As an iconic Mexican vacation spot, Cancun is known for a lot of good and not-so-good things – yes spring break, I’m talking about you. But the one thing that there’s no denying is that all the best beaches in Cancun are next-level spectacular – especially since they are home to some of the best scuba diving in Cancun.
Yup, everywhere you turn you’ll find crystal blue waters, soft white sand, and incredible marine life just waiting to be discovered.
Yeah, trust me on this people. I’ve been to Cancun more times than I can count, absolutely love chilaxing on the beach (under an umbrella), and want to share all my insider picks of the best beaches Cancun has to offer.
This way regardless of what you’re looking for from top Cancun beaches, you can quickly and easily find a pristine oasis of sand that suits your needs.
So, slather on that sunscreen and have your favorite tropical umbrella drink at the ready because we’re about the swan dive into this post about all of the best Cancun beaches ever.
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Where to Stay in Cancun
Not sure where to stay when livin’ the high life in Mexico? If so then check out this quick and easy guide to the best hotels in Cancun.
Because regardless of how small (or big) your budget is, you really can find an amazing, centrally located, safe place to stay in this iconic Mexican city.
- Residence Inn By Marriott Cancun (Mid-range/Budget) – Yes this is a chain hotel and yes that’s mildly lame. But, who cares since this 3-star hotel is straight up GORG and overlooks the Carribbean Sea. It’s also a 14-minute walk from the beach and the food is delish. It is a bit far from town but the price is right and you get to enjoy 2 rooftop pools. Rooms also come with private balconies, kitchenettes, sitting areas, and more.
- Renaissance Cancun Resort & Marina (mid-range) – This majestic 4-star hotel sits along the marina and features stunning views of the ocean from rooms fully outfitted with flat-screen TVs, balconies, coffeemakers, etc. Guests will also enjoy dining at a contemporary cafe and bar before hitting up the outdoor pool, indoor/outdoor hot tubs, and sauna.
- Le Blanc Spa Resort (Luxury) – This all-inclusive, adult only resort is the perfect place to stay if money isn’t an issue. I mean, not only are there 6 bars and 4 restaurants on-site, but guests can also enjoy beach access to a golf course, a spa, and several outdoor pools. And then there are the rooms which come fully outfitted with private ocean view balconies, whirlpool tubs, iPod docks, espresso machines, and basically anything else you can imagine.
What is the nicest beach in Cancun?
In truth, this is entirely subjective. Everyone has their favorites for their own personal reasons. And honestly, sometimes it’s just about the vibe of the beach and making sure you know what to pack for Cancun first.
So, if all you’re after is a beautiful pristine beach, you will have your pick of amazing beaches in Cancun. Many of the beaches here look like they’re straight out of a magazine.
Undoubtedly one of the best beaches in Cancun – and all of Mexico – for pristine beaches is Playa Norte where you can finally live out your island paradise fantasy. Don’t forget to get a tropical drink to go with it as you enjoy one of the top beaches Cancun has to offer.
Additionally, the water at Playa Norte is so clear that it’s nearly see-through, with sandy beaches that have been bleached white by the sun.
However, if you want a secluded and off-the-beaten-track beach, Isla Blanca in Costa Mujeres or Playa Maroma are both excellent picks for the best beaches Cancun has to offer.
And if you are hoping to see turtles and other extraordinary marine wildlife then Playa Xcacel is where it’s at.
Because once you’re here you can watch turtles lay their eggs. Plus, you can even head to Playa Akumal and go swimming with them!
Alternatively, if you’re more interested in a totally unique ecosystem than turtles, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a designated UNESCO world heritage site due to its incredible biodiversity.
So, no matter your criteria is for the nicest beach in Cancun, you won’t leave disappointed.
What side of Cancun has the best beaches?
This depends on what you want to get out of your best beaches In Cancun experience.
If you’re looking for soft white sand, crystal clear blue water, shady palm trees and plenty of sunshine, then I’ve got good news for you: every beach in Cancun has all of these and more!
For beaches with plenty of people, lots of activities, and a vibrant nightlife scene, the long eastern edge of the Hotel Zone is the place to be.
Yeah, this area has numerous bars, restaurants, beach clubs, hotels, and resorts all located right next to each other.
So, if this is what you’re after then head to Playa Forum for the strongest taste of Cancun’s beach social scene.
What, like your beaches calmer, with a desert island feel? If so then the northern edge beaches are where you’ll find your paradise, in places like Playa Tortugas, Playa Caracol, and Playa Langosta.
But it’s not just the northern section that has the quieter beaches.
Playa Chacmool on the eastern side also has a reputation as a super relaxed and out-of-the-way beach.
Yup, it’s pretty perfect for anyone who wants to just soak up the sun or lie in the shade with a good book.
Where is the clearest water in Cancun?
The water all around the Riviera Maya is some of the most beautiful in the world. So, pretty much every beach in Cancun has water that will take your breath away!
However, for those looking for the bluest water, I have a couple of recommendations.
And at the top of the list is Playa Maroma. You think you’ve seen blue water? Well, the ocean here is so unbelievably blue that you just have to see it for yourself.
The snorkeling here is also glorious af. And there’s so much beach for you to explore!
Then there’s Playa Gaviota Azul, right on the southern tip of the Hotel Zone peninsula. This beach is long and flat. Plus, the water is calm which means you can see through it much more easily.
Yeah, gazing out at the ocean from this beach is like looking into a dream – turquoise and more turquoise everywhere, baby!
However, for calmer water (which means more wide areas of deep blue to enjoy), try out the northern shores of Cancun’s main beach strip, between the main city and the Hotel Zone.
Playa Tortugas, Playa Langosta, Playa Linda and Playa Ancha are all along that stretch of land, and have calmer, clearer waters for a better view of the deep blue sea.
Are the beaches in Cancun good for swimming?
Many of the best beaches in Cancun are perfect for swimming, although some are better than others depending on your swimming strength and preferences.
All along the northern edge of the Hotel Zone peninsula, the waters are calmer and the beaches are flatter.
This means that beginners or those more comfortable in calm waters will have a better time up there at Playa Langosta or Playa Tortugas.
Then, if you go further around the northern tip, the waters start to get a bit rougher. And while swimming is possible, it can be a struggle for weaker swimmers or young children.
And then in some of the best beaches in Cancun, the sheer amount of water activities make it difficult to enjoy a relaxing swim.
In particular, Playa Maroma, further south along the Riviera Maya, has some of the bluest water in the region – perfect for swimming!
But, the popularity of water sports on jet skis and in motorboats means that the ocean can get a little crowded. Although, both types of vehicles are available to the public for hire at Playa Maroma.
Best Beaches in Cancun
1. Playa Tortugas
Take a short drive west out of downtown Cancun and you’ll come across Playa Tortuga, one of the first beaches you can find on the way out to the popular Hotel Zone.
This bustling piece of the Mexican coastline is very popular with locals. And that’s probably because there’s a ferry that operates between Playa Tortugas and the nearby Isla Mujeres.
So, yeah. This is one of the best beaches Cancun has to offer that gets a little crowded.
However, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying what is actually a very chill beach!
See, because of Playa Tortugas’ location, the currents in the ocean water are relatively weak here.
So if you want a relaxing swim without the worry of being carried away by big waves or being buffeted about by surfers then this is the place for you.
You’ll also be able to see a whole host of colorful sea creatures in the crystal blue waters that lap gently up against the soft white sand.
As such, Playa Tortuga is easily one of the best beaches in Cancun for swimmers and snorkelers!
Nearby amenities such as food, drinks, and the Mini Market & Deli store that’s next to the road are all reasonably priced as well.
2. Playa Forum
This vibrant hangout spot is definitely one of the most popular beaches on this list, and one of the best beaches in Cancun for socializing.
Plus, there’s plenty to do in the area since you’ll be close to plenty of hotels, bars, clubs, and restaurants at Playa Forum.
Yeah, it’s perfectly situated right in the heart of the Hotel Zone of Cancun and sits just outside a shopping mall.
So, this is one of the best Cancun beaches that are perfect for anyone looking for a bit of retail therapy, or if you happen to find that you need some extra lotion or some sunglasses.
Now, during the day, feel free to soak up the sun on the super soft sand. Then once the sun goes down, grab a drink and party the night away since the nightlife scene here is very active!
Day or night, though, this beach is hella busy. So, keep that in mind if you’re looking for a quiet piece of paradise to call your own.
3. Playa Xcacel
If you’re looking for one of the most unique experiences that one of the best beaches in Cancun has to offer, make sure to head down to Playa Xcacel!
Pronunciation: ISH – KAH – CELL
Then, after taking a 2-hour drive down the coast, you’ll have the opportunity to see one of the most magical things in the animal kingdom: turtles – at least if you plan your visit to one of the best beaches Cancun has to offer between May and October.
Because every year, this is when these majestic creatures pull themselves out of the ocean and onto the white shores of Playa Xcacel, where the sand is the perfect softness for them to lay their eggs.
However, this is an exceptionally delicate ritual for the turtles. So, Playa Xcacel sits inside a nature reserve that helps protect these rare and majestic creatures.
Therefore, this definitely isn’t the place for an all-out beach party extravaganza. However, if you want to experience a beautiful natural event, don’t miss out on this Cancun hidden gem.
4. Playa Langosta
It’s one of the best beaches in Cancun that also doubles as one of the longest beaches in the area too!
Still, Playa Langosta is a popular yet quiet beach that sits on the northern edge of Cancun’s beach peninsula, halfway between the Hotel Zone and the main city.
As I mentioned, the beach itself is quite long, with plenty of shallow water. Because of this, it’s one of the best beaches in Cancun for families with young children.
There’s even a playground nearby, as well as plenty of family-friendly restaurants, public restrooms, and an outdoor shower for some easy cooling down or cleaning off after tons of fun in the sand.
However, the one downside to this excellent family beach vacation spot is that there isn’t any parking immediately nearby. So, you’ll have to travel up the block to find a spot and then walk down.
But, don’t let that stop you from bringing the kids to this relaxing and calm piece of sunlit beach, perfect for a break in-between louder activities.
5. Playa Chac Mool
Sat along the northern end of Cancun’s main beach area, Playa Chac Mool is one of the best beaches in Cancun for those who prefer to avoid the mainstream.
Plus, it’s only a short walk from Playa Forum and is a secluded section of white sand that is considered an under-the-radar beach compared to the others on this list of the best Cancun beaches of them all.
Additionally, Playa Chac Mool is super easy to get to, with buses from Cancun stopping right at the entrance to this sun drenched oasis.
Therefore, it’s an ideal beach for picking a spot, setting up camp, lotioning up, and getting sucked into a good book.
Just be aware that, because they’re right next to each other, there can sometimes be spillover from Playa Forum of louder, more party-friendly folks.
The strong waves at Playa Chac Mool also make it the ideal hangout spot for surfers. So, be sure to bring your board and catch those waves, dude!
However, if you prefer a more laid back approach when it comes to your beach vacation (and who doesn’t sometimes, amirite?), just watch those heavy turquoise waves crash onto the shore from underneath a beach umbrella.
6. Playa Maroma
If you’re willing to take a short journey to some of the best beaches in Cancun then I definitely have a great beach for you!
Because Playa Maroma is less than an hour’s drive down the coast towards nearby Playa del Carmen, and is one of the most popular beaches in the Riviera Maya.
And while this is one of the top beaches Cancun has to offer that might not be near most of the other beaches on this list, it still has that Cancun spirit y’all!
Plus, this part of the region is an awesome place for snorkeling. In fact, the scenery is beautiful from both above and below the waterline, with all sorts of sea life waiting to be discovered.
But, if you do decide to go swimming, watch out for anyone else on the water.
Yeah, there are a lot of jet skis and other motorboats available for people to hire nearby. So, as strange as this may sound, keep your eyes out for traffic!
However, if you want to stay nice and safe on land, this area also has some resorts and clubs right on the beach that serve food, drinks, and that have music pumping all day long – and late into the night too.
7. Playa Paraiso
When you imagine a beach, do you picture white sand, palm trees, beach huts, blue ocean waves and a sunset to die for?
Because that’s what you get at Playa Paraiso, one of the most beautiful beaches in the enitre world – let alone one of the best beaches in Cancun.
I mean, it’s literally called Paradise Beach! And it’s very deserving of that title. So, imagine cocktails in coconuts with straws sticking out and all the sunbathing you could ask for.
Because of this, Playa Paraiso is super popular with the Insta alums. So, make sure you get there early to grab a sweet spot and grab that awe inspiring empty beach at sunrise photo op!
IAnd if you feel like experiencing some culture and non-sand-based scenery, just head north to the Jardín Botanico Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marín.
There you’ll find some gorgeous botanical gardens plus a walking trail that will take you to some ancient Mayan ruins.
8. Playa Akumal
Situated on the Maya Riviera, Playa Akumal is one of the best beaches in Cancun for nature lovers. Specifically fans of turtles.
In fact, Playa Akumal itself means “Beach of the Turtle” and is famous for allowing you to swim with the turtles, a truly extraordinary Mexican experience.
Just make sure to arrive early as possible since only 200 people per day are permitted to swim in this protected turtle area.
Because in addition to turtles, this is one of the best Cancun beaches that is home to beautiful reefs and other fascinating marine life – making this one of the best spots for snorkeling in Mexico.
A few of the other species swimming around include barracudas, stingrays, and manta rays. So, be careful where you step!
You must also go swimming in this area with a guide for the protection of the wildlife. However, a guide is only required in a well-marked area. Otherwise, feel free to swim on your own.
Now, as you already know, the turtles are free to swim wherever they want. So, if you want to guarantee that you see turtles, have a guide take you through the protected zone.
And believe me, getting to swim with the turtles is absolutely worth it! Plus, these amazing creatures are super used to humans and will just swim right past you.
They also might accidentally swim up against you but please don’t touch the turtles as this might unintentionally harm them.
9. Playa Xpu-Ha
So let’s address the elephant in the room: how is this Cancun beach even pronounced? Trust me, I was once asking the same thing.
Pronunciation: ISH – POO – HA
Well, now that that’s out of the way, why is this one of the best beaches in Cancun? Easy, Playa Xpu-Ha is EXACTLY what you imagine when you hear the words ‘pristine beach.’
In addition to the white sands and turquoise waters, Xpu-Ha is also one of the quietest beaches in Cancun.
Yeah, it’s one of those places that is popular among locals but that few tourists visit.
So, you could easily spend hours sunbathing and swimming in these peaceful water here. You can also enjoy a variety of water sports since Xpu-Ha is also a great beach for kayaking, snorkeling, and paddle boarding.
It is also worth noting that the water here can get a bit rough. However, the La Playa Xpu Ha Beach Club shares helpful daily posts on their Facenook page about the condition of the water here. So, be sure ti check that out before you visit.
Additionally, there are several other beach clubs here, so you don’t need to pack food for the day (though feel free to bring snacks).
Playa Xpu-Ha also has a small entrance fee ($2.00), which must be paid in cash (not card). The beach is also only open from 10am to 6pm, and fills up quickly. Therefore, arrive early to secure a spot!
10. Costa Mujeres
Sometimes confused with nearby Isla Mujeres, Costa Mujeres is in fact a hidden gem that sits right on the mainland.
Located just north of Cancun’s Hotel Zone, Costa Mujeres is a secluded peninsula with stunning pristine, sandy white beaches.
So, it’s no surprise that you’ll find some of the best beaches in Cancun here along Isla Blanca, which is a beautiful pet-friendly series of beaches that stretch out over 12 miles of coastline.
Along these shores is also Laguna Chacmuchuch, a saltwater lagoon that is known for its perfect kitesurfing conditions and that is popular among fly fishers.
Therefore, if you want a beautiful Cancun beach all to yourself, Isla Blanca is a safe bet – especially during the week.
On weekends though this beach is popular with locals. That being said, they mostly hang out at the beachfront clubs and restaurants.
Also, be sure to bring cash as credit cards aren’t accepted anywhere on Isla Blanca. And if you’re driving, fill the tank before you get there as there are no gas stations either.
And while you’re here, don’t forget to check out the Mayan archaeological site of El Meco, which itself is a super unique place that is rarely visited by tourists.
11. Playa Norte
Not only is Playa Norte one of the best beaches in Cancun, it is also considered one of the best in the WORLD.
Which is a lot to live up to, but Playa Norte is definitely up to the task. Because with its see-through blue waters and rolling white sand, it’s hard not to fall head over heels in love with this place.
Plus, it’s located on Isla Mujeres just off the coast of Cancun. So, this is one of the best beaches in Cancun that can be visited as part of a day trip as it’s easily accessible by ferry.
As the name suggests, it is on the North side of the island, and just a 10-minute walk from the ferry. However, the best way to get around the island is by golf cart!
You can rent one just outside the ferry dock for the day for around $35, and use it to explore this gorgeous island.
Yeah, spending the day soaking up the sun on a literal beach paradise will undoubtedly be the highlight of your trip to Mexico. It is also possible to stay on Isla Mujeres if you don’t want the fun to end!
12. Playa Playacar
Just outside of Playa del Carmen is the gated community of Playacar, which is home to one of the best beaches in Cancun.
Now, technically, all beaches in Mexico are open to the public. But, because Playacar is a gated community, residents and guests of the on-site all-inclusive resorts have priority.
Plus, large sections of the beach will often be reserved for guests here. So, if you see any seemingly unoccupied chairs out, it’s best to keep walking.
Equally, the space right in front of the resorts is private and off-limits to non-residents and guests of the resorts. There are also no public restaurants or bathrooms on the beach.
However, if you are able to stay as a guest, Playacar is an awesome choice as the beach here tends to be a bit quieter and is kept very clean.
Just be extra careful during bad weather as the Playacar beach has minimal outer reef break. So, big waves can be brutal here.
Fortunately, when the weather and seas are calm, the swimming and snorkeling at Playacar is some of the best in Mexico.
Oh, and another great thing about Playacar is that the whole community is accessible by foot and is right next door to Playa del Carmen.
13. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve might not quite be what you imagine when you think about the best beaches in Cancun.
But that totally okay since it’s even better than you can imagine!
See, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a must when you visit Cancun – even if you don’t like the beach since this one will totally win you over.
To visit, you must arrange a tour, which will take you through the reserve and through the diverse ecosystem within, which includes forests, wetlands, mangroves, and of course a unique coastline.
Sadly, though, there won’t be any swimming here (just admiring the coastline). Instead, you’ll be taking a boat through the biosphere and getting to see all the incredible natural landscapes before you.
It’s still worth bringing a bathing suit, though, as you might even be able to get out of the water and walk around a bit. Just watch out for those crocs!
Oh, and when you visit be sure to bring everything you’ll need for the day since excursions to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve are usually an all-day event and there are no shops within the reserve.
14. Playa Delfines
Playa Delfines, also known as El Mirador (the viewpoint), is not surprisingly one of the best beaches in Cancun for a stunning scenic view.
In fact, the panoramic views over Cancun’s clear blue coast are made even better by the beach’s bright and colorful “CANCUN” sign which is a perfect place for insta photos.
The beach itself is covered in nearly white, almost fluffy sand that you’ll be happy to spend the day sunbathing on.
There are also plenty of thatched umbrellas (palapas) lining the beach if you need a bit of shade.
This is also one of the best beaches in Cancun for families as it has a small playground on the beach, and the archeological site, El Rey, just across the street.
In fact, El Rey is perfect for kids and adults alike and provides a lovely afternoon break from the heat of the beach.
However, while this is a great beach for families, always check water conditions and only swim when lifeguards are present (9am – 6pm) as the undertow here can be quite strong.
Additionally, Playa Delfines is one of the only beaches in the Hotel Zone with free parking, and is the ONLY beach in the area without a hotel on it,
Because of this, it’s very popular with tourists and locals alike. So, arrive early if you want to secure a spot and beat the crowds.
Map of the Best Cancun Beaches of Them All
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