In Cancun the beaches have free access, as in every place that I know in the world. You cannot be asked to pay. However, hotels will not allow you to go through the property and let alone use their facilities, which are reserved for the exclusive use of their guests. In some of them, you can purchase a daily pass which is normally around 50 USD per person and allows you to actually act like a guest from 9 to 5 and eat until you reach a certain limit of credit; although you won’t get a room, of course.
If you don’t want that option, there are many beach accesses that are free and open to the public, and you can find beautiful spots without paying a cent. In some places, you are offered a chair and sunshade for a few dollars. On Sundays, all those spots get really crowded but the beach is so huge that if tranquillity is what you want, you can easily find it at a few steps away from the entrance. Here is a list of all the beaches:
PLAYA LAS PERLAS KM 2.5
Playa Las Perlas is the first beach along the Zona Hotelera when you are coming from town. It is not the best beach in terms of crystalline water and pristine sand, but it is a very good spot if you wish to just have your morning power walk or swim. The water is very calm, like a lagoon (well even the color), and you can easily do your laps and exercising. Also, if you like to run here the sand is quite firm and levelled and good for this kind of exercise. There are bathrooms and shower facilities open normally from 6 am to 5 pm every day.
PLAYA LANGOSTA KM 4.5/5
Playa Langosta is right after the bridge over the canal which leads to the lagoon. It is a huge stretch of free beach between two hotels where you will find a lot of athletes doing their routines early morning before the sun is too hot, because it is a very good spot for swimming and running. On the right-hand side, almost in front of and beside the hotel, Casa Maya is one of my favorite spots. The water is crystal clear, even now where on the majority of the coast we are infested with smelly sea grass, here in Playa Langosta it is still weed-free and beautiful; furthermore, the currents are not strong so you can easily swim. Even on Sundays if you go before noon, it is still very peaceful and quiet; after that I warn you, there is a huge crowd of families brandishing food and kids’ toys. Certainly not the time and place for relaxing. The only negative aspect is that there are no bathroom facilities. The closest one is at the ‘’embarcadero, by the canal, about 500 meters away.
PLAYA PEZ VOLADOR KM 5.5
Playa Pez Volador is actually connected to the above beach (Playa Langosta) but has another entrance 500 mt. On that corner, the beach gets narrower but during a week day, you still have a lot of space for yourself. On a Sunday after 11, it gets really really crowded.
PLAYA TORTUGAS KM 6
This is one of the most crowded and busiest beaches because it’s the point where you can catch the public ferry to Isla Mujeres besides being the resting place for other private boats, bars and little grocery shops. As you have noticed I don’t like very crowded places, so I would avoid this one. However, if you like a little walking and easy ‘’climbing’’ on the rocks, you can enter the beach, turn right and start walking. This is a very beautiful and interesting walk, alongside lovely private villas and beautiful, pristine and secluded beaches. I love this place. Depending on the tides, you can choose your own private beach wherever you feel comfortable.
RESIDENCE LAS OLAS /PRESIDENTE INTERCONTINENTAL KM.7.5
This is one of my favorite spots although it is a bit of a walk getting here, it is all worth it. I would enter, right in front of plaza caracol / Chedraui select ( the supermarket) You will see the beach access and turn left start walking on the beach passed Riu hotel and a couple of others until you find a huge stretch of beach and you can stay wherever you want. By the high-end residence Las Olas, of course, you won’t be able to use the facilities but since the beach is so wide and there is a lot of palm trees you can use the shades kindly offered by nature. By the Presidente Intercontinental, right after the watersport center is open to the public and offer a good variety of watersport from Paddle-boarding, Kayaking, Jet-ski, parasailing.
COCO BONGO/HARD ROCK CAFE KM 9.5
This spot is one of the most popular because the one parking site serves a greater option of beaches and restaurants. It is located right after Punta Cancun and you can use the parking lot which is conveniently located underneath the shopping center beside the Coco Bongo nightclub (just 10 pesos, 0.75c US for the first 3 hours). There is a lane on the left that gives you access to the beach, and once there you can choose a spot in and amongst the closest beach club (perhaps the only beach club in Cancun per se) where you can enjoy fancy beach chairs, tables, sunshades and bar service (obviously at a cost). Alternatively, if you wish for more freedom, you can walk up to the end of the beach to the left, in front of the hotel Crystal Palace, where you can lay down on your towel undisturbed. That is the very end of the second segment of 27 miles, and it is where the water is calmer with no undercurrent, and you can actually swim with no fear. I love this spot because here the water always shows its best turquoise shades and you can see the entire bay. Spectacular. You can find bathroom facilities before in the lane leading to the beach.
PLAYA CHAC- MOOL km 10
This is one of my favorites… well, I know I have a lot of favorites, I love beaches. This one is particularly beautiful and wide, and right by a very luxurious condo (Bay View), so it is very well kept. The perk is that they have a turtle conservation program where in the summer, normally through August and September; they pick up little turtles after they hatch, and then free them to the sea, which is a spectacular, emotional event. In fact, many hotels on the coast have this program. On this beach they have just built bathroom facilities, and believe it or not, a small library where you can pick a book if you are bored and then exchange it for another, or borrow it and bring it back when you are done. I am sure you will find something in English, too.
Another point in favor of this beach is that at a short walking distance along the main road, you can find a quaint little restaurant for a healthy juice or a nice Mexican-style meal. They also have vegan or vegetarian options. This is in the same building of the Nature Hostel, the only hostel in the hotel zone. I love it there.
PLAYA MARLIN km.13.5
After chac-mool the next access to the beach would be further down behind Plaza Kukulcan. This is a wide and beautiful stretch of beach half-way towards the end. They have beach facilities, which make it a bit crowded over the weekend, but the space is so wide that if you are like me, you can really find your own space by walking down past either of the rows of beach chairs. It is stunning. The color of the sea is simply amazing here. No bathroom facilities, unfortunately, and no bars. However, being right behind the shopping center makes it a very convenient spot.
PLAYA DELFINES km 16.5
Last but not least, this is, I can say, the official public beach of Cancun, housing infrastructure such as beach chairs and umbrellas, and even a surfboard rental where you can also take classes; in fact, it is quite a good spot for surfing. Not good enough to make Cancun a surfing destination but you can still catch some waves, and if you are learning it is an ideal place to practice. There is also a lot of space to be on your own, run, exercise or relax. It is a very good spot for panoramic pictures from ‘’el Mirador,’’ as when you get there you will find yourself at the top of a hill and you will need to climb down onto the beach to get to the sea; hence, the view is stunning, and if there is a good swell you can also find brave surfers riding the waves. Another reason why I love this spot is that if you like to walk, you can keep going right on till the very end, where Club Med is situated; By the Club Med, you can also find a very good spot for snorkeling, and calm water for swimming. As I said, it is not possible to use the facilities of the hotel, but the beaches are free so you can enjoy the beautiful water.
All along the coast from KM 9 until Club Mediterranee (KM 21) the sea is normally quite rough, and you will almost always see yellow and red flags which mean that it is dangerous to swim. You can obviously get into the water but stay close to the shore because even though it doesn’t look like that the current is really strong, it can definitely pull you offshore without you even realizing it, and it is tough to come back. If this happens to you, you should swim sideways and let the current do the rest instead of swimming straight towards the shore, as you won’t be able to move forward. This is the advice I was given when I was stuck in the water, 10 meters away from the shore, and I could never reach it despite my arm-strokes. Luckily, a lifeguard was watching me and rescued me. There are lifeguards all over so it is very safe, but it is better to take precautions and act wisely.
When I think about the beaches that we have here in Cancun, actually more than my favorite 9 beaches, I feel really blessed to live here. It is such a great perk to be able to wake up one morning and decide to go and have a swim even if it’s only for an hour.
…oops I forgot to mention Isla Blanca… a precious beach in Cancun, just a little further away. I thought it was necessary to dedicate an entire post to that precious hidden treasure.
But now it is your turn: which one will you pick!? Enjoy our beautiful beaches and let me know how you loved it.