03 Aug 2016
Just because you want to treat yourself to some beach time, doesn’t mean you want to share your precious downtime with thousands of other holidaymakers.
Mexico is renowned for its world class beaches. Aside from it’s ancient historic treasures and its desirable cuisine, Mexico’s beaches are the main drawcard for many visitors.
Distinctly lacking in spring breakers and rows of deck chairs lining the ocean front, these beach towns all offer something special. Ranging from hippie heavens to surf meccas and family friendly to the ultimate honeymoon indulgence, Mexico’s beaches don’t have to be shared to be enjoyed. Here are Mexico’s 5 best beach destinations without the masses.
1. PLAYA BALANDRA, LA PAZ, BAJA CALIFORNIA
Kid friendly and flat as a sheet. A facility free beach that you may just have all to yourself if you time it right.
Where: Playa Balandra lies on the eastern side of Baja California’s peninsula just outside of its capital, La Paz. It’s 15 minutes drive north of the city and requires a car or getting on regular bus services that run throughout the day.
What’s so good about it? Fiercely protected by local campaigners, Balandra has been spared from becoming a resort mecca and is now a natural protected area. A natural lagoon surrounded by barren red rocks and cacti, this could be a scene filmed on another planet.
There are no facilities nor shops near this gem, so come prepared. Beach umbrellas and canoes can be hired from mobile vans parked by the beach.
The beach: What makes this place magical is the intensely crystal clear aquamarine coloured water that’s only illuminated further by the white sand underneath. The water in this protected lagoon is extremely shallow, making it a perfectly safe swimming spot for the very young. Grown up swimmers will have to walk quite a way into the water to be able to fully submerge.
What else? La Paz is the nearest hub and most likely where you’ll stay if you want to visit. This beach is quite otherworldly to look at and a photographer’s dream. It can get busy, so avoid weekends if you want a shot at having the place to yourself.
2. MAZUNTE, SAN AGUSTINILLO & ZIPOLITE BEACH, OAXACA
Three small villages for those who really want to let their hair down, do some nude bathing, maybe learn to fire twirl and just totally chill, dude.
Where: On Oaxaca’s pacific coast, 260 km (160 miles) south of Oaxaca city, lies what is known as the Oaxacan Riviera with three adjacent beaches. Mazunte, with its yoga community and turtle conservation centre, San Agustinillo, the tiny, quiet fishing village with simple accommodation and Zipolite, the epitome of a hippie community complete with nude beach and hotel.
What should be said is that swimming at any of these beaches can be dangerous due to the strong rip and should be approached with caution. Lifeguards are on duty, particularly in the summer months.
What’s so good about Mazunte: It’s a small community of under 1000 inhabitants. It hosts a turtle conservation centre, a handful of yoga retreats and a few small shops and cafés. The building code in this village dictates that any new structures must fit in with the existing ones, built mainly with natural materials. Fortunately, this means any rapid development of oversized resorts is not likely anytime soon. A perfect place to watch the world go by perched on the hill between Mazunte and San Agustinillo is Casa Pan de Miel.
The beach: A wide, golden coloured beach stretching just one km (0.6 miles) in length, that’s wedged between two points. A very relaxed vibe and lack of crowds make this a perfect spot for those who just want to chill. On the beachfront itself, only 2 accommodations and one palapa (thatched roof) restaurant are the only signs of civilisation.
What’s so good about San Agustinillo is that if you like things small, this tiny fishing village has a population of less than 500. The most western part of the beach here (Playa Rinconcillo) is the safest to swim as it is most sheltered. Accommodations tend towards eco-tourism and the more rustic end of the spectrum and there’s only a handful of accommodation and eating options. Literally, a handful! It’s adjacent to Mazunte, just one km further east, so you can walk via a paved road if you feel like venturing out.
The beach: It’s golden sand stretches up to 50m (165 feet) in width and makes for a perfectly safe playground for all sizes.
What’s so good about Zipolite is that it has kept its reputation as peace loving hippie village it first established itself as in the 1960’s. A hurricane destroyed much of the town in 1997 and again in 2001, forcing Zipolite to rebuild. Since then many of the thatched roof beachside establishments (palapas) have evolved to include concrete in their buildings, but you still won’t find any high rises. Today it still attracts the beach loving, alternatives and hippie types offering everything from yoga retreats to late night beach parties. Accommodations range from very rustic to comfortable medium range hotels, although air conditioning and hot water is still a luxury that’s hard to come by. Zipolite is notorious for people coming for a few days and staying for much longer than intended. Try La Providencia for a rustic, fun and slightly upmarket meal.
The beach: The almost 2km long beach is up to 40m wide and offers a secluded nude beach cove in the eastern end (Playa del Amor) through to the ‘Centro’ and finally the western end where the traveller scene is at Colonia Roca Blanca. Ziplolite’s beach has a reputation for drowning accidents in years gone by. Whilst numbers have steeply declined in recent years and lifeguards are on duty, care should be taken as the rip is strong in parts of the beach.
3. PUERTO ESCONDIDO, OAXACA
The ultimate beach and surf holiday spot, complete with a vibrant restaurant and beach bar scene with the option of late night partying.
Where: Puerto Escondido lies 290 km’s (180 miles) south of the state’s capital of Oaxaca town, at the end of the Sierra del Madre mountain range.
What’s so good about it? This one-time fishing village has evolved into a 45,000 people strong resort town and surfing mecca. A hot spot for Mexican and International surfers, divers, sun lovers and party people, Puerto Escondido is accessible via its own airport. It has an attractive & lively café and restaurant culture and evenings turn the waterfront into a fire twirling beach bar and party zone. Rather than just one beach, you have a choice, depending on your chosen activity.
The beaches: The main part of the beach action is at Playa Zicatela, a 3km (1.85 miles) long, wide, golden beach that hosts annual surfing competitions. Whilst this attracts international surfers, caution should be taken in the water if you’re swimming with strong currents often in place. La Punta at Zicatela’s eastern end is gentler and great for boogie boarding or if you’re still a bit wobbly on your surfboard. But Puerto Escondido offers a beach for all occasions. For privacy and a swim, head to picturesque Carrizalillo. It’s inaccessibility to cars and steep 15-minute descent on foot means it’s less populated. Wedged between two towering cliff faces, it’s only 300m in length.
What else: Low rise hotels and bungalows line the street on the western end of Zicatela, where beach huts style accommodation and bars are planted directly onto the beachfront. You can get anything from a simple, rustic backpacker cabins to chic mid-level air-conditioned hotels with pool here, your pick. A great guesthouse just 50metres from the beach is Hotelito Swiss Oasis. Beach clubs provide shelter from the scorching sun in the daytime and dancing under the stars late into the evening.
4. HOLBOX ISLAND, QUINTANA ROO, YUCATAN PENINSULA
A road and traffic free Caribbean paradise with extensive marine and bird life.
Where: Holbox (pronounced Hol-bosh) is a small island separated by a narrow body of water from the mainland of Mexico’s state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatan peninsula. It’s a 2-3 hour drive north of Cancùn and accessible via bus services and a public ferry that run at very regular intervals.
What’s so good about it? Lucky for many honeymooners that favour this romantic spot, Holbox is the antidote to the madness of Cancun’s spring break crowds. You can backpack or do it in style and there are activities to thrill nature lovers (bird watching) to adrenaline junkies (kite surfing). The biggest attraction, however, is the unusually large amount of whale sharks that come to feed between June to September. A one-hour boat ride takes you to where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean in the plankton rich waters and it’s not unusual to find yourself in the water with 30 to 50 of the gentle giants dubbed ‘Dominos’ by the locals.
The beach: Bright white sand surrounds the 48km long island that is just 1.5km wide. Facing the Gulf of Mexico and bordering the Caribbean means turquoise waters envelop the Island completing a screensaver-worthy picture. The water is balmy with gentle waves that are perfectly safe for swimming of all ages. On the beach, palapas house beach bars serving fresh ceviche and beers to provide an alternative to all that hammock time you’re likely to fill your days with.
What else: Bungalows and 2 storey cabanas scatter sparsely along the beachfront incorporating natural materials to blend in with the setting, like Holbox Dream Hotel. Beachside establishments tend towards a boutique style and price range, often with mod-cons like wifi and air conditioning and spa facilities, whilst backpacker and mid-range accommodations are located a street back towards the island’s centre. And yet, if you’re not here to do anything but relax, the car, shoe and watch free atmosphere on this idyllic hideaway is the perfect spot to do just that.
5. TULUM BEACH, QUINTANA ROO, YUCATAN PENINSULA
Where luxury meets rustic-chic. The ultimate relaxing & romantic beach setting, complete with ruins.
Where: Set between the jungle and the ocean, Tulum lies 130km (75 miles) south of Cancùn on the Yucatan peninsula’s north-eastern coast.
What’s so good about it? In stark contrast to spring breaking, tequila chugging Cancùn, Tulum offers a luxurious and rustic-chic alternative in much more relaxed and alternate setting.
This once hippie community developed in a jungle setting just 50 years ago has grown up to accommodate more boutique tastes these days. Buildings materials are kept rustic and natural with a touch of chic. There are plenty of pampering and wellness opportunities here with some top-notch day spas and yoga centres, like Yaan Wellness or Yoga Shala Tulum
The Beach: Picture perfect white sandy beaches with swaying palm trees and the turquoise Caribbean – this is the stuff that holiday dreams are made of. The water is calm with some small breaks that are perfectly safe for swimming for both young and the more mature.
What else? Cafés and restaurants range from casual taco bars with hammocks on the beach to fully sustainable candle lit restaurants set in the jungle opposite the beach, such as popular Hartwood Tulum. There are many opportunities to take in your daily sunset show with your feet in the sand, or if you prefer, a deck on the sand try Posada Margherita.
Just a 5-minute bike ride north from the central hub, you’ll find spectacular Mayan ruins dating back to 13th to 15th-century civilisations clinging to a cliff overlooking the white sandy beach. Tulum town is 4.9 km’s (3 miles) away if you need souvenirs, otherwise, it can be avoided.
Tulum is ideal for kicking back and relaxing, whether you’re with family, your lover or if you want to have ‘me time’ and get facials & massages for a week. Just bring some time and a good book.
08 Sep 2016 - Travel