Last Updated Sep 7, 2023

Beaches in Cancun

When we think about Cancun and Riviera Maya, images of white sand beaches surrounded by a breathtaking turquoise blue sea come immediately to our mind. Images like these constitute by themselves a perfect postcard to keep in our travel memories or to show off in our social media channels. It’s undeniable that one of the main attractions, perhaps the most important, in the Mexican Caribbean is the beach. Even though, there are other famous beach destinations in Mexico (Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, Cabo), no other is as popular as Cancun and Riviera Maya.

The Sea in Cancun and Riviera Maya

The sea is one of the most amazing elements of the beaches in Cancun and Riviera Maya. The water that bathes these beaches comes from the Caribbean Sea. Its tropical location contributes to the water maintaining a moderate high temperature, in a range between 70 and 90 ° F (21 and 32 ° C) throughout the year. So, the water that reaches the beaches of Cancun and Riviera Maya is substantially warm.

On the other hand, another interesting fact about the sea surrounding Cancun and Riviera Mayas’ beaches is that it harbors a reef. This reef is known as “The Cancun Reef”. A coral reef forms a colorful ecosystem in which fish and other organisms proliferate. It is considered that this reef is inhabited by about 500 fish species, 82 sea sponge species, 47 mollusk species, 37 crustacean species, four sea turtle species, as well as some species of dolphins and whales. So, this sea is full of life and you will be able to notice this the closer you get to the reef. The tours and visits to coral reefs are one of the most interesting things to do in the Mexican Caribbean.

However, right on the beaches of Cancun and the beaches of the main destinations in Riviera Maya, you won’t notice the presence of many animals. Occasionally, an iguana could wander around the beach, especially if there’s vegetation nearby. And of course, there will be birds (pelicans, seagulls, etc). But, there won’t be something more than that. The reef is also a natural barrier to the waves that come from the open sea. That’s one of the main reasons why the sea in Cancun can be considered one where the water is still.

The reef in Cancun

Were you wondering why the beach in Cancun and Riviera Maya is white? Well, that is also related with the reef. Through centuries, the remains of coral reef have accumulated over the sand, so once they become dust, they look white. The coral reef is so important for the beach in Cancun and Riviera Maya that there’s even an Underwater Art Museum. It is located close to the shore of Cancun. There, you will find 300 sculptures fixed to the rocky layer of the Caribbean Sea. This was made to help the corals and other organisms find new surfaces to get attached to and start growing the reef. There’s no doubt about it, exploring the sea beyond the beach in Cancun and Riviera Maya is one of the best plans or things to do in your trip to these destinations.

Where are the beaches in Cancun and Riviera Maya?

This may read / sound like a silly question, but it doesn’t hurt to talk about it. The beach is located on the eastern side of Cancun and the nearby towns. In the case of Cancun, the entire Hotel Zone is bordered by a beach through the eastern end. On the western end, you will find the Nichupté Lagoon.

Punta Maroma

Likewise, the highway that connects Cancun with Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and the rest of Riviera Maya runs parallel to the beach. Although, a straight view from the road to the beach is not possible because there are several hotels or just the jungle between them. Anyway, if you want to find the beach in Cancun and Riviera Maya just remember to follow the sun when it rises every morning.

Public beaches in Cancun

Public beaches in Cancun are located along three zone:

  • Hotel Zone
  • Puerto Juárez
  • Playa Mujeres

Public beaches in the Hotel Zone

The beaches in the hotel zone extend for a little more than 13 miles (24 kilometers), almost the whole route that is done from Kukulkán Boulverd south end to the north end. Kukulkán Boulevard is the main avenue in the Hotel Zone. It is important to note that, although the concept of a private beach does not exist as such in Mexico, there are some hotels in the hotel zone that set up chairs, beach lounge chairs and umbrellas for their guests on the beach in front their properties. Thus, they block part of the beach and limit the access to the area where this furniture is located. However, beach transit is open to anyone, as it is the main access to the sea.

The most popular public beaches in Cancun’s hotel zone are:

  • Las Perlas Beach (The Pearls). It is located at kilometer 2 of Kukulkán Boulevard. It is the first you will find in the hotel zone if you come from Cancun’s downtown. It has a small stretch of sand and calm waves. The atmosphere is family-oriented and there are play grounds and other games available for kids.
  • Tortugas Beach (Turtle). It is one of the most popular public beaches and is located at kilometer 6.5. Here you can find restaurants, chair and umbrellas rental, as well as grocery stores. One of its main attractions is a bungee jump tower.
  • Delfines Beach (Dolphin). It is also known as the "viewpoint" because it has a high ground on which you can see the entire beach. It is located at kilometer 18. The waves are heavier in this area because it is exposed to the open sea. There is umbrellas and lounge chair rental available, as well as restaurant service. It is also famous for the colorful letters sign with the name "Cancun". It is one of the public beaches with the largest parking capacity.
  • Langosta Beach (Lobster) It is located at kilometer 5, close to the Casa Maya Hotel. It is a beach with calm waves and a family-oriented atmosphere.
  • Caracol Beach. It is located at kilometer 8.5, this public beach is usually one of the least crowded, so it is perfect to chill and relax. The waves are a bit rougher here.
  • Ballenas Beach (Whale). It is located at kilometer 14. Here, the waves are usually more intense because it is a beach exposed to the open sea. It is ideal for practicing water sports. It is highly recommended that whoever decides to swim in this beach, has previous experience swimming in rough waters.
  • Playa Forum o Gaviota Azul. Está situada detrás del centro comercial Forum at the sea (kilómetro 9.5). Aquí se pueden encontrar bares y antros para iniciar la fiesta desde temprano. Hay renta de sombrillas y camastros.
  • Chac Mool Beach. It is located at kilometer 10. This public beach is exposed to the open sea and is one of the most sought after to practice water sports due to its rougher waves. It has toilets and lifeguards.
  • Playa Marlín. It is located at kilometer 13, right next to Ballenas Beach, so the waves are intense.
  • Nizuc Beach. It is located at the exit of the Hotel Zone to the airport. This beach is popular among pet owners. Walking your dog is allowed here.

Parking and transportation

In order to get to the public beaches in the hotel zone, the most convenient option is using public transportation, either bus or taxi. Parking is quite limited on most of these beaches, so getting there by car can be more complicated.

Public Beach in Puerto Juarez

The main beach in Puerto Juarez is El Niño Beach. It is located right next to the ferry pier to Isla Mujeres.

The water in this beach is extremely calm and there are some palapas too. This beach is visited mostly by local people and it is common to see families gathered to enjoy the sea, and having a picnic. There are also several restaurants nearby.

Playa Mujeres

It is located to the North of Cancun, in the continental zone of Isla Mujeres municipality. This beach is perfect for those looking for an isolated and relaxed place. The water is calm and crowds are non-existent. The only thing that “disturbs” de peaceful atmosphere in the area are the ring and motors of the ferry boat that transports cars and other cargo to Isla Mujeres.