Mexico is one of those places we love to visit but kinda hate that everyone else does too. Beach days in Mexico’s most popular coastal resorts can be tough to navigate, between finding enough free space to lay down a towel and avoiding the tourist trappings lining the shore. But Mexico is a massive country with almost 6,000 miles of coast, and the most popular beaches are just that — the ones where everyone goes. For a sunny seaside vacation away from the masses, here are seven of the best beaches in Mexico you’ve probably never heard of.
Playa Balandra, Baja California Sur
Playa Balandra has been called the most beautiful beach in Mexico, and we totally get it. The sand is blindingly white, the water is cotton-candy turquoise, and the surrounding hills are rusty red. Better yet, the whole thing is a natural protected area, meaning the handful of free-to-use palapas you’ll see on the shore are as close to commercialized as this beach gets. (On that note, be sure to pack everything you’ll need for the day, including water and snacks, as there are no shops and restaurants on the beach.) Playa Balandra is technically a series of cove beaches about 25 minutes north of La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur. Before you settle in for the day — get there before 9 AM if you want to snag a palapa — make a quick stop at El Hongo, a mushroom-shaped rock by the beach that’s become an icon of the region.
Playa Mayto, Jalisco
From a flat surface, the human eye can only see about three miles ahead, which makes Playa Mayto’s seven-mile shoreline appear everlasting when you’re standing at one end. It helps that there’s little development to break up your gaze. Commercial properties are likely coming, anchored by a new airport servicing the Costalegre region in which Playa Mayto is located and a highway running from Puerto Vallarta a couple of hours north to Manzanillo a few hours south. Right now, the beach’s Marine Turtle Protection Camp is among its most significant developments — and also welcomes volunteers to participate in local sea turtle preservation — but it’s hard to imagine luxury digs are far behind. Regardless of which aligns more with your travel style, do yourself a solid and keep an eye on Playa Mayto before it blows up.
Isla Contoy, Quintana Roo
Isla Contoy is not just an underrated beach. It’s a whole underrated island in the Yucatan Peninsula. Travelers may be more familiar with Isla Contoy’s big sister island, Isla Mujeres off the coast of Cancun, but we prefer its little sibling for snorkeling and scuba diving around Ixlache reef, which belongs to the second-largest barrier reef system in the world. You can also ecotour through the island’s mangroves, lagoons, and birding sites, all of which helped earn Isla Contoy its national park status in 1998. To keep the island pristine, only 200 visitors are welcome per day, so be sure to book a charter from Cancun or the Riviera Maya in advance and remember to bring $10 cash to cover the national park fee.
Playa Troncones, Guerrero
Names like Zihuatenejo, Acapulco, and Ixtapa get thrown around a lot during discussions of the best beaches in Mexico’s Guerrero state. Troncones? Not so much, unless you’re talking to surfers. But wave chaser or not, we’d argue that the tiny town’s namesake beach is one of the best beaches in Mexico if undeveloped and uncrowded are the criteria. If you do surf, beeline for the popular left break at Troncones Point where the beach intersects Manzanillo Bay. If not, take advantage of the other outdoor opportunities here, from horseback riding and birdwatching year-round to spotting whales or hatching turtles between December and March.
Playa del Amor, Marietas Islands
Playa del Amor goes by two names: The first translates to Love Beach, owing to the romance of its unique cavern setting, and the second is Hidden Beach, as it’s not a place you could stumble upon by accident. Located in the Marietas Islands, a group of uninhabited islands a few miles off the coast of Nayarit that is both a national park and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Playa del Amor is a completely enclosed, below-ground beach that’s only accessible via a water tunnel you can swim or kayak through. Rumor has it that the beach was created in the early 1900s when the Mexican military used the Marietas Islands as a bomb-testing site. However it got there, we can be thankful it did because Playa del Amor is now one of the best beaches in Mexico for travelers who like hunting for hidden spots — in this case quite literally.
Playa Majahuitas, Jalisco
If Puerto Vallarta is your point of reference for the Bay of Banderas, you might find it hard to believe that there are any uncrowded beaches left on this long stretch of Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Playa Majahuitas is proof that that’s not true, although it does have the advantage of only being accessible by boat. Like a mini Ibiza, before it became a worldwide name, Playa Majahuitas is an in-the-know beach where DJs spin throughout the day and a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef serves refined Mexican-Meditteranean plates right on the water every weekend. Past visitors have testified to the fact that there are rarely more than 20 people on the beach at any given time, so while it’s open to all, it manages to feel unusually exclusive.
Playa del Secreto, Quintana Roo
Playa del Secreto is able to deliver on the seclusion that its name promises because it’s tucked away in a gated community that only local homeowners and villa renters are able to access. While private beaches are not usually our thing, this might be one of the only opportunities you’ll find to experience the Riviera Maya free from the resort crowds in Playa del Carmen just north and Cancun a little south. The closest you’ll get to sharing the beach here is watching newly hatched leatherback turtles waddle to the ocean between May and October — but that sure beats watching drunk partiers attempt to stumble back to their hotels at all hours of the night.