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35 Charming Beach Towns in Mexico to Visit Now!

Hola! What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Mexico?

Yes, the country has mountains, rainforests, yawning canyons and charming colonial cities. But it’s most often associated with its beautiful beaches.

That’s probably no surprise.

With 5,800 miles of coastline spanning the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez, there’s more than enough sand to squish your toes into!

Some of the best things to do in Mexico include world-class scuba diving, surfing, snorkeling and hanging out on tropical beaches that look like they’ve vaulted straight off a postcard.

Over the centuries, Mexico’s best beach towns have grown up around many of these beaches. Some are very heavily focused on tourism, whereas others have remained traditional.

With so many incredible Mexican beach towns, the only difficulty is deciding which one to visit!

Best Mexican beach towns
Mexico is blessed with some lovely beach towns, where the water is warm, the vibe is laid-back and the margs are frosty!

Best beach towns in Mexico

We’ve made it easier for you with this list of the best beach towns in Mexico.

We’ve personally visited most of these over the years.

Best beach towns in Baja, California

As the name suggests – baja means “down” in Spanish) – the Baja California Peninsula is just south of California.

Part of Mexico, it’s a peninsula jutting into the Pacific Ocean from the southern end of California.

The southern half of the peninsula is the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. The northern half of the peninsula is the state of Baja California.

And the whole Baja coastal area has some great Mexican resort towns! It’s especially appealing to Southern Californians, with places like Rosarito (#6 below) being under an hour’s drive away from the border. 

However, the location of these Baja California beach towns isn’t their only appeal.

Visit these two Mexican states for excellent surfing, a thriving art scene, marine life in the Sea of Cortez (on the east side of the Baja Peninsula) and wine regions and deserts just inland.

1) Cabo San Lucas

White boats return to the Cabo San Lucas Marina at dusk.
Boats return to the Cabo San Lucas Marina at dusk

We couldn’t write this best Mexican beach town list without starting with fabulous Cabo San Lucas.

It’s one of two towns making up the Los Cabos (aka Cabo) resort destination. (The other town is San Jose del Cabo; see #3 below.)

Cabo is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico for visitors from the United States.

In particular, its easy access to cities like Los Angeles makes it a great long weekend break. (It’s just a two-and-a-half-hour flight straight south of L.A.) It’s the perfect place to jet off to in the winter months!

But there’s sooo much more to this town (and Los Cabos) than just its convenient location. We know! We’ve vacationed there for weeks at a time, at least 20 times over the years.

Situated at the tip of the Baja California Peninsula, Cabo San Lucas is surrounded on three sides by the sea.

That means that life generally – and literally – revolves around the water, whale watching, deep sea fishing and surfing being among some of the best things to do in Cabo.

With gorgeous beaches, beach hopping is another popular activity in Cabo.

Medano Beach offers at least a mile of swimmable shoreline. (Not all beaches in Cabo are swimmable due to currents and rips.)

Colorful kayaks on the sand of Lovers Beach (Playa del Amor) in Cabo San Lucas.
You can kayak to Lovers Beach (Playa del Amor) for swimming and snorkeling

The area is also home to more than 15 surreal mountains-meet-desert-meets-sea golf courses. Golfing, naturally, is a big hit in Cabo.

Back in town, don’t miss strolling around the Cabo San Lucas Marina and trying local restaurants – we love the shrimp tacos at Gardenias!

And the vacation vibes don’t stop when night falls.

You can revel in the lap of luxury by booking one of the 5-star resorts in Cabo San Lucas – complete with infinity swimming pools with pool butlers and beds so comfy they feel like you’re sleeping on a cloud.

2) La Paz

Coromuel Beach, La Paz, Mexico
From La Paz center, it’s about a 40-minute walk to this beach (Playa el Coromuel), which is just at the end of the malecon

The capital of Baja California Sur, La Paz is among the best beach cities in Mexico.

Many travelers pass through after taking a night ferry from the mainland. But it’s worth stopping in La Paz for a day or two.

Located on the Sea of Cortez, it’s popular for its whale shark watching opportunities. (La Paz is one of the few places in the world where you can see these amazing creatures!)

But there’s plenty more marine life to see here – the Sea of Cortez is actually one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet.

In town, there’s a stylish marina, a malecon (seaside promenade) which is ideal for an evening stroll, and a quirky arts scene, with lots of sculptures and thought-provoking murals sprinkled around.

3) Todos Santos

Todos Santos
A Pueblo Magico, Todos Santos is indeed magical!

Surrounded by desert, the arty town of Todos Santos is one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos (magic towns).

It’s an only an hour’s drive from Cabo San Lucas, which makes it an easy day trip.

But Todos also has some cucumber-cool hotels, making it worth kicking around for a while. (We like Hotel San Cristobal, a 10-minute drive outside of Todos. The new Paradero Todos Santos also looks intriguing.)

The city was founded by Roman Catholic Jesuits all the way back in 1733, so you’ll find history at every step.

Over time, it’s become a haven for creatives, and today it houses art galleries, studios and artisan jewelry shops in many of its historical buildings.

Whenever we visit Todos, we make a point of strolling its silver shops to see what special silver bracelet or earrings we might want to pick up. The quality of the silver jewelry here is excellent.

What about its beaches?

Todos Santos has plenty.

But most of its coastline isn’t safe for swimming. If you want to take a dip, head to Punta Lobos Beach or Los Cerritos Beach, which are a little more protected.

A pristine beach in Todos Santos
One of the many pristine beaches around Todos Santos

Todos Santos is, however, one of the most popular Mexican surf towns.

If you know what you’re doing, hit the waves! If you don’t, head out with an instructor.

4) San Jose del Cabo

Colorful flags waving overhead orange and pink buildings in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico
San Jose del Cabo has a more authentic Mexican feel than its sister town, Cabo San Lucas

One of the best beach towns to visit in Mexico, San Jose del Cabo is close to Cabo San Lucas (#1 above).

Some of its architecture dates back to the 18th century. So although it’s primarily a tourist town, there are plenty of snippets of local history and culture here.

You can also enjoy a free weekly Art Walk in San Jose del Cabo.

But of course, most people come for the beaches.

Expect long stretches of sand with dramatic rock formations, perfect for practicing your coastal photography.

Like elsewhere in Baja California Sur, many of these beaches aren’t swimmable though.

It’s better to head to Medano Beach or Santa Maria Beach. These are beaches where you can safely take a dip.

Fortunately, San Jose del Cabo has some of the best resorts in Mexico, many of which have lavish pool complexes. So you needn’t worry – you’ll find somewhere to cool off in the Baja California heat!

5) Loreto

Pelicans perched on blue and white boats in the Mexican coastal town of Loreto
Pelicans enjoy their perch on boats in the port town of Loreto

Another of Mexico’s Pueblo Magicos (and the only one with an airport), Loreto is charming, both on land and in the water.

A mission town established in 1687, Loreto has some of the oldest architecture on the peninsula.

Exploring the town is worthwhile. Cobblestone streets lead to historic churches and photogenic alleyways, and ultimately end up at the malecon, with incredible vistas over the Sea of Cortez.

But you must venture out into the sea itself too.

The Loreto Bay National Marine Park is a protected sea area teeming with sea life.

See blue footed boobies and other sea birds, go scuba diving with sea lions, watch whales or paddle a kayak around idyllic uninhabited islands.

6) Rosarito

Rosarito Beach, Mexico
For Mexican hospitality close to the U.S., the coastal resort town of Rosarito is a quick and easy getaway

Hey, Californians! Dip your toe into the Pacific across the border in Rosarito!

This Baja California town is only a 45-minute drive from San Diego and 2 hours and 25 minutes from Los Angeles (not counting possible delays at the border, of course).

Not surprisingly, it’s one of the most popular Mexico beach towns for Southern Californians. Over the years, it’s developed into a surfing hotspot.

And you’ll find lots of condos and hotels to choose from.

The town is primarily tourist-centric, with nightlife and restaurants catering to all palates.

If you’re a lobster fanatic, it’s worth driving 20 minutes to Puerto Nuevo (Mexico’s legendary “Langosta Village”) and trying their delicious lobster.

Rosarito hasn’t got quite the charm of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos.

But it does offer a laidback atmosphere, miles of golden beaches and plenty of spots to relish the sunshine and sip on an ice-cold Corona.

7) Ensenada

Fishing boats in Ensenada
Fishing boats in Ensenada

Ensenada sits 85 miles south of Rosarito. While it’s also a popular destination with day and weekend trippers from Southern California, it’s usually not quite as jam-packed with tourists.

The town embraces the seafront, and a walk along its malecon is enjoyable any time of year. But visit during winter, and you may see migratory whales in the waters!

Beach-wise, Playa Hermosa is the most popular (playa means “beach”).

Despite its name (hermosa means “beautiful” in Spanish), it’s not the most stunning in the area.

Still, it’s great for beach walks and gazing at the wonders of the Pacific Ocean.

There’s another reason to visit Ensenada – wine.

It’s close to the Valle de Guadalupe, which is Mexico’s premier wine region.

Wine barrels in Ensenada, Mexico
There’s some great wine tasting to be had near Ensenada

You can actually stay close to the vineyards (so you’re in the ideal place to enjoy a tipple in the evenings) and journey into Ensenada from there.

Or you can book a guided tour of the wine region from Ensenada.

Best beach towns in Yucatan area

Think of a heavenly beach with powdery sand, cobalt blue waters and tall palm trees. We guarantee you’ll find a beach on the Yucatan Peninsula to match the image in your mind!

This area of Mexico is possibly the most-visited – and it’s easy to see why.

Not only will the beaches make you feel like you’re dreaming, but you’ll find some of the best resort towns in Mexico.

Add to that a bounty of activities – from snorkeling and diving to exploring the Yucatan’s Mayan ruins (some of which are perched right by the sea) – and you have yourself an obvious pick for your next sun-and-sand vacation.

8) Cancun

A young woman in a black sun hat sits on the white sand beach in Cancun.
With beautiful sugar white beaches, Cancun is one of the most popular beach destinations in Mexico

Let’s begin this section with the heart of the Mexican Caribbean – big bold Cancun. It’s located in the state of Quintana Roo on the northeast end of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Cancun is one of the best coastal cities in Mexico and a top tourist destination.

For many international visitors, it’s a toss-up between Cancun and Cabo or Cancun and Puerto Vallarta.

And for many, Cancun wins out.

Yes, Cancun has a reputation for being the ultimate “Spring Break” vacation destination.

But it’s also the go-to place for luxury hotels with swim-up suites and other bells and whistles, excellent scuba diving and other watersports, attractions like Xcaret Nature Park and sophisticated restaurants serving up global cuisine.

Oh, and have we mentioned the quintessentially Caribbean white-sand beaches?

Cancun also has a large international airport, with flights coming in from all over North America, South America and various destinations across Europe. So it’s where a lot of people begin their Mexican travels.

9) Tulum

A woman looks out at the waves lapping the beach in Tulum.
Despite Tulum’s popularity, you can usually still find a stretch of beach where yours will be the only footprints

Known for decades as a delightful Yucatan beach town, Tulum has recently become one of the most popular tropical places in Mexico.

Prices and tourist numbers have rocketed. So it’s no longer a quiet coastal town.

But it still has miles of incredible white sand beaches.

And Tulum’s cool boutique hotels, plethora of yoga studios and impressive restaurant scene soothe and satisfy the body and soul of even the weariest of travelers.

Tulum’s ruins are another one of its biggest draws.

Dating back to around the 11th century, the ancient Mayan city of Tulum is perched on cliffs overlooking the brilliantly blue Caribbean Sea. Stairs lead down to a perfect golden beach.

This means you can combine a trip to see the ruins with a beach day.

Tulum is also popular due to the number of cenotes in the local Riviera Maya area.

A woman swims in Cenote Calavera near Tulum.
Cenote Calavera near Tulum

Cenotes are sinkholes and caves partially open to the sky, filled with cool fresh water.

They’re some of the best places in the country for swimming and relaxing.

10) Akumal

Blue-and-white striped beach chairs in Akumal, Mexico
Beach chairs in Akumal

Situated about halfway between Playa del Carmen (see #13 below) and Tulum, Akumal is a must-visit place if you’re searching for an unspoiled beach scene.

Here, you’ll find everything that the Rivera Maya is famous for – turquoise waters, white beaches, lots of colorful tropical fish – just without so many people.

Plus, snorkeling with sea turtles at Akumal is one of the best things to do in the Yucatan.

North Akumal is also the place we first tasted fresh (real!) tamarind margaritas – at La Buena Vida.

This too-good-to-be-true beach club is on Halfmoon Bay, about a 15-minute walk from Playa Akumal (the main beach).

We had a super fun day there, sipping zinger cocktails and noshing on fish tacos, dipping our toes in the pool, checking out the “crow’s nest” tables (reached by climbing a ladder) and dozing in hammocks.

If you want nightlife, Akumal’s not the place. Head in either direction to Playa or Tulum.

But it’s the perfect spot for a slower-paced vacation and is also excellent for families.

11) Bacalar

Bacalar Lagoon
The Bacalar Lagoon is known as the Lake of Seven Colors, due to the water’s different shades of teal and blue

Once you’ve enjoyed the tourist attractions on tap further north in the state of Quintana Roo (northeast side of the Yucatan Peninsula), head south to Bacalar for a more chilled-out experience.

The town of Bacalar actually sits around six miles from the coast (close to the coastal city of Chetumal and the Mexico/ Belize border).

But its lagoons in Lake Bacalar – reflecting different shades of aqua and blue – are the real reason we’re including it in our list of best Mexico beach towns.

Boat tours of the lake take you to beautiful cenotes and hidden islands, and in a few locations you can jump off straight into the water.

Swinging in a hammock over the water is famously pleasurable too.

Thatched palapa on stilts over turquoise water of Lake Bacalar
Who wants to swing in a hammock in Bacalar?

Also, don’t miss Los Rapidos (Bacalar Rapids), where you can float down a lazy river (or whoosh downstream, depending on the water levels).

Back in town, Bacalar is a quaint kind of place with colorful buildings and a few excellent local eateries.

Fun fact: the town of Bacalar was raided by pirates in the 17th century, thanks to a small canal that connects with the sea. This canal is now known as the Pirates’ Canal.

12) Isla Mujeres

A woman drinks an orange cocktail on the beach in Isla Mujeres.
Slowing down on the beach is the order of the day on Isla Mujeres

You can’t have a list of the best beach towns in Mexico without thinking about some of its islands.

Take Isla Mujeres.

When you’re tuckered out by all of Cancun’s energy and want to experience a more relaxed side of Mexico, tiny Isla Mujeres makes the perfect day trip (or overnight escape).

First, to manage expectations, Isla Mujeres isn’t exactly an undiscovered island. As it’s just a 30-minute high-speed ferry ride away from Cancun, it’s quite touristy.

On the other hand, it has some of the best Mexico beaches with towering trees bearing Mexican fruit and colorful boats bobbing on the sea.

So we’ve no doubt you’ll find it a breath of fresh air after being in chaotic Cancun.

Away from the beach, life on Isla Mujeres centers around Avenida Miguel Hidalgo.

This is where you’ll find shops to buy Mexican souvenirs and tour operators offering boat trips out to the coral reef.

There are also plenty of restaurants here.

But be aware they’re the most expensive on the island. You’ll find more traditional food at cheaper prices a few streets away.

Do bring cash.

After one fine lobster lunch, we almost had to wash dishes because we thought we could pay with a credit card.

We managed to pay the bill with a mixture of Canadian money (which nobody wants!), US dollars and Mexican pesos.

13) Playa del Carmen

Visitors enjoy strolling the streets of Playa del Carmen at dusk.
Visitors enjoy strolling the streets of Playa del Carmen at dusk

A lively nightlife scene? Check. Luxury resorts and condos? Yes. Restaurants specializing in both Mexican and international fare? Indeed.

And most importantly, beaches? Of course!

Another one of the top vacation towns in Mexico hugging the Yucatan’s Caribbean Coast, Playa del Carmen boasts 20 miles of beaches with golden sands.

Because it’s fairly close to Cancun (about an hour’s drive along the gorgeous Mexican Caribbean Coast), this fun-filled resort town has become increasingly popular and developed in recent years.

However, if you walk away from 5th Avenue (with popular bars like Senor Frogs and La Vaquita), you’ll still find a slice of local life.

If you’re beach-hopping in the Riviera Maya, the town’s a great place for the first stop on your Mexican vacation before heading further south.

You can unwind here and get accustomed to local culture.

Perhaps bed down in a condo with a rooftop pool looking out over the city. Or book a thatched luxury bungalow at the Mahekal Beach Resort, just minutes’ away from the buzz.

14) Isla Holbox

Colorful murals decorate many of the buildings on Isla Holbox
Colorful murals decorate many of the buildings on Isla Holbox

Caribbean waters wash up on the shores of Isla Holbox, a fetchingly bohemian island with colorful street art and seductive beaches.

Located northwest of Cancun, this skinny island (26 miles long but only a mile wide) is reached by boat from Chiquila on the mainland.

If Isla Mujeres (#12 above) is too busy for you, Isla Holbox should do the trick. You ride golf carts instead of cars on the sandy roads, and all buildings are low-rise (they can’t be higher than 40 feet).

It’s one of those Mexico beach destinations where travelers go to do absolutely nothing. So nobody will blame you for doing just that on Isla Holbox.

Grab a cold one, head to the nearest hammock and watch the sunset turn to fire.

A thatched-roof bungalow on Isla Holbox
A thatched-roof “villa” on Island Holbox

There is one thing that might tempt you out of your hammock though. Like La Paz (#2 above), it’s one of the best destinations in the world for swimming with whale sharks.

The whale shark season on Isla Holbox is mid-May to mid-September.

Other activities (if you feel the need for doing something else) include taking a tour to see bioluminescent phytoplankton at night or exploring the island’s mangroves.

15) El Cuyo

El Cuyo beach
Come to El Cuyo to escape the madding crowds (Credit: La Casa Cielo)

El Cuyo is a real hidden gem when it comes to Yucatan beach towns.

The beach is a spit with a lagoon on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other, similar to Celestun (#19 below). And like Celestun, if you venture into the lagoon, you have a good chance of spotting flamingos.

Back by the beach, El Cuyo is a vast stretch of white sand that’s popular with kite fliers and windsurfers, thanks to the often windy conditions here.

The small town itself has a few guesthouses – nothing uber fancy, but comfortable enough. La Casa Cielo is our top pick for where to stay in El Cuyo.

Restaurants like La Conchita serve up highly-rated shrimp nachos and other fresh seafood dishes.

16) Puerto Morelos

Peaceful Puerto Morelos
Peaceful Puerto Morelos offers a relaxing Mexican Caribbean vacay – along with some great scuba diving

When exploring the Rivera Maya, most visitors jump straight from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, not stopping at the unspoilt town of Puerto Morelos. It’s perfectly positioned halfway between the two.

However, if you have the time, Puerto Morelos is one of the best beach towns near Cancun to laze about for a few days.

Unlike other towns on the Rivera Maya, Puerto Morelos still seems like a sleepy fishing village with a traditional town center.

Snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities are abundant (part of the Mesoamerican Reef is offshore). But prices are slightly lower and all attractions are less crowded.

The C-56 shipwreck of the 184-foot-long Mexican gun boat is a popular dive site in Puerto Morelos.
The C-56 shipwreck of the 184-foot-long Mexican gun boat is a popular dive site in Puerto Morelos

The waters around Puerto Morelos are also home to a multitude of turtles, and there’s a conservation project in town that helps to keep the creatures’ eggs safe.

At certain times of the year, you can get involved in nighttime experiences where you see the turtles hatch and make their way out to sea.

17) San Miguel de Cozumel

Beach cabanas on a dock that juts out into the turquoise waters of Cozumel
Escape to the island of Cozumel for superb scuba diving and a mellow beach scene

Step onboard a ferry at Playa del Carmen, and in less than an hour, you’ll find yourself on the beautiful island of Cozumel.

Hire a scooter or jeep when you dock, and you can easily explore the entire place in one day.

The island’s capital is San Miguel de Cozumel. It’s a traditional Mexican town with brightly colored buildings and taco restaurants lining the streets.

A few beaches are within striking distance. However, you’ll need wheels to reach Cozumel’s most popular beaches, like Playa Palancar and Tortugas Beach Club.

Cozumel is a slice of island paradise.

If comparing Cozumel with Cancun, it definitely doesn’t have as many attractions, bars and restaurants as Cancun.

But its natural beauty, laid-back vibe and top-notch snorkeling and scuba diving make it well worth your vacation time.

After we earned our dive cards, Cozumel is where we vacationed to test out our newly-learned scuba diving skills (and to escape Cancun!).

18) Mahahual

Colorful kayaks on the white sand beach at Mahahual, Mexico
Days are pretty chilled in Mahahual

If you were looking for small towns in Mexico with beaches in the past, you may have been directed to Mahahual, close to the Belize border.

These days, however, there’s a cruise ship dock, and Mahahual certainly sees its fair share of tourists. USD is the currency of choice rather than Mexican pesos, and lots of activities cater to visitors to the town.

(You might want to plan your visit for when there are no or fewer ships in port.)

That said, despite the fact that it’s quite a bustling little town, Mahahual is still appealing. It’s a great mix between rural and tourist-friendly.

The town’s champagne-colored beaches, turquoise Caribbean sea and reefs accessed straight from the beach reel in beach and watersports lovers.

There’s also a diversity of restaurants (try the seafood paella at Nohoch Kay, aka “The Big Fish”), along with plenty of places to stay.

And in the evening, when most tourists have departed, the town is nothing short of magical.

19) Celestun

Pink flamingos in Celestun, Mexico
Pink flamingos in the town’s biosphere reserve are the star attraction in Celestun

Once you’ve been to Playa del Carmen and Cancun, you might want to visit one of the more non-touristy beach towns in Mexico. We give you… Celestun in the state of Yucatan, a three-hour drive from Merida.

Home to the UNESCO-listed Ria Celestun Biosphere Reserve, this is a town on a spit off the Yucatan Peninsula, with a lagoon on one side and the sea on the other.

The lagoon supports an array of birdlife, including pretty pink flamingos. Up to 35,000 flamingos gather in the reserve during the mating season from November to February.

You can take a boat tour to see them. You may also spot alligators lurking in the murky water. Don’t worry, the boats are safe!

Less than a mile from the lagoon sits Celestun town, one of the best small beach towns in Mexico.

It caters mainly to Mexican tourists. So if you want to practice your Spanish, this sweet Yucatan beach town is just the ticket!

The beach isn’t quite as nice as those further south in the state of Quintana Roo.

But you can’t beat the seafood served in the thatched-roof beach restaurants. (Try La Palapa, which has tables on the sand.) And the atmosphere is very traditional.

20) Puerto Progreso

Puerto Progreso has one of the longest piers in the world.
Puerto Progreso has one of the longest piers in the world, making it easy for cruise ships to dock on the Yucatan Coast

Playa Progreso is the beach that all Merida locals and ex-pats escape to when the weather in the city gets too dang hot.

The white sand beach is part of Puerto Progreso, a small coastal town about a half-hour drive from Merida.

It’s a cruise terminal, so most of its foot traffic is from passengers who disembark here to see Merida or some of the ruins in the area.

The town has a beautiful mile-long malecon.

Maybe stop for lunch at one of the many restaurants there to tuck into some fresh seafood. Or pop in somewhere to sip a frozen margarita while taking in views of the ocean.

As for Progreso Beach, it’s perfect for sunbathing or paddling a SUP board. And it doesn’t get anywhere near as busy as those in Quintana Roo (except maybe when a cruise ship docks).

With relatively low crime levels, Puerto Progreso also happens to be one of the safest Mexico beach towns.

Best beach towns near Puerto Vallarta

Orange-tiled roofs of Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is one of the larger Mexican resort cities

Lying on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, Puerto Vallarta is in the Mexican state of Jalisco.

And like Cabo (see #1), PV is another one of the best Mexican vacation cities for those living along the west coast of the U.S. or Canada. It’s just a short hop away, really!

The Puerto Vallarta coastline offers enchanting beaches, hidden Mexico beach towns with fun traditional atmospheres and amazing surf for wave chasers.

It’s generally more affordable than the Yucatan too.

21) Puerto Vallarta

The setting sun casts an orange glow over Puerto Vallarta.
The setting sun casts an orange glow over Puerto Vallarta

Hugging the Bay of Banderas, Puerto Vallarta is blessed with great weather year-round, awesome restaurants, a wealth of tourist attractions, cool boutique hotels – and lots of different beaches for surfers, swimmers and snorkelers.

Because it’s a sizeable city (population about 380,000 in the greater metro area), there’s something in Puerto Vallarta for everyone.

It certainly has its touristy side. But seek, and ye shall find hidden taquerias and tequila bars where you can practice speaking Spanish and hang out with locals.

There are plenty of places to soak up the Mexican beach culture in Puerto Vallarta too.

Plonk yourself down at a beach bar on buzzing Playa Los Muertos for people-watching.

Or take a walk down Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon for epic Pacific Coast views and beautiful sculptures.

The Triton and Nereida (mermaid) sculpture on Puerto Vallarta's Malecon
The Triton and Nereida (mermaid) sculpture on PV’s Malecon

What we especially like about PV is that it’s not just a popular tourist destination.

It’s a real thriving Mexican city, where Mexicans live and work and go about their business.

It hasn’t lost its authentic nature and it isn’t as “Americanized” as say, Cabo. It’s one of our favorite large Mexican coastal cities!

Puerto Vallarta has one of the busiest international airports in the country, with connections to destinations across the USA, Canada and elsewhere in Mexico.

This makes it a great gateway to other beachy Mexican vacation spots as well.

22) Punta Mita

White-cushioned pool beds around the sea-facing pool at the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort, Mexico
Punta Mita is all about living the good life (Credit: St. Regis Punta Mita Resort

Rub shoulders with the rich and famous at Punta Mita!

Close to Puerto Vallarta in Nayarit state, this 1,500-acre privately owned peninsula is one of the best Mexican resort destinations for a splurge.

It’s nearly surrounded by bright blue water, and virtually every hotel and property boasts incredible ocean views.

It incorporates five ritzy resorts, including the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort (the first St Regis property in Latin America) and the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita.

As you’d expect from such a glamorous enclave, all hotels offer world-class facilities.

Alternatively, for a deluxe but more intimate stay, try the villa-style Casa de Mita. It’s one of our all-time favorite places to stay!

From spas and golf courses to gourmet restaurants, everything is designed to ensure you’re vacationing in the lap of luxury.

Tee off on the 36-hole Punta Mita Golf Club, try out watersports like surfing and kayaking, or just relax aboard a boat and look out for dolphins or whales.

In the evening, savor seafood tacos and tasty steaks (paired with fine wines) at one of the peninsula’s beach clubs.

23) Yelapa

Children swim and play on the gold sand beach at Yelapa, Mexico.
Meet Yelapa, a small Mexican beach town about a 40-minute water taxi ride from Puerto Vallarta

Yelapa is a tiny pueblo that’s best accessed by boat – which you can take from Puerto Vallarta. There are a few roads leading to the outskirts of the town, but no cars are permitted in the town itself.

Yelapa makes an ideal day trip from Puerto Vallarta.

Think golden beaches lapped by blue waters, iguanas hanging around in the trees, two breathtaking waterfalls you can hike to and several beachside restaurants serving the freshest seafood caught in the waters that day.

It’s nothing short of idyllic.

Not ready to leave paradise after just a day?

Happily, you can stay overnight. Yelapa has a few accommodation options.

Many of these are self-catered rentals which you can book through or Airbnb. Or check into the boutique hippie-chic Verana Hotel.

Yelapa is not quite as sleepy as it was.

It now has electricity (which arrived in 2001). No matter, it’s still one of the cutest small beach towns in Mexico for an escape from civilization.

Pssst! Keep an eye out for the “pie lady.” (And pssst! There’s more than one pie lady.)

She’ll come around to the beach every day with warm fresh-baked coconut cream pies and sell you a slice. We’ve not tasted better anywhere!

24) Sayulita

Woman in pink hat in Sayulita, Mexico
Famous for its surfing, Sayulita is a booming beach town in Mexico

Say Sayulita, go surfing!

The sandy beaches in Sayulita are catnip for surfers. The water is nearly always warm, and the balmy tropical weather is perfect for a beach day, even if you’re not a surfer.

Sayulita was once a sleepy little beach settlement.

Not so now. In recent years, it’s morphed into one of the best Mexican beach towns for digital nomads and yogis, as well as for surfers.

It’s still easy to find a bit of solitude though. And while there are plenty of vegan cafés and meditation studios, the town has still retained some of its authentic charm.

As for riding those waves, Sayulita Main Beach has a sandy bottom break and is ideal for beginners.

Alternatively, El Punto and La Izquierda are excellent choices for intermediate and advanced surfers.

A little over an hour’s drive from Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita makes for a pleasant day trip from PV if you’ve got a car (or you can take the bus).

We had fun poking about the shops strung along the sandy streets and watching the board-flying antics on the beach.

If you want to stay a few days, Villa Amor is the most luxurious option. Anjali Casa Divina (for adults only) also comes highly recommended.

25) San Pancho

The sun sets over the waves in San Pancho, Mexico.
If Sayulita is too slick for you, head to San Pancho – it’s still pretty sleepy

Just six miles down the road from Sayulita, you’ll find the adorable town of San Pancho – one of the more off-the-beaten-path Mexico beach towns.

A tiny surf town with gently swaying palm trees and fine golden sand, San Pancho doesn’t have all that much in the way of amenities. But it’s ideal if you want to get off-grid and enjoy a laid-back vacation.

One thing that San Pancho excels at is surfing.

It has one main break, which is quite reliable. It can have some gnarly rips, so be careful if you’re a beginner.

You might find day-trippers from Sayulita frequenting the beach during the day. But come evening, San Pancho is enchantingly quiet and serene.

Best beach towns in Oaxaca

Head to the state of Oaxaca for chilled-out vibes, wicked surfing and budget-friendly prices.

The beach scene centers around Puerto Escondido, but even this town is more relaxed and slow-paced than many other beach towns in Mexico.

Plus, there are countless hidden coves and small authentic beach towns with some of the best Mexican restaurants you’ll ever dine at. You’re in Oaxaca, the state of Mexican food, after all!

26) Mazunte

 A young woman looks out over the lagoon at La Ventanilla, near Mazunte.
Looking out over the lagoon at La Ventanilla near Mazunte

If you’re looking for quiet beach towns in Mexico, head to hippy Mazunte!

This Oaxacan beach town is a top choice if you want an easygoing beach vacation without hordes of people.

It’s another one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos. But despite this accreditation, it’s actually one of the cheapest beach towns in Mexico.

Life in Mazunte revolves around the beaches, which are all famous for their impressive surf.

Then there’s the rocky peninsula of Punta Cometa jutting out of the Mazunte coastline. It’s a glorious place to catch a Pacific Ocean sunset.

You’ll also find a few small bars and eateries. If you’re tired of tacos, try the Italian food at Alessandro.  

Mainly, Mazunte is the ideal location to kick back, unplug from the world and relax.

27) Playa Zipolite

Private plunge pool at El Alquimista Zipolite in Playa Zipolite, Mexico
Surf, chill, sleep, repeat – that’s Playa Zipolite (Credit: El Alquimista Zipolite)

Playa Zipolite sits next to Mazunte (#26) and is famous for surfing, turtles – and nudists!

That’s right. Playa Zipolite is Mexico’s only nudist beach.

The clothing optional policy doesn’t span the entire beach, though, and you certainly won’t be made to feel out of place if you rock up wearing a bathing suit.

Zipolite is popular with surfers, with a few surf schools lining the beachfront.

If you aren’t an advanced surfer, it’s best to take a lesson rather than tackle the waves independently. The current is very strong here.

Swimming is also not recommended due to rips and currents. But never fear, there are some hotels with great swimming pools nearby.

28) Puerto Escondido

People swimming at the beach in Puerto Escondido, Mexico
Puerto Escondido means “the hidden port” – hidden or not, this coastal Mexican town is superb for swimming and surfing

If you want waves, another legendary Mexican surf spot is Puerto Escondido. One of the livelier Oaxaca beach towns, Puerto Escondido has oodles of waves.

One of the best beaches in Mexico for hardcore surfing, Playa Zicatela is perhaps the most (in)famous in town. Don’t try to surf here if you’re a newbie!

Instead, head to the more placid bay of Carrizalillo, which is populated by surf schools looking to give beginners their first lesson.

In town, expect restaurants offering global cuisine and plenty of bars to enjoy an ice-cold mezcal.

There are also plenty of shops. Maybe try your hand at bargaining for a gift or keepsake?

Puerto Escondido is definitely busier than other hangouts on the Oaxacan coastline. But the number of tourists is far fewer than the likes of those in Cancun and Tulum.

29) Chacahua

Chacahua Lagoon, Mexico
Reached by boat trip through mangrove lagoons, this tiny village may be one of the last true hidden gems in Mexico!

Nestled in Lagunas de Chacahua National Park, Chacahua is without a doubt one of the most unique Mexican coastal towns!

A far cry from the mass tourism of the Yucatan (or even Puerto Escondido), Chacahua summons travelers seeking an under-the-radar, rural and rustic experience.

Reachable by lancha (a small boat) from El Zapotalito, arriving in Chacahua is an experience in itself.

You’ll pass through scenic mangroves, a natural habitat for turtles, alligators and various birds, eventually docking at the town’s pier.

Chacahua is the optimal place to relax and disconnect. There are a few family-run guesthouses but no large hotels.

Most visitors spend their days hitting the waves with a surfboard, exploring the mangroves, looking out for bioluminescence in the evening and hiking to spots like the El Faro lighthouse.

Or just welcome the slow life and see where each day takes you!

30) Santa Cruz

Beautiful beach in Huatulco, Mexico
The Huatulco area is known for its beautiful stretches of beach

A sweeping bay in southern Oaxaca state, Santa Cruz is the main bay in the Huatulco area, where many people choose to stay.

With a protected south-facing beach, it’s ideal for swimming. Its calm waters and the range of amenities in the area make it excellent for families.

Once you’ve taken a dip, Santa Cruz is a popular spot to watch the world go by – nosh on tamales at one of the beachside restaurants while watching boats go in and out of the nearby port.

It’s part of the hotel district of Huatulco, but there’s usually plenty of space to stretch out and enjoy the sands.

31) Other small beach towns in Huatulco

On Tangolunda Bay in Huatulco, the Brisas Huatulco is a popular luxury all-inclusive resort.
On Tangolunda Bay in Huatulco, the Brisas Huatulco is a popular luxury all-inclusive resort (Credit: Las Brisas Huatulco)

Huatulco also incorporates a few smaller Mexican beach destinations. Each has their own character and atmosphere.

La Crucecita, for example, is set back a little from Santa Cruz. (You can walk to it from Santa Cruz via a pedestrian path.)

With classic Oaxacan architecture centered around the zocalo (town square), it has a traditional Mexican vibe.

And there are plenty of eateries to try the legendary Oaxacan cuisine (think mole and anything with quesillo).

On the other hand, if you’re looking for somewhere posh to stay on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, Tangolunda Bay is well-known for its luxury resorts. You’ll find also plenty of condos with infinity pools here.

Other best beach towns: Pacific Coast Mexico

We’re not finished yet! There are more Mexican states on the Pacific Coast with great beach towns.

You’ll find something for everyone in the Pacific Coast collection below.

Discover towns focused on tourism to hidden gems that are well worth exploring and hyper-local spots where you better know some Spanish!

32) Zihuatanejo

Villa with private sea-facing pool in Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Zihuatanejo is a romantic Mexican beach town, with small hotels and villas clinging to lush hills surrounding the bays

Ahhh, Zihuatanejo!

Around 200 miles northwest of Acapulco in the state of Guerrero, Zihuatanejo is one of the newest Pueblo Magicos and one of the best coastal towns in Mexico for a romantic getaway.

Zihuatanejo’s beaches include the iconic Playa La Ropa, which has everything you could want in a beach – powdery golden sand, gentle waves, fresh cold coconuts served whenever you want, beachfront dining…

Spending the day here is like living in a dream.

Zihuatanejo also welcomes the return of sea turtles, which lay their eggs on the beaches in the rainy season. Then from August to February, you can help usher baby sea turtles back to the sea.

Baby sea turtles in Zihuatanejo
Who wants to get in the water? These baby sea turtles sure do!

Zihuatanejo also has some wonderful accommodation options.

Take our favorite Zihua hotel, La Casa Que Canta.

The name translates to the rather poetic phrase “the house that sings.” It boasts boutique rooms and an unmatched cliffside setting. We’d go back in a heartbeat.

33) Ixtapa

Ixtapa is a popular Mexican beach resort destionation.
A well-known Mexican beach resort destination, Ixtapa is modern, with more big hotels than neighboring Zihua

Ixtapa is the “ying” to Zihuatanejo’s “yang.”

Located about four miles from Zihua, Ixtapa is one of the most popular Mexico resort towns with families, golfers and fans of deep sea fishing.

While it’s busy, you’ll find a beautiful white sand beach and plenty of amenities, including high-rise hotels (there are plenty of all-inclusives) and restaurants that cater to even the fussiest eater.

We personally preferred staying in Zihuatanejo. But for many, Ixtapa makes the ideal base to stay while exploring the surrounding charms of the area.

34) Troncones

View of the pool and beach in Troncones from the balcony of a room at Hacienda Eden.
View of the pool and beach in Troncones from the balcony of a room at Hacienda Eden (Credit: Hacienda Eden)

Troncones was once a small fishing village without any infrastructure.

Now it has relaxed eco-friendly hotels like Hacienda Eden, local restos serving some delicious food and a strong surf culture. But it still retains much of its original charm.

Troncones only counts about 500 local residents. So while its main industry is tourism, it never feels overcrowded.

And good news for those on a budget. Like Mazunte (#26 above), it’s also one of the cheapest Mexican beach towns.

In fact, visitors to Troncones perfectly blend in with local life, whether they’re chilling in a hammock in one of the B&Bs or watching baby sea turtles being released.

Apart from hitting the waves, there aren’t necessarily a whole host of things to do in Troncones,

Just drink in the slow life and see where each day takes you!

35) Mazatlan

Mazatlan Malecon
Mazatlan’s Malecon is a seaside promenade (over 12 miles long), with both a bicycle lane and a wide sidewalk for running and jogging

We have to be honest. Mazatlan is not our favorite.

Still, with its long sandy beaches, it’s one of the best beach destinations in Mexico for an affordable luxury Mexican getaway.

Actually, to be fair, we should probably revisit Mazatlan to see what it’s like now. It’s been years since we were last there.

We hear Mazatlan today is a charming colonial town, with cobblestone streets lined with brightly colored buildings housing shops and restaurants.

Other attractions include Mazatlan Aquarium, where you can learn about animal life in the local area. (Hello manta rays and sea lions!)

You might also want to catch a show at El Clavadista (The Diver), where professional divers jump from a rock at sunset.

From Mazatlan, you can also take a boat out to uninhabited Isla Venados (Deer Island). Part of an Ecological Reserve and Refuge Area, it’s popular for snorkeling and beach activities.

Okay, we’ve convinced ourselves to revisit Mazatlan!

That’s it for our list of best Mexican beach towns

As you can see, there are beach towns in Mexico for every taste and budget on this list.

Looking for nightlife? Head to Cancun or Puerto Vallarta.

Want to snorkel with fewer crowds? We recommend Akumal or Puerto Morelos.

Keen to try out surfing? Puerto Escondido has you covered.

If you’re planning a Mexican beach vacation, there’s a sandy spot waiting to welcome you for your dream of sun-drenched fun.

Check out more of Mexico!

Mexico City: Planning to enjoy three days in Mexico City? See our indepth itinerary covering the best museums, attractions and restaurants in the fabulous capital.

What to eat: Don’t miss trying these exotic and delicious types of Mexican fruit!

San Miguel de Allende: From the iconic pink Church of St. Michael to El Jardin (the main garden square), there are so many magical attractions in San Miguel de Allende! You can spend days in this small colonial city and not get bored.

Our top travel tips and resources

Hotels: is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)

Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours, plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out Viator (a TripAdvisor company) and GetYourGuide.

Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.

Travel insurance: SafetyWing is designed for frequent travelers, long-term adventurers and digital nomads. It covers medical expenses, lost checked luggage, trip interruption and more. We also have and recommend Medjet for global air medical transportation and travel security.

Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)

Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.

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Best Mexican beach towns

Photo credits: 5, 7 to 10, 25 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase 

About the authors

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

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