Best Beaches in Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen is a super popular destination for a beach holiday. But it can be difficult to find a beach you like if you don’t know what to expect. The best beaches in Playa del Carmen are outside the center, away from the crowds.

The beaches at the hotel zone close to the center can be very cramped, loud, and dirty if it is the high season or weekend. This is because many resorts are built very close to the water’s edge, leaving very little space for the public to enjoy the beach.

However, if you go just a little bit further you can find some beautiful much more peaceful beaches. So keep reading to find out the best beaches in Playa del Carmen!

1. Punta Esmeralda (Best beach in Playa del Carmen with a cenote!)

Punta Esmeralda is one of our favorite beaches in Playa del Carmen. It is out of the city center and full of Mexican families on the weekends giving it a relaxed and local atmosphere.

People relaxing on Punta Esmeralda beach one of the best beaches in Playa del Carmen
Punta Esmeralda Beach

What to expect 🏖️

The area around Punta Esmeralda has been reserved for public use. This means that there are no huge resorts taking the best parts of the beach for themselves. So you can relax on the beach with just palm trees behind you.

The beach can definitely get busy on the weekends. But if you walk further around the point you should always be able to find a peaceful spot away from the crowds.

Except for vendors walking around selling fruit and snacks sometimes, you have to bring your own food and drinks. But there is a wooden hut renting sun beds, tables, and umbrellas. There are also public palapas (wooden straw umbrellas) with small tables attached which you can use for free.

People walking through a river emptying into the ocean at Punta Esmeralda beach
The cenote at Punta Esmeralda emptying into the ocean

What to do 🌅

Check out the bubbling freshwater that comes out of the ground close to where the wooden ‘Punta Esmeralda’ sign is. That is a cenote that empties into the ocean by the beach. It’s fun to see the shallow crystal clear fresh water merging with the salt water of the ocean.

You should also definitely come here for sunset. Due to Punta Esmeralda’s location being on a point, it is one of the only places in Playa del Carmen to watch a sunset.

Sunset at Punta Esmeralda in Playa del Carmen
Sunset walk at Punta Esmeralda

How to get there 🚍

Punta Esmeralda is 4.5 km (2.7 miles) north of Playa del Carmen’s center. You can catch the local bus or colectivo (7 pesos, 0.40 USD) on Avenida 30 to Calle 110 and walk 15 minutes from there to the beach. Or you can come by car, taxi, bike or foot. There are no Ubers in Playa!

2. Playa 88 (Best wildlife-protected beach in Playa del Carmen – spot coatis!)

Playa 88 is 1km (0.6 miles) south of Punta Esmeralda and easy to combine with each other in one trip. You can see from Playa 88 to Punta Esmeralda and Coco Beach, which is next on my list of the best beaches in Playa del Carmen.

People relaxing on the beach at Playa 88 one of the best beaches in Playa del Carmen
Playa 88 is a protected area between Punta Esmeralda and Coco Beach

What to expect 🏖️

Playa 88 is a Blue Flag beach meaning it received one of the world’s most recognized voluntary awards for beaches, marinas, and sustainable boating tourism operators. Therefore certain environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria must be met and maintained.

When walking down to the beach you will immediately notice their efforts in keeping up these high standards. There are several educational wildlife and behavioral boards, recycling bins, showers, and bathrooms. Every morning we saw a crew of local volunteers maintaining and cleaning the area.

Similar to Punta Esmeralda there are a few straw palapas for shade. They are free to use and have little tables for putting your snacks and drinks. You will also find natural shade under some trees spread out over the whole beach.

An empty white sandy beach at sunrise in Playa del Carmen
Playa 88 is a certified Blue Flag beach

What to do 🐿️

One of my favorite spots on Playa 88 was sitting in front of the lifeguard tower at the beach entrance and watching the sunrise. Or sitting in the shade of palm trees next to the small water sport rental hut called Aquamarine and waiting for coatis to show up.

Coatis are cute little animals with long striped tails and bandit-mask face markings similar to raccoons. We have seen them a few times in the mornings in the trees while walking down to Paya 88.

But they seem to almost be guaranteed to show up next to the water rental as beach vendors are taking breaks there in the shade and they feed them leftovers. The coatis are shy and come in groups, don’t miss out on trying to spot them!

A group of coatis gathering on the beach
A group of coatis looking for food

How to get there 🚍

Playa 88 is 3.5 km (2.1 miles) north of Playa del Carmen’s center and between Punta Esmeralda and Coco Beach. Which are also featured on this list of best beaches in Playa del Carmen.

You can catch the local bus or colectivo (7 pesos, 0.40 USD) on Avenida 30 to Calle 88 (hence the name Playa 88) and walk 11 minutes from there to the beach. Or you can come by car, taxi, bike, or foot. There are no Ubers in Playa!

3. Coco Beach (Best chill beach in Playa del Carmen)

Coco Beach is 1 km (0.6 miles) south of Playa 88 with a view of Punta Esmeralda in the distance to the left and some little boats and buildings to the right.

People relaxing on a white sandy beach with turquoise blue waters at Coco beach one of the best beaches in Playa del Carmen
South of Playa 88 is Coco Beach

What to expect 🏖️

Coco Beach is a bit less wide than Playa 88 and left natural without any amenities. Many people bring their own tent or umbrella as there is almost no natural shade and no public palapas.

This part of the beach is a bit closer to Playa del Carmen’s center than Playa 88 and Punta Esmeralda and therefore can be a bit more crowded, especially on the weekends. But I still highly recommend it due to its natural setting, crystal clear water, and chilled atmosphere.

What to do 🏐

Read a book, meditate, or relax! You won’t find many distractions on Coco Beach besides some people playing paddle ball or going for a swim.

If you are into beach volleyball this might be the perfect beach for you. Every time we went we noticed people setting up courts as this is a flatter part of the beach strip with enough space to play.

Fishing boats in turquoise blue waters anchored just off the coast of a sandy beach
Beautiful blue!

How to get there 🚍

Coco Beach is 2.5 km (1.5 miles) north of Playa del Carmen’s center. You can catch the local bus or colectivo (7 pesos, 0.40 USD) on Avenida 30 to Calle 48 and walk 11 minutes from there to the beach. Or you can come by car, taxi, motorcycle, bicycle, or foot. There are no Ubers in Playa!

4. Playa del Pecado (A hidden secret beach in Playa del Carmen for Explorers)

Playa del Pecado is a hidden gem and is often referred to as ‘the secret beach’ in Playa del Carmen. It is an adventure to get there and one of the best tranquil beaches in Playa del Carmen.

People relaxing on the beach at Playa del Pecado one of the best beaches in Playa del Carmen
Playa del Pecado, ‘the secret beach’ of Playa del Carmen

What to expect 🏖️

Playa del Pecado is perfect for you if you are into exploring and up for a long coastal walk. It’s a small little bay with crystal clear water surrounded by nature without any amenities.

It’s the perfect reward after a long hot journey and is not well known. So you can expect to see only a handful of people. Since it is a long walk in the heat make sure you bring enough water, snacks, sunblock, and a hat.

On the way to Playa del Pecado you will go through Playacar a long beach with resorts, and several small bays before reaching the secret beach. Depending on when you are there you might see a lot of seaweed in the bays as nobody cleans this deserted part up. But keep going, it is worth it!

A man pulling a yellow kayak into the water at Playacar beach
Playacar Beach which will lead you to the hidden beach

What to do ☀️

Float in the blue water and enjoy being one of the only people reaching this little bay and the untouched nature around.

How to get there 🚶

Playa del Pecado is not easy or quick to reach since many resorts block access to the beach from the road. So you need to walk along the beach in front of them.

The property behind the secret beach belongs to Xcaret, an amusement park close to Playa del Carmen, and is therefore fenced off and guarded. So no shortcuts we know of are possible.

We started off in Playa del Carmen’s center by walking down Playacar Beach which is about 4 km (2.5 miles) long and described next on this list of the best beaches in Playa del Carmen.

At the end of Playacar Beach, you can just keep going straight and will come across some easy-to-walk-over rock formations. As well as Playa del Carmen’s Wild Beach, Playa del Amor, and Emma Cove.

A rocky coastline with turquoise blue waters and greenery covering the land beside it
Walking up to Playa del Pecado along a rocky coastline

It took us about 1.5 hours to get from Playa del Carmen’s center to Playa del Pecado. You have to go back the same way you came. So it makes sense to start your day early.

5. Playacar Beach (Closest best beach to Playa del Carmen’s center)

Playacar Beach is south of Playa del Carmen’s center and easy to reach by foot. It’s a 4 km (2.5 miles) long strip of white sand and a calm blue ocean in front of resorts and buildings.

A couple relaxing on a white sandy beach with hotels in the distance
Beginning of Playacar Beach close to the center

What to expect 🏖️

Playacar Beach is most popular with tourists that are staying close by in the resorts and hotels of Playacar. You will see tourists from all over the world and many different water sports activities.

It is not our favorite beach in Playa del Carmen as we are missing the local Mexican atmosphere and untouched beauty that you get on the northern beaches of Playa. But if you are looking for a beach near the center that is reachable by foot it is still nice to check out for a couple of hours.

There are no amenities for non-hotel guests we have seen. But occasionally some vendors make their way down there to sell some fruits and snacks.

People playing volleyball at Playacar beach
Playacar Beach next to the resorts

What to do 🦡

I recommend walking along Playacar Beach until you find a spot you like. In the beginning, are some hotels and mostly condos before the big resorts start. Therefore we found it more peaceful and quiet in front of the condos than in front of the resorts.

There are also some small Mayan ruins that are cool to check out and free. They are one street behind the beach and as long as you come by foot and not by car or bike there will be no problem entering the residential area of Playacar.

Around the ruins, we saw some cute-looking animals which we later found out to be agoutis. They are native to America and look like big brown ginny pigs. We have never seen them somewhere else, so I recommend heading there to see if you can spot them.

How to get there 🚶

Simply walk from where the Ultramar ferry to Cozumel leaves in Playa del Carmen’s city center down onto the beach. Keep walking as long as you like on Playacar Beach.

6. Playa Xpu-Ha (Best beach near Playa del Carmen for clearest water)

Playa Xpu-Ha is a 30-minute colectivo or car ride from Playa del Carmen and worth the visit for its very long sandy white beach strip and baby blue water. It is probably the most beautiful beach on this list but it also takes the longest time to get there and comes with an entrance fee.

Crystal clear blue waters at Playa Xpu-Ha one of the best beaches in Playa del Carmen
Super clear waters at the northern end of Playa Xpu-Ha

What to expect 🏖️

Playa Xpu-Ha is perfect for a day trip from Playa del Carmen. It’s easy and cheap to reach and fun to explore. Good to know is that there is a 50 pesos (2.5 USD) entrance fee per person to access the beach. If you come by car parking will be included in that price. No pets are allowed.

They also offer a 200 pesos (10 USD) entry including consumption and sun beds at a beach restaurant. But you will be stuck in the crowds, so I don’t recommend it.

People walking along the coast of playa xpu ha
The middle of Playa Xpu-Ha can get quite busy so head to its ends

The beach is long and I recommend checking out both ends. The entrance is in the middle with lots of restaurants and amenities. We went on a Sunday and expected it to be crowded and noisy.

But as long as you keep walking to the left or right of the entrance you will see fewer and fewer people and find peaceful spots.

The sand is white and soft and the water is the lightest blue of all the beaches mentioned above! If you come in from 2 pm on you will find plenty of natural shade as long as you keep walking a bit.

Considering you pay entrance it is unfortunate that they do not clear rubbish from the southern end of the beach. But it is still nice to head down that end as there are very few people there.

A man snorkeling in turquoise blue waters with a yacht in the background
Water at the southern end of Playa Xpu-Ha
An abandoned building that is falling to pieces next to the beach surrounded by palm trees
Abandoned buildings at the southern end of Playa Xpu-Ha

What to do 🌴

You can either stay at the restaurants and rent sunbeds or – what I recommend – come in the early afternoon for some natural shade and explore the beach.

When you walk to the right you will see more rocks and an abandoned building overgrown with plants and palm trees. When you walk to the left you will see crystal-clear water as the water is really shallow there. So for the most beautiful beach part head left to the northern end.

It took us about 20 minutes to walk from one side to the other on the beach, so it’s even doable when it’s hot. Enjoy the walk, relax under palm trees, and swim in the baby blue water. We brought our goggles and saw some small fish.

A group of people walking along the beach at Playa Xpu-Ha one of the best beaches in Playa del Carmen
The northern end of the beach has the clearest water and the least people
A man walking into the water at playa xpu ha
Enjoying the amazing blue water at Playa Xpu-Ha

How to get there 🚐

From Playa del Carmen you can reach Playa Xpu-Ha easily by colectivo, taxi, or car. It’s a 30-minute ride from the center of Playa del Carmen and 34 km (21 miles) away.

The colectivos to Xpu-Ha leave here and cost 35 pesos (2 USD) per person one-way. Since Playa Xpu-Ha is on the way to Tulum you can take all the colectivos leaving to Tulum.

The colectivo station is organized, you will see people lining up at the entrance and someone filling up all colectivo seats in the order of people waiting in line. They leave when full, but since there are many popular stops on the way (such as cenotes) we never had to wait longer than 5 minutes.

Travel like a local 🇲🇽

When you get into the colectivo you can tell the driver where you want to get out or shout it out shortly before reaching Playa Xpu-Ha. You can use maps.me or google maps to track your location.

The driver will also shout out some popular stops and is very good at remembering all the stops people told him when coming on. You pay the driver in cash when getting off at your stop.

It can get crowded on the colectivos if they pick up extra people on the way although there are no seats left. You will also need to cross the highway when getting out to enter Playa Xpu-Ha. But it’s a fun and cheap way to reach Playa Xpu-Ha and will add to your travel experience.

Enjoy the best beaches in Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is known for being a great beach destination. But some local tips are needed to know where the best beaches are. The same goes for nearby cenotes, things to do, and places to eat – which I have linked down below for you.

If there are any beaches that you think I have missed let me know in the comments below. Enjoy the beach and Playa!

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Hi, I am Katharina, super passionate about travel, sustainability and minimalism from Austria. I love sunshine, beaches, coffee and light travel gear. For the last 4+ years I'm traveling the world as a digital nomad and hope my tips inspire you to chase your dreams and get out of your comfort zone.

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