World ? Caribbean & Central America ? Mexico

Mexico: The Best Beach Vacations

  • Puerto Vallarta: Spectacularly wide Banderas Bay offers 42km (26 miles) of beaches. Some, like Playa Los Muertos -- the popular public beach in town -- abound with palapa restaurants, beach volleyball, and parasailing. The beaches of Punta Mita, the exclusive development north of Vallarta, are of the white-sand variety, with crystalline waters and coral reefs just offshore. Others around the bay nestle in coves, accessible only by boat. Puerto Vallarta is the only place where authentic colonial ambience mixes with true resort amenities.

  • Puerto Escondido: The best overall beach value in Mexico is principally known for its world-class surfing beach, Playa Zicatela. The surrounding beaches all have their own appeal; colorful fishing pangas dot the central town beach, parked under the shade of palms leaning so far over they almost touch the ground. Puerto Escondido offers unique accommodations at excellent prices, with exceptional budget dining and nightlife.

  • Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo: These side-by-side resorts offer beach-goers the best of both worlds: serene simplicity and resort comforts. For those in search of a back-to-basics beach, the best and most beautiful is Playa La Ropa, close to Zihuatanejo. The wide beach at Playa Las Gatas, with its restaurants and snorkeling sites, is also a great place to play. The high-rise hotels in Ixtapa, on the next bay over from Zihuatanejo, front Playa Palmar, a fine, wide swath of beach.

  • Cancɐn: In terms of sheer beauty, Cancɐn and the coastline of the Yucatȥn state of Quintana Roo have always boasted Mexico's most enticing beaches. The powdery, white-sand beaches have water the color of a Technicolor dream. Cancɐn offers the widest assortment of luxury beachfront hotels, with more restaurants, nightlife, and activities than any other resort destination in Mexico.

  • Tulum: Fronting some of the best beaches on Mexico's Caribbean coast, Tulum's small palapa hotels offer guests a little slice of paradise far from crowds and megaresorts. The bustling town lies inland; at the coast, things are quiet and will remain so because all these hotels are small and must generate their own electricity. If you can pull yourself away from the beach, nearby are ruins to explore and a vast nature preserve.

  • Isla Mujeres: There's only one main beach here -- Playa Norte -- but it's superb. From this island, you can dive El GarrafɃn reef, snorkel offshore, and take a boat excursion to the Isla Contoy national wildlife reserve, which features great birding and a fabulous, uninhabited beach.

  • Playa del Carmen: "Playa" is Mexico's hip beach destination with a dash of third-world chic. Above all, it's easy and low key. You walk to the beach, you walk back to the hotel, you walk to one of the many good restaurants. Next day, you repeat. The beaches are white sand; the water is clear blue and perfect for swimming. If you feel the urge to be active, not far away are ancient Maya ruins, Cozumel, and the megaresort of Cancɐn, offering all the variety that you might want in a beach vacation.

  • La Paz: This state capital borders a lovely beach, dotted with colorful playgrounds and lively open-air restaurants. Take a cue from the local residents, though, and pass on swimming here in favor of the exquisite beaches just minutes from downtown. La Paz's beaches and the islets just offshore have transformed this tranquil town into a center for diving, sea kayaking, and other adventure pursuits.

  • Los Cabos: Dramatic rock formations and crashing waves mix with wide stretches of soft sand and rolling surf breaks. Start at Playa Palmilla and work your way down the Tourist Corridor to the famed Lovers' Beach at Land's End. Some beaches are more appropriate for contemplation than for swimming, which isn't all bad.

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