The Best Beaches in The Riviera Maya and Cancun, Mexico
Mexico’s Riviera Maya is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Set on the Yucatan Peninsula, in the state of Quintana Roo, the region is bursting with glistening white sand and turquoise waters. Discover the best beaches in the Riviera Maya for your Mexico vacation.
The Riviera Maya stretches nearly 100 miles along the Caribbean coast. It’s home to lush jungles, refreshing cenotes, and coral reefs. Whether you’re looking to sit back and relax with a book, snorkel beneath the waves, party the night away, or swim with the turtles, there is something for everyone in Riviera Maya. It’s nothing short of a picture-perfect postcard.
Here are my top picks for the best beaches in Riviera Maya and Cancun, plus recommended places to stay near each to maximize your beach bliss.
In this Guide to the Best Beaches in The Riviera Maya
Playa Maroma | Playa Paraiso | Playa Ruinas | Beaches of Sian Ka’an | Playa Norte | Playa XpuHa | Puerto Morelos Beach | Xcacel Beach | Playacar | Caleta Tankah Beach | Half Moon Bay in Akumal | Isla Holbox | Isla Blanca | Playa Delfines | Playa Tortugas
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The Best Riviera Maya Beaches
Playa Maroma in Punta Maroma
Playa Maroma is a gorgeous stretch of beach situated halfway between Playa del Carmen and Puerto Morelos. One of the best beaches in the Riviera Maya, Playa Maroma is a private beach that restricts access to guests of nearby hotels, local resorts, and vacation rental visitors. Because it isn’t open to the public, Maroma Beach is the perfect place to spend an afternoon enjoying the peace and quiet of this Caribbean paradise.
But even if you’re not one of the lucky ones staying in Maroma Beach, you can still visit the beach for a small fee. Visitors can buy a day pass that not only gets you on the beach, but includes food, drinks, and some excellent water activities.
Where to Stay at Maroma Beach
Treat yourself to one of the luxurious resorts at Maroma Beach like the adults-only El Dorado Maroma All Inclusive. Or splurge for overwater bungalows located just offshore!
Playa Ruinas in Tulum
Located in Tulum, Playa Ruinas is a can’t miss for history buffs. One of the most interesting beaches in Riviera Maya, Playa Ruinas was an important site of the Mayan empire. Sitting atop a cliff overlooking the ocean are incredible and well-preserved Castillo, pyramids, and plenty of ruins to explore.
But that’s not all! The ruins also offer stunning views of Playa Ruinas. Here you’ll find calm and quiet waters and a gorgeous stretch of powder-soft sand.
While visiting the beach is free, a visit to the ruins will set you back 85 pesos.
Where to Stay near Playa Ruinas:
Find a glam budget stay in Tulum Town or bliss out at the boutique beach stay La Valise.
Playa Paraiso, Tulum
Without a doubt, Playa Paraiso is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world – so spectacular in fact, that’s why it’s called Paradise Beach. Located in Tulum, more than 80 miles south of Cancun, the public beach of Playa Paraiso sits just south of the famous and picturesque Mayan ruins. With beach clubs offering a front row seat for the sparkling blue waters in front of you, there’s no better place to rest, relax, and grab some rays than on the white sands of Playa Paraiso in Tulum.
Where to stay on Playa Paraiso
Stay right on one of the best Tulum beaches by booking a cabana at the affordable beachfront El Paraiso Tulum or a treehouse at Ikal Tulum.
Beaches of Sian Ka’an
If you’re looking to explore off the beaten path, then look no further than the pristine beaches of Sian Ka’an. Surrounded by lush mangroves and a bustling jungle, Sian Ka’an is a wild and untouched plot of land where you can enjoy a wide variety of flora and fauna. It’s the perfect place to get away from the crowds and reconnect with nature.
A designated biosphere, Sian Ka’an offers a wide range of eco and adventure tours, including reef snorkeling, canal exploring, fly fishing, and bird watching. Or, if you prefer, you can spend a glorious day wandering the miles of pristine sand and swimming in the glittering turquoise waters.
Where to Stay near Sian Ka’an
Chill at a resort in the nearby Tulum beach hotel zone, or stay within the biosphere at a private vacation rental like my personal favorite Elefante Volador.
Puerto Morelos Beach
Located just 15 miles south of Cancun, Puerto Morelos is a cozy seaside village that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time thanks to its relaxed and laid-back atmosphere.
Puerto Morelos beach is one of the best beaches in Quintana Roo. It’s part of Puerto Morelos Reef National Park and offshore you’ll find the second largest coral reef in the world. Home to a bustling marine ecosystem, the reef is home to more than 65 species of tropical fish, sea sponges, and sea turtles. Don’t forget to pack your snorkel!
With its long stretches of golden sand and calm and gentle ocean waves, Puerto Morelos is a great destination for couples and families.
Where to Stay Near at Morelos Beach
Stay at the top-rated adults-only all inclusive Valentin Imperial Riviera Maya, or book an apartment at guest favorite Abbey Del Sol.
Xcacel Beach in Chemuyil
An hour and a half south of Cancun (and just 20 minutes north of Tulum), Xcacel Beach in Chemuyil is a MUST for any animal and nature lover. One of the Riviera Maya’s untouched gems, Xcacel Beach is located in a protected nature reserve. Every year, between May and October, it welcomes hundreds of loggerhead and green turtles, who shuffle out of the turquoise waters and up the pristine sand beaches to lay their eggs. The beaches don’t offer many services or restaurants, just the chance to see nature at its finest.
But that’s not all! Nearby you’ll also find Xcacelito, one of the best and most stunning sinkholes in Riviera Maya.
Where to Stay near Xcacel Beach
Commune with nature at Ku kuk Glamping, or relax in a little more luxury at Xcacel Dreams.
Just 15 miles south of Playa del Carmen, Playa XpuHa is one of the best beaches in Riviera Maya if you’re looking to get away from the resorts and live like a local. A popular hangout, this excellent beach boasts seaside restaurants that serve up fresh seafood bursting with authentic Mexican flavors and ice-cold cervezas. Stay out after dark and enjoy an awesome party scene with live music and dancing.
A small beach with glowing white sand and sparkling blue waters, this spot is perfect for swimmers thanks to its calm and gentle waves. If you’re looking to lounge, head to the nearby Beach Club where for 500 pesos you can enjoy beach chairs with towels, luxury tents with king-sized beds, Netflix, and other amenities.
Where to Stay near Playa XpuHa
Unwind at the luxury all-inclusive Barcelo Maya Riviera or find your zen at Serenity Authentic Glamping.
Playacar in Playa del Carmen
Playacar in Playa del Carmen is a long stretch of white sand beach with stunning ocean views. A residential and resort area, this idyllic beach is perfect if you love to spend an afternoon taking a long walk along the sand. A quick trip from the center of Playa del Carmen, Playacar is one of the best beaches in Riviera Maya if you’re looking for a little R&R without getting too far from the action.
Where to Stay near Playacar in Playa del Carmen
Stay directly on Playacar Beach at Viva Wyndham Azteca All-Inclusive the adults-only Royal Hideaway Playacar.
Caleta Tankah Beach
Looking for paradise? Well, look no further than Caleta Tankah Beach. A private and tranquil beach, Caleta Tankah Beach boasts brilliant blue waters, glistening golden sands, and green palm trees dotted throughout.
Caleta Tankah Beach is also one of the most affordable options in Riviera Maya. With delicious restaurants, idyllic beaches, and cenotes to explore, this really is one of the best destinations in the Mayan Riviera.
Half Moon Bay in Akumal
Half Moon Bay in Akumal is a stunning destination that can’t be missed. A designated marine preserve, Half Moon Bay in Akumal is a MUST for anyone looking to get up close and personal with sea turtles and other underwater animals. Strap on your snorkel and enjoy the colorful fish and sea creatures that call these calm waters home.
If you’re more interested in relaxing, you’re in luck! This is one of the best beaches in Riviera Maya thanks to its fine white sand, turquoise waters, and palm trees offering lots of shade. Enjoy an afternoon of reading by the water or head into town and explore the many nearby shops, restaurants, and beach bars offering delicious margaritas and more.
Where to Stay in Akumal
Akumal beaches offer some of the best resorts in the Riviera Maya, including the 5-stay adults-only Barcelo Rivera Maya. Or check out the quiet and family-friendly Las Villas Akumal.
The Best Beaches in Cancun
Cancun is one of Mexico’s premier destinations. A city in southeast Mexico, Cancun is best known for its lively and energetic atmosphere, authentic and flavourful cuisine, and ice-cold margaritas, pina coladas, cervezas, and tequila.
Cancun is also home to some of the most stunning beaches in Mexico. Most famous for their brilliant white sand and glittering blue waters, the beaches of Cancun are great destinations for anyone looking to swim with sea creatures, spot a few dolphins, or wade in the warm sea waters. From untouched and undeveloped to lively, vibrant, and energetic, whatever you’re looking for in a beach holiday, Cancun has it – and more!
Playa Norte in Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is a small island set 8 miles off the coast of Cancun. A round trip on the ferry will set you back approx. $16 USD, making it a great destination for a day trip.
One of Mexico’s best-kept secrets, Playa Norte is nothing short of a paradise thanks to its shallow, blue waters and golden powdery sand. The beach is also home to a variety of bustling beach restaurants and clubs that offer authentic cuisine and ice-cold drinks. Its seamless mix of peaceful paradise and energetic atmosphere is what makes Playa Norte in Isla Mujeres one of the best beaches in Cancun.
Where to Stay Near Playa Norte
Want to stay on the best beach in Isla Mujeres? Check out the top-rated Hotel Secreto or Ixchel Beach Hotel.
The largest and most popular beach in Cancun, Playa Delfines is also the city’s finest. Set near the Hotel Zone, the beach welcomes a great mix of tourists and locals. It has golden sands, vibrant blue waters, and plenty of palapas and umbrellas to rent. It’s not home to any restaurants, shacks, or hotels, but what it lacks in amenities it makes up for in pure paradise charm.
Playa Delfines is also the place to go if you’re looking for dolphins. Visible from the shore (or you can hop on a chartered tour), Playa Delfines is one of the best places in Cancun to see these playful creatures darting and twisting through and above the waters.
Laid-back and relaxed, Playa Tortugas is one of the best beaches in Cancun if you’re looking to escape the crowds. Popular with locals, this beach has pristine golden sand and a great selection of beachfront restaurants and bars. It’s also well equipped with amenities like public restrooms and lounge chairs for rent, making it the perfect place to spend a relaxing day.
Playa Tortugas is found just north of Cancun’s Hotel Zone. It’s a great destination for swimmers and snorkelers who are looking to explore below the waves. The waters here are calm and clear allowing you to see a bevy of colorful fish, curious sea creatures and so much more.
Where to Stay at Playa Tortugas
Reserve a stay at luxury all-inclusive Riu Palace Hotel to enjoy the turquoise waters and soft sands of Playa Tortugas.
Isla Holbox is a car-free island located off the northern coast of Quintana Roo. A nearly two-hour ferry ride from Cancun (that’ll cost you approx. $7 USD), Isla Holbox has a cozy village and a spectacular beach running along its northern coast. Thanks to its glittering sands, neverending sandbars, and turquoise waters, this undeveloped beach is, without a doubt, one of the best beaches in Mexico.
Isla Holbox is also an ideal destination for divers who want to swim with whale sharks.
Where to Stay at Isla Holbox
Want to experience the island pace of Holbox? Book a stay at the stylish beachfront Villas Caracol.
Isla Blanca is a new, gated community situated 20 minutes north of Cancun’s Hotel Zone. It’s a great destination for anyone looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Set on a stunning peninsula, Isla Blanca is made up of a thin strip of land with sand roads, golden sand beaches, and sea salt lagoons. You won’t find any amenities in this stunning natural setting, beyond a few rustic beach clubs, but that’s what makes this incredible beach so charming and one of the best beaches in Cancun.
Where to Stay Near Isla Blanca
For the ultimate in relaxation, reserve an ocean-view suite at Atelier Playa Mujeres. Or for a group, book a private villa with pool and get your own slice of deserted beach.
Visiting the Best beaches in the Riviera Maya
The beaches of Riviera Maya and Cancun are some of the best in the world. No matter where you go in Quintana Roo you’ll find long stretches of glistening sand, turquoise water, and towering palm trees – true Caribbean paradise. Add in some ancient Mayan Ruins, exciting animal encounters, lush jungles and cenotes, and it’s an endless party scene. It’s safe to say there’s something for everyone in Riviera Maya and Cancun.