Our Guide to the Best Beaches in the Riviera Maya
The Riviera Maya is a slightly more secluded and low-key alternative to its northern neighbor, Cancún. But that doesn’t make it any less impressive. Consisting of a beautiful stretch of the Caribbean coastline, the area is home to some of the most gorgeous beaches in Mexico.
If you’re not sure which one to visit on your next vacation, keep reading! We’ve created a list of what we think are the seven best beaches in the Riviera Maya, from hidden gems to bustling bays.
1. Playa Akumal, Akumal
Mayan for “place of the turtles,” Akumal welcomes children and adults to swim alongside the majestic marine animal. But if that’s not enough reason for it to be on your must-see list, there’s also plenty of coral reefs in the area for additional diving and snorkeling adventures.
Located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum—just an hour-and-a-half drive from Cancún International Airport—this beach is in the heart of the Riviera Maya. Its secluded nature and white sand make it a favorite amongst travelers, whether they come for the water activities or the sunbathing.
Pro Tip: Visit between June and November for a chance to watch sea turtles hatch on the beach.
2. Playa Ruinas, Tulum
People often visit the beach to stare at the horizon, but at Playa Ruinas in Tulum, there’s something much more exciting to look at. The beach is situated at the base of a cliff that boasts a massive display of ancient Mayan architecture. In fact, it’s the third most-visited archaeological site in Mexico.
For those that want to brush up on their history and work on their tan at the same time, this is the place to be.
Pro Tip: Try to visit the ruins in the early morning to avoid crowds—tour buses typically arrive around 10am.
3. Playa Punta Esmeralda, Playa del Carmen
If you’re looking for a quiet, local beach experience, head on over to Playa Punta Esmeralda. While it’s a bit outside the city, travelers will be rewarded for making the journey with perfect swimming conditions and a nearly empty beach.
It’s here that you’ll also find an open coastal cenote, a natural pool that can be enjoyed by all. Kids can spend the day wading in the warm, shallow water while adults can use this freshwater source as a place to relax and rinse off after an ocean swim.
Pro Tip: You won’t be able to rent loungers or umbrellas here, so try to at least bring a few extra towels to lay on.
4. Playa Maroma, Punta Maroma
Home to world-class resorts, freshwater cenotes, and one of the largest reef systems on the planet, Maroma has earned its reputation as one of the best beaches in the Riviera Maya—and one of the best destinations.
Its vibrant white sand and bright-blue waters are set against a lush, tropical forest located just 30 minutes south of Cancún. Similar to other beaches in the area, Playa Maroma provides travelers with an idyllic setting for snorkeling and other water activities; you’ll find divers, explorers, and sports enthusiasts of all ages along the shore.
Pro Tip: If you’re not staying at one of the resorts on the beach, you can gain access by purchasing a day pass (or making a reservation at one of the local restaurants).
5. Playa Xcacel, Chemuyil
Perhaps the most natural beach in the Riviera Maya, Xcacel (pronounced ish-kuh-cell) is an isolated oasis that doubles as a sea turtle sanctuary. You can enjoy snorkeling beside loggerhead and green turtles. Just remember to bring your own gear!
In true Mexican style, this beach also boasts a sequestered cenote not far from the ocean’s touch. Only six miles from Tulum, it’s a quiet alternative to Playa Ruinas and Playa Akumal.
Pro Tip: You’ll need to pay an entrance fee in order to enjoy this beautiful beach, but it’s well worth it. And you can rest easy knowing all money goes towards conservation efforts in the area.
6. Playa Paraíso, Tulum
Literally named “Paradise Beach,” this powdery-soft stretch of sand attracts travelers who want to experience the rich culture and natural wonders of Mexico—it’s located just north of the Tulum ruins.
It’s also perfect for those who prefer an exciting beach atmosphere and potential star sightings (celebs often vacation in the area). Plus, it’s home to many all-inclusive hotels and resorts.
Pro Tip: Bring your appetite! This beach is surrounded by bars and restaurants to help you refuel after a swim.
7. Playa Xpu-Há, Solidaridad
Playa Xpu-Há attracts visitors from all over the world—and not just because of the unusual hue of its sand (when the sun hits the beach just right, it appears pink).
Like Playa Paraíso, this beach offers an enjoyable atmosphere with restaurants, bars, and live music to take you from morning 'til night. Not only that, but the lengthy shore allows for ample space and those proverbial “long walks.” The entry water level is great for families and first-time visitors to Mexico, too.
Pro Tip: Stay until sunset to witness a breathtaking gradient in the sky.
Ready to explore the best beaches in the Riviera Maya? Get in touch with Liberty Travel to start planning your trip.