With swinging palm trees, talcum-white sand, and a crystal-clear sea, Riviera Maya is lined with some of the most idyllic beaches in Latin America. While most travelers will love spending their days on the sand near Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen, it’s always worth exploring some of the lesser-known areas where you’ll be closer to nature and further from the crowds. From a village beach in a protected nature reserve to a local spot hiding in plain sight, we’ve uncovered a few hidden favorites.
It’s hard to believe that this quiet inlet hasn’t attracted more attention, but anyone who spends a day on the sand will be thankful it still flies low on the tourist radar. This crescent bay is backed by palm trees that hide a small collection of villas and boutique hotels at the northern end. The large outer reef keeps the water calm close to shore, making it ideal for paddle boarding, kayaking, and swimming.
Insider tip: Pack waterproof shoes in your beach bag to protect yourself against the sharp coral reef.
This designated nature reserve requires beachgoers to stick to a particular area on the northern end to avoid disturbing wildlife, including green sea and loggerhead turtles that return here to nest every year. Bring your snorkel to experience the diverse underwater life and be sure to follow the boardwalk for a refreshing dip in the pristine cenote.
Insider tip: Visit early on weekdays to experience the beach at its quietest. Be aware there are strict rules about bringing food and drinks—only water and fruit are allowed on the beach.
Just five minutes away from Puerto Aventuras, finding this beach requires minimum effort for maximum return. Throw your towel on the sand or grab a spot on a lounge chair at one of the many beach bars that line the bay—the constant supply of ceviche is not to be missed. While it never gets too crowded, there’s a constant stream of beach volleyball games and some of the best snorkeling you’ll find anywhere.
Insider tip: For daily weather and sea condition updates, check out the daily posts on the La Playa Xpu-Ha Beach Club Facebook page.
Set within the protected Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve lies this small fishing village. Its quiet beach is found between the inland tropical forest and wildlife-rich mangroves. The stretch of sand feels worlds away from the busy beaches surrounding Tulum and Cancun, and gives a great insight into local life—the local restaurants serve delectable seafood, freshly caught every morning.
Insider tip: While there is a road to the beach, a much more scenic route involves taking a one-hour boat ride south from Sian Ka’an Visitor’s Center.
Playa Punta Esmeralda
The town beaches of Playa del Carmen can be among some of the busiest in the region. If you’re looking to escape the crowds, you don’t need to go far to find Playa Punta Esmeralda. This less-visited cove between the Paradisus Cancún complex and Marazul development offers calm waters ideal for kids, shade among the palms, and a more local vibe.
Insider tip: While it doesn’t have the beachfront infrastructure of the in-town beaches, there are a handful of beach shacks lining the sand with lounge chairs to rent and well-priced tacos and cold drinks.