The Best Beach Destinations in Mexico

There’s a reason why Mexico’s beaches are among the world’s most desired travel destinations. From its sparkling Caribbean waters to its rugged and untamed Pacific coastline, Mexico’s beaches are something special. From world-famous destinations like Cancun to hidden gems like Chacahua, there are no shortage of tropical getaways to choose from. If you’re trying to decide where to escape to this winter, these are some of the best beach destinations in Mexico.

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Isla Holbox, Quintana Roo

Isla Holbox Mexico

For some pristine coastline and wildlife, Isla Holbox is a destination that can’t be beat. It’s popular among travelers during whale shark season, but outside this season, it’s relatively quiet and less crowded. As the name suggests, it is an island so you will have to hop on a boat to get here. Luckily, departures are pretty frequent, and it isn’t too far from the more popular travel destinations like Cancun and Merida.

For my fellow backpackers, Tribu Hostel is an excellent hostel that can’t be beat. It’s a great home base that organizes everything from yoga classes to activities. Things to do on Isla Holbox include swimming with the whale sharks, kayaking through the mangroves, or just simply lounging along the white sand while the turquoise waters lap at your feet.

Related: The Complete Travel Guide to Isla Holbox

Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

playa carrizalillo

While the Escondido (hidden) part of its name no longer rings true, Puerto Escondido is still a must-visit destination for travelers of all kinds. There’s a reason why this place has become a hotspot among digital nomads and remote workers. The quality of life here is just amazing. Lounging along the beach, maybe catching a wave or two, and then hitting up Puerto Escondido’s sizzling nightlife is just a perfect way to spend your days.

Along Oaxaca’s underrated coastline, Puerto Escondido is quickly becoming a favorite among travelers. It’s also a great home base for exploring the less-frequented beaches of the area, which we’ll get to later. There are a ton of hostels and hotel options to choose from in Puerto Escondido with prices that accommodate to any budget. A few favorites of mine are Vivo Escondido, Selina, and Bonita Escondida. Stay in the La Punta neighborhood if you want trendy restaurants and sizzling nightlife. Otherwise, the Zicatela and Bacocho neighborhoods are quieter, more laid-back areas that are still right along the beach.

The Backpacker’s Guide to Puerto Escondido

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Mazunte, Oaxaca

mazunte travel guide oaxaca mexico

With Puerto Escondido’s recent boom in tourism, Mazunte has received a residual boom as well, and rightfully so. Just an hour from Puerto Escondido, Mazunte is a hippie haven right along the beach. If you want a more laid-back scene than Puerto Escondido’s party people, Mazunte is where it’s at. It’s also home to my favorite sunset spot in Mexico, Punta Cometa. Stay at Cabanas Balamjuyuc for an unbeatable view of the Pacific Ocean, where you can sometimes see whales right from your balcony.

The Backpacker’s Guide to Mazunte

Chacahua, Oaxaca

chacahua surfing oaxaca mexico

As far as barebones beach destinations go, Chacahua might be the best in Mexico. It’s a few hours from Puerto Escondido, and involves a few different forms of transportation to get to, but it is well worth the extra hassle. Don’t expect Wi-Fi or cell signal while you’re out here. This is the escape from reality that you’ve been waiting for. Chacahua is popular among surfers, but it’s gaining popularity among other travelers looking for some peace and quiet. Life is simple here. Get up, watch the sunrise, read a book, go for a swim, catch a few waves, and then hike up to the lighthouse for a stunning sunset. It’s one of the best sunset spots in Mexico, where you can see the mountains of Oaxaca, the jungles, the beautiful laguna, and the vast Pacific Ocean. Don’t miss out on a bioluminescent plankton tour while you’re here. For about 150 pesos, you can hop on a boat and explore the laguna by night, with only the stars and the bioluminescent plankton lighting your way.

The Complete Travel Guide to Chacahua Island

Huatulco, Oaxaca

One of the more developed beach destinations in Oaxaca is Huatulco. It’s got more of the luxury and family resort vibe that resembles Cancun, but along the Pacific Coast instead of the Caribbean. Huatulco isn’t really my style, but it’s hard to deny its appeal to some travelers. Before Puerto Escondido became popular, Huatulco was the convenient entry point to Oaxaca’s beautiful coastline. If you do go to Huatulco, I’d recommend hopping from town to town along Oaxaca’s coast as well.

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Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco

Puerto Vallarta is no secret to travelers. One of the largest cities along Mexico’s Pacific Coast, it’s become a hub for travelers and expats alike. If you just want some sunshine and cervezas, you might find yourself sucked into Puerto Vallarta for much longer than planned. It’s also one of the best places to work remotely in Mexico, which might be why it’s so popular among digital nomads and expats. While most backpackers tend to avoid larger cities, Puerto Vallarta is worth visiting. There are plenty of amazing hostels to choose from in Puerto Vallarta.

Sayulita, Nayarit

Located just an hour north of Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita has become a haven for surfers, nomads, and backpackers. It’s cute, it’s trendy, and it’s on the beach. What more could you ask for? Oh yeah, a lively party scene. Put together young travelers from all over the world and you’ll always have a good party. If you’re looking to meet fellow travelers, there are no shortage of great hostels in Sayulita. While Sayulita might be the most famous of Nayarit’s beaches, there are plenty of lesser-visited beaches and coastal towns further up the coast. 

San Carlos, Sonora

Sonora might be one of the most beautiful and underrated states of Mexico. You never really hear too many international travelers talking about it. San Carlos is perhaps the most popular destination of Sonora, yet it remains a gem to be discovered by international tourists. The landscapes here are beautiful, to go along with the stunning waters of Sonora’s Pacific coastline.

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Los Cabos, Baja California Sur

As tried-and-true of a travel destination as it gets, Cabo is a timeless beach getaway for travelers from all over the world. It is undoubtedly the gem of the Baja California peninsula. The landscapes here are breathtaking, and unlike anything you’ll see elsewhere in Mexico. Cabo is also one of the best party destinations of Mexico.

Mahahual, Quintana Roo

If you truly want to go off the beaten path in Quintana Roo, Mahahual is a relatively barebones beach destination a few hours south of the major tourist hubs. This former fishing village is growing rapidly in popularity, though, so if try to visit sooner rather than later.

Tulum, Quintana Roo

mexico tulum travel guide

Sure, the world-renowned Tulum has become overwhelmed by tourists in recent years. However, it’s still hard to deny its status as a top beach destination. Beyond its white sands and turquoise waters, Tulum has some amazing things to do. The cenotes are otherworldly and the archaeological sites are among the best in Mexico. And of course, if you’re looking to party, few places in Mexico do it quite like Tulum.

I have mixed feelings about Tulum, but I think it’s worth checking out at least once in your life. It isn’t as budget-friendly as other Mexican destinations, but there are still ways to experience Tulum on a budget. You’ll have no shortage of hostels to choose from, like Hostel Che and Mayan Monkey in Tulum pueblo, and then Selina’s branch right along the beach. It’s as trendy of a destination as it gets, for better or for worse. You’ll get your Instagram photo ops, but it’s hard to deny that it’s starting to feel less like Mexico and more like influencer-central.

The Backpacker’s Guide to Tulum

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Cancun, Quintana Roo

Cancun beach

At this point, most people know what to expect from Cancun. If you’re looking for a party, few places do it like Cancun. Sure, it can often feel tacky and inauthentic, but you know what you’re getting yourself into when you come to Cancun. I always stay in Cancun’s city center and not the Zona Hotelera, and that’s still as Mexico as it gets. A short bus ride can take you to and from the beach. That way, you don’t have to shell out hundreds of dollars a night for some beachfront shared with overweight American tourists.

I’ve been to Cancun a couple of times, and can’t deny that I had a good time every time. It’s overpriced and eye-rollingly tacky at times, but dang, does Cancun know how to party.

The Backpacker’s Guide to Cancun

Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo

If you need to escape Cancun for a bit, the nearby Isla Mujeres is your most convenient getaway worth visiting. It is a lot calmer than Cancun, but still has hostels and hotels for all budgets. If you just want some sun and sand without the prices and crowds of Cancun, Isla Mujeres is a great option if you don’t have the time to delve deeper into Mexico’s many offerings.

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Cozumel, Quintana Roo

The cheapest flights to Mexico are always to Cancun, so sometimes, it’s unavoidable as an entry point. Thankfully, there are many places to bounce to as soon as you land at the airport. Hop on a bus to Playa del Carmen and board a boat to Cozumel. You’ll find more peace and quiet here, as well as options for diving and snorkeling. The beaches of Cozumel are world-class. This island in the Caribbean is surprisingly big, and there are plenty of opportunities to escape other tourists.

Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo

I never quite understood the hype of Playa del Carmen, but it’s become a huge hotspot for digital nomads and remote workers. Located halfway between Cancun and Tulum, it is admittedly very conveniently-located. The beach is beautiful, but oftentimes crowded. The whole town feels like it was just built for tourism, so you’ll mostly find tacky souvenir shops and big air-conditioned shopping malls. It’s like Cancun-lite, but again, if you want to party, meet fellow travelers, and lounge on the beach, Playa del Carmen delivers just that.

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Bacalar, Quintana Roo

While Bacalar is a laguna and not actually a beach, I’m going to include it anyway. It is one of Mexico’s most beautiful destinations. Being relatively close to the tourist hub of Tulum, it’s well worth dropping by while you’re in the state of Quintana Roo. As it is close to the border of Belize, you might even be able to pop over to a new country while you’re in the area. The laguna of Bacalar definitely belongs on your Mexico bucket list.

Acapulco, Guerrero

Long before Cancun claimed the crown a Mexico’s most famous (or infamous) beach destination, Acapulco was where all the spring breakers flocked to. Located in the state of Guerrero, it often is a bit far out of the way for most travelers wandering through Mexico. Acapulco is by no means a hidden gem, but if you have time, be sure to explore more of Guerrero and the neighboring states. Taxco de Alarcon might be my favorite small city in Mexico.

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Veracruz

The state of Veracruz is a little selfish. I mean, look at the shape of it. It basically hogs half of Mexico’s Caribbean coastline. That means there are no shortage of beaches to check out while you’re in the state. It’s also home to Mexico’s tallest mountain, Pico de Orizaba. Yet, Veracruz remains relatively off the backpacker trail. If you want to experience one of Mexico’s best states, then make the stop over to Veracruz.

Be sure to check out my complete Mexico backpacking itinerary, a jam-packed 77-page guide covering 33 of my favorite destinations in magical Mexico.

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