When most people think about heading over to the eastern coast of Mexico for a beach vacation, they generally think of Cancun and a spring break-style party trip or an all-inclusive resort. There is, however, a beach to suit anyone's dreams in this fanciful holiday hotspot.
Having lived in Playa del Carmen for almost 2 years, I decided to write a guide to help everyone find their perfect beach. Because, really, you'll be spoiled for choice!
The obvious choice, Cancun is everything you expect it to be. It has raunchy nightlife with cheap cocktails and bars that stretch all along the rolling (and stunning) coastline. This is contrasted by sprawling resorts that might better resemble small sub-cities with everything from pools, shops, and restaurants to their own beaches and nightclubs. This removes any need to leave the resort at all.
Cancun's central vibe is perfectly suited to spring breakers and those looking for a fun beach getaway (think 'eat, sleep, rave, repeat' with tacos and tequila). The resorts, however, can cater for families or older couples who want to relax on a beautiful beach without doing, really anything at all, for themselves.
Playa del Carmen
Playa is like Cancun's little sister. She wants to be like Cancun, but not really. She has a small area of nightlife which is a lot of fun but is nicely isolated, allowing everyone else to continue their holiday in peace. You'll have a ball here if you're looking for some middle ground, a few drinks some nights, a bit more range, still a gorgeous beach.
There are resorts here too but they are generally closer to town allowing guests to get out and about a bit. With a huge range of accommodations and facilities, you'll struggle to find anyone who isn't happy in Playa!
Cozumel is the gateway to Mexico for the cruise ship passengers. It has a calmer, quieter vibe, globally famed for incredible scuba diving sites, making it a favorite amongst divers. Resorts and hotels offer a subdued atmosphere in contrast to the mainland, suiting those who want to avoid the party scene completely. The 40min ferry over to Playa del Carmen makes it somewhat more difficult to explore further afield (although not unachievable).
Cozumel's largest guest contingent come from the cruise ships which dock in its port most days, or package holidaymakers looking to avoid the crowds.
Just off the coast of Cancun, it feels like this little island is a world away. The liveliest of the islands in this part of Mexico, you'll find plenty to keep you entertained but none of the all-night parties you'll experience on the mainland. It's like the perfect hybrid of cool daytime activities and relaxed nightlife, in an idyllic setting. I struggle to think of anyone who wouldn't enjoy it. And from June to September you can also go on day-long snorkeling trips to see whale sharks!
Holbox is further north, away from the main resort towns, making it more difficult to reach. It is, however, worth the journey. A sleepy little island with no cars, plenty of flamingos, the occasional dolphin and more opportunities again to snorkel with whale sharks.
It's suitable for all ages and just a little quieter than Isla Mujeres, yet no less beautiful. It's also an ideal chance to escape the crowds.
8 Incredible Beaches on Mexico’s Yucatan Coast #travel
This little town 20 minutes south of Playa is basically a collection of large hotels and resorts, but it's a good spot for a hotel-centric holidaymaker who doesn't want to stay in the bigger resort towns.
The main attraction is the sea turtle population which you'll find just off-shore if you head out with a snorkel. If you're not staying here, make it a day trip if you are staying nearby, the turtles are definitely worth the journey!
Another 30 minutes or so south of Akumal, Tulum boasts arguably the most picturesque beaches on this stretch of coastline. It has its very own unique set of coastal Mayan ruins and a very cool, almost bohemian, atmosphere.
This is certainly the ‘cooler' stopping point on this coast and is thus popular with backpackers seeking a relaxed beach and bar scene. It doesn't have much to offer in rowdy nightlife but does have a range of accommodation to suit almost any budget.
Further south still you will find the sleepy mainland equivalent to Holbox in Mahahual. This little village is all about relaxing on the beach and getting a massage. There isn't much else to see or do but unwind on the mainland, so if this is right up your alley then this is the spot.
Mahahual offers less choice in terms of accommodation but still something to suit most budgets.
Image source: author's own & pixabay.com
Regardless of where you choose, you'll have a great time. After all, it's Mexico; cheap tacos, delicious guacamole, snow-white sand and turquoise waves!
Can you add any other amazing beaches to this list? Tell us in the comments below.