Five of the best Mexico beaches
With almost 10,000km of coastline and protected public access, Mexico has beaches for every kind of traveller
Best for… a surfer’s playground
Playa Zicatela, Puerto Escondido is a well-loved surf spot. Often cited as one of the best sites for so-called barrel-chasing surfers, it's nicknamed the 'Mexican Pipeline’, drawing comparison with Hawaii. World-class surfers tearing up the waves make for compelling viewing. But f you’re new to the sport, leave the northern end and its undertow to the pros; the southern end is perfect for beginners and you'll be in good company. Don't want to surf at all? No problem, the 3km-long stretch is dotted with appealing beach bars from which to watch the action.
Best for…hidden depths
If you're lucky, the only company you’ll have on the beach of Playa de Holbox on the Isla Holbox will be its pelicans. It’s something of a local secret, as most tourists tend to stay in Cancun or head south to the beaches of Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Isa Holox has a slow pace of life, with no roads as such, just tracks traversed by golf carts, and this beach is perfectly positioned for some blood-orange sunsets soundtracked by impromptu music from a local Caribbean band. At night, a kayaking trip is a must, as the natural bioluminescence lights up the waterways, to magical effect.
Best for…scuba diving
On Cozumel island, Playa Palancar offers dazzling white sand and perfect turquoise waters. But the real draw here is the diving: it’s probably the best place for scuba in Mexico. The coral reef is the second-largest in the world and packed with rainbow spectrum of topical fish; if you’re lucky you might even see a turtle or two. There’s also a natural shelf which attracts divers from far and wide. Watch eagle rays soar by and black-tip reef sharks and nurse sharks gliding along at sea bed. Dive site highlights include the Palancar Reef and the 30m-drop Colombia Wall.
Best for…the wow factor
Welcome to Playa del Amore, on the Islas Marietas in Puerto Vallarta. There’s no other beach like this in the world – it almost looks Photoshopped. Nicknamed ‘shark’s eye’, the beach was formed by military test bombs (despite the protests of Jacques Cousteau and others) in the 1960s on the uninhabited Marieta islands. In 2005 the islands were named a national park and given special protections.
Best for…ruins, beach bars and boho living
There aren’t many places in the world where you can get your fix of ancient Mayan ruins overlooking kilometres of white beaches. Playa Santa Fe, Tulum is one of them. It's far from a hidden gem, but the upscale Tulum still has retained its quaint, laidback charm. It’s firmly on world-class chef René Redzepi’s radar too: the best restaurant in the world, noma, has announced a temporary residency in Tulum, cementing the resort's place on the foodies' must-visit destination list.
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