Cozumel remains at the top of our list of the best beaches in Mexico. From its stunning and raw beaches to its charming and walkable city center, Cozumel is the best place for a beach getaway in Mexico. For travelers closer to the Pacific coast, Puerto Vallarta is a great option.
We lived in Mexico for years, and we’ve explored nearly every state in Mexico. As beach lovers ourselves, we explored all of the best beaches in Mexico in search of the truly perfect place to return to year after year. From the charm of Los Cabos to the accessibility of Cancun, this post will help you determine which of the best beaches in Mexico for families to visit.
Cozumel tops the list of the best beaches in Mexico for families due to its charming city center, its gorgeous beaches, and its reputation for safety. An island floating in the Caribbean Sea, Cozumel is known for having the clearest water in Mexico and is a big magnet for snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts. Cozumel is packed with things to do that can appeal to the whole family.
Cozumel’s pristine beaches are known for their crystal-clear waters and white, soft sand. I’ve always found Cozumel to be one of the most tranquil beach destinations in Mexico, with calm waters, raw beaches, and friendly locals. While the west coast of this small island is more built-up, the east coast is raw, beautiful, and doesn’t even get great cell signal.
Unlike the major cities along Mexico’s Caribbean coast, Cozumel is not a resort town. While there are a handful of all-inclusive resorts, Cozumel is a much more laid-back destination with smaller, more local-feeling accommodation options. We even attended a wedding in a boutique hotel toward the northern tip of the island, and there was nobody else around!
Cozumel Is Best Without Cruise Ships
While Cozumel is the best beach destination in Mexico, it still comes with its drawbacks. The first of those is that it is a very popular cruise port, and on days when ships are in town the island is packed with tourists. On days when there aren’t ships, the island is much calmer.
The second main drawback to visiting Cozumel is that it is a bit tricky to get to. As it is an island several miles off of the coast, there are no roads connecting Cozumel to the rest of Mexico. Travelers need to either fly directly into Cozumel, or transit from Cancun International Airport to the coastal town of Playa del Carmen, from which they can take a ferry across to Cozumel.
I love Cozumel, and I’ve written a comprehensive Cozumel Travel Guide that answers nearly any question you might have about visiting. You might want to consider reading my picks of the best beaches in Cozumel and my review of one of the best snorkeling companies on the island. Whatever you’re looking for, you can probably find it on Cozumel.
2. Playa del Carmen
What was once a sleepy fishing town is now one of the biggest beach destinations in Mexico. Playa del Carmen is a major hub about an hour south of Cancun, about half of the way to Tulum.
While Cancun is known for its large, luxurious, all-inclusive resorts, Playa del Carmen is known for a handful of family-focused ones. Xcaret is a very popular option for families, as it is packed with adventure activities for the whole family. While it is pricey, Xcaret is often named one of the best resorts in Mexico for families.
Playa del Carmen Is Centrally Located
The biggest advantage to staying in Playa del Carmen is its central location. It is halfway between Cancun and Tulum, it manages the ferry to Cozumel, and it is just a few hours away from Chichen Itza. While the resorts in Cancun are nicer for lounging around, Playa’s location makes it the best place for families that want to explore.
Playa del Carmen is a lot of fun, but it is a place where you need to be thoughtful with kids. At night, downtown Playa turns into a big party destination and is not the best place for little kids. During the day this usually isn’t an issue.
While Playa isn’t known specifically for its beaches, they are still very nice. After all, it sits right between Cancun and Tulum! I’d recommend heading down to Akumal beach (famous for its sea turtles!) or one of the many other white sand beaches that are within 30 minutes, though, for the best turquoise waters.
3. Los Cabos
If you live on the West Coast of the United States, you almost have to have heard of Los Cabos. For Californians, this place is practically the backyard! When we visited Los Cabos, we were blown away by just how well-developed the area is.
Most of Mexico is very well developed…don’t get me wrong. But driving on the roads in Los Cabos feels like driving on one of the nicest highways in the United States! Living in Puebla, we were used to potholes the size of a cow.
Los Cabos is more than just nice roads, though. From the stunning Arch of Cabo San Lucas to the beautiful beaches on the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez, this place absolutely rocks. Los Cabos is widely regarded as a higher-end place to go on vacation, and many cite it as one of the most romantic beach destinations in the world.
Los Cabos Has the Best Beaches in Mexico’s Pacific Coast
In my opinion, Los Cabos is the best beach destination for families on Mexico’s Pacific coast. The towns are cute and usually quite safe, the beaches are stunning, and the resorts are world-class. There are other great places to visit on Mexico’s western coast, but their waves tend to not be very family-friendly.
Mexico is known around the world as a great surfing destination, but this can be a disadvantage for regular families that want to go to the beach. After all, in order to surf, you need big and strong waves! Most of Mexico’s west-coast beaches are surf havens known for powerful waves.
This isn’t really the best for a family beach trip, unless you are hoping to take a surf lesson as a family! The Los Cabos area is located on the tip of the Baja California Peninsula, and it tends to have very calm waters compared to places like Puerto Escondido and Puerto Vallarta.
Baja California Sur, the state where Los Cabos are located, is also one of the best places in the world to see humpback whales. In Los Cabos, you can get up close and personal with some of the most beautiful marine life in the world.
4. Isla Mujeres
While Cancun is known for its craziness, Isla Mujeres couldn’t be more different. Located just a couple hours north of Cancun’s hotel zone, Isla Mujeres is a tranquil island that is great for the entire family. Its white-sand beaches are among the best in Mexico, and its proximity to the Riviera Maya makes it very easy to access.
Isla Mujeres’ biggest claim to fame is that it is a mostly car-free island. The island isn’t very big, after all, and the main ways to get around are by golf cart and scooter. While Cozumel is quiet and tranquil, Isla Mujeres is on a whole different level.
Similar to Cozumel, you need to take a ferry to get to Isla Mujeres. The ferry port is about an hour north of Cancun.
Isla Mujeres Is Very Different from Cancun
Isla Mujeres is in many ways the ideal place for young kids, as there aren’t nearly as many people or risks as there are in Cancun. Cancun Beach can be a bit sketchy for various reasons, and Isla Mujeres tends to be a bit protected from these things.
The main downside to Isla Mujeres is simply that it is pretty small, and it isn’t the ideal spot to spend any more than a couple of days. Just like the nearby Isla Holbox, while there are some activities for young children, dedicating an entire family vacation to Isla Mujeres could get boring a few days in. Most people recommend Isla Mujeres as a day trip from Cancun or Playa del Carmen.
5. Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is one of the most adorable beach cities we’ve visited in Mexico. Both Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta are great, but we are partial to Puerto Vallarta because of its accompanying town. Nuevo Vallarta is more of an isolated resort strip, while Puerto Vallarta has a hotel zone and a truly adorable town.
Puerto Vallarta has endless things to do. Like Los Cabos, this is one of the best places in the world to see humpback whales! Puerto Vallarta is also a prime place for water sports and jet skis, as there tend to be significantly fewer people in the water here than in places like Cancun and Tulum. One of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta is hike or water taxi to remote beaches in the surrounding area.
The city itself is a really incredible place to hang out and explore. An Uber driver once told us that Puerto Vallarta has more Michelin stars than anywhere else in Mexico, including Mexico City! This area also has an awesome boardwalk area (malecón) that is especially lively in the evenings.
Puerto Vallarta’s Beaches Aren’t Its Selling Point
The beaches themselves are better in most of the other places on this list. Puerto Vallarta has pretty rough waves and isn’t known for having fine, white sand. However, the culture and attitude of Puerto Vallarta are very unique and energizing, and this is a fantastic place for a family vacation! For some of the top things to do in Puerto Vallarta and logistics for your trip, be sure to check out my Puerto Vallarta Travel Guide!
If you’re looking for some of the best beaches in Mexico and don’t want to have to take a ferry to Cozumel, it doesn’t get any better than Tulum. While Tulum is known largely for its bohemian atmosphere and luxurious beach clubs, its beaches themselves are world-class if you visit during the right month.
Tulum is most popular for its party scene, but it can still be a great destination for families, especially further north along the beach strip and in the city.
There are certain places in Tulum I’d stay away from with kids, for sure. But that doesn’t mean the whole city needs to be avoided! The city itself is a wonderful place for children, and many activities in the area are great for the whole family.
The best of these may be cenotes (say-no-tays). If you haven’t heard of cenotes, they’re underground sinkholes located all throughout Mexico, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Most of these have become great places to swim, and are essentially natural pools!
When you take the combination of stunning beaches and relaxing cenotes, Tulum has plenty of water to go around. On top of that, the city proper is great for families, and the Tulum Ruins are a place you don’t want to miss, either. Being located on the Riviera Maya, you can also access things like Chichen Itza or the sea turtles in Akumal as easy day trips.
If you’re looking for more information on Tulum, be sure to check out my Tulum Travel Guide.
Acapulco used to be one of the most famous destinations in all of Mexico, and some semi-recent bad headlines have taken it out of the limelight. This is really sad, because Acapulco truly has many of the best beaches in Mexico for families, especially on Mexico’s west coast.
Despite what the news may say, I’ve always found Acapulco to be safe to visit. The recent headlines aren’t fake news, but they do tend to blow things out of proportion. There are surely risks when you visit Acapulco, but they’re not much different than the risks of traveling anywhere else, particularly in Mexico or the United States.
After all, Chicago’s crime rates are among the highest in the world, but that doesn’t stop millions of tourists from visiting every year!
Acapulco Isn’t Just for Surfing
Acapulco is known for its surfing, and the waves can definitely be rough on several of its beaches. However, many other places, like Playa Diamante, are incredibly gentle and mostly empty! We visited one beach where 75 feet into the ocean the water only went up to our knees.
Beyond just beaches, Acapulco is filled with other great things to do. From watching the famous La Quebrada divers to great restaurants, you’ll never run out of things to do. We really enjoyed our day trip to Isla de la Roqueta, where we visited la Virgen de los Mares underwater and La Playa del Amor.
If you want more information on safety in Acapulco as well as tips for planning your trip, read my Acapulco Travel Guide. Acapulco rocks, and the coastline is dotted with several of the best beaches in Mexico, hands down. There’s a reason that this was one of the most popular areas in the mid-1900s among celebrities, including Frank Sinatra and the Kennedys!
Merida is a city at the top of the Yucatan Peninsula that has become very popular with tourists. Known for its safety and beauty, Merida is one of my favorite places in Mexico. While it isn’t directly on the beach, it is less than an hour off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and many buses run daily between downtown Merida and the beach town of Progreso.
Progreso is a sleepy beach town in comparison to Cancun and the Riviera Maya, but it is still a great place to visit. The beach is beautiful, the water is nice, and the food is great. Both Merida and Progreso are located in the state of Yucatan, which I personally think has one of the best local cuisines in all of Mexico.
Merida International Airport runs several direct flights to and from the United States, making it very accessible. It is also the closest major city to Chichen Itza, which is the only Wonder of the World in North America.
Veracruz is vastly different from the touristy cities along Mexico’s Caribbean and Pacific coasts. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, Veracruz is a much more authentic city where local culture dominates. One of our best friends in Mexico is from Veracruz, and he proudly tells us it is the best beach city in Mexico.
I like to think of Veracruz as Mexico’s Jersey Shore. That is, the beaches aren’t the best, but they are very accessible to millions of people living in Central Mexico, and thus are a very popular domestic destination. Much like how New Jersey’s coastline is a short drive from New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, Veracruz is the closest beach to both Mexico City and Puebla.
Veracruz isn’t a place you will find luxurious resorts or white-sand beaches. But it is a place where you will find Mexican culture at its finest!
10. Isla Holbox
Isla Holbox is widely regarded as one of the best beach destinations in Mexico for families due to its location in the Caribbean and seclusion from the party scene of Cancun. Isla Holbox is very similar to Isla Mujeres, except it is much larger and much less built-up. It is the perfect destination for families looking to escape to peaceful crystal clear waters and relaxation.
Isla Holbox is very raw and undeveloped. Outside of its main small town, there is nothing but nature and popular beaches with beautiful blue water. While Isla Mujeres is quiet compared to Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Isla Holbox takes it to a whole different level.
To put it plainly, Holbox isn’t typically a spring break destination. This is part of what makes it a great spot for families to visit! While taking a ferry can be inconvenient, it is a small price to pay to sit alone among palm trees in Caribbean paradise!
Thanks for reading our post on the best beaches in Mexico for families. We hope this is helpful as you plan your trip! If you have any questions, or if you think we missed a place on our list, let us know in the comments below! We will respond to all comments as soon as possible.