacific, here are nine of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico.

1. Playa Carrizalillo

  • Location: Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
  • Come for: First-time surfing in electrically turquoise water and an energetic mix of resident and tourist

Puerto Escondido in the state of Oaxaca is one of the world’s best surf destinations. But there’s no need to be a pro surfer to enjoy its beauty: The calmer, cove-protected waters of Playa Carrizalillo make it one of Mexico’s most attractive beaches.

Curled around a quiet, turquoise-colored bay, this golden-sand crescent sits at the bottom of more than 150 stone steps. At the base of the steps is a classic Mexico beach scene, where locals and long-time travelers come together for gentle waves (practice catching your first ones with local adventure company the Puerto Experience), palapa-topped beachfront restaurants, and tasty coconut ice cream.

But if something more adventurous is on the list, the Mexico Pipeline—one of the most epic and challenging waves in the world—happens in Puerto Escondido, crashing just offshore of the city’s main beach, Playa Zicatela.

How to get to Playa Carrizalillo

Fly into Puerto Escondido and drive less than 20 minutes to town. The beach is located in the Rinconada neighborhood.

Where to stay

Book now: Villas Carrizalillo

Perched on a jungle-covered hillside overlooking the eponymous beach, this collection of breezy villas has its own private staircase that leads directly to the beach.

Daytime aerial view of Playa Balandra, an iconic beach in La Paz, Baja California Sur

The waters of Playa Balandra are home to fish, turtles, and plenty of other marine life.

Photo by Matt Gush/Shutterstock

2. Playa Balandra

  • Location: La Paz, Baja California Sur
  • Come for: white sands and world-class diving

Try to find a beach more photogenic than Playa Balandra: Its lengthy list of attributes features key beach words like “sugary,” “crystalline,” and “palm-fringed.” Sprawling across a lagoon-style bay, the shallow waters are clear and wreathed in red-rock mountains, creating a lost world landscape that feels far removed from civilization. It’s easy to forget that the state capital is only a 30-minute drive away.

Located along the Baja peninsula, Playa Balandra is also one of the most abundant in wildlife. The Sea of Cortez is world renowned for its diving opportunities—39 percent of the world’s marine life lives in the waters around La Paz—making it a great spot to get a firsthand look at the starfish, stingrays, and other species beneath the surface.

How to get to Playa Balandra

Fly into La Paz and drive 30 minutes north.

Where to stay

With a prime location along La Paz’s Malecon, this historic mansion-turned-boutique hotel has a buzzy Havana-esque style, with fresh, minimalist rooms and a buzzy central bar and restaurant.

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

The UNESCO-recognized Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a protected area in the Mexican Caribbean.

Photo by Cristina Conti/Shutterstock

3. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

  • Location: Punta Allen, Quintana Roo
  • Come for: Pristine, jungle-shrouded beaches and a remote, Robinson Crusoe vibe

Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum have some of the most photographed (and visited) beaches in the world. But for a taste of what Quintana Roo’s coast looked like before the sprawl of all-inclusives and the beat of Coco Bongo, head to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

An hour drive south of Tulum, this protected natural area offers 1.3 million acres of undeveloped jungle, trees and rivers full of wildlife, Mayan ruins, and sublime white-sand beaches. Some beaches are more accessible with the luxury of parking lots, while others are tucked at the end of jungle paths that require the assistance of a guide. Either way, travelers are rewarded with a unique glimpse of Quintana Roo from long ago.

How to get to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

Drive one hour south of Tulum.

Where to stay

Book now: Casa Chable

Hidden within the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, Casa Chable is a barefoot luxury paradise of palapa-topped bungalows with an emphasis on wellness, cuisine, and nature.

View of curving Zihuatanejo Bay, Guerrero

The beaches of Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, have gotten fame thanks to Hollywood films such as the Shawshank Redemption.

Photo by monopaez/Shutterstock

4. Playa Blanca

  • Location: Zihuatanejo, Guerrero
  • Come for: Explosive sunsets and mind-boggling waves

There’s a reason Shawshank Redemption’s protagonist Andy Dufresne wanted his final days to be spent in Zihuatanejo. This fishing village on the Pacific Ocean in the southern state of Guerrero is the image people see when they close their eyes and envision a new life in Mexico. Think barefoot beach restaurants, the sputter of lancha motors, and dusty, sand-splattered streets. Sure, visitors can opt to spend days at one of the many bays and beaches in town, but for the sheer beauty of Zihuatanejo, look to Playa Blanca.

South of the airport, Playa Blanca is a seemingly endless stretch of sand exposed to the thundering Pacific Ocean. The waves here are what surfers’ dreams are made of, and the sunsets are nothing short of extraordinary. There’s a smattering of boutique hotels and villas along the beach, all with exceptional views. Like Andy, sometimes we all feel the need for a fresh start, and this stretch of shoreline may be the place to get yours.

How to get to Playa Blanca

Fly into Zihuatanejo. Playa Blanca is a 10-minute drive south.

Where to stay

This collection of beachfront, boutique villas features spectacular views of Playa Blanca, plus a beautiful pool and restaurant.

An empty hammock near the beach at Costalegre

Luxury stays like Las Alamandas are ideal for those who want time by the coast without sacrificing comfort.

Photo by Cory Bjork/Unsplash

5. Costalegre, Jalisco

  • Location: Between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo
  • Come for: Remote beaches where unmatched luxury meets laid-back living

More than one beach, Costalegre, Jalisco, has an entire coastline that stretches from Puerto Vallarta all the way down to the city of Manzanillo. Over 50,000 acres of the coastline are privately owned among five hotel developer families who have all agreed to keep it protected, meaning the beaches here have been preserved in their raw, rugged, and supremely scenic form.

There is no shortage of beachfront in Costalegre. Visitors usually opt to stay at one of the handful of over-the-top luxury compounds like Careyes, Cuixmala, Las Rosadas, or Las Alamandas, whose properties are peppered with Mediterranean-looking coves and palm-blanketed beaches with more sea turtles than tourists. The 2022-opened Four Seasons Resort Tamarindo, and a second immense community-supporting luxury project called Xala are part of the area’s evolution, both of which will bring better roads and an airport to this part of the country. For now, though, the off-the-radar allure keeps it one of Mexico’s most awe-inspiring sands.

How to get to Costalegre

Fly into Puerto Vallarta and drive south along Highway 200. Or fly into Manzanillo and drive north.

Where to stay

A true private villa experience overlooking a beachfront palm grove on its own private stretch of sand. The entire experience is highly customizable, with a personable staff who make you feel like family.

Sunset over the water at Isla Holbox, Quintana Roo

Small Isla Holbox is on the north side of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

Photo by Nathan Cima/Unsplash

6. Punta Mosquito

  • Location: Isla Holbox, Quintana Roo
  • Come for: A sugar-colored sandbar and Caribbean island energy

Once a rite of passage for backpackers traveling the Mexican Caribbean, Isla Holbox has become one of the hottest addresses in town. This tiny sliver of a sun-bleached island sits off the northern coast of Quintana Roo. Sandy streets are flanked with bright storefronts. Barefooted travelers drive golf carts to get back and forth to their hotels—the island is car-free—and the sound of reggae rises up from the beachfront bars and overwater hammock groves.

Punta Mosquito is a bit of an adventure to get to: Travelers have to walk through the shallow sea to get there. But it’s the ideal place to soak up the sun and swim in the deliciously warm water.

How to get to Punta Mosquito

Fly into Cancun and take an ADO bus to the town of Chiquila. A 15-minute ferry ride shuttles passengers from the mainland to Holbox.

Where to stay

Nomade Holbox is an adults-only oasis with only 30 rooms, including tree-house suites, oceanfront rooms, and glamping tents—all woven into nature and the landscape.

Flamingos in the water at Celestún

More than 300 bird species live in the Ria Celestun Biosphere Reserve, including flamingos.

Photo by Alvaro Rosado/Unsplash

7. Playa Norte Celestun

  • Location: Celestun, Yucatan
  • Come for: Barefoot, beachfront dining and a nearby biosphere reserve with thousands of pink flamingos

The state of Yucatan’s typical claims to fame are the cities of Merida, Valladolid, and the ancient Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá. But the state’s beaches are among the most impressive in Mexico, particularly those in the seaside village of Celestun.

Celestun’s Playa Norte is famous for its powder-soft sand that gently slopes into the Gulf of Mexico. The beachfront is strewn with palapa-topped restaurants, where a toes-in-the-sand experience awaits, along with fresh ceviche, coconut shrimp, and fish tacos. From Celestun, travelers can also hop aboard a water taxi and head into the Ria Celestun Biosphere Reserve, where flocks of thousands of flamingos add a screaming pop of pink to the tropical color palette.

How to get to Celestun

Fly into Merida and take a bus or a taxi about 30 minutes to Celestun.

Where to stay

Celestun is still a destination under the radar for most U.S. tourists. Expect traditional mom-and-pop posadas and boutique hotels. Hotel Gutierrez is family owned and operated with a beachfront restaurant and bar.

 The beach at Mayto, Jalisco

Plan a journey to Playa Mayto for a crowd-free beach experience.

Photo by Alan Serna/Unsplash

8. Playa Mayto

  • Location: Mayto, Jalisco
  • Come for: Uninterrupted nature and an off-the-grid experience

At the end of a long, sandy dirt road sits one of the Mexican Pacific’s best-kept secrets: Mayto. This sprawling beach extends for an impressive seven miles, curving around a cobalt-colored bay, where the only buildings are a couple of small hotels at one end—and that’s it. Waves crash on golden-hued sand, while jungle-covered mountains slowly climb into the distance.

Playa Mayto is perched at the tip of a tiny peninsula, surrounded by tropical forest at the base of the Sierra Madres. The nearest “city” (if you want to call it that) is El Tuito, a farm town with the only gas station and ATM until Puerto Vallarta—so plan accordingly.

How to get to Playa Mayto

Fly into Puerto Vallarta and drive south along Highway 200. At El Tuito, signs will start appearing for Mayto.

Where to stay

Hotel Mayto offers a little something for everyone, with charming hotel rooms or campsites to rent. Amenities include a beachfront restaurant and bar, swimming pool, and small spa.

Zipolite beach at sunrise

Playa Zipolite is a clothing-optional beach that has attracted travelers for decades.

Photo by javarman/Shutterstock

9. Playa Zipolite

  • Location: Zipolite, Oaxaca
  • Come for: A low-key surfer vibe and an artistic, creative energy

Down the long, meandering Oaxacan coastline—about two hours from Puerto Escondido—is the vibey surfer town called Zipolite. What that vibe is exactly is in the eye of the beholder: Zipolite has long been a haven for traveling hippies, many of whom came down in the 1970s in a VW bus and never left. Today it’s slowly catching up to the present, but it’s doing so on its own time and to its own beat.

The beach in Zipolite is bookended with two rocky headlands. In between is a mile-long stretch of beach with hotels, sandy-floored beach bars, and a smattering of palapas. Don’t be surprised if you see a nudist (or several)—Zipolite is one of Mexico’s most famous nudist beaches, and because the village is said to be a powerful vortex of energy, there are many beachgoers responding to the call of the universe.

How to get to Zipolite

Fly into Puerto Escondido and drive south (or Huatulco and drive north) along Highway 200. Turn off of Highway 200 onto Highway 175, which runs through Zipolite.

Where to stay

At the very end of Playa Zipolite is the funky, bohemian El Alquimista, known for its bungalow-style cabins, beachfront bar, and yoga-by-the-sea program.

Meagan Drillinger is a travel writer and Mexico expert who lives on the road full-time.
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR