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Cozumel Island in Riviera Maya of Mayan Mexico (Photo: Tono Balaguer/Shutterstock)

10 Best Beaches in Mexico for Cruisers

Cozumel Island in Riviera Maya of Mayan Mexico (Photo: Tono Balaguer/Shutterstock)
Lavanya Sunkara

Mar 23, 2020

Read time
6 min read

Bordering the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, Mexico has thousands of miles of coastline boasting stunning beaches and ancient ruins. Whether you are seeking a beach steeped in history, a palm-fringed romantic hideaway, a family-friendly sandy stretch with amenities or a fun beach club for your spring break, Mexico has got you covered. With accessibility from both the western and eastern coasts of the United States, cruising to Mexico is an easy way to enjoy its sun-kissed beaches and culture, from the Yucatan to the Mexican Riviera.

Here are the 10 top beaches in Mexico that can be easily reached from popular ports of call.

1. Playa Chen Rio, Cozumel

The tiny island of Cozumel, at the eastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, is the most popular port of call on the Caribbean side of Mexico, with millions of cruisers visiting yearly. You can take a ferry ride to Cancun or Playa del Carmen and travel down the coast to Tulum, but if you've got a short amount of time, Cozumel's own beaches are worth exploring.

Among them is Playa Chen Rio, located a 30-minute drive from the cruise port on the island's southern coast, overlooking a small bay. Known for its lush surroundings and picturesque rocks, the beach has something for everyone. Swim or snorkel in the crystal-clear waters, enjoy a quiet walk along the beach, watch your kids play in the lagoons and build sand castles, or have a picnic with delicious Mexican food.

Looking for a party near Paradise Beach? Read our review of Mr. Sancho's Beach Club in Cozumel.

2. Playa Delfines, Cancun

Playa Delfines, Cancun, Mexico (Photo: photopixel/Shutterstock)

Cruise passengers will often be transported to the glitzy resort destination of Cancun on shore excursions from Playa del Carmen. You are likely to have about five hours at the port, so make the most of it by visiting Playa Delfines (Dolphin Beach), one of the best beaches in the area.

Also known as El Mirador (The Lookout), the blissful beach is located in an unspoiled area free from any hotels or restaurants. This broad stretch of soft sandy beach has palapas for shade, a playgroundand restrooms. You can rent chairs and umbrellas. The water can be a bit rough, so swim with caution and pay attention to the flags. Lifeguards patrol the area during the day.

3. Akumal Beach, Akumal

Located 24 miles south of Playa del Carmen, the small beachfront town of Akumal is a must-visit spot in the Riviera Maya to witness sea turtles. The name Akumal translates to "place of the turtles" in Mayan, and visitors can snorkel right off the beach to see these gentle sea creatures.

During April and October, turtle moms lay eggs on the beach at night and adorable hatchlings make their way to the sea between June and November.

4. Calle 10, Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is a more laid-back alternative to Cancun, with lesser crowds, but still offering a good combination of dining, shopping and entertainment. If you are looking for a spot close to the ferry for day partying, head to Calle 10, where you can spend your time at beach clubs, such as Zenzi and Lido, lounging on a sunbed and sipping tropical drinks or dancing to live salsa and reggae music.

Alternatively, if you want solitude, pick out a spot on the white sand and have a picnic with a view of the turquoise sea.

5. Playa Ruinas, Tulum

Mayan ruins overlooking a beach in Tulum, Mexico (Photo: emperorcosar/Shutterstock)

Nowhere else in the world will you find ancient Mayan ruins set against the backdrop of the stunning Caribbean Sea. Situated a short drive from Playa del Carmen, Playa Ruinas in Tulum features a gorgeous beach and well-preserved ruins that can easily be accessed on a day trip.

Walk the grounds admiring sunning iguanas, take a refreshing dip in the glittering waters and capture the extraordinary cliff-top ruins belonging to one of the last cities built by the Mayans. If you find yourself with more time, head south to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, where you will find miles of nearly empty, palm-framed unspoiled beaches often only visited by locals.

Check Out the Best Beach Cover-Ups and Swimsuits for Your Cruise

6. Celestun, Yucatan

Located an hour and 40 minutes' drive from the Progreso cruise terminal -- one of the newer cruise ship ports in Mexico -- Celestun is a tranquil fishing village boasting beautiful beaches and the Celestun Biosphere Reserve. You can combine your beach day with incredible birdwatching at the reserve, where large flocks of flamingos, along with pelicans and herons, put on quite a show.

7. Mahahual Beach, Costa Maya

Costa Maya is not as developed as other Mexican ports of call in Quintana Roo, which means more pristine beaches to relish. Mahahual Beach, located in the former fishing village turned tourist destination, still maintains its laid-back feel, with hotels that barely rise above two stories.

On the newly developed Malecon boardwalk, you'll find seaside restaurants and beach clubs, such as Blue Kay, Ibiza Sunset, Pitayaand Yaya Beach, offering libations, delicious food, sea hammocks and cabanas. The beach is a short cab ride to the Mahahual Lighthouse, one of the area's main attractions.

8. Playa Las Animas, Puerto Vallarta

Playa las Animas near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (Photo: Goran Bogicevic/Shutterstock)

Playa Las Animas, on the scenic Pacific coast of Puerto Vallarta in the Mexican Riviera, is a 2-mile long stretch of silky smooth beach perfect for sunbathing and swimming. With clear, shallow waters and gentle waves, this beach makes a good choice for families with small children.

Visitors can enjoy snorkeling, kayaking, banana boat rides and parasailing. Cruisers can take an excursion to Playa Las Animas that includes a stop at the area's newest attraction-- Las Animas Adventure Park --where you can get your adrenaline pumping as you zipline from tree tops, balance on rope bridges and nets, and scale rocks.

9. Playa del Amor (Lover's Beach), Cabo San Lucas

Playa del Amor lies on the Sea of Cortez side of the iconic Land's End arch -- right at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula in Cabo San Lucas. Contrary to the name, it's not just for lovers; the small beach can be enjoyed by everyone. The easiest way to get to it is on a water taxi tour from the marina.

You can get a close-up view of El Arco (the arch) and see the area where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean before stopping by the beach to admire its dramatic rock formations, including Neptune's Finger that juts out of the water. Be aware that the Pacific side, where Divorce Beach is located (a short distance away), is not safe for swimming due to the powerful rip currents and strong waves of the Pacific Ocean.

10. Balandra Beach, La Paz

Balandra Beach, Baja California Sur, Mexico (Photo: Leonardo Gonzalez/Shutterstock)

A short drive from the cruise port at Puerto Pichilingue in La Paz, Balandra Beach beckons with its miles-long sand flats where you can leisurely stroll on powdery white sea floor in ankle-deep water or take up kayaking, snorkeling or stand-up paddle-boarding.

You won't find any restaurants or shops here, but you will get to see the legendary Hongo de Balandra rock, a mushroom-shaped rock formation formed by the wind and tides and propped up with some help to prevent it from toppling over.

For more on cruising to Mexico, check out Cruises to Mexican Riviera vs. Caribbean Mexico.

Updated March 23, 2020
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