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If you are planning to visit Cancun any time soon, you’re likely aware that Cancun is famous for its beaches. The city boasts an endless stretch of white sand from Playa Blanca to Point Nizuc (and even beyond).
However, not all beaches are created equal. Some parts of the large Cancun beach are much more beautiful, not to mention enjoyable than the others.
Since I have lived in Cancun for 7 years and my favorite way to spend some free time was basking in the sun, I have frequented almost all the beaches in Cancun and I want to share my thoughts and my secret spots!
Among all the amazing things to do in Cancun, spending some time on the beach is definitely a priority, as Cancun has some of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico and that’s what it’s mostly renowned for, besides the popular high-end Cancun all-inclusive hotels.
Many lists of the best Cancun beaches are primarily made up of beaches that aren’t actually in Cancun. While Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres is stunning and there’s a reason Playa Maroma frequently appears on lists of the best beaches in the world, the actual city of Cancun also has some incredibly beautiful beaches.
So while I appreciate the many other incredible Riviera Maya beaches, I wanted to keep this list to exactly what the title says – the best beaches in Cancun. You may be surprised at how many there are!
Are Cancun Beaches Public?
Before we start, I have to tell you that in Cancun the beach is all public. Hotels cannot own beaches but they can own access to it. So there are some stretches of the Cancun beach where you need to take a long walk to get there because the direct access is only through the hotel built in front of them.
The good news is that in some hotels you have the option to purchase a day pass whose cost differs from $30 to $50/person. Once you purchase it, you can use their beach facility and use the pass as a credit towards meals.
That being said, there are plenty of free beaches around that are just as beautiful and enjoyable as those owned by the hotels. You won’t get access to free food and other hotel facilities, but that’s a small price to pay (or not pay).
When Is The Best to Visit Cancun?
Also if you are wondering when it’s the best time to visit Cancun for the beaches, it’s always a good time to bask in the sun, but you should know the following tips:
- Weekends are always packed with people, especially Sundays
- Easter and Christmas are the busiest time of the year and the most expensive
- From June through November there is more risk of rain, especially in the afternoon and it’s hotter and more humid
- December through April is the best time of the year because it’s drier, with less rain but it is still hot enough to enjoy the beach. Water can be cooler, though.
Cancun beaches map
The Best Beaches in Cancun Hotel Zone
In this post, I’ll be taking you on a tour through 9 of the best beaches in Cancun which are also renowned among the best beaches in Mexico that you must visit. Let’s take a look!
Please note that beside each beach name I indicate the km which is basically the address of the beach on the Avenida Kukulcan.
1. Playa Las Perlas – KM 2.5
Playa Las Perlas is the first beach you’ll encounter when you travel from the town to the Hotel Zone.
This free public beach offers some nice amenities like showers, restrooms, and shades where you can rest.
The sand is clean and white; firm enough to make it a good choice for runners. In fact, you can also run from the beach to Puerto Cancun or the other direction.
It’s a beautiful area early morning when everybody else is sleeping and you can watch the sunrise while doing some exercise.
If you’re visiting Playa Las Perlas, you’ll have to bring your own food and drinks because there are no shops in the area. The only negative note is that the water is usually murky and with weeds. So, if swimming is your goal, this beach is not the best for that.
2. Playa Langosta – KM 5
This beach offers a magnificent view of the calm, turquoise waters and you’ll often find athletes exercising here in the early morning.
One of my most favorite spots on this beach is beside Hotel Casa Maya. The calm, crystal-clear waters are ideal for swimming.
The only shortcoming of this beach is that it’s very popular with both the locals and the tourists, so it can get very crowded.
If you want to enjoy some peace and quiet here, go before noon and definitely avoid weekends, especially Sundays.
3. Playa Pez Volador – KM 5.5
Playa Pez Volador actually means Flying Fish Beach and, true to its name, you’ll see plenty of flying fishes in the ocean here.
This beach is actually connected to Playa Langosta, and although it used to have direct access before you can only get to this beach through that one.
Especially if you get there in your own car, the Playa Langosta Parking lot is the closest one available.
Just like Playa Langosta, and because of the proximity to that beach, it can get really crowded during rush hours.
4. Playa Tortugas – KM 6
Playa Tortuga is mainly renowned for being one of the boarding spots for the Isla Mujeres ferry. This is also why it’s one of the busiest beaches, not just on this list but in all of Cancun. There are also a few of bars and grocery shops available so you don’t have to bring your own supplies on this beach.
I usually avoid this beach because I’m not a fan of overly crowded places. However, Playa Las Perlas is great if you want to take picturesque walks.
There are also some open air-restaurants available in the area, which the visitors absolutely love because of the views. Finally, if you’re daring enough, there’s a pier that offers bungee jumping. Personally, it’s not my cup of tea but the option is available.
5. Playa Ancha – KM 7.5
This is one of my favorite beaches in the area. It’s not the easiest beach to get to, but it’s well worth the effort. It’s actually a nice walk from the entrance.
The beach is located in front of the Presidente Intercontinental Hotel, but, unless you are staying in the Hotel, the best place to enter this beach is in front of Plaza Caracol (where Súper Chedraui Selecto is located).
Also, the high-end apartment building, Las Olas, is situated here. But you won’t be able to use its facilities as they’re only for the residents.
At the Presidente Intercontinental, however, there’s a watersports center that’s open to the public and offers a lot of fun activities.
6. Playa Caracol – KM8
Playa Caracol is located right by Plaza Caracol and near the Riu Hotel and La Palma Beach Front hotel, and Club Nautico
It’s nearby the previous beach (playa Ancha) and it has the same characteristic, very shallow and swimmable without current (in normal conditions).
You can also find a couple of platforms stretching over the sea for more fantastic views of the turquoise water.
Pro tip – If you don’t find any parking nearby, you can always leave it at the Chedraui Select supermarket. You will just need to pay for the ticket when you leave. The other nearest parking lot is the one under CocoBongo.
7. Playa Gaviota (hotel Kristal Altitude) – KM8.5
Right in front of the spectacular Hotel Kristal Altitude (previously Hyatt), you will find the last tranquil beach in the Hotel Zone where you can easily swim. After that southwards the beaches can be rougher with more currents. So be careful.
You can get a beach club pass at the Kristal Altitude if you are not staying there. Or you can enter by the access right beside the Coco Bongo. If you are getting there by car you can park in the pay-parking lot underneath the club.
I love this beach because being on a curve at the beginning of the Hotel Zone you will have incredible views of the bay!
Swimming is easy even though the water is not very shallow.
8. Playa Lagarto (Coco Bongo) – KM9
This is another one of Cancun’s most popular beaches because it offers a ton of activities from restaurants, to nightclubs, to beyond.
You can find this beach right after Punta Cancun, and use the Coco Bongo parking lot which only charges 10 pesos (US$0.5) for 3 hours. An interesting trivia here is that Coco Bongo nightclub is owned by the famous Hollywood actor Jim Carey.
The waters here are warm and clear, but be careful when taking a swim here. Some days the water can be very calm, other days the currents can get very strong. So, make sure you check the conditions before swimming here.
Now, I mentioned lots of activities here. This beach will get you access to perhaps the only beach club in Cancun, where you can enjoy the bar.
Alternatively, if you enjoy peace and quiet, you can walk up to the stretch in front of Hotel Krystal Altitude (Playa Gaviota) here, you can lie down on your towel completely undisturbed and enjoy the beach.
There are some of the best Cancun restaurants and nightclubs here, as mentioned before, including the famous Hard Rock Café which also serves as a beach club.
I love this beach because the water is always a beautiful turquoise shade. All facilities, including bathrooms, are available close by and there’s plenty to enjoy here.
9. Playa Chac-Mool – KM 10
Playa Chac-Mool beach is connected to the previous beach I mentioned. It’s a very wide and peaceful beach and is right in front of a luxurious condo so it’s very clean.
The hotels on this beach, like many others along this coast, have turtle conservation programs.
Under these programs, the beach guardians of each hotel will make sure to protect the part of the beach where the turtles deposited their eggs and will pick up newly hatched turtles when the time comes and release them back into the sea, normally from July through September.
If you happen to be there, it’s an amazing experience.
As I mentioned earlier, this beach is connected to Coco Bongo beach. As such, it has all the same benefits, including access to a ton of restaurants and lively nightlife.
There’s also a Nature Hostel nearby which has one of my favorite restaurants in Cancun for lunch, although it’s not facing the beach.
There is a small parking lot, and showers and toilets are open only from 9 am to 4 pm.
10. Playa Marlyn – KM 1
Playa Marlyn is one of the highest-rated, and one of the best beaches in Cancun. You should definitely visit this one. There are lots of hotels all along this beach, which is why it’s kept immaculately clean.
You can make use of this beach even in front of the hotels, you just cannot use the hotel’s sunbeds (as these are reserved for the guests).
Those of you who love their peace and quiet will also love this beach. Playa Marlin is so wide that it’s pretty easy to find a serene spot, even on the busiest days.
There are even chairs and umbrellas available for rent at very cheap prices so you can lounge down and enjoy the calm.
I have to mention that you should be very careful when swimming here. The currents can get very strong and there are a lot of undertows.
While there are usually lifeguards available, it’s better to avoid any risk, even if you’re a strong swimmer, be careful here.
Playa Marlin is located right behind Plaza Kukulcan, km 13
11. Playa San Miguelito KM 13.8
Right between Playa Marlin and the Luxury Hotel Kempton (former Ritz Carlton) you will find another hidden beach access to a spectacular stretch of beach where the color of the water is so blue that it seems painted. There is not an official entrance, but a gate that should normally be open.
The beach is completely unspoiled with no beach facilities although you may find somebody renting out chairs and umbrellas.
To get there, you must enter San Miguelito lane right before Ritz Carlton as indicated in the above image. You will find a lot of parking spots there but keep in mind that it’s not supervised, so make sure you lock your car and don’t leave anything valuable inside.
12. Playa Delfines – KM 16.5
Playa Delfines is THE beach of Cancun. It is the highest-rated beach in the city, and the visitors absolutely love it. There are plenty of facilities available; you can rent beach chairs and umbrellas, and even learn surfing (after renting a surfboard, of course). It’s a good place to get some surfing practice.
This beach is so wide that there’s plenty of room for all types of activities. You can just sunbathe on your towel, go running, take pictures, and mix in with the locals (as this is a very popular spot locally too). Speaking of taking pictures, this is maybe the most picturesque beach in Cancun.
I love this beach because, if you’re like me and love to walk, you can walk for miles and miles along this beautiful beach up to where Club Mediterranee is located.
There’s a very good spot available right by the Club Med for snorkeling and swimming, where the water isn’t too rough.
Speaking of swimming, this is another beach where you should be careful swimming in the water. All along the coast, you’ll often see yellow and red flags indicating that it’s dangerous to go swimming.
13. Dolphin Beach Point
Dolphin Beach Point is basically the last stretch of Cancun beach before it takes a turn to Punta Nizuc toward the airport.
Unfortunately, there is no direct access from the road, because there are only hotels with restricted access. To get to this beach you will need to enter from Dolphin Beach, and then walk a couple of miles south until you reach some rocks.
I love this beach because of its calm waters and lots of snorkeling opportunities. Just don’t go too far from the shore and be mindful of the boats.
The beach is right in front of the Club Med but you can stay at a few meters from the shore which is a public area.
Cancun Beach FAQs
Is Cancun Safe?
It is safe to travel to Cancun right now. However, it’s always best to avoid walking on the beach at night – especially if you are alone. If you are right in front of your hotel and they have security on duty, you should be okay but still, be alert and aware of your surroundings.
Where Is The Clearest Water in Cancun?
Cancun is known for having the best beaches in the Riviera Maya so you will find clear water and white sand on almost all of these beaches. Of course, the water is clearest when the waves are calm. A few of my favorites include Playa Delfines and Playa Langosta.
Are The Beaches Better in Cancun or Playa del Carmen?
In my opinion, Cancun has the better beaches. Playa del Carmen does have some beautiful beaches but the ones right in town tend to be very busy and there’s not always a lot of sand. The Cancun beaches are much bigger and also don’t receive as much sargassum (seaweed).
Are The Beaches Better in Cancun or Tulum?
I’d have to say that Cancun has better beaches than Tulum. In fact, Cancun has some of the most beautiful beaches in all of the Riviera Maya and while Tulum beaches are worth a visit, the Cancun hotel zone has the bigger beach with powdery sand and turquoise water.
Is There Seaweed on Cancun Beaches?
Sargassum (seaweed) has been a problem in the Riviera Maya for the past few years. While it’s impossible to predict where it will be, most of the time Cancun sees much less of it than Tulum and Playa del Carmen. In fact, some areas in the Hotel Zone will be completely clear even when it’s showing up on other beaches.
The best way to find out is to check the current beach conditions right before your trip.
In case of a very bad sargasso invasion, you can always head to Isla Blanca, north of Cancun or, Playa Norte in Isla Mujeres, just 30 minutes ferry ride. These are the beaches that never get sargasso.
Are The Beaches Swimmable in Cancun?
Truthfully, it depends on the day, the current, your skill ability, and which part of the beach. Some of these beaches can be calm and peaceful one day and have a strong undercurrent the next day.
It’s worth mentioning here that, although you can go swimming on any of these beaches, you should always be careful. Even when the current doesn’t look particularly strong, and the ocean seems calm, it’s very easy to get swept under. You’ll have a very tough time swimming back to the beach.
If you find yourself in this situation, try to remain calm and always swim sideways instead of swimming toward the beach. Let the current carry you instead. I was given this advice when I got stuck 10 meters away from the shore and, despite how much I tried to swim towards the beach, I couldn’t reach it.
Luckily, a lifeguard was nearby and saved me (and imparted the abovementioned wisdom to me). While lifeguards are usually nearby, you should always take precautions.
Best beaches in Cancun: final thoughts
As you can see there are many amazing beaches in Cancun. The ones I mentioned are not the only ones, but the most popular public beaches with free access.
Chances are that you have booked a hotel on the beach (which is the best way to enjoy Cancun).
Regardless you should venture out and explore some of the above-mentioned beaches since they are all very different.
I have also included the nearby hotel if you want to stay close by. I hope it helps planning your trip to Cancun.