Solitary, blue, rejuvenating, rocky, party, nude, blue-green, powdery, wide, white, alabaster, refreshing, tranquil, local, bath-like touristy, healing, shady, comprise a short list of words that describe the elements which millions of tourists travel each year to encounter. The sea and the beach are many things to many people, and the Riviera Maya has one for every taste and style.
Starting south of Cancun, the crowds instantly start to diminish. Some big hotels have recently been constructed in Puerto Morelos, but it’s still possible to find long stretches of beach to have to yourself. The beach here is not protected by the barrier reef that’s found in Cozumel and farther south, so waves are a bit bigger than the bays of Akumal, for instance. However, on most days the surf is nice enough to swim and snorkel safely. A good beach, for swimming and walking, is the beach at Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort, which, despite the name, is actually in Puerto Morelos. There’s also a small beach near the center of town (just off the main square) that’s a good place to sit and watch birds and fishermen, and the beach farther south, at Rancho Sak-ol is lovely for swimming and snorkeling.
Most of the beaches between Puerto Morelos and Playa del Carmen are populated by large resorts that limit access. Fortunately, there still exists a small haven that locals frequent – Punta Bete. This beach has a long, bumpy, road that leads to paradise. The beach has a few restaurants and hotels, and access is public.
Heading north you’ll find the beaches of Playa del Carmen. They’re not as quiet as Punta Bete, but there are areas without large party crowds. The northern beach (north of Porto Real) is where you’ll want to be for a quieter beach experience. Central Playa is full of beach clubs, bars, restaurants and dive shops, and south of the pier is Playacar, where large resorts also dominate.
Continuing south, there are two nearby beaches worth visiting. One, Paamul, is nice for snorkeling and is located north of Puerto Aventuras, and the other, Xpu-Ha, is south of Puerto Aventuras. The first has a restaurant, a dive shop, and a recreational vehicle park. The other is another quiet slice of paradise that still offers public access. There are a couple restaurants and bars on the beach, but they are low-key.
The following beaches and bays are jewels, for snorkeling and swimming in their tranquil waters, because they are protected by an outer reef that breaks the waves. In Akumal the turtle-filled Half Moon Bay, in North Akumal, offer pristine corrals and sea turtles which are diligently protected. There’s also a superb restaurant on the beach that should not be missed. Akumal Bay, in Central Akumal, has a powdery beach and a full-service dive shop. Aventuras Akumal is a small residential community with a small restaurant that offers beach access, and is good for swimming and snorkeling.
Following the road (Carretera 307) south, but before reaching Tulum, is Tankah. This beach has two restaurants, a peaceful bay for snorkeling, and a cenote that is also good for snorkeling.
This brings us to Tulum. Though the surf is rougher here, the beaches themselves have justly become world famous. They are wide and endless and have maintained a rustic alternative to the modern resorts and hotels. It doesn’t much matter which part of the beach you go to. You probably wont be alone, but it wont be crowded either. You’ll eventually come across nudists, artists, hipsters, and tranquility-loving vacationers, and they will have one thing in common: they will be all relaxed and laid back. Just outside of Tulum, past Boca Paila, is Sian Ka’an Reserve, which, amongst a plethora of natural environments, also has a sprawling beach, Here, you can definitely get away from it all.
Photo courtesy of Lena Hyde