We set out to find 20 beautiful beach towns in Mexico but to do it without featuring the usual suspects. Read on to find out which places made the list.
Back in the 1950’s and 60’s the whole world knew the name of one Mexican beach town, Acapulco. It was so famous they even dragged Elvis across the border to have some fun.
A few decades later and the town of Puerto Vallarta joined Acapulco as a well known Mexican location mainly due to it being a popular port of call on the hit TV show, The Love Boat.
As we moved closer to the present day those two had faded into the background somewhat as the marketing gurus unleashed a new Mexican beach town on the world, Cancun.
Best known as a the place to go for party minded US college kids to get drunk, hook up and be stupid during Spring Break, Cancun is trying hard to broaden its appeal to become a favorite for family and couples as well.
We won’t be featuring Cancun, Acapulco or even Puerto Vallarta in this list but instead offering 20 great little coastal areas that don’t have the tourist crowds but still offer something special.
1 – Chacahua
Considered the eco-tourism jewel in the crown of Oaxaca State, Chacahua not only offers an impressive beach but a group of lagoons that are home to leatherback turtle and crocodile conservation areas.
Originally home to just a handful of fishermen and their families Chacahua has evolved into a rustic village that offers plenty to eco-tourists, naturalists and water sport enthusiasts alike.
Once you wander past the small but useful restaurant row you are likely to find that you have miles of beach to yourself.
Don’t expect any 5 star Resorts here as you are probably going to be spending your nights in one of the many rustic bungalows. Try to find one right on the beach for a special treat.
2 – Costalegre
Translated to English as the “happy coast”, Costalegre is a popular weekend escape for city dwelling Mexicans but is still little visited by foreign tourists.
A handful of small towns ensure there are places to stay and plenty of dining options but it is the water that is the main attraction here.
Costalegre is popular for its diving and fishing but for those of you who prefer your land based activities why not try the zip lining, horseback riding or rappelling?
Visit nearby villages to see them making local handicrafts or sit on the beach with a Margarita and watch the perfect sunset. The choice is yours.
3 – Mazunte
A beautiful sandy beach on a scenic bay, with amazing natural surroundings and a turtle sanctuary. How does that sound to you?
Mazunte is a perfect place to do nothing but if you want to find things to do then you won’t have to look very hard.
In the local area you will find coffee plantations to visit or maybe you prefer to explore the ancient ruins of Mitla, a pre-Hispanic site of great importance. For the adrenaline seeker there is some serious white water rafting to be had.
Whatever your ideal visit needs you will find a range of accommodations to suit your style and budget.
4 – Todos Santos
What would you think if I told you there was a place with crystal clear waters, sea turtles and whale sharks as well as a thriving artist community, music festivals and a bold food culture?
Well that place exists on the Baja Peninsula. Todos Santos brings all of that together and more for the perfect place to explore culture and nature.
There is also some good waves for those who prefer nature to propel them through the water while the calmer areas are perfect to try your hand at some stand up paddleboarding.
The variety of accommodation available means there is a place for everyone’s style and budget and plenty of food options as well.
5 – Troncones
The beach may only be 3 miles long but this sleepy little gem and its population of about 500 offer an oasis to those wanting to experience Mexican beaches without the big Resorts and tourist crowds.
It is often used as a base for surfers looking to try their hand at mastering the waves at La Saladita, better known as the “wave machine” for its perfect sets.
If you prefer less waves in your activities then you have plenty to do nearby as well. Perhaps hiking the Sierra Madres is more your thing or kayaking the Estuary.
If that all sounds a bit too exhausting then why not end the day with a hammock, a cold cerveza, a plate of tamales and a sunset view over the ocean?
6 – Sayulita
Often called the “crown jewel” of Riviera Nayarit, Sayulita is a place of stunning natural beauty, ecotourism and surfing.
While many call it a surfer’s paradise others will have no time for the sea as they try to eat their way through the 100+ food outlets in the town.
Being such a new find for tourists the locals have been able to retain their heritage and culture by celebrating Mexican holidays with traditional parades, festivals, fiestas, and more.
Add that it is only a 10 minute stroll from town and you are in the jungle. Explore on foot, ATV, horseback or bicycle the choice is yours.
7 – Mazatlan
The largest town in our list is Mazatlan. It takes it’s place because it may not be as well known as other Resort towns and has plenty to offer.
As an example we start with the 20 kilometer long Malecon (boardwalk) which follows the entire length of the beach or maybe Old Mazatlan, the Centro Historico. Both worth some time to visit.
Big game fishing is popular in the area and charters are cheap and easily arranged. But Mazatlan has another ace up its sleeve.
It happens to be home to the third largest Carnivale, only behind Rio and New Orleans. What could be better than experiencing a massive party like that with only a fraction of the crowds you would have to deal with at the bigger events?
8 – Huatulco
If you are looking for a place that has all the tourist amenities you could need but without the crowds of Cancun or Los Cabos then this could be the answer.
Smaller visitor numbers means it is easier to get around, more chance to find space at the restaurant or activity you choose and a real possibility of finding that bit of seclusion impossible to find at the bigger tourist towns.
For those of us that want more than a beach or Resort pool the quaint town center has plenty to offer and the nearby archaeological site has ruins dating back over 2000 years.
This is a beautiful piece of coastline which has a number of secluded bays that require a boat to access and plenty of sealife for the snorkeler.
9 – Zihuatanejo
Dolphins and sea turtles are common sights around the beaches of Zihuatanejo. But they are not the only things to entice you to this marine paradise.
The area gained a level of fame as the dream getaway in the movie Shawshank Redemption and it won’t take you long to understand the attraction.
As well as a magnificent beach the area has a protected bay which is ideal for snorkeling and kayaking or maybe you would like to visit the nearby islands for even more interaction with nature.
While Resorts are becoming more common it is still possible to find small, family run places to stay and the crowds have so far kept mostly to other places.
10 – Manzanillo
Without doubt the sea is the hero of a visit to Manzanillo with the beaches being some of the safest and cleanest along Mexico’s tourist coasts.
It is also regarded as the sailfish capital of the world which makes it a must visit destination for sports fishermen and host to some of the biggest fishing competitions anywhere.
For something drier why not visit the Iguana Sanctuary where you will see plenty of these awesome lizards and have your chance to hand feed them.
The town offers plenty of accommodation options and there is no reason why you would ever go hungry here. Maybe try a snorkel / fishing combo tour and have the guide cook your catch for lunch. Now that’s fresh seafood!
11 – Puerto Escondido
This place may be a little harder to get to than many of the other towns on our list but for anyone who prefers not to spend entire days in an All-inclusive Resort that is not a bad thing.
Best known for the big waves at Mexican Pipeline, Puerto Escondido is the place to be on the Pacific Coast for surfers which usually means a pretty laid back vibe around town.
There are three distinct beach areas to choose from and each offer something different for either the surfer or swimmer.
As you could imagine there are some cheap and cheerful accommodation options and plenty of budget friendly places to eat.
12 – Ixtapa
Up until the 1970’s Ixtapa was little more than a collection of coconut plantations but then the Mexican Government decided the Pacific Coast needed a Cancun-like Resort town.
Although it is not as large or popular as Cancun it can be best described as a long line of hotels along a strip of beach. But don’t write it off just yet.
If you are looking for well priced All-inclusive options but also want to experience a more “real” Mexican experience then this may well be the place for you.
Because it is located right alongside the less touristy Zihuatanejo you have the best of both worlds and some beautiful coastline as the icing on the cake.
13 – La Paz
The Capital of the Baja Peninsular La Paz is a strange combination that works perfectly. Cosmopolitan in that you are likely to hear many languages being spoken on the streets and yet somehow the most Mexican city on the Peninsula.
The Malecon (boardwalk) is lined with artwork from local and international artists and also home to a large number of amazing restaurants.
Once you get in the water you really get to find out why this place is among the most versatile towns in Mexico with whale watching a particular highlight.
The beaches are also perfect for kayaking and swimming or you could head out to Espiritu Santo for a rare chance to swim with sea lions.
14 – Loreto
There are not many places where you have easy access to a 17th century church, dolphins and whales, and even mountains hiding prehistoric cave paintings. But this is one of them.
The area is believed to be the oldest settlement on the Baja Peninsula dating back to 1697 with the church taking pride of place.
The waters around Loreto are pristine due to tight Government controls on fishing and pollution in the area.
Don’t assume that because Loreto is a laid back beach town that you won’t have much choice when it comes to food. Nothing could be further from the truth.
15 – San Felipe
You can probably leave the surfboard at home on this trip as the water, while still providing plenty of options, is unlikely to provide many big waves.
You are more likely to visit if you love your fishing or want a bit of fun riding jetskis or trying to hang on to a speeding banana boat.
Inland you can travel the 15 kilometers to La Valle del Gigante where you can spend a few hours hiking among the giant Saguaro Cacti.
For the music lover head down to San Felipe during April for the annual Blues Festival because what is better than Blues, Tequila and sunsets on the beach?
16 – Isla Mujeres
Unless you are just looking for the place to party until you drop then use Cancun as nothing more than a transit point and head ten miles off shore to Isla Mujeres.
You will still find accommodation ranging from cheap hostels to 5 star Resorts but over here life is more about natural wonders than which cocktail to try next.
The hero of this tiny island is definitely the reef with it’s colorful coral and multitude of sea creatures to be discovered while you snorkel or scuba.
Another unusual place to visit is the MUSA underwater sculpture Museum. An amazing display of art placed on the ocean sure and becoming an incredibly beautiful man made reef.
17 – Bacalar
Bacalar is best known as being the site of the Lake of Seven Colors. A stunning Lagoon that is best explored by kayak and is the second largest body of fresh water in mexico.
The town has a wonderful history since it was founded by the Spanish in 1545 and then destroyed by Pirates in 1642.
The Fortress was built in 1733 and can still be visited today for a genuine step back into history.
Another highlight of a trip to the area is a visit to the Cenote Azul which is a breathtaking 395 feet deep. So it’s unlikely you will be diving to the bottom.
18 – Progreso
With no major Resort developments and tourist infrastructure mostly targeting Mexicans it is no wonder that Progreso has maintained an authentic atmosphere.
Most visitors are either Mexicans looking for a beach break from Merida’s heat or the thousands of cruise ship passengers that disembark and are immediately whisked off to one shore excursion or another.
For a bit of a change, when laying on the sand in the sun loses its appeal, why not wander the mile long Malecon and sample some fresh seafood?
And for a great photo op why not head up to the old lighthouse which was built in the late 1800’s and makes a great focal point for your selfie.
19 – Akumal
Akumal translates as the “place of turtles” and from May to November you can still witness these amazing creatures come ashore to lay eggs.
The area is best know for its stunning swimmable lagoon, Yal-ku, which contains a fabulous array of sea creatures. The lagoon is always calm and the depth comfortable for even young snorkelers to feel safe.
The area consists of 5 bays which are all perfect for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking or just laying around being happy that you are not at work.
The main beach in Akumal is lined with small shops, restaurants and homey beachfront accommodation options. The ideal place to stay.
20 – Zipolite
The beach area may be tiny compared to many of the places on our list but this one mile of sandy coast is still spectacular.
Most famous for its use as a nude beach in the past Zipolite is now more of a hippie style backpacker area with clothing optional bathing limited to just a small, discrete section.
This place is all about chilling out and the most common form of hotel is rustic beachfront hotel. The total opposite of Cancun is what you will find.
At the western end of the beach you can now find some comfortable hotel options but don’t go there expecting to find and 5 star AI Resorts. They just don’t need any.
So there you have it
We hope you have discovered somewhere new that may just become your next vacation destination. Or at the very least we hope to have shown you that Mexico is more than crowded party beaches and Resorts that you feel obliged to never leave the grounds.
Do you have any other suggestions? We would love to hear from you.