The land of all-inclusives, epic resorts, and the kind of crystalline water that needs seen to be believed, Cancun and the wider Mexican Caribbean are officially America’s favorite beach destinations, having hosted over 30 million visitors last year alone, and being poised for an even greater 2024.
We’ve known for decades now it is a world-class destination, and the perfect spot for a week-long getaway when the colder winds start blowing, but there’ve always been debates as to which beach in Cancun, or near the city, are best for swimming and basking in the tropical sun.
Some are Hotel Zone fans, while others prefer the quieter, more laid-back atmosphere of Playa Del Carmen, but as it turns out, neither of these is part of top 3 beaches near Cancun, as elected by Lonely Planet‘s travel experts:
The first entry is Playa Holbox, the main beach on the idyllic island of Holbox, off the coast of Northern Quintana Roo, and one of the few beaches in the Mexican Caribbean yet to completely lose its character to overtourism, even though they are just as beautiful.
The reason for that is simple:
Holbox is a protected reserve and small municipality, and the number of visitors allowed on the island per day is more limited, so to protect its unspoiled nature, the cleanliness of the waters, and the indigenous Mexican character: as a matter of fact, not even cars are generally allowed on the ferry over.
Playa Holbox itself features virgin-white sands, waters of the shiniest blue, tall palms, and a varied selection of local restaurants specializing on native seafood.
If you’re spending the night, there are also a number of boutique hotels lining the rapidly-developing beachfront.
Out of 1,064 reviews on Tripadvisor, Playa Holbox scores 4 out of 5 stars, indicating near-universal approval. The main complaint is seasonal issues with sargassum, the foul-smelling seaweed that often batters the Mexican Caribbean in the warmer months.
Possibly the most famous beach in the Mexican Caribbean and one of the country’s most easily recognized postcards, Playa Ruinas is the second beach listed, and it’s the main reason why its associated town, the Mayan resort hub of Tulum, is so trendy for sunseekers.
Even if you’ve never been to this beach yourself, you are likely to have seen pictures of it circulating on the web.
As customary in the Mayan Riviera, the sands are white, and the sea is swim-friendly and teal-colored.
The unique combination of historical manmade structures and natural beauty make it an incredibly scenic and bucket-list destination.
Who wouldn’t like to boast about having swam in the warm waters of the Caribbean, looking back to shore to find ancient temples for views?
The only major downside, according to previous visitors, is the size of the beach – it is relatively small – and the lack of accessibility for those with mobility issues.
The third and final pick is Playa Norte, which literally translates from Spanish as ‘North Beach’, a secluded strip of unruffled white sands in Isla Mujeres, the laid-back, casual island destination just off the Mayan coast.
If you have a day trip to Isla Mujeres from Cancun, or any other resort hotspot on the mainland, Playa Norte is likely where you’ll make landfall, and it is not only the most beautiful on the island, but also the cleanest, with very low levels of sargassum.
While the smelly seaweed is already threatening to make a comeback in places like Playa Del Carmen and Puerto Morelos, Isla Mujeres is generally protected from the phenomenon thanks to its privileged location, where ocean currents that carry sargassum are not as strong.
Additionally, the island’s small size helps the team of cleaners focus on specific touristy beaches and be thorough in their cleaning, unlike elsewhere on the coast, where a stretch of beach can be tens of miles long, and anti-sargassum efforts are not as successful.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com
Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.