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The beaches in Playa del Carmen and along the Riviera Maya are renowned for their white sand and pristine beauty. They also tend to be less crowded and free from the partiers on the beaches in Cancun. This makes them perfect for families and those interested in truly getting away from it all.
In Playa del Carmen, there is a central stretch of beach that starts near the ferry dock and extends to the south and north. Most of city's resorts are located here or are just a short stroll away. Along with the main beach, you'll find several outlying beaches that are named for nearby resorts. All of Playa del Carmen's beaches are open to the public, but some may have restricted access due to private property. You'll also come across numerous beach clubs. They have plenty of lounge chairs, daybeds, palapas, restaurants and bars as well as offer water sports equipment rental. Admission is usually free, as long as you buy food and drinks.
The beaches in the small communities along the Riviera Maya are even more remote. They range from treeless, sandy stretches to rocky shores with isolated coves. Your experience will be one where you connect with nature, as wildlife is teeming in the waters here, and where you discover the ultimate in solitude.
Playa del Carmen
Playa Central (the "Main Beach")
Location: From the ferry dock to 14th Street near the pier at the Gran Porto Real
Amenities: Walking north you encounter Playa del Carmen's main beach drag, which runs the length of the city along the coast. There are bars, restaurants, beach clubs and dive shops located in this area. You'll also find plenty of services including showers and restrooms. Walking south tends to be a bit quieter as the coastline is more rugged and less touristy.
Location: Near 28th Street
Amenities: This beach is home to the Kool Beach Club (formerly the Tukan Beach Club), which is open daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. In addition to a pool, where free dive demonstrations are held, it boasts comfortable lounge chairs, palapas and bathrooms. Food (including fajitas, ceviche, pizza and hamburgers) and drinks can be ordered and delivered right to you. Plus, you can even get a relaxing massage by the sea. Also, visit the Explora Dive Shop, a highly regarded place to rent snorkeling, diving, windsurfing and kite boarding gear -- as well as to take lessons.
Location: Near 28th Street
Amenities: This beach is located slightly north of Playa Tukan -- but close enough so that it feels like the two merge. Mamita's Beach Club is found here, which is a favorite spot for visitors and locals. Devastated by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, it's been completely remodeled. There are beautiful draped daybeds and plenty of lounge chairs. You can play beach volleyball. Music is usually wafting through the air and there's a fine restaurant and bar. Outdoor massages are also available.
Location: Near 38th Street in front of the Shangri-La Caribe hotel
Amenities: This is more of a family-oriented beach. It's not very crowded. The water is also calm, making it perfect for swimming and snorkeling. You won't find music or large crowds at this beach, just a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the sun.
Location: At 42nd Street near Zubul Reef
Amenities: This beach is just as beautiful as the others, but it's more laid back. Snorkeling is wonderful here. If you walk a little ways north, you'll find the Blucacao Beach Club. In comparison to other beach clubs, this one is more upscale and, unless you're a guest at the Luna Blue Hotel, you will have to pay an admission fee, which allows you to use the elevated pool, lounge chairs and covered daybeds. The Blucacao Beach Club also has a fantastic restaurant and bar.
Location: Near 48th Street
Amenities: The northernmost beach in Playa del Carmen, it's a bit of a jaunt from Playa Mamitas and Playa Tukan. This beach is definitely less trendy than its sister beaches to the south. Quiet and isolated, it offers calm, shallow waters that are great for snorkeling. The two-story Cannibal Royal Beach Club is a short walk south, next to the Grand Coco Bay hotel. Designed to re-create the look and feel of an old cruise ship, it has a restaurant (with a menu featuring foods from Brazil, Peru and Africa), a bar, a sundeck and a big Jacuzzi.
Location: Between Puerto Morelos and Playa del Carmen
Amenities: Several Iberostar resorts front this lovely white sand beach that also features lush tropical shrubbery. There are plenty of lounge chairs to relax on, although they are generally reserved for hotel guests. You'll likely spot birds, iguanas and turtles in the area, and you can enjoy a wide range of activities including volleyball and various water sports.
Location: Just north of Puerto Aventuras
Amenities: This is a sandy beach with some areas of exposed limestone, so footwear is a good idea. Conditions are generally good for both snorkeling and swimming, thanks to an outer reef. Along with lounge chairs, a dive shop and a beachfront restaurant/bar, there is a nearby swimming pool and a convenience store. This beach is also a beloved spot among the RV crowd.
Location: South of Puerto Aventuras
Amenities: This beach is known for having powdery white sand and lush vegetation. The Copacabana Hotel sits at its center point. You can journey north toward Xpu-Ha Palace, where the snorkeling is excellent and there are numerous bars and cafés. Heading to the south, you'll find the coastline a bit rockier and covered in seaweed.
Location: Centrally located on Akumal Bay
Amenities: On this beach there's a mixture of fine white sand that becomes rocky at some points. Lounge chairs and palapas dot the coastline, along with several small bars and restaurants. There are two full-service dive shops that offer scuba courses, reef diving excursions and fishing tours. Kayaking and snorkeling are two other popular activities.
Location: Between Chemuyil and Xel-Ha
Amenities: This is a wide beach with no outer reef to break the incoming waves. Sea turtles love it for this reason and many make their nests in the deep sand. Several different species can be spotted here from May through December. There are no services because the beach is ordinarily uninhabited. A trail on the south end leads to a secluded cenote. Snorkeling is best on the north end of the beach.
Location: Just south of the ruins of Tulum
Amenities: This is another spectacular white sand beach with crystal clear waters. It's got no outer reef so the surf is high and not very good for snorkeling. Several small palapa-style hotels line the beach, along with a handful of upscale resorts. There are also a number of beach clubs that operate along Tulum Beach Road. They offer showers, bathrooms, lockers, lounge chairs and water sports equipment for rent. Kite boarding is also popular at this beach.
Sian Ka'an Beach
Location: Farther south of Tulum
Amenities: This whole area has been designed for sustainable usage by the public. The entrance to the beach is located through a stone arch on the road to Punta Allen. You'll find very few services here -- just miles and miles of unspoiled beaches.