Destin-Nation Mexico: Best Beaches South of the Border

There's a reason so many songs have been written about our southern neighbor. Mexico is home to nearly 114 million people, with 78% of the population living in urban areas such as Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey.

There's a reason so many songs have been written about our southern neighbors. Mexico is home to nearly 114 million people, with 78% of the population living in urban areas such as Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey.

Yet, despite Mexico's widely urban population, the beach towns along the country's Pacific and Atlantic coasts are some of the most breathtaking in the world.

The Atlantic coastline offers the calmer waters of the Riviera Maya and Cozumel, with hundreds of beaches hovering along its shores. The more rugged Pacific Ocean side is home to the super luxe Cabo and as well as the surf meccas in Zihuatenejo and Sayulita.

The elephant in the room, though, is the current travel warning by the U.S government, which asks citizens to cancel non-essential travel to the country.

Nevertheless, violence has been kept, for the most part, to non-tourist areas. But, be sure to check with the State Department's website before randomly picking a destination.

Regardless, the country is an ideal beach destination for families, surfers, and beachgoers alike.

Bonus: Low season runs from May through November; rates are slashed, but the beach towns are more susceptible to hurricanes.

Mexico's Best Beaches
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Destin-Nation Mexico: Best Beaches South of the Border (PHOTOS)

Ask just about anyone what they think is the most incredible beach in Mexico, and you're sure to hear "Tulum." The beach, set below the Mayan ruins, has practically see-through water. It's a short beach, but it's a goodie.

Spend the morning walking the incredible collection of ruins (open from 8am to 5pm, not including night tours), pack a picnic and stay the afternoon enjoying the scenery.

Where to Stay: The town of Tulum is broken up into three parts: The hotel zone, archeological zone and the town zone. Save money and stay at the Posada Luna del Sur, a small personally-run hotel in downtown Tulum. The hotel strives to create a sense of place with white-washed walls, Mayan art and a dining area on the roof. It's a bargain, too: $70 per night in the low season. Be forewarned: no kids under 16 are allowed.

Or, head to Be Tulum, part of the Design Hotel Group. The 20-room hotel (with jungle, arena and ocean suites) sits on the beach (complete with a dining area overlooking the Ocean). Rates start at $342 for a jungle suite in low season and kids are OK.

Getting there: Tulum is 81 miles south of Cancun, which is home to a widely accessible international airport. Rent a car at the airport and explore neighboring beaches as well.

Roughly 65 miles south of Cancun lies Akumal, one of the many small beach towns on the Riviera Maya.

The town has a calm beach with small waves, which makes it perfect for families with small children, divers and undersea photographers. Its proximity to the ruins at Tulum also makes it an ideal place for explorer-vacationers.

Where to Stay: Stay at the eco-friendly Hotel Akumal Caribe, which offers a hotel, villas and bungalows, starting at $110/night in the off-season.

Or, opt for house living at the upscale Las Villas Akumal, with villas that are equipped with a full kitchen (including a juicer!). The resort has a small general store, great for people who have forgotten their sunblock at home, or want OJ for the next morning's breakfast. Two bedroom suites go for $249 in the low season.

Getting there: Like Tulum, fly into the Cancun airport.

Make like all of Hollywood and head to Mexico's western coast on the Baja peninsula.

Home to scores of luxury hotels, Cabo is paradise for escapists and fisherman alike. Tourists head to El Arco, a rock formation perfect for watching gathering sea lions.

Where to Stay: Go high end at the Esperanza, where rooms start at $495 in the low season. The resort offers yoga and cooking classes, as well as sports fishing expeditions and whale watching excursions, both of which are popular activities in Cabo. The hotel provides private shuttle service from the airport for $135 each way for a maximum of 6 people.

For a cheaper option, stay at the Sirena del Mar-Welk Resort where rooms start at $199 in the low season. The hotel, set on 7 acres, sits perched on a cliff with views of El Arco. 

Getting there: Delta, Continental and American are just some of the airlines that service the Cabo san Lucas airport.

The U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning for this area of Mexico, stating that Americans should not visit Sinaloa, where Mazatlan is located, unless absolutely necessary.

That said, Mazatlan is considered by many to be the "Pearl of the Pacific." Located north of Puerto Vallarta, across from the southern tip of Baja California, Mazatlan is easily accessible via the city's open-air taxis which take visitors through Old and New Mazatlan.

Check out Gadling's list of what to do in Mazatlan this summer here.

Go to the city's islands, namely Isla de la Piedra, or Stone Island. Take a $10 ferry to enjoy the peninsula's (it's not actually an island) palapa restaurants.

Where to Stay: Stay at the Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay, which sits on 20 acres in New Mazatlan proper. The resort has 11 restaurants, sits on its own private beach, and offers snorkeling and parasailing (not to mention obvious sunbathing). The hotel offers an all-inclusive package (which starts at $289 in low season) or nightly rates ($130).

Getting there: Mazatlan is home to the Gral. Rafael Buelna International Airport with flights to such U.S. cities as L.A., Houston, Minneapolis and San  Francisco.

Cozumel, an island just off the coast of Mexico, is a popular spot for cruise ships and can be crowded with throngs of people.

If in Cozumel for the day, head to the Nachi Cocum Beachclub, a small, all-inclusive resort providing guests with a pool, full restaurant, bar and beach access all for $49.

Bonus: The club only permits 100 guests in at a time, so it keeps the crowds down.

Getting there: The beach is about a 15 cab ride from the cruise dock.

About 8 miles north of Cancun and just off the coast, sits the 4-mile-long Isla Mujeres.

The island's east side has a rockier shoreline, making it an ideal spot for surfers. The ferry dock sits closer to the mainland on the west side, and is ideal for Cancun daytrippers looking for a quiet escape. 

Where to Stay: Five minutes from the ferry terminal sits Hotel Villa Rolandi. The resort offers fishing, scuba diving and boat rentals. Upon arriving in Cancun, get picked up by the hotel's 42-foot yacht to make the 30 minute ride to the resort. The hotel's 35 rooms start at $300 in the off-season.

Or stay on Playa Norte in one of the 124 rooms at Privilege Aluxes Isla Mujeres. The hotel has three restaurants and 24-room service and offers fishing trips. Go all inclusive for $1,899 for a week vacation in low season. Prefer to fly from Cancun to the resort? Charter a puddle jumper.

Getting there: The island is accessible by ferry boats, and a common mode of transportation on the tiny island are taxis and scooters.

The area of Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo on the Pacific Coast is full of beaches, but head to Playa Ropa (Clothes Beach) for a casual atmosphere with restaurants strewn up and down the beach and an abundant number of elegant accommodations.

Watersports are the name of the game here, but for those tiring tire of the beach (does that even happen?), there's a nearby golf course.

Where to Stay: The newly-refurbished Tides Zihuatanejo, a 35-room, 35-suite hotel overlooking the bay on Playa La Ropa. The luxury hotel has three pools and a spa. In low season, rooms start at $380 per night.

If sweeping high-rise views are a requirement, Hotel Cinco Sentidos, lodged high above Playa la Ropa is a great option. The resort is tiny (there are only five guest rooms), but it's all about the personal touch. The hotel has an infinity pool with broad ocean views, but if after privacy, each room also has its own "mini pool." Junior suites starts at $195 in low season

Getting there: Fly into Ixtapa/Zihuatenejo International airport, roughly 15 minutes outside of town, which has all-year round flights from Los Angeles, Houston and Phoenix and seasonal service from cities such as Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver and Toronto.

A Surf mecca and fishing town home to some 4,000 people, Sayulita lies on the Riviera Narayit along the Pacific Coast and is connected to Puerto Vallarta by a newly-constructed road. The town offers a simple and relaxed variety of taquerias and stands, which dot the town square.

And surfing. Rent a board at the retro Quiverito Surf Shop, where prices start at $100 an hour. Or take lessons through Casa Duende Vista – $35 for group, $40 for private.

Where to Stay: Rent a home at Villa Amor, a cluster of 44 villas overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There are a wide variety of options to be had here, from the supremely inexpensive to high-end. One bedroom villas come equipped with king bed, coffee maker and fridge and start at $55 per night in low season. Or go loco with the Gran Villa, which has three bedroom suites with ensuite bathrooms, an infinity pool and 360 degree views. These perks don't come cheap, though; prices stat at $600 per night.

Getting there: Villa Amor is 36 miles from the Puerto Vallarta airport, but the hotel offers transportation if arranged ahead of time. Puerto Vallarta International Airport is accessible by numerous airlines from the U.S., including America, US Air and Alaska Airlines.


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