Mexico Hot Spots: Top 10 Mexican Beaches

March 2, 2020

The US (and many other places in the world) experiences cold winters and rainy springtime. If you live in one of the cooler climates, the thought of spreading a towel on a warm, palm-lined beach or curling up with a book under an oceanfront palapa with turquoise waves lapping at your feet is very appealing.  Gorgeous beaches on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast compete against luxurious resorts on the Pacific Coast. Add to that the affordability and safety of many of Mexico’s tourist areas, the charming colonial towns, and the delicious local food, and you have the recipe for the perfect for an outstanding vacation in a Mexico hot spots.

Here are my 10 favorite Mexico hot spots:

1  Tulum

mexico hot spots

  • Area: 790 mi²
  • Population: 28,263
  • Location: Caribbean Coast

Mesmerizing turquoise water lapping onto pristine sugar-sand beaches, there isn’t a prettier beach anywhere in the Caribbean. Unlike the more frenetic Cancun to the north, Tulum has a more laid-back beach vibe. If you can tear yourself away from the seaside – which admittedly won’t be easy – there are myriad things to do. Exploring the pre-Columbian Mayan port city for which the area is named is a must. The well-preserved ruins include a large stone structure called El Castillo (castle), perched on a rocky cliff above the white sand beach and turquoise sea.

A one-day all-inclusive ticket to the natural aquatic park Xel-Ha includes access to a lazy river, snorkeling, cliff jumping, bicycles, food and alcohol, and for an extra fee, swimming with dolphins. Or head for one of the close-by cenotes, the freshwater sinkholes that were once considered sacred by the ancient Maya. Through the opening in the top of the cenote caves, sunlight and roots filter down to the pools, creating an ethereal feel.

INSIDER TIP: Click here to compare prices on hotels in Tulum.

2  La Paz

LaPaz

  • Area: 7,828 mi²
  • Population: 244,219
  • Location: Baja Peninsula

Located near the southeastern end of the Baja peninsula, La Paz could be Mexico’s best-kept secret. With its prime location on the Sea of Cortez – dubbed by Jacques Cousteau as “the world’s aquarium” – La Paz is a great spot for whale-watching. Just off the coast, Isla Espiritu Santo offers visitors the chance to snorkel with wild but friendly sea lions and swim with whale sharks at certain times of the year. About a 15-minute drive from town you’ll find the prettiest beaches on the Baja peninsula. The translucent aqua cove at Balandra beach is perfect for snorkeling, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding.

The malécon separating the ocean from downtown is arguably the most beautiful in Mexico, especially at sunset, with an ice cream cone in hand. Bismark-cito is a popular, casual open-air restaurant right across from the beach where you can sample delicious fish and shrimp tacos or perhaps try La Paz’s famous chocolate clams on the half shell – if you don’t mind something live sliding down your throat. For a break from the beach activities, you can play golf at Mexico’s only Gary Player golf course at the CostaBaja resort.

INSIDER TIP: Click here to compare prices on hotels in La Paz.

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3  Puerto Vallarta

mexico hot spots

  • Area: 502 mi²
  • Population: 203,342
  • Location: Pacific Coast

Once a sleepy Pacific fishing village, Puerto Vallarta has morphed into one of the most popular Mexico hot spots due to its abundance of character and numerous options for activities. From the Bay of Banderas – the largest natural bay in Mexico – to the picturesque craggy beaches, to the marina lined with shops and restaurants, Puerto Vallarta has something for everyone — familes, solo, or couples. Water activities include sailing, kayaking, surfing, snorkeling and scuba diving, banana boat rides and parasailing. For the more adventurous, Los Veranos Canopy Tour is one of the best zip line adventures in Mexico, hiking and climbing high up into the jungle canopy and then zooming over canyons and rivers with zip lines up to a quarter of a mile long. I tell you the truth, I have done over a dozen zip lines throughout the world and Los Veranos was the best.

Take a stroll around Puerto Vallarta’s cobblestone center where you’ll find the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church, boutique souvenir and craft shops and a bunch of cafes and bars. El Malecón is a sculpture-lined promenade along the water is near the festive flea-market area where you can bargain with friendly locals for hand-made crafts and jewelry.

INSIDER TIP: Click here to compare prices on hotels in Puerto Vallarta.

4  Acapulco

mexico hot spots

Photo credit: prayitno from Los Angeles / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

  • Area: 726 mi²
  • Population: 673,479
  • Location: Pacific Coast

With year-round good weather and plenty of activities, it’s no wonder Acapulco has been a favorite Pacific beach destination for decades. You can participate in parasailing, bungee jumping, or you can choose to watch the death-defying cliff divers at La Quebrada hurl themselves from the 100-foot precipice with perfect timing into the crashing waves.  Take a glass-bottom boat over to nearby Isla La Roqueta where you can swim, snorkel, enjoy a buffet lunch, and hike up the hill to the lighthouse for a stunning panoramic view.

In Old Acapulco, you’ll find Zócalo, the bustling tree-lined plaza at the town center for a glimpse into authentic Mexican culture. On weekends the Zócalo is filled with food vendors, local musicians, and street performers. Another area, La Costera is where you’ll find action like shopping and restaurants. Even after the sun goes down, Acapulco stays hot, offering many options for nightlife including clubs, discos, bars, and shows.

INSIDER TIP: Click here to compare prices on hotels in Acapulco.

5  Cancún

mexico hot spots

  • Area: 764 mi²
  • Population: 628,306
  • Location: Caribbean Coast

Cancún, a bustling Mexican city on the Yucatán Peninsula often gets a bad rap. While you should, by all means, avoid it during its raucous Spring Break, it has some of the most stunning, iridescent beaches and luxurious all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean. Cancún is divided into two distinct areas: El Centro – the more traditional, colonial downtown, and Zona Hotelera – high-rise hotels, nightclubs, shops and restaurants set on a long strip of powdery white beaches.

What also makes Cancun such a popular destination is the almost infinite number of things to do, e.g. bargain shopping tin the colorful Mercado 28, swimming with whale sharks in the open sea, speed boating through the mangroves, scuba diving in the underwater museum, zip-lining, visiting eco-parks like Xel-ha and Xcaret, or simply just lounging under a palapa with a margarita.

INSIDER TIP: Click here to compare prices on hotels in Cancun.

6  Cabo San Lucas

cabo san lucas

  • Area: 200 mi²
  • Population: 81,111
  • Location: Baja Peninsula

Cabo San Lucas (often referred to as just “Cabo”), is one of Mexico’s top five tourist destinations. Located at the southernmost tip of Mexico’s Baja peninsula, Cabo is a high-end tourist spot with myriad luxury resorts and spa accommodations. Tourism began in 1974 prompted by the Mexican government’s desire to turn Cabo San Lucas into a major tourist attraction. Cabo has a tropical desert climate with an average temperature of 75˚F, and sea temperatures averaging around 72˚F in the winter and 82˚F in the summer.

Perhaps the most recognizable and iconic landmark in all of Baja is the famous natural stone Arch at “Land’s End” on the southern tip. One side of the arch overlooks the stunning Sea of Cortez, while the other views the Pacific Ocean. On nearby secluded Lover’s Beach, only accessible by boat, sea lions are often seen sunning on the rocks near the shore.

At the beautiful Playa El Médano, you’ll find The Office, a beach-side oasis popular with tourists with delicious ceviche, fish tacos, and margaritas. “Working” has never been so much fun!

INSIDER TIP: Click here to compare prices on hotels in Cabo San Lucas.

7  Huatulco

huatulco

  • Area: 191.8 mi²
  • Population: 50,000
  • Location: Pacific Coast

Also called Bahias de Huatulco, Huatulco is a southern Pacific beach town in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Huatulco boasts some 30 sandy beaches, neighboring jungle, and nine bays, including Santa Cruz Bay – a popular cruise ship port. Tangolunda Bay is home to upscale resort hotels and a golf course.

Small and easily explored, the charming La Crucecita inland downtown area offers boutique shops, restaurants, bars, and plenty of sidewalk vendors selling souvenirs and street food. The lively main square is anchored by a small church.

For the moment, sleepy Huatulco is one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets, with perfect weather, clear aquamarine water, and has affordable accommodations and food. Only approximately 20% of its tourists are international, but that will change once the word gets out.

INSIDER TIP: Click here to compare prices on hotels in Huatulco.

8  Zipolite

playa zipolite

  • Area: 33 mi²
  • Population: 255,029
  • Location: Pacific Coast

Complete with an authentic hippy vibe, Zipolite Beach is infamous for its clothing-optional beach tucked away near the craggy hillside. Zipolite also offers world-class surfing and hosts surfing tournaments twice a year.

The “downtown” is really just one street and not very busy, so Zipolite is the place you come to chill, not for a vibrant nightlife. Lovely, nicely-decorated boutique hotels right on the beach are very affordable, though, as is the excellent seafood. It’s a great couple’s romantic getaway!

One of the nice things about Zipolite is that it is an easy day trip from Huatulco with a rental car so you can easily visit both of these beaches, as well as Puerto Escondido if you’re in the area.

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INSIDER TIP: Click here to compare prices on hotels in Zipolite.

9  Progreso

progreso

  • Area: 104.3 mi²
  • Population: 37,369
  • Location: Gulf Coast

Just a short 30-minute drive from Merida, the vibrant colonial capital of Yucatan state, Progreso rests on the Gulf of Mexico, offering calm, crystal emerald beaches. The newly expanded malécon – the waterfront promenade – begins at the four-mile-long pier, notably the longest in the world, and runs along the palapa-lined beach. Progreso’s beach comes alive and festive with music, food-sellers, massages, and souvenir hawkers when a cruise ship is docked or can be relatively quiet and private most other times.

Across from the beach and a block inland and you will be in the downtown area where you’ll find a plethora of shops, open-air markets, cafes, and cantinas. Progreso is also within striking distance to a variety of day excursions including several important Mayan archeological sites and cenotes and is also a short drive to the culture, delicious regional Yucatan cuisine, and stunning architectural and historical sites in Merida.

INSIDER TIP: Click here to compare prices on hotels in Progreso.

10 Cozumel

cozumel

  • Area: 184.5 mi²
  • Population: 100,000
  • Location: Caribbean Sea

Cozumel is a mostly undeveloped Mexican island in the Caribbean Sea. It’s a popular cruise port, particularly because of the world-class scuba diving at Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park, the Mesoamerican Reef, and the Museo Subacuático de Arte’s submerged sculptures. There’s also Chankanaab, an eco-park surrounding a lagoon with underwater caverns, home to dolphins, manatees and sea turtles.

INSIDER TIP: Click here to compare prices on hotels in Cozumel.

With so many gorgeous beaches and affordable beaches, these Mexico hot spots could very well become your go-to spot when you’re craving some Vitamin Sea! I know it has been for me.

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mexico hot spots mexico hot spots

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About the Author

Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.”  Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled six continents looking for fabulous places and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer (and Gen X!) tribe.

5 comments

  1. Comment by Irene S. Levine

    Irene S. Levine Reply January 27, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    I’m in Los Cabos now so I hope we get the chance to visit La Paz. What a timely recommendation!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply January 31, 2014 at 9:19 am

      How nice! Hope you’re having a great time — looking forward to reading about it.

  2. Comment by Patti

    Patti Reply January 27, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    These all look lovely! We’ve been to Cabo San Lucas but never La Paz, although we’d love to visit!

  3. Comment by noel

    noel Reply January 27, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Excellent choices, i would love to visit any one of them, but La Paz would be on the top!

  4. Comment by santafetraveler

    santafetraveler Reply January 27, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    They all sound great- sign me up for Tulum!

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