The 10 Best Beaches in Cancun and Riviera Maya

Best Beaches in Cancun and Riviera Maya
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Best Beaches in Cancun and Riviera Maya

There are many great reasons for visiting Cancun, but the best reason of them all is the many incredible beaches with the bright blue Caribbean water. There is no question about it – people come for the beaches in Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

It is no secret that most visitors chose to spend their beach days at the resort they are staying at. That is perfectly okay and you can easily relax, soak up the sun, swim in the ocean and of course enjoy plenty of drinks under the Mexican sun.

We wanted to bring a list of best beaches in Cancun for those that are willing to go beyond the resort they have booked. There are so many things to do in Cancun and spending time at the day beach will always be at the top of every visitor’s list.

To get the absolute best beaches for our list we had to look at more than just the Cancun Hotel Zone and decided to include most of the Riviera Maya. Each of the beaches has its own special something, so why not go find the perfect beach in Cancun for you?

Playa Delfines Cancun

Playa Delfines Cancun

Playa Delfines is one of the largest and best beaches in Cancun and attracts a variety of people. It is known as “The Lookout” or El Mirador. The main draw here is the amazing water and the fact that no hotels or restaurants built on this stretch of beach. The color is bright blue and crystal clear – truly a picture-perfect postcard blue ocean. Due to the length of Playa Delfines, you will encounter plenty of parasailers, jet skiers and various small yachts on the waters. The waters here can be rough, so watch out even though lifeguards are present. The easiest way to get there is by bus but you can also enjoy free parking if you drive there yourself. Although there are no resorts here you can still rent beach chairs and umbrellas, and you will find the restrooms here are both clean and well kept.
There are many resorts within a few miles of Playa Delfines, with the Catalonia Privileged Playa Maroma resort being the most popular.

North Beach Isla Mujeres

Playa Norte Isla Mujeres

Playa Norte, or North Beach if you will, is not technically in Cancun but rather located on the small island of Isla Mujeres right off the coast of Cancun. The beach itself is, as the name suggests, on the northern part of Isla Mujeres. Playa Norte is one of those beach experiences you will likely remember many years from now and dream yourself back to. If Isla Mujeres isn’t paradise enough then Playa Norte will be.

At Playa Norte, you will find several beach clubs each offering to rent you lounge chairs and umbrellas for you the enjoy a day of eating local seafood dishes and slinging back margaritas and of course cervezas. From here you will have the most amazing view over the white sandy beach and clear turquoise blue Caribbean water. The shallow water here is perfect for families with small kids. The water is clear with no rocks and since Playa Norte faces Cancun and not open ocean the water is extremely calm.

Playa Forum Cancun

Playa Forum Cancun

Playa Forum is one of the most popular beaches in Cancun. Maybe it’s due to the excellent location right behind Coco Bongo nightclub in the famous Punta Cancun area. Here you have a few options available – all options, of course, include a constant buzzing social vibe. Spend the day at this beach hot spot full of life, fun, and laughter or go the upscale route and hit the trendy Mandala Beach Club for a more high-end beach experience. The choice is yours.

Playa Chac Mool Cancun

Playa Chac Mool Cancun

If crowded beaches such as Playa Forum are not your thing, then head over to Playa Chac Mool. The two are next to each other and Playa Chac Mool features the same white sands, beautiful waters and central location as any of the resorts in the Hotel Zone. It is just much less crowded. Granted, you will need to bring your own towels as there are no beach chairs of umbrellas available for rent. This is the beach most locals will choose and for good reason. Spending a casual and relaxed beach day on a pristine stretch of sandy beach is simply great. Add a spectacular view of the Caribbean blue waters, no crowds rushing to get the best beach chairs, and you have a top contender for one of the best beaches in Cancun.

Playa Tortugas Cancun

Playa Tortugas
Photo credit: Steve (Flickr)

Just 5 miles from downtown Cancun is one of the most popular public beaches in Cancun. Playa Tortugas is not only a top choice for families but for locals as well. The beach feels tailor-made to tourists offering everything needed for an excellent day. The vibe is rather festive with an exciting atmosphere, and just the place to be if you are seeking out the Cancun party experience. Playa Tortugas offers a variety of water activities and is one of the few beaches in the Hotel Zone with nearly no waves. There is even a bungee jumping tower which is always a crowd-pleaser and a great way to really take in the breathtaking view of Cancun’s beaches.

Beachfront restaurants at Playa Tortugas serves up food, snacks, and drinks at their beach chairs and lounges. The ocean view from here is among the best found in the Cancun Hotel Zone. The water is clean, safe and ideal for swimming with kids, which explains why families tend to favor Playa Tortugas during their stay in Cancun.

Maroma Beach Playa del Carmen

Playa Maroma - Catalonia Resort at Maroma Beach

The wonderful Playa Maroma (Maroma Beach) is renowned around the world and by many considered to be one of the best beaches in the world. Being among the best in the world it, of course, earns its spot on our list of the best beaches in Cancun and Riviera Maya. Situated a short 10-minute drive north of Playa del Carmen in the more calm, quiet and natural environment of Riviera Maya.

Playa Maroma is a sizable beach with the water being an incredible blue color, perfect for snorkeling. The best place to snorkel at Playa Maroma is in the south part called Punta Maroma (Maroma Point). Here you can snorkel directly from the beach shore.

Playa Maroma is not only absolutely stunning, but it’s also quite exclusive when it comes to access. Access to the beach is available through the Riviera Maya Beach Club or by being a guest at one of the luxurious resorts located on the beach. Resorts such as El Dorado Maroma Beach Front Resort, Maroma Resort and Spa, Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun, and Catalonia Privileged Playa Maroma all provide access to the world-famous Playa Maroma. The most recent adults-only luxury resort in the area is the Palafitos Overwater Bungalows at El Dorado Maroma.

Paraiso Beach Tulum

Paraiso Beach Tulum - El Paraiso Hotel Tulum

Telling stories to your friends about you visiting Paraiso Beach is something you will definitely do after experiencing this beauty of a beach. Paraiso Beach is located just southeast of the amazing Mayan ruins in Tulum. Tulum itself is known around the world and Paraiso Beach has often been proclaimed to be one of the top beaches in the world. You are guaranteed an unforgettable day at the beach with the intense turquoise Caribbean waters, soft white sand, and the waves flowing ever so calmly. It is truly one of the best beaches in Mexico and by extension a clear top spot contender in this selection of beaches in the Riviera Maya. The above picture is from El Paraiso Hotel Tulum.

Mamitas Beach Playa del Carmen

Mamitas Beach at the Mamitas Beach Club

Welcome to the hottest spot in Playa del Carmen. Mamitas Beach is the most happening beach and where you find the best beach parties. There is a constant party vibe throughout the day reaching into the night. Mamita Beach has hosted several concerts and been the spot for world-famous DJs like David Guetta and Tiesto. Several music videos have been recorded right here as well.

Making sure you get a good spot can be tricky here, and we suggest you go the high-end route at Mamitas Beach Club (pictured above) where you can rent sunbeds with curtains, or a regular spot with a table, chairs, and an umbrella.

The beach is spacious with white sand a spectacular view of the ocean. To be honest, you don’t go to Mamitas Beach if you just want a nice sandy beach and the view. You go here for the people, the music, and the hot trendy all-day parties.

Akumal Beach

Akumal Beach
Photo credit: Randy McEoin (Flickr)

60 miles south of Cancun, located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, is the small beachfront town of Akumal. Akumal means “Land of the Turtles” in Maya and a favorite spot for sea turtles to lay their eggs. The water here is crystal clear and beneath the surface, you will encounter a reef. It’s a perfect and magical place for both diving and snorkeling. Snorkeling is possible right off Akumal Beach where you can watch sea turtles eating the seagrass. You should never touch or in any way disturb the magnificent turtles although it is very tempting.

Playa Xpu-Ha

Playa Xpu-Ha
Photo credit: Justine Camacho (Flickr)

Sometimes you just have to get away from it all. Playa Xpu-Ha is perfect for this and a great way to escape from the constant buzzing in Cancun and Playa del Carmen. It’s located south of Puerto Aventuras in a secluded area of the Riviera Maya. This beach has been a favorite among locals but tourists have also opened their eyes to a more relaxing beach experience. Playa Xpu-Ha is a very good beach spot for families with small children as the water is just a few feet deep and very calm, but before you get there you will have to pay a small fee at the entrance. As with most beaches, you have great options for aquatic activities. Boogie Boards, Skim Boards, Kayaks, and snorkel equipment can all be rented along with lounge chairs and umbrellas at La Playa Xpu-Ha Restaurant & Beach Club.

Safety and Flags on the Beaches

The weather, especially wind and waves, plays a big role in beach safety. The beaches are divided into sections, where each section is marked with a flag indicating the safety level. Pay close attention to these flags for your own safety.

  • Black flag: No Swimming
  • Red flag: Use caution, conditions could be dangerous
  • Yellow flag: Swim with caution
  • Green flag: Safe for swimming

You will find that almost all the beaches in Cancun have lifeguards on duty overlooking the beaches. The big resorts often provide even more safety by having their own lifeguards make sure their guests are not getting into dangerous situations in the water.

If you are looking for a family-friendly, and more importantly, a safe beach for swimming, then head to the beaches on the northern side of the Hotel Zone. The small island Isla Mujeres just off the coast provides a “shield” for the wind and waves, making this area particularly excellent for swimming.

Nudity on the Beaches

You won’t find any nude beaches in Cancun. The beaches in Cancun are geared towards families. Cancun, however, is an international destination pulling in tourists from all over the world, and you come across the occasional topless woman enjoying the warm Mexican sun.

We hope you have enjoyed our walkthrough of the best beaches in Cancun. Who knows. Maybe you found inspiration and decide to include one or more of these places when planning your vacation to Cancun and the Riviera Maya. We do realize that there are many more Mayan riviera beaches that are simply wonderful. We can however not feature all of them here.

We are always looking for unique and wonderful places. So let us know in the comments which spot of beach in Cancun and the Riviera Maya is your preferred.

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