The geographic region referred to as the Mexican Riviera is a collection of 20 cities and lagoons situated along Mexico’s western coastline. There are lengthy stretches in between these cities but they are still referred to as the Mexican Riviera because it is such a favorite and preferred region for cruise lines to harbor in. Included in the Mexican Riviera are Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Ixtapa Zihuatanejo, Mazatlan, Manzanillo and Puerto Vallerta. The best part of going on a vacation is to enjoy the sun, sand and the beaches. With a host of hotels and beach front resorts and spas, the Mexican Riviera has something for all ages. Whether you are looking for an isolated cove or a popular nightspot, pack your bags and book your tickets! The Mexican Riviera includes Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, and Huatulco.
Read about the best Mexican Riviera Beaches here:
Plan your Acapulco Vacation Here
Acapulco is great for beach travel! Acapulco is a big resort and you won’t see it all in just one visit. Everyone has heard of Acapulco, its fame is almost universal and, it has one of the most stunning bay views offered by any coastal resort. Acapulco is full of energy, vibrancy and color that never stops, day or night. If it’s the beach party of your life that you’re looking to experience, then Acapulco has the capability to deliver this to you in style. Acapulco travels provides an attractive climate, great beaches, and beautiful surroundings. Those who want a place to get away from the nightlife might head to the newer, more cultured Acapulco Diamante area situated to the southeast of the city. The main activities of Acapulco besides sunbathing, swimming, resting and partying are diving and snorkeling, jet skiing, power boating, fishing, golf, and river Rafting on Rio Papagayo. The beaches of Acapulco are one of the most popular attractions in this Mexican resort city. Some general tips for spending the day at the beach in Mexico are to use plenty of sunscreen, know that the waves are usually dangerous, so be careful swimming or body surfing, and always keep an eye on your possessions when at the beach. Here are Acapulco’s best beaches:
Cliff Divers at La Quebrad
This is one of Acapulco’s most famous attractions. Some believe that a visit to Acapulco might be incomplete if you missed the world-famous cliff dives at La Quebrada. Divers plunge off cliffs some 130 feet high into a cove that is only safe to dive in when the wave comes in. You can watch the divers from balconies near the cove for a small fee. There is also a hotel nearby, called El Mirador, which has a Restaurant-Bar called La Perla. You can watch the divers while eating your meal or if you buy a drink at the bar.
Pie de la Cuesta
Pie de la Cuesta is about six miles northwest of Acapulco’s center and consists of a strip of land with the Pacific ocean on one side and a freshwater lake (Laguna de Coyuca) on the other. This is a quiet and serene location. If you want to swim, swim in the lake as the sea here is dangerous, and people have been killed in the surf. Other popular activities on the lagoon include boating and water skiing. You can hire the equipment locally. Pie de la Cuesta has a lot of seafood restaurants on the beach side where you can enjoy the spectacular sunset.
Caleta Beach is located in the heart of the historical part of Acapulco. While the beach may not be the prettiest of Acapulco’s beaches, swimming here is easier and safer than most other local beaches because the waves are usually calm. As a result, many families with kids come here. There are many seafood restaurants and places to shop for souvenirs nearby.
This is a beautiful and usually crowded beach located in the Golden Zone. You can take a ride in the hot air balloon, try the Skycoaster, go parasailing, and rent wave runners right on the beach. Boats and yachts will be cruising around this part of the Acapulco bay during the high seasons. There are many vendors here, but it’s a little better than Condesa Beach. Icacos Beach is near the La Palapa Hotel. Just look for the giant hot air balloon. It is also near Cici water park, Planet Hollywood, and the Hard Rock Cafe in front of Costa Azul. It runs into Condesa Beach to the north.
Condesa beach is one of the most popular and most convenient beaches. There are many hotels, restaurants, and places to shop nearby. You can go parasailing and rent banana boats and wave runners here. There will be a LOT of locals here to bring you food and beverages of your choice, beach umbrellas, chairs, tattoos, jewelry, massages, controlled substances, and more. These constant interruptions can wreck the experience for some. If you want peace and tranquility and don’t mind taking a long taxi ride, try Revolcadero Beach, La Bonfil, or Pie de la Cuesta instead.
Puerto Marques gets top vote for a lazy afternoon at the beach. If you want a change from the beaches in the Golden Zone, give Puerto Marques a try. The beach is safer for swimming than most other local beaches and you will be in the company of many local families who know that this is a great beach. There are many nice seafood restaurants right on the beach. Make sure you try the Ceviche and the Pulpo!
Go to Revolcadero Beach if you prefer a quiet and more private day at the beach with far fewer salespeople. The beach is very convenient for guests of the hotels and resorts in the Diamond Zone of Acapulco, but it is a good walk for others. Enjoy lunch, dinner and drinks right on the beach at the cabanas. There is some surfing at Revolcadero, but your best bet is probably La Bonfil beach, which is 10 minutes to the south.
La Bonfil has the best waves for surfing. You can also swim here, but the waves are rather high. La Bonfil is located between Puerto Marques and Revolcadero Beach, so you need to take a little trip to get there. The beach itself is rather peaceful and doesn’t have the usual horde of vendors.
Cabo San Lucas
Since Cabo San Lucas is really a rather large resort town, I have made a post just on this location. Go to my post to read all about Cabo San Lucas and their wonderful beaches!
Plan your Ixtapa Vacation Here
Ixtapa is simply a long line of beachfront resorts. Many of these are like small islands unto themselves, equipped with enough restaurants, pools, and activities to keep families occupied for weeks without even thinking of stepping off the property. Those who do venture out are rewarded with the bounty of the area’s natural wonders, from snorkeling among the rocky coves of Isla Ixtapa to deep-sea fishing to horseback riding on the vast sands of Playa Larga. Here are Ixtapa’s best beaches:
Playa El Palmar
El Palmar is Ixtapa’s most popular beach stretching approximately two kilometers along the hotel zone. High-rise hotel and condominium complexes line the beach and the thundering waves usually pound into the sandy shore. Care should be exercised when entering the water here as the open ocean waves and currents can be powerful. Public beach access points are located next to the Barcelo Hotel, the Posada Real Hotel, and the Beach Club.
It is a small private beach in front of and accessible through Las Brisas Ixtapa Hotel. The elevators of Las Brisas make it easy to access the beach. The white, sandy beach stretches a few hundred yards and is fronted by open ocean. A poolside restaurant serves food and refreshments.
Playa Linda is stretch some two kilometers long at the far northern end of Ixtapa. Here you can find a tourist market and ecological preserve area where visitors can observe crocodiles, giant iguanas, waterfowl, and turtles in their habitat.
Ixtapa Island, also known as Isla Grande, is located across from Playa Quieta. It has a collection of beautiful beaches (Cuachalalate, Varadero, Coral, and Carey, or Sacrificio) that are excellent for all kinds of water sports and snorkeling in particular. There are small restaurants on the beaches where you can find refreshments and seafood. You can purchase a round trip boat ride from the pier of Playa Quieta to the island at very reasonable cost.
Playa Larga is a beachcomber’s delight: a two-kilometer stretch of beach in between the Zihuatanejo International Airport and Zihuatanejo. During the winter months, you will observe dolphins and whales in this area. There are several palapa-shaded seafood restaurants from which to choose typical coastal fare such as fish grilled with garlic, breaded shrimp, octopus a la Mexicana, and ceviche seafood cocktail.
Playa Blanca beach is a long stretch of white sand south of Ixtapa Zihuatanejo. The beach runs from the Zihuatanejo’s International Airport to Barra de Potosi, extending southeast from Playa Larga. There are several private condominium developments along this stretch of open ocean beach that is graced with a sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean expanse and views of the Morros de Potosi islands.
Barra de Potosi
Barra de Potosi is to the south of Zihuatanejo at the end of Playa Blanca. It is located on the shores of a large lagoon that is home to an abundance of waterfowl and other species. Boat and kayak trips can be taken into this area for bird watching expeditions.
Plan your Zihuatanejo Vacation Here
Many visitors head to Zihuatanejo to enjoy the authentic character. There are a number of different beaches, each with its own feel, and many are lined with hotels and eateries that run the gamut from casual to ultra luxurious. The cluster of pedestrian-only streets close to the pier is quite touristy, with restaurants, nightspots, and souvenir shops that cater to visitors. That said, tourism hasn’t totally destroyed Zihuatanejo’s small-town charm—it’s one of the friendliest of the Pacific Coast’s major resort areas. Here are Zihuatanejo’s best beaches:
Playa La Ropa
La Ropa Beach is the most beautiful beach in Zihuatanejo Bay. Located between Playa Madera and Playa Las Gatas, the beach itself is approximately one kilometer long and is easily accessible from downtown. A wide selection of fresh seafood restaurants, hotels, and water sports are available along the beach.
Playa Madera is a 200-meter stretch of beach found between downtown and Playa La Ropa. This neighborhood offers an eclectic range of restaurants, small inns, and bed-and-breakfasts. It is serviced by streets leading from the road to La Ropa just past the flood control canal and is also accessible by foot from town along a narrow seaside footpath known as the “extensión del Paseo del Pescador.”
Playa Municipal is a 900-meter stretch of beach, also known as Playa Principal, which runs from the municipal pier to La Boquita. From the pier, you can take a water taxi out to Las Gatas Beach or charter anything from a small panga boat to a large, luxury fishing yacht for fishing or snorkeling trips.
Playa Las Gatas
Las Gatas is located directly across the bay from the downtown area. It is protected by an ancient man-made reef and accessible only by boat or via a somewhat rough and rocky walking path from Playa La Ropa. It offers a double handful of restaurants and is a great place for snorkeling.
Plan your Mazatlán Vacation Here
If you are looking for a Mexico beach vacation destination where you can Jet ski, waterski, parasail or parascend, Mazatlan beaches are sure to fit the bill. If you are looking to just relax and work on your tan, these beaches are perfect as well! On some beaches you may be able to walk out more as far as 50 meters or 160 feet! Snorkeling and scuba diving is available in Mazatlan. The best places to do some snorkeling in Mazatlan are on Deer Island, Goat Island or Stone Island. Guides are available to take you to these beautiful, secluded islands. Surfing is popular on some Mazatlan beaches. Always surf with a partner or if you are not familiar with the area make use of a good guide or visit the local surf shops for the best information and locations for surfing. Here are Mazatlan’s best beaches:
Playa Los Cerritos
Located north of Mazatlan, Playa Los Cerritos is a ways out of town and thus less crowded. This beach is for individuals looking to relax. With a good stretch of beach, you will be able to enjoy a nice romantic stroll and enjoy the sunset. Not really recommended for swimming as you may find strong waves and undertows. If you are not into surfing you can enjoy watching those who do! Playa Los Cerritos is a great little beach to relax at! Bring a picnic and a good book. This is a great beach.
You will generally catch the best waves at Playa Bruja close to Playa Los Cerritos. Arguably the best beach in Mazatlan for surfing, this beach is not as busy since surfing is its focus and, like Playa Los Cerritosa, is a ways out of town. Located 40 Kms. or 20 miles north west of the main tourist area of Mazatlan helps to keep the general tourist population down to a minimum. Some vendors are available to rent boards from but it is best to be fully prepared for serious surfing. Waves at Playa Bruja can reach heights of 2.5 – 3 meters or 8 – 10 feet! Swimming in this area is not recommended due to high waves. The area however is lovely and you will be able to relax away from the crowds. Open air restaurants offer casual seafood. Relax… you’re in Mexico!
Protected by the islands of Deer Island and Goat Island, this beach is where you will find parasailing, windsurfing swimming and many of the hotels. You will also find the famous Valentino’s disco close by. This area is also called the Golden Zone or Zona Dorada. Swimming along this beach is one of the safest as it is protected from the nearby islands. Vendors are attracted to this area due to the number of tourists wanting to purchase souvenirs of all types. If you are looking to get to a quieter area to lie on the beach, we suggest the more northern beaches.
Playa las Gaviotas
This could very well be the most popular and one of the best beaches in Mazatlan. Playa las Gaviotas with its golden sand, is located in the “Golden Zone” renowned for its hotels. Like Playa Sabalo, this beach is also protected by Deer and Goat Islands. It has relatively calm waters which make it ideal for swimming. You will be able to wade out a long ways into the ocean during low tide. You will enjoy great romantic sunsets from this beach and this is where things get lively!
Playa Norte is about 4.8 Km. long or 3 miles long of white sandy beach. It is the longest stretch of beach in Mazatlan. This beach features a beautiful seaside promenade called The Malecon which overlooks the beach. Playa Norte is close to Punta Cameron and is popular with the locals. They enjoy playing sports right on the beach here. There are smaller swells for beginning and intermediate surfers. If you would like to fish you can also do it here by casting off the rocks. The waves at Playa Norte can be forceful but there is not much of a drop off so it is fairly safe. Swimming at this beach is best in the southern part. Great for romantic walks along the Malecon or Mazatlan Promenade. You can enjoy fresh seafood here as well.
Playa Olas Altas
Playa Olas Altas is one of the smaller beaches in Mazatlan. This is where Mazatlan first became a tourist waterfront destination. John Wayne used to dock his boat here while visiting. You could call this beach High Waves Beach in English if you wanted to. It is a small beach favored by locals and surfers alike. Due to the waves it is not ideally suited for swimming but is a nice beach to watch surfers and sunbathe. A saltwater swimming pool is looked after by the rising and falling of the tides. Seaside cafés and restaurants are readily available. The Malecon or Mazatlan Promenade is a must do. Beginning in area of Playas Olas Altas and ending north of Mazatlan in the Golden Zone. A very romantic walk, you will see a lot of Mazatlan’s history in this area.
Isla de la Piedra (Stone Island)
Isla de la Piedra is actually a peninsula located just south of Mazatlan. A large beach is located here and you will see the third largest coconut grove in Mexico. Gentle waves and sandy beach make Isla de la Piedra a great place to enjoy the Mexican sun. You may also rent horses along this beach! You will find open air restaurants to serve all your favorite Mexican meals as well.
Plan Your Puerto Vallarta Vacation Here
This bay has the Pacific Ocean’s transparent and warm waters, and Puerto Vallarta has a great variety of beautiful beaches suited to any type of recreational activity or just for relaxing. Imagine going out to fish at dawn, or resting in the sun on a small exotic solitary beach. How would you like water sports on a beach with larger waves, or simply a sunset by the shore. Whatever your plan may be, you will find a perfect beach for you and the best thing of all is that you can visit a different beach every day. Here are Puerto Vallarta’s best beaches:
Playa los Muertos
Beginning on Puerto Vallarta’s south side, Playa los Muertos is the hands-down favorite. It’s long enough that you can spread out if you don’t wish to join the throngs of beachgoers, but it also has all of the amenities you could want, including beach clubs, restaurants, and bars.
Boca de Tomatlán
Out of town, the south-side best beaches are at Mismaloya and Boca de Tomatlán. On the north side of town, the best beach is made up of the Hotel Zone strip between the Hotel Sheraton and the Hotel Krystal, ending just before the Terminal Maritima (cruise-ship terminal). There’s plenty of public access spots, all marked with signs on the main highway. You are usually welcome to grab a chair in front of any hotel or restaurant as long as you plan on ordering from their bar or restaurant.
On the bay’s northwest side, Playa Bucerías is a favorite for calm surf and family-friendly conditions. The beach gets more crowded at the southern end due to the presence of an oversized resort complex. Farther away, on the Bay of Banderas’s northwest side, are petite and very busy Playa Manzanillo (at the Hotel Piedra Blanca) and Playa Anclote at Punta Mita, with good palapa restaurants, snorkeling and surfing nearby, and excursions to offshore Islas Marietas. If you don’t mind carrying a surfboard in (nonsurfers are not allowed under current Punta Mita Development Corporation policy), La Lancha is one of the prettiest beaches in all of Banderas Bay. You can also get there by boat from Playa Anclote.
South of Puerto Vallarta, venture off-road to Playa Mayto, accessible from Highway 200 at El Tuito. You’ll need a Jeep or a public minivan to navigate the 3 miles of paved road followed by 15 or so miles of dirt road. Playa Mayto is a three-mile-long golden-sand beach good for virtually all beach diversions and is home to a pair of comfortable, moderately priced hotels, both with restaurants and one with a pool.
Gem of gems, Playa Careyes sits on its own petite half-moon bay and offers palapa restaurants, turtle-watching, surf fishing, fishing trips, and more. A few miles farther, de facto wildlife refuge Playa el Tecuán offers everything: a long pristine strand perfect for beach combing, powerful rollers for advanced surfers, great surf fishing, and even bird- and wildlife-watching in your own kayak on the Tecuán lagoon. The beach has no facilities, however, so bring everything.
Plan Your Manzanillo Vacation Here
The beaches lining the five-mile stretch of golden sand that curves around the Santiago Bay west of the Santiago Peninsula include Miramar Beach, Olas Atlas Beach, Santiago Beach and Audiencia Beach; these beaches are considered to be some of the best in Manzanillo. Visitors to Manzanillo beach can partake in a variety of activities from horseback riding on the beach to swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing and sailing in the waters just offshore. In many areas, the snorkeling and scuba diving is excellent and can be reached from the shore. Here are Manzanillo’s best beaches:
Playa de Oro
North of town, you’ll see a small sign directing you to this little-known beach with a very famous history. As you drive on a washed-out cobblestone road, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. The untouched spectacular beauty of this area will never be forgotten. This “beach of gold” got it’s name from the miles of golden sand, flecked with bits of mica. The area name originates with a shipwreck.
Playa Las Brisas
The Las Brisas Beach is considered one of the nicest in Manzanillo, because it’s clean, safe and deserted most of the time. The two-mile stretch (also part of Manzanillo Bay) ends at the entrance to Manzanillo’s harbor.
At the southern end of Santiago Bay is Santiago Beach, one of the oldest tourist sections of Manzanillo, with several inexpensive hotels. Usually the water is clear and calm, and the flavor of the area is typically Mexican.
This is a charming, usually tranquill cove that divides both bays. It was the original site for all beach scenes in the movie “10”. This beach has a variety of water sports; jet skis, kayaks, boogie boards, inner tubes, and banana boat rides available on the beach. Both sides of Audiencia are great for snorkeling and diving.
Plan Your Huatulco Vacation Here
While every beach in Huatulco is breathtaking and unique, the top beaches in Huatulco are better for fun than others. Here are the top three breathtaking beaches in Huatulco to enjoy during your beach vacation. Here are the best beaches at Huatulco:
This is one of the top beaches in Huatulco; offering small seafood restaurants scattered along the beach and calm water for swimming. This beach is a great place for sandcastles and playing in the ocean.
Santa Cruz Beach
Equally as popular as Maguey, Santa Cruz is an easily accessible beach in Huatulco; offering perfect water conditions nearly year round. Sometimes this beach can be a little crowded, it is a great place to people watch, sunbathe, and swim, the water is generally very calm. There are plenty of activities like banana boats, jet skis, and kayaks to keep you entertained!
La India Beach
One of the most beautiful bays in Huatulco, no access by road, only by boat. If you’re looking for a real virgin beach with white sand and crystalline waters, this is the place to visit. Some of the best snorkeling in Huatulco, is right off the beach. Take a picnic with you for the day and don’t forget your snorkel equipment.
I love beaches and have been lucky enough to visit a few. When I was younger I stayed on Zipolite beach, which was a bit of a hippie type place back then and I loved every minute.
You have inspired me to visit beaches I never knew existed the next time I am Mexico way!
Good! I love the beach!
Thanks a lot for this. It’s a really great, informative post. I have always wanted to go to Mexico,but being a Brit it is just so far away. I’m gonna use what you wrote as research and motivation to get myself in gear and get a trip booked!
Ok, you need to do it Matt!
Very nicely written article.
Reading about all of these really makes me wanna go to the beach. I don’t live near one so it sounds amazing.
I would love to go the playa los muertos that one seems amazing.
Thanks for the great read.
You’re welcome Derek. Thank you for visiting!
The Mexician Rivera description and the images are just great. You description of each vacation destination are clearly described. I can visualize these places in my own mind’s eye through your clear description. I have to congratulate you for taking the intimidation out of considering a vacation to an unexperienced location.
Thanks for visiting Ruby!
I’ve heard lots of Americans going to Mexico for their beach destinations. The Mexican Riviera sounds great to me!
I see you mentioned Matzalan as a destination for families. I have a family so was wondering if that’s the best place you would recommend that is budget and family friendly and had activities for the all family. My kids are 2,3 and 9.
How safe is it as well?
The Mexican Riviera is actually pretty safe. It is mainland Mexico that is unsafe to travel to right now. You will not have any safety issues in Baja California and the Mexican Riviera.
I think I would try Icacos beach first. I’ve always wanted to try a hot air balloon and to be on the beach as well would be great. I bet the view would be amazing.Then I would head onto Condesa beach and meet locals and maybe get a tattoo lol. It all sounds fun. I hope to be able to go someday. Thank you, for the tips. When is the best time to visit?
The best time to visit is between June and September. Thanks for visiting!
Paradise! That is the first thought that came to my mind! What a beautiful location and full of awesome activities!Seems like an idea place for my next vacation! Thanks for sharing all this great info.
Your welcome Ashley!
Acapulco looks like a great place to visit Leahrae! I would be more inclined to visit the quiet side of the area and it looks like that is easy to do as there is something for everyone there. What would be the best time of year to go as far as less crowd goes? I am thinking this would be a great late summer destination. What do you think? Thanks for the great information here!
Hi Jason, June thru September is a great time to go as the crowds are thinned out and the airfare tends to be cheaper during this time. It will be in the 80s and 90s and somewhat humid, but perfect!
Acapulco looks and sounds absolutely stunning. My family and are planning our holiday for the upcoming summer and my heart is already settled on this place.
We all enjoy water sports not to mention this place looks beautiful! It seems like it’s got the right balance of being a family friendly holiday place as well as having some decent nightlife.
Thanks for heads up and info!
You will get all of the above in Acapulco for sure. A great family-friendly place with lots of action and activities! Thanks for visiting!
Love this review! One thing that concerns me while I’m travelling is people taking advantage of you. How would you describe the locals here in Acapulco?
It is much better than some of the Caribbean locations where you have to really watch out for pick pockets and stuff. Acapulco is much better in this regard, if that is what you meant.
We are the kind of people that don’t spend every single summer holiday lying on the beach, we’d rather travel by bicycle or camp, but every 2 to 3 years we go for something more relaxing.
I was looking at beach destinations and found your article. Very useful information, just enough to help with this year’s summer holiday decision. Never been to Mexico but has always spurred curiosity… veremos! 🙂
Mexico is a favorite of mine….right up there with Florida. I think I have been 15 times. I just love the relaxation and the atmosphere mixed in with the culture. Thanks for stopping by!
Great article on Acapulco Travel, I have always been a fan of Mexico and have only been fortunate enough to go there once previously. Your article has certainly opened my eyes with the great beaches and relaxing atmosphere that you can enjoy in Acapulco, it is certainly on my to do list when I am next looking for my next vacation to a hotter climate. Great site and bookmarked for future reference for my travels. Thank you. Michael
Thanks for reading Michael. Yes, beaches tend to be relaxing and Acapulco has plenty of it!
Thank you for this timely post. We’ve been thinking of a vacation this year to Mexico and your post inspired me to see Acapulco. It looks very clean and the beaches!! wow! I love white sand!! Thanks for all the tips of places to go for a cocktail, best beaches. Very useful information and great website. I’ve bookmarked you! 🙂 thanks again.
Thank you for visiting Jackie!
Hi Really enjoyed your site. I like how well organized it is using the menu on the top. Acapulco would be interesting to me except I’m a diver which means I am going to the island of Cozumel which I did not see featured.I also did not see the mexican reviera although you may be covering that in the future. Also I noticed that you offer certain bags from Acapulco, did you ever think of offering day of the dead art ! Its amazing stuff I am still on the search for a certain poster or painting,haven’t found the right one yet.I really liked how you even covered some of the more obscure islands below Bonaire in Venesuzlia great job !
Thank you for you great review and looking over my site! Yes, I am working on Mexico now 🙂