Cancun has miles and miles of beaches. In the Cancun Hotel Zone the hotels are all lined up, one after the other, along the coast, bordering the beach.
There are the north side beaches and east side beaches. The east side beaches are the most popular. Even during high season the beaches are not really crowded, due to the amount of beach footage.
For more info see: Cancun Beaches
Isla Mujeres is a small island located a short ferry ride northeast of Cancun. The beaches here are beautiful. Lots of people visiting Cancun go to the beaches on Isla Mujeres for the day. Soon as you get off the ferry in Isla Mujeres the beaches are a short walk away. There are hotels also located near the beaches for those wanting to stay on the island.
For more info see: Isla Mujeres Beaches
Isla Holbox is a seven mile long island located approximately 40 miles northwest of Cancun. The gulf side of the island is pretty well one long beach with deserted sections allowing one complete privacy. All major hotels here are located on the beach, smaller hotels located inland are never anymore than a few extra minutes to walk to the beach.
For more info see: Isla Holbox
The Mayan Riviera has the kind of beaches you dream about. There are lots of beaches to choose from. In Playa del Carmen you find crowded beaches lined with cafes, hotels and services. In Akumal you’ll find a lush tropical setting, a beautiful beach and excellent snorkeling. Further south you hit the spectacular Tulum Ruins Beach located right at ancient Mayan ruins.
For more info see: Mayan Riviera Beaches
PLAYA DEL CARMEN
Playa del Carmen is the areas largest city, growing as a result of it popularity amongst vacationers. Playa means beach in Spanish and that pretty well is what Playa del Carmen is all about. The Playa del Carmen beach runs for miles and miles being most crowded along the length that borders the 5th ave. Pedestrian Walkway. The further north you go the less crowded until its just you and the beach.
For more info see: Playa del Carmen Beaches
Cozumel has some great beaches on the leeward side of the island making the waters calm even on rough days.
For more info see: Cozumel Beaches
The western tip of the Yucatan Peninsula isn’t generally known for its beaches. The water at certain times in the Gulf can be a murky brown and not to appealing to swim in [something to do with the sea-bed] but most of the time it is clear. There is a beach near Progreso City on the coast.
The coastline east of Progreso is pretty desolate except for fishing huts and docks.
If you’re dreaming about lush tropical vegetation and beautiful beaches then this coastline is not the one your looking for.
NOTE: We receive e-mail from time to time from somebody complaining that our depiction of the Progreso beach and Gulf water is not accurate. We state at times the water can be murky and not appealing to swim in as anyone who lives there can attest too.
Merida is not close to any beaches. The best beach near is Progreso.
There are no beaches close to Campeche City. In fact there are only two hotels there with swimming pools.
To get to the beach, take a taxi or bus and head southwest on Av Ruiz Cortines for about 30 km. There you will find a quaint beach called Payucan. Snorkeling is not any good here.
There is an island off the coast called Ciudad del Carmen that has a number of beaches that come highly recommended. We have never visited the island. Apparently there is diving and good snorkeling there.
We have flown along the coast from Playa del Carmen to Belize and what you notice most about the Costa Maya are the cenotes. What is fascinating about the cenotes is wherever you see one, you also see the outlines of the villages that once flourished around them.
Cenotes are big holes in the ground that usually collect water. Small villages once grew up around them. The outlines of these villages still exist.
By and large most of the Costa Maya coastline is rugged pristine landscape with absolutely no habitats. There is the odd fishing camp but that is about it.
There are beaches along the coast at Majahual although hotels/resorts are not that plentiful. These beaches although secluded and beautiful are all natural beaches and not that suitable for small children unless supervised closely. A lot of garbage from cruise-ships and boats in general washes up along the coast here. The locals try to pick the stuff up but they are fighting a loosing battle. Unless something is done about this the whole coastline is going to be one big garbage dump someday.
According to the labels on much of what floats ashore the main polluter is Brazil. They do not appear to have any misgivings about throwing their garbage into the ocean.
We have been told there are beaches near Chetumal however we have never visited them nor have we ever been able to obtain any information regarding the beaches.
The Mexican name for the Atlantic coastal region of the Yucatan Peninsula is “Riviera Maya”. The English use is either Mayan Riviera or Maya Riviera. It is used all three ways in this web site.
Depending on the weather, wave and tide conditions, each section of a beach is marked with a
flag indicating whether it is safe to swim there:
Don’t swim, too dangerous. Red Flag
Use caution, dangerous. Yellow Flag
Use caution. Green Flag
Water conditions okay, safe to swim.
Cancun beaches used to have white powder sand, pre-Wilma. Because new sand had to be dredged in to rebuild the beaches, gone is the fine white powder beach. It is now a combination of powder and coarse.
We prefer coarse sand to powder sand because it is easier to get off you. Powder sand sticks to you like glue.
The Mayan Riviera and Cozumel are predominately coarse sand beaches.
The ocean water temperature reaches its highest point in late August early September. Then some days it can be like swimming in a warm bathtub. Even during the coolest times of the year the water is still okay to swim in. It is always hot outside!
Beaches in Cancun and around Playa del Carmen are also patrolled by the Mexican Navy who walk up and down the beaches in their uniforms with submachine guns. How these guys handle the heat we will never know. We assume as soon as they get out of visual range they jump in the water to cool off!
The local police also patrol the beaches driving up and down on 4-wheelers.
The Northern beaches in Cancun are the most swim friendly. The ocean waves and winds are buffered by the small island of Isla Mujeres which lies off the coast.
Some women go topless on the beaches in Cancun, however this is more prevalent on the beaches in Playa del Carmen and the Mayan Riviera. Thongs are very popular as well.
There are no nude beaches in Cancun and the Mayan Riviera. These beaches are by and large family orientated. There is however a very hedonist beach located in Tulum, [far south of the ruin’s beach] that has a very open minded policy.
We understand that some parents are concerned with the topless issue but you may be surprised to find it not as prevalent as one might presume.