The gorgeous beaches of Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Sayulita are deservedly popular with tourists. But that popularity makes it hard to take the perfect Instagram photo when you're dodging everyone else taking their own perfect Instagram photo
Thankfully, there are still plenty of pieces of Mexican coast that remain off the beaten path. If you want to get a peek at the more authentic side of Mexico's shores, here are a few off-the-radar beaches to visit.
Costa Maya in Quintana Roo has limited accessibility, which makes it more pristine and private for beachgoers. Photo Credit: Meagan Drillinger
Costa Maya, Quintana Roo
While everyone else is pulling off Highway 307 to sunbathe on the bohemian beaches of Tulum, keep driving another solid two and a half hours and you'll find a piece of Mexico that is all your own.
The Costa Maya is a stretch of coast in the very southern part of the state of Quintana Roo, near the border of Belize. It's visually stunning and a paradise for nature lovers. Offshore, snorkel the brilliant coral reefs or kayak among mangroves teeming with dolphins and turtles. Onshore, there is the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, home to jaguars and monkeys.
A good homebase to explore the coast is the beach town of Mahahual, which has a small cruise terminal as well as funky boutique hotels and beach bars. Costa Maya is pristine and private for a reason: accessibility is limited. Fly into Cancun and make the nearly four-hour drive south or fly into Chetumal Airport, where the drive will only be an hour and a half.
The beach at Bahia San Agustin in Oaxaca is a tranquil spot with good snorkeling and vendors selling fresh ceviche and cold beer.
Bahia San Agustin, Oaxaca
Arguably the most beautiful of the nine bays of Huatulco, Bahia San Agustin and its beach is one of the more out-of-the-way hideaways along the Oaxaca coast.
About nine miles west of Santa Cruz Huatulco, this fishing village is a stark contrast to Huatulco's other bays. At the end of a dusty road off Highway 200 is a mile-long, crescent-shaped stretch of beach, lined not with resorts but with rustic comedores selling fresh ceviche, grilled fish tacos and cold beer.
Snorkeling is popular in the calm waters of the bay. Travelers can also go around the corner to the east to Playa Riscalillo for more snorkeling.
The beach is visited mostly by locals on the weekends, but taxi drivers will gladly bring tourists from Santa Cruz. The other option is to hop a bus between Huatulco and Pochutla and take a taxi from there.
Playa del Caballo, Jalisco
Frequent travelers to Puerto Vallarta have heard about the string of beaches to the south that are only accessible by boat, many of which are along the Cabo Corrientes, like Yelapa and Las Animas. But in between these touristy stops are beaches that are even more secluded and arguably way more beautiful, and most definitely underdeveloped.
Playa del Caballo is the beach just before Las Animas. Water taxis run frequently from Boca de Tomatlan and stop in Las Animas. But if you opt for the beach-hike route from Boca, you will surely encounter Playa del Caballo on your way.
Visitors share the beach with the small boutique hotel, Hotelito Mio, but rarely do you see anyone else sharing the sand with you, as most people opt for Las Animas because of its bars and restaurants. Instead, you'll find a virgin beach shaded by elegant palms, a calm surf and emerald-colored water that is atypical of Mexico's west coast.
Celestun in the Yucatan features a wildlife sanctuary harboring flocks of flamingos.
Merida has become a destination in its own right, so for travelers who are taking their time in the city, a daytrip to Celestun is worth it. The sleepy fishing village isn't used to throngs of tourists, but when a few trickle in it's all smiles and good service.
The sun-drenched beaches are powder white, but the real draw is the Reserva de la Biosfera Ria Celestun, a wildlife sanctuary that is teeming with flamingos. You can catch this sea of pink year-round in Celestun, but they are usually sporting their best color from November to mid-March.
Frequent buses head for Celestun from Merida. It's about a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride. There are also colectivos, or minivans, on the plaza that will take you to downtown Merida. Uber, which is probably the fastest and most reliable transportation, is also a great way to get to Celestun from Merida, though the return trip will have to be organized ahead of time.