Best Beaches Beyond Cancun on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula

As winter continues to make its wrath felt, escapes to beach destinations become our daydreams and we clamor to book our next getaway. Millions travel to the white sandy beaches and crystal-clear blue waters of Cancun each year. The many all-inclusive resorts offer plenty to appreciate. But don’t be complacent with your options as the region offers much more to see and do—including beaches worth visiting outside of the typical “zona hotelera” (hotel zone). Here are seven of the best beaches beyond Cancun for you to check out.

1. Akumal

aerial view of akumai bay beach in riviera maya - best beaches beyond cancun
Akumal Bay Caribbean beach in Riviera Maya.

Just a short bus ride from Playa del Carmen or Tulum, Akumal offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of the larger resort areas but keeps visitors close to the action if desired. This beach centers around a large crescent-shaped bay, complete with turquoise waters and soft white sands. Transport is largely via bicycle. The beach itself is a popular nesting place for sea turtles in the summer and is known for its many shoreline snorkeling locations.

2. Oh! Mamitas Playa del Carmen Beach Club

This once small sleepy fishing village has blossomed into a major tourism destination for international travelers, as well as locals from Mexico City. The ever-expanding city streets along its 5th avenue (la quinta) are filled with shops, restaurants and bars. Many in-town boutique hotels offer discounts or access to local beach clubs like Mamitas. Each come complete with all the amenities for a daytime fiesta—lounge chairs, day beds, bottle service, full bar, restaurant, DJ and music, swimming pools, and showers for cleaning up.

3. The Mayan Site of Tulum

view of the mayan site of tulum - best beaches beyond cancun
Tulum Maya Ruins, Mexico

Not planning to stay at one of the eco-chic beachfront boutique hotels along the 9-kilometer stretch of incredible soft white sands of Tulum? Don’t worry. One can still have the Tulum beach experience along with its ancient history, too. One of the most famous of the many Mayan ruins, Tulum offers incredible seaside views from its cliffs and also the chance to spend time at the beach. Don’t forget to pack a bathing suit along with sunscreen and hat when visiting this site. A simple climb down the stairs will take you to one of the most beautiful beaches in the area.

4. Xpu Há

Along parts of the Rivieria Maya coastline, travelers can still find some unique gems. One small place, famous for being part of the “life is a beach” Corona beer commercials, is Xpu Há Beach. There’s a small fee to enter that allows access to the beach and a few casual beach clubs, each of which provide basic amenities. To make for an amazing beach day experience, place a simple order of fish tacos and a cerveza from a shaded beach chair and take a swim. Xpu Há contains all the makings of a perfect image for a travel calendar.

5. Celestún and Hotel Xixim

aerial view of hotel xixim in Celestun mexico - best beaches beyond cancun
Aerial view of Hotel Xixim’s virgin beaches in the small town of Celestún. Photo courtesy of Hotel Xixim.

Leaving the crystal-clear Caribbean waters and traveling across the jungle to the state of Yucatán enables visitors to relax at the less crowded Gulf of Mexico beach towns. One such place, located 10km from the small town of Celestún, is Hotel Xixim, with its virgin beaches. The luxury property committed to sustainable practices offers guests the chance to walk along a pristine beach and stroll its relatively untouched sands.

6. Paradise Beach, Cozumel

Cozumel is popular as a cruise destination and filled with plenty of beach excursion options. One can simply hop a cab from the cruise port or ferry terminal to a stretch of island beaches. Since it’s normally packed when cruise ships are in town, prepare for a fiesta at places such as Paradise Beach, or perhaps a more tranquil experience at the limited capacity Nochi Cocum, which is all-inclusive. Either way, the available amenities, sand, and sea make for a perfect beach-day setting with beautiful views.

7. Isla Holbox

beach beds on the white sands of holbox island in mexico - best beaches beyond cancun
Beach beds among palm trees on Holbox island in Mexico.

This offshore island keeps its barefoot beach vibe and largely remains off the main tourist trail, so it has plenty of white sandy beaches still unspoiled. Recent popularity does have it on many traveler’s radars with ferry service from the mainland. Known for exotic birds and local fishing, the island serves as a great jumping off point to see whale sharks and is a hotspot for kite surfers.

A visit to any of these beaches will warm you up and help you make it through winter. On your next trip to Cancun, go bold and travel beyond the typical hotels zones to explore more of the many types of beach experiences the Yucatán Peninsula offers.

To learn more about Craig and his travels, visit

About the Author

Craig Zabransky is an ex-global management consultant for top-tier banks gone rogue. After a year-long travel sabbatical, he decided to leave Wall Street to pursue his passion for travel. With the belief travel is a gateway to positive life change he podcasts, writes, blogs, and photographs his adventures to inspire others to take and make adventure in their life. To date, he has traveled through more than 55 countries, 40 U.S. States, 5 continents, and is still traveling from his home in the Florida Keys. For more of his story visit his site
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