Mexico is one of the top vacation destinations for the US. And almost half of Americans say their favorite vacation is a beach vacation – that’s more than for any other type. And while there’s more than just beaches in Mexico, it’s the beaches we love best. Here’s little about the top 12, so you can pick one for your next vacation:
the very popular Mexican Caribbean
Cancun – in 1967, the Mexican government recognized the importance of tourism to it’s economic future and began a search to locate ideal sites to develop tourism. At the northeast corner of the Yucutan peninsula, Cancun’s near perfect weather, naturally beautiful beaches, and easy accessibility from North America made it the perfect choice. The tiny fishing village of 12 families, and gateway to the Mayan World, was transformed into the resort paradise we know today. Because it was built for tourism, it has the distinction of being the one area in Mexico with the infrastructure (think potable water), amenities (North American style conveniences), and service philosophy to compete with resort destinations worldwide. Today, come to Cancun for golf, snorkeling and scuba diving, sport fishing, jungle tours, Mayan ruins, shopping, and relaxing on a near perfect beach! For a more authentic taste of Mexico, venture into downtown El Centro for it’s markets, restaurants, bars and clubs.
Riviera Maya – south of Cancun, stretching from Puerto Morelos to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, is the Riviera Maya. This area, once home to numerous small fishing villages, grew up as the Cancun resort area developed and expanded. Resorts in the Riviera Maya tend to be more remote and separated than in Cancun’s more urban hotel zone, and many if not most, are all-inclusive. Playa Maroma, with it’s sparkling white sand, deep blue water and lush rainforests, is considered one of the best in the world, and the best of Riviera Maya. Playa del Carmen is the lively town at the Riv’s center. Venture out to the Mayan ruins and villages – beautiful Tulum is perched on a beachside cliff; take the ferry to Cozumel for world class snorkeling and diving; shop for souvenirs in the village of Playa del Carmen; swim in a cenote or just relax on the beach.
Cozumel – only six percent of this small island off the Yucatan coast, is developed. Originally a Mayan ceremonial center and port for trade, it’s still an important port, but now as Mexico’s most popular cruise ship port of call. It’s only town, San Miguel, retains it’s charm and laid back tranquility while offering restaurants, cafes, boutiques, souvenirs and traditional Mayan handicrafts. It’s not known for beaches, but it has been renowned for it’s snorkeling and diving since Jacques Cousteau declared it one of the most spectacular sites in the world in 1961. Stay at one of the relaxing resorts, or take the ferry from Playa del Carmen for a day away from the mainland.
on to the Pacific, from north to south….
Los Cabos – At the tip of Baja California where the Sea of Cortez meets the desert and mountains, rests Los Cabos. Tranquil San Jose del Cabo retains it’s authentic Mexican feel, with cobblestone streets, small restaurants and shops, and central main square and mission church. At the other end of the 20 mile Corridor lies lively Cabo San Lucas where you can party at the bars and shop at the Luxury Avenue Mall near the marina. Along the Corridor are the luxurious resorts, championship golf courses, and fabulous spas for which Los Cabos has become renowned. Many of Cabo’s beaches aren’t swimmable; along the Corridor lies the area’s best beaches for watersports.
Mazatlan – the Pearl of the Pacific has it all: sun and sand, culture and history. In Old Mazatlan’s Historic Center lies traditional neighborhoods with markets, cafes and plazas. Listen to Banda, a form of music unique to the state of Sinaloa combining Latin energy with German oompah music. It developed when Bavarian immigrants arrived at the turn of the 20th century. Admire the restored Tropical Neoclassical 19th century mansions in the once crumbling downtown area. In the Zona Dorada you’ll find the major hotels, shops, bars and restaurants along the 11 miles of golden beaches. This newer area was developed in the 1960s to support growing tourism, and offers a wide range of accommodation and dining.
Puerto Vallarta – When Liz Taylor accompanied Richard Burton to this sleepy fishing village in 1964 for the filming of The Night of the Iguana, the publicity buzz about the movie and affair put Vallarta on the map. Thus started Puerto Vallarta’s tourism. There are actually several destination areas within Puerto Vallarta, each with it’s own character: seaside villages, the Romantic Zone, the Old Town, the renowned Malecon (seaside promenade), and the hotel zone. In some areas, it seems the golden beaches meet the Sierra Madre Mountains; you’ll get your exercise walking the hilly streets. With it’s nearly perfect climate, many Americans and Canadians make this affordable paradise their winter home.
Riviera Nayarit – as Puerto Vallarta’s tourist zone expanded to the north of town, it stretched into the next state, Nayarit. At the top of Banderas Bay, Riviera Nayarit is developing into an attractive, desirable destination. With all the offerings of nearby Puerto Vallarta available, it has so much more to offer: miles of coastline; exclusive, luxurious hotel resorts; strong waves for surfing; remote backcountry; solitary natural beaches; and offshore islands to name a few. View giant manta rays and dolphins here; humpback whales can be seen between December and March.
Manzanillo – this port was the first ship yard in Latin America, opening in 1531. Today, it’s the most important commercial seaport in Mexico. And it’s a favorite destination for beach activities, ecotourism and adventure sports. Take in the local flavor in Manzanillo’s historic center. The main plaza is surrounded by bars, restaurants and shops. Five miles away in the hotel zone you’ll find luxury resorts, golf courses, and fine beaches. This is the Sailfish Capital of the World, luring sports fishermen for fun or tournaments. The variety of aquatic sports available includes swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving and surfing. Local cuisine is based on fresh ingredients from the sea as well as native fruits and vegetables. This is the home of Colima ceviche.
Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo – these neighboring towns offer two very different experiences. Ixpata offers the resorts, amenities and shopping you’d expect in a beachfront luxury destination. It appeals to those seeking adventure and outdoor recreation such as snorkeling and scuba diving, tennis, golf, sport fishing or surfing. Zihuatanejo evolved from a quaint fishing village to a cultural destination with galleries, folk art, boutique hotels, and palapa-style restaurants on the sand. Whether you choose Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo, you’ll get two vacations in one!
Acapulco – in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, Acapulco was the playground of the rich and famous: Elvis Presley, John Wayne, Clark Gable, Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth. Today, it’s one of Mexico’s older coastal resorts, a modern, busy metropolis, and purely Mexican. Acapulco’s cliffs provide the backdrop for spectacular views as well as it’s famous divers who since 1934, plunge 147 feet into a shallow inlet. Acapulco is a great choice for those looking for a genuine Mexican beach resort with glamour, splash and a boisterous party atmosphere.
Puerto Escondido – This tranquil, somewhat rustic, unspoiled paradise offers something for everyone. Bacocho beach offers a wide variety of hotels in a laid back atmosphere. Zicatela is an action packed beach, attracting visitors from around the world and considered one of the ten best surfing sites on the planet. And Playa Principal has a nice family friendly beach and boats for hire, whether you are interested in fishing or sightseeing. Known for it’s lively nightlife, party time goes from nightfall to dawn, and club to club, especially on the pedestrian main street El Adoquin. But there’s more than just waves and parties in Puerto Escondido. Visit local villages for an authentic Mexican experience. Spend time in the areas around PE for the natural wonders: birds, mangroves, the Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga turtle sanctuary.
Huatulco – Discovered in the 1500s, but developed into a resort area in the 1980s, Huatulco boasts 36 golden beaches across nine bays spanning 20 miles of Pacific coastline. Today, Huatulco offers world-class tourism with luxury hotels, nightclubs, discos and gold courses. This is one of Mexico’s most relaxed destinations, with crystal clear water, and unspoiled bays, some accessible only by boat.