The Caribbean Sea truly is a mind blowing, vibrant turquoise that requires no filter. It never gets old. The crystal clear water and powdery white sand definitely makes up for the other humans you have to share it with.
I’m pretty convinced I was supposed to be born a mermaid, so naturally when I arrived in Cancun, I made it my goal to see every public beach in existence. Turns out they’re all public, you just need to enter at a public access point.
The beaches in Cancun are located in the ‘Zona Hotelera’, a 20 km ‘7’ shaped peninsula surrounding the Nichupté Lagoon. There are kilometre markers all the way along, starting at the top. The Hotel Zone is also home to all the resorts and clubs, but not to be confused with downtown Cancun.
Getting to the beaches in Cancun is actually really easy. The R1 and R2 buses run constantly in and out of the Hotel Zone from Cancun Centro. These buses are clearly marked with “HOTEL ZONE”. It’s safe and way cheaper than a taxi; only 12 pesos (less than 1 dollar). Bus drivers speak English and will tell you where to get off.
There are bus stops, but you if you stick your hand out and they’ll stop almost anywhere. In fact, drivers are really eager to get people on the bus and often try to stop for me when I’m not even trying to get on.
If you’re like me and your heart belongs to the sea, Cancun will not disappoint!
1. Forum (Playa Gaviota Azul)
Known as “Forum” to locals, this beach is where all the action is. Here, you can truly have it all without leaving your towel. You enter in the heart of the Cancun strip, right between Mandala Beach Club and Coco Bongo. There are tonnes of bars and restaurants nearby where you’ll pay tourist prices, but you can just grab a 6 pack at Oxxo and wait for the food vendors to come around.
If you really wanna treat your self, you can rent a lounge chair and umbrella. There’s a little surf school where you can take a lesson and rent surf boards, paddle boards and boogie boards, but you can only really surf on windy days. You’ll find underground parking and bathrooms in Forum Plaza. This beach is high energy and a lot to take in, but I love it. This is my favourite spot to people watch and catch the sunset.
2. Chac Mool
Chac Mool is located at Km 10, across from Senior Frogs, beside Surfin’ Burrito. There is a small free parking area, but it only holds maybe 20 cars. There are bathrooms here with free showers, open from 8am-6pm. You can also rent chairs and umbrellas.
The current can be a bit strong here with fun waves, but nothing serious. Forum beach is only 0.5 kms away on other side of the big rock. Climb up there at sunset for the best photos and a birds eye view of both beaches.
3. Playa Langosta
This beach is extremely shallow with very calm water, ideal for families with little kids. This is a nice beach to go and relax. It’s literally like a giant swimming pool. You can’t actually go in over your head inside the swimming area.
You can rent chairs and umbrellas, but if you head to the right and order food and drinks from Hotel Casa Maya, they will set you up with loungers and umbrellas for free. There is a floating water park, free bathrooms and showers, lockers and parking.
If you’re like me and want the beach to yourself, head to the far right you can find more privacy and calm waters with some patches of sea grass for a little snorkelling. You will probably see some iguana friends chilling on the rocks.
4. Marina Chac Chi
So, I discovered this little spot one day when I was looking for something else. I had enjoyed a few too many adult beverages the night before, and it turned out to be exactly what I needed. This spot is making my list for one main reason. HAMMOCKS!
There is also a small pier with loungers where you can work on your tan and watch the boats come and go. This is the dock where you go for fishing and catamaran tours, and to rent jet skis.. The water is very calm and shallow and there is a volleyball net on the beach. It’s located at Km 3.2 in the Zona Hotelera.
5. Playa Tortugas
Playa Tortuga is also kid friendly with shallow calm waters. This beach is fairly small and crowded. As far as I can see a lot of local families go here and rent tables and chairs. It’s not really a great beach for relaxing on the sand. There is a restaurant with food and drinks right at the beach side as well.
There is a small convenience store and some souvenir shops near the entrance. This beach is right beside the ferry to Isla Mujeres, so it’s a busy place. If you like to fling yourself off of high structures, you can also bungee jump over the water!
6. Playa Marlin
The entrance to Playa Marlin is set back a block from Blvd. Kukulcan. If you’re heading south on the bus, get off at the stop after La Isla shopping Mall. Take the street to the right of the Fire hall and walk towards the ocean.
There is street parking here, or under the Soriana in Luxery Lane shopping mall nearby. The bathrooms are open until 5pm. Beside the entrance, there are some shaded picnic tables and a volleyball net. You can rent lounge chairs and umbrellas, or grab some free shade under a palapa.
The water gets deep here fairly quickly and can have some bigger waves and undertow on windier days, but lifeguards diligently direct you where to go. This beach doesn’t have any stores or restaurants surrounding it, so it’s a safe bet to bring snacks and drinks. I’ve never personally seen anyone selling anything at this beach. This beach is not as crowded. It’s a great option if you want to get away from the loud music of Forum and just chill in peace.
7. Playa Delfines
Playa Delfines is one of my favourite public beaches in Cancun for a number of reasons. Most importantly though, it’s a 7km stretch of beach not backed by hotels! It’s home of the famous Cancun sign where people line up to take photos. There are actually many of these signs around Cancun, but this one has the most iconic view. This beach is muy grande, so there’s plenty of room if you’re after some more private real estate.
You won’t find any restaurants here, but there is always someone walking around selling food and drinks. There is free parking, washrooms, outdoor showers, and some palapas to shade your fair skinned amigos. You’ll find some big waves here and there can be a pretty strong undertow some days, but I still love swimming here.
8. Playa Caracol
Playa Caracol and the Punta Cancun lighthouse were a couple of the last beaches left on my list to explore. The entrance to Playa Caracol is located at Km 8, next to the Chedraui. I was told by the bartender in one of the beachside bars that the best/(only?) way to get to the light house without staying in one of the surrounding hotels is to walk the shoreline.
You start by ducking under this instagram-worthy dock, followed by climbing up and over various breakwaters and piers. I’m never easily detoured when I have my heart set on a destination. It was definitely worth it!
9. Isla Blanca
I grew up very beach spoiled on the West Coast of Canada, often having entire beaches all to myself. The crowds and action of the hotel backed Cancun beaches have been a very strange concept for me to adjust to. Although I learned to love it for what it is, I found myself longing for those isolated untouched beach experiences.
Isla Blanca is about a 40 minute drive north of Cancun Centro, and you will need a car to get here. There is no public transportation. When you arrive there is a small local seafood restaurant. You pass through a gate where you pay 50 pesos and can park next to the lagoon. There is a rustic bathroom that cost 10 pesos, and you can rent some chairs and umbrellas near the entrance.
Isla Blanca is off the beaten path, pretty inaccessible and not widely known to tourists. If you walk 100 meters away from the beach you can watch the sunset over the Chacmuchuch Lagoon. Perfect!