The 16 best beaches in Cancun
See Cancun’s best beaches and plan your dream Mexico vacation
Cancun and the Yucatan coast is practically one big beach. The Zone Hoteleria, famous for it’s gigantic international hotels lines a huge sandbar; the Mayan ruins at Tulum are literally part of the beach.
Explore the coves and stretches of beautiful-white, paradise-like sands at our picks of the best beaches to visit in Cancun. As always, we’ve included some handy affiliate links to help with your booking, plus a few hotel and trip ideas.
So let’s dive in and explore our favourite Cancun beaches.
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Playa Gaviota Azul
Playa Gaviota Azul, also known as Playa Forum, is a popular public beach in Punta Cancun.
This gorgeous beach is located on the Caribbean side of Cancun's Hotel Zone beach strip. You may struggle to access it, but, technically, all beaches in Mexico are public access. This doesn’t stop the hotels will often circumvent the law and refuse access to the beach unless you're a guest, so you’ll need to play it smart, or be a guest!
It's also close to the raucous nightlife of Coco Bongo and Mandala, making it an ideal spot for weekend celebrations.
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Playa Chac Mool
There are many reasons why Playa Chac Mool is one of the best beaches in Cancun. For starters, it couldn't be more convenient, as it's smack dab in the middle of the Hotel Zone. For another, the beach itself is breathtaking.
The sand is powdery white, and the water is a vivid turquoise. Third, you won't be bored because there's so much to do. There are plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation, such as sunbathing, swimming, snorkelling, and sightseeing from a transparent boat. Finally, the beachside restaurant serves delicious food.
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Puerto Morelos is one of the best beaches in Cancun for snorkelling and diving. The reef is a section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the world's second-largest.
The waters near Puerto Morelos are home to over 100 different kinds of coral and 500 different kinds of fish. Puerto Morelos is a gorgeous sandy beach with clear turquoise waters, and it's also a great place to go snorkelling and scuba diving.
Guests flock there to swim, bask in the sun, and unwind. Besides its many hotels and resorts, Puerto Morelos is also home to a wide variety of restaurants and nightlife options.
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Playa Delfines is Cancun's largest, most popular, and arguably most beautiful public beach, and it is tucked between two long stretches of beach that are dominated by resorts. Imagine a beach with incredibly white sand and the most electric blue water you can imagine. Umbrellas, thatched palapas, and changing rooms can all be found for rent along the beach.
Playa Delfines is often referred to by its alternative name, El Mirador, after the hilltop observation deck that offers breathtaking views of the beach and its surroundings. Take a look at the bright Cancun sign, a popular subject for Instagrammers. Playa Delfines is conveniently located close to the Hotel Zone, making it a popular hangout for both tourists and locals.
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Playa Norte, or North Beach, is located on Isla Mujeres, a small island off the coast of Cancun. The turquoise waters and white sand of this secluded beach are well-known.
The palm trees that line the shore provide welcome respite from the sun for beachgoers. It's the ideal place to spend a day in the sun due to the abundance of restaurants and nightlife options. It's not hard to see why Playa Norte is widely regarded as one of Mexico's finest beaches.
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Isla Blanca beach, archaeological sites, the Chacmuchuc lagoon, and other similar attractions can all be found on Costa Mujeres. Keep in mind that the beach on Isla Blanca is widely considered to be the best in the region.
To get there, you'll need to rent a car unless you plan to stay at one of the nearby hotels; however, the drive will be well worth it. Also, you should be ready for anything. There are no eateries or restrooms available to the public. However, the lack of construction is largely responsible for the beach's pristine condition.
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Just to the south of Cancun, on the coast, is the charming beach town of Akumal, with its matching beach. Visitors to Akumal come for more than just the powder-soft sand and expansive turquoise bay.
From April to October, hundreds of turtles come ashore at night to lay their eggs on the sand. Thus, it is a beautiful place for snorkelers and scuba divers to swim around with these marvellous creatures. In Maya, Akumal means something like "place of the turtles."
Definitely, if you go snorkelling off of Akumal Beach, you will see sea turtles! One of the best beaches in Cancun for swimming, even if you're not into snorkelling because of the calm waters and sheltered cove.
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The ruins of Tulum can be reached by a number of different means of transportation and is not too far from Cancun's Hotel Zone. Even though it's close to Cancun and therefore likely to have tourists, the beaches here are often quiet and perfect for a quiet, relaxing vacation.
Tulum is a great place to spend some peaceful time and see the incredibly well-preserved Mayan ruins. Tulum's Hotel Zone is distinct from Cancun's because it lacks the city's signature high-rise resorts and hotels. On the other hand, there are cosy cabanas and outdoor cafes and restaurants.
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Playa Xpu-ha, located in Puerto Aventuras to the south of Cancun, is a popular tourist destination due to its sugary white sands. Although there is a small entrance fee, this peaceful haven is much more private than the crowded beaches in Cancun.
The beach is protected by a cove, so the water is usually quite tranquil. Swimming, sunning, kayaking, and wind- and water-surfing are just some of the many options for beachgoers.
Visitors can also find a selection of dining options and watering holes in the immediate vicinity of the beach.
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Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
This UNESCO World Heritage site lies to the south of Tulum and features some of the most beautiful and untouched stretches of coastline in the world. It is home to 23 archaeological sites.
Plan a day trip that includes a visit to the Biosphere and go on a tour. You'll get to see amazing animals up close and get a glimpse of a side of Mexico that most visitors miss.
Getting to the beaches usually requires navigating through the jungle to a clearing, which is best done with the help of a local expert. However, from Tulum all the way down to Punta Allen, travellers along the coast of Quintana Roo will encounter rocky outcroppings.
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The stretch of sand known as Playa Maroma between Cancun and Playa del Carmen is one of the most visited and photographed in the region. This beach, which features several of the area's most luxurious hotels, is famous for its long stretch of bone-colored sand and varied shades of turquoise water.
Visitors can arrange snorkelling or fishing trips from a small marina located right on the beach. However, the best snorkelling is just offshore, so you can save money by not going on a tour.
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Playacar is a private resort community located south of Playa del Carmen. This gated community separates the wealthy from the general public of Playa del Carmen's crowded Fifth Avenue. Playacar's stunning shores are easily accessible by foot thanks to Mexico's public beach policy.
Playacar is widely regarded as one of Cancun's finest and most pristine beaches. Unless you're staying at one of the many all-inclusive resorts or private homes that line the beach, you'll need to bring everything you'll need for a relaxing vacation. There are no restaurants or beaches in the area apart from those at the resorts.
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Playa Paraiso in Cancun is your best bet for finding paradise on earth. It's hard to imagine a more picture-perfect beach than this one, which is fringed with palm trees and looks out over the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Relaxing on a sun lounger with a good book or going for a swim and snorkelling are all excellent ways to spend time at the beach.
And if you get hungry or thirsty, you can choose from a wide variety of nearby eateries and watering holes.
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Paradise on Earth, X'cacel Beach is close to it. There is a small fee to enter the beach, but it is well worth it because of the sea turtle conservation programme.
For that price, not only do you gain access to the beach, but you can also take a trip to the nearby freshwater cenote, which is absolutely breathtaking (a natural sinkhole formed when limestone gives way to reveal water underneath).
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The calm atmosphere, the exceptionally clean sand, and the abundance of beachfront eateries have made this beach a favourite among locals.
Conveniently located just north of the Hotel Zone, the beach serves as a departure point for many tourists heading to Isla Mujeres. On a daily basis, ferries take visitors and locals across the tranquil, turquoise water from a pier.
Swimming and snorkelling are highly recommended activities, and the beach provides ideal conditions for both.
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One of the most popular things to do in Cancun is to visit Playa Langosta. Known for its crystal-clear turquoise waters and breathtaking views of the Caribbean, this area can be found on the island's northeastern tip.
Swimming, sunning, snorkelling, and windsurfing are just some of the recreational opportunities available to tourists.
The beach is not only beautiful, but it also has many great places to eat and drink.
Top tips for visiting the beaches in Cancun
Pack towels and extra swimwear
Take lunch and plenty of water, as stores or beachside cafes aren’t plentiful
Use string sun protection and avoid sunbathing around noon
Take care with children as beaches are often unattended and water conditions can change rapidly
Go on organised beach trips with your hotel and take advantage of transfers