One of the underrated highlights of traveling through the Yucatan state in Southeastern Mexico is driving along the Gulf of Mexico coast, and discovering pristine white sand beaches along the way. The beaches of the Riviera Maya and the Mexican Caribbean may get all of the glory and attention but there are many more beautiful spots with a fraction of the crowds just a few hours drive away.
If you are looking for the best beaches in the Yucatan, I have got you covered here. I live in the Yucatan capital of Merida and spend many a weekend in search of stunning stretches of coastline. (All in the purpose of article research of course – it is tough work, but someone needs to do it!)
Best Beaches in the Yucatan to Visit in 2024
The Yucatan state is massively underrated when compared to other coastal destinations in Mexico, but as tourism to the area starts to increase, the state is slowly starting to get the attention it deserves.
A scenic 98km coastal road known as the “Ruta Esmerelda” (Emerald route) runs along the northern part of the state connecting Celestun and Sisal in the west, with San Crisanto and El Cuyo in the east.
This area has something for everyone – whether you are looking for spots with all the amenities, secluded stretches of coastline that you will have all to yourself, or a luxury resort/beach club experience.
Since I am recommending 15 different beaches here, I would say that at a glance, the best of the best Yucatan beaches would be:
- Sisal, San Crisanto, Celestun, or Uaymitun, if you want a super quiet beach away from the tourist hordes
- San Bruno or El Cuyo if you want to treat yourself to a couple of days stay in a luxury resort by the sea
- Progreso, Yucalpeten, or Chicxulub if you want somewhere with plenty of bars, restaurants, and stores less than an hour away from Merida
By the way – the “Yucatan” peninsula is the tri-state area of Quintana Roo, the Yucatan State, and Campeche State. This post just refers to articles in the Yucatan state, most of which can be accessed on day trips from Merida. If you are looking for beaches in the Mexican Caribbean, or in the Riviera/Costa Maya areas, check out this post.
Situated in the far eastern corner of the Yucatan state, El Cuyo is not only one of the best beaches in the Yucatan but one of the most gorgeous beach towns in Mexico, period. El Cuyo is 62.5 km from Cancun, and 261.8 km from Merida, respectively and the fact that it is a little awkward to get to is perhaps one of the only reasons it flies under the radar. (For now).
In many ways, El Cuyo is reminiscent of what Tulum was like some 10-15 years ago and since mainstream tourism has not yet arrived in the area, the best time to go is now, before word gets out. Until a few years ago, El Cuyo was nothing more than a pristine stretch of white sandy coastline bordered by translucent azure waters.
Since the beach can get a little windy, the conditions here are perfect for kitesurfing. It was actually a group of windsurfers and Yucatecans that fell in love with the area and decided to start developing it by building a handful of hotels, restaurants, and homes.
El Cuyo is nowhere near as commercialized as the Riviera Maya, and a visit here is mostly about taking the chance to relax and unwind by the sea with a good book or tuck into fresh seafood prepared in restaurants set in thatched palapa huts with a pina colada in-hand.
The sunrises and sunsets here are some of the most beautiful in the Yucatan, and you should definitely get up for sunrise at least once – regardless of how painful that 4.30 am alarm may feel when it goes off! If you get a little restless and seek more adventure, you can also organize a boat tour of the nearby mangroves with a local fisherman.
Getting to El Cuyo
Whether you are traveling to El Cuyo from Merida, Cancun, or elsewhere in the peninsula, it is tricky to get here unless you rent a car and drive yourself.
There is a distance of 162.5 km between Cancun and El Cuyo and a distance of 261.8 km between Merida and El Cuyo. If you do not have a car, you need to take a bus to Tizimin and then transfer to El Cuyo (or take a local taxi/moto taxi if you miss the connecting bus).
Driving to El Cuyo should take approximately 2.5 hours by car from Cancun and 3.5 hours from Merida. The roads throughout the Yucatan are pretty good and well-maintained, although the freeway you drive down immediately before arriving in El Cuyo is very narrow and there are no street lights.
For this reason, you should avoid traveling at night if you can and be cautious because it can be tricky to see oncoming cars around blind corners.
Just over an hour away from Merida, Playa Uaymitun is a secluded stretch of coastline that sits between the beach towns of Chicxulub and San Benito. This is a gorgeous virgin beach whose soft white sands and turquoise waters see very few visitors.
I often speak to Yucatecans who have never even heard of Uaymitun, and this is partly because the beach is hidden from view, behind a bunch of fancy beach mansions, just off the Costera 27 road.
To access Uaymitun, you need to park up at the side of the road and follow a worn dirt trail that leads you through a somewhat overgrown field. When you arrive at the coast, you will be met with a paradisical beach framed by palm trees and filled with golden sands covered with fallen coconuts.
There is rarely anyone else here, so, in Uaymitun, you have found your very own slice of secluded paradise. Uaymitun is definitely best accessed if you rent a car in Merida.
You can take an Uber here from Merida, Progreso, or Chicxulub but it can be very difficult to get a ride back.
Pig Beach, Yucalpeten
Yucalpeten is a small Yucatecan beach town nestled between Chelem and Progreso in the Northern Yucatan. While the town beach is charming in its own right, the best spot here is the aptly named “Pig Beach”.
Eight sweet, homeless miniature Vietnamese piglets were found abandoned here in 2021. Sadly their mother died, but the Progreso Ecological Patrol took care of them and built them a pig pen and a shelter.
Now, despite the fact that the heat and humidity of the coastal Yucatan is a far cry from their natural habitats, the piggies thrive here and love their new home. When you visit the beach (which is free to enter), you can see them hanging out in their pen, or swimming in the turquoise waters, just like the pigs in Exuma in the Bahamas.
There is a little souvenir store set inside a hut at the entrance to the beach where you can buy adorable pig plushies, t-shirts, and other merchandise. The proceeds from all items sold go towards caring for the pigs.
Pigs aside, the beach here is gorgeous and offers a long, idyllic stretch of soft, powdery white sand that runs parallel to crystalline blue-green waters. Aside from Sundays, when Mexicans are off work, it is often very quiet here.
The Yucatan beach town of Progreso is a quintessentially Mexican seaside town and the closest beach to the capital of Merida. During the week, it is fairly quiet, and it is not unheard of to have entire stretches of coastline to yourself.
On Sundays, hundreds of Yucatecans head here to escape the heat of the city and enjoy a picnic with some iced cold cervezas by the sea. The Yucatan government and tourism board have invested a lot of money in beautifying Progreso over the last couple of years and the town has changed a lot since I first moved here in early 2022.
You can plonk down your towel and beach cover wherever takes you fancy, and there are plenty of refreshments available from the stream of barefoot vendors who wander up and down the sand selling everything from meringues (Yucatecan candies) to homemade chicharron and coconut ice cream. If you want a more exclusive experience, you can also hang out at the upscale Silcer beach club, or my personal favorite, Marymar Beach Club where you don’t have to pay a high cover charge, just keep purchasing drinks and snacks.
The beachfront Malecon is lined with bars and restaurants selling regional and international fare and it feels like new places are opening up all the time. By nightfall, a fairground operates here, and it is pleasant to walk/cycle the entire length of the Malecon while enjoying the sea breeze.
Food-wise, I recommend El Cordobes for breakfast – it’s a bit of a “greasy spoon” style eatery but it’s set inside a gorgeous old colonial building. Treat yourself to lunch at Crabster Progreso or Los Mariscos de Chichi.
Getting to Progreso
Buses between Merida and Progreso depart every 20 minutes with the exception of Sundays when buses are hourly. You can take the bus from the Autoprogreso station which is located at Calle 62, #524, Mérida Centro.
The journey takes approximately 50 minutes each way by bus. The bus does make a fair few stops just outside of Merida, and upon arrival on the outskirts of Progreso, to pick up and drop off various passengers.
Playa Las Dunas, Chuburna
Playa Las Dunas in Chuburna is my favorite beach in the Yucatan and it is so special that I almost didn’t want to include it here because I don’t want it to be changed by tourism! (But beautiful places should be shared).
As the name suggests, the beach boasts rolling sand dunes that cascade towards the waterfront. It is usually pretty quiet here and the beach is completely unserviced, with nothing but rolling hills behind you and flocks of pelicans flying overhead, occasionally diving into the water for fish.
It is very easy to lay down your towels and secure your own patch of coastline with nobody else around. For that reason, Playa Las Dunas is the perfect spot to come for a picnic, or to head for some peace and quiet by the sea with a good book.
Chuburna town itself isnt much to write home about, but many of the locals here make delicious coconut desserts using coconuts that fall from the trees. Try the fluffy, yummy pay de coco (coconut pie) or ice-cold coconut ice cream.
San Benito is a quiet, secluded beach that is comparable to Playa Uaymitun in terms of its beauty and seclusion. During the summer season, you may see a handful of locals on the beach but generally, the beach is completely devoid of tourists.
If you want to stay overnight, you can consider renting a beachfront property. Alternatively, the closest hotels are a few luxury resorts in Telchac Puerto.
San Benito is situated 43km from Merida and is only really accessible if you have a car. There are some breathtaking villas and beach houses in the area, and many new developments are currently underway.
Chicxulub (pronounced “chick su lube”) is a sleepy coastal town in the Northern part of the Yucatan state, about 15 minutes east of Progreso. It has a population of 5,000 and most of its residents are involved in fishing and trade.
Despite being just a short distance away from Progreso, Chicxulub doesn’t really see many visitors, though it definitely has its charm. The waterfront is lined with modest yet excellent seafood restaurants where the chefs prepare sumptuous dishes with fresh fish and shrimp sourced from nearby waters earlier that same day.
The town beach is tranquil, if small, and offers wonderful people-watching opportunities as you watch the local fishermen push their wooden boats out to shore. Fascinatingly, Chicxulub was also the place where the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs (the “Chicxulub meteor”) smashed into the earth 65 million years ago.
Outside the town center, you will find Sendero Jurásico, a dino-themed amusement park that runs around the meteor impact site and contains walking trails with giant sculptures of different dinosaur species. The park exists to teach children about the history of dinosaurs but visiting is a fun experience for the whole family.
Getting to Chicxulub
There is no direct bus between Merida and Chicxulub. So, the best way to get here by public transport is to take the Autoprogreso bus from Merida to Progreso, and then take an Uber to Chicxulub.
Fortunately, you will find a lot of Ubers available in both Progreso and Chicxulub. There is also the option of taking a cab all the way from Merida to Chicxulub and back.
This actually doesn’t work out too expensive if there are several of you. You are looking at a fare of around 400 pesos each way for up to four people.
Celestun is a charming fishing village located on the Yucatan peninsula’s west coast. It offers pristine white-sand beaches, crystal-clear aquamarine waters, and quaint seafront eateries.
Many Yucatecans will tell you that the Yucatan beaches here (Playa Norte or Playa Sur Celestun) are the best places to see the sunset across the entire state. So, you should be sure to get here for Golden Hour and then for sunset to take some amazing photos.
Nothing could be more magical or romantic than to sit and watch as the sky above turns from blue to orange to pink. There are plenty of places along the Malecon in Celestun where you can rent a sunbed for the day for just a few pesos.
If you want to just lay your towel on the sand, you can do that too. Vendors are constantly walking back and forth along the beach selling all manner of snacks.
Dining options in Celestun are not necessarily something to rave about, but they do well to satisfy your Mexican food cravings. Restaurant Nicte Ha (C 10. 108 Centro) in the main square is good for simple treats like quesadillas and tacos.
La Palapa (12 105, Benito Juárez) is a seafront eatery that is widely regarded as being one of the best in town. Come here for fresh seafood and be sure not to miss the coconut shrimp.
Of course, a trip to Celestun is not complete without a trip to the nearby Ria Celestun biosphere reserve to watch the flamingos. The reserve is just a 25-minute walk (or short cab ride) from the beach.
Getting to Celestun
Autobuses Oriente operates a direct bus that takes you straight from Merida to Celestun. It departs almost hourly from Mérida Noreste station (Calle 67 x 50 y 52 # 531 Colonia Centro CP 97000 Merida).
Services currently depart at the following times: 05:00, 06:00, 08:00, 09:00, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:30, 16:30, 17:30, 18:30, 20:00. However, keep in mind that schedules are subject to change.
The journey should take two hours from Celestun to Merida. You should allow up to three hours in each direction, however, as the bus makes a lot of stops en route.
If Progreso is a little too busy for you, you can continue west along the coast to Chelem.
The charming fishing village is popular among American expats and retirees. The name Chelem means “under the magpie”.
Here, the sands are a soft, powdery white and the waters are perfectly turquoise. You have a handful of stores, cafes, and restaurants here.
If you want to make a day of it, you can have breakfast and coffee in Progreso, pick up some snacks, and then continue on to Chelem. Colectivos run between the two beach towns and can be taken for just a couple of pesos.
Chelem sits adjacent to Chuburna Beach. You can walk between the two best beaches in the Yucatan on days when it isn’t so hot.
Getting to Chelem
You can take a colectivo (shared minivan-style bus) from Progreso to Chelem for just a few pesos. You can also opt to take an Uber which should not cost you more than $3-4 each way.
Telchac Puerto is one of the more underrated Yucatan beaches on this list and spending a couple of days here is a nice way to experience some of the off-the-beaten-path highlights of the Yucatan. The town of Telchac has an interesting history because, during the henequen boom and the days of grand Mexican haciendas, canoes would leave from here, taking their products to Progreso ready to ship overseas. Sometimes the canoes were also used to carry food to people living in extremely remote areas along the coast.
The town beach is charming, and in the evenings, couples come here to stroll along the boardwalk, while vendors set up stalls selling everything from esquites and marquesitas to flavored Michelada cocktails in all manner of weird and wonderful glasses.
Better yet, is a private section of beach in front of the luxury Grand Marina Kinuh Hotel on the outskirts of town. The hotel is perched on the waters of the Sayachaltun Eco Reserve, where you can wake up to the views of fish jumping right out of the water, and flocks of pelicans and flamingoes flying right overhead.
The hotel restaurant serves mouthwatering elevated Yucatecan cuisine and you can have the concierge or reception staff organize a golf cart to take you to the private section of the beach. You can also combine your visit with an exploration of the nearby Xcambo Mayan ruins and the picture-perfect Laguna Rosada, one of the famous “pink lakes” of the Yucatan.
Pueblo magicos are designated Mexican towns and villages that have been recognized for their distinct beauty, culture, and gastronomy. Sisal was indoctrinated on the list quite in 2020 and is, without hesitation, one of the best places in the Yucatan to visit.
The port here was first opened in 1810, at which time it was named the Santa María del Sisal. Imports and exports between here and Havana started, and that is how the settlement around the port grew, making Sisal an important fishing town at that time.
Today, the main draw is the pristine beach with its white sand shores and calm, clear, crystal waters. There are a couple of cafes and restaurants here where you can indulge in a local lunch. You will also find a few spots where you can rent a palapa for the day to protect yourself from the sun.
A lot of real estate developments have started sprouting up around Sisal recently, with companies purchasing big plots of land and starting to construct luxury condos, hotels, and apartment complexes. The time to visit Sisal is now before things change too much.
Getting to Sisal
If you are renting a car in Merida, the drive to get here takes approximately one hour. Otherwise, you can take 2 buses to get to Sisal.
First, you need to take a bus to the small town of Hunucma. From there, change buses and continue on to Sisal.
Hunucma itself has its charm, and it’s a nice place to stop for a coffee or some food if you have a little time to wait between buses. You can also check out Moises Poots boutique – a charming independent designer store where the owner makes gorgeous henequen shoes, bags, and other accessories by hand.
Home to just 10 permanent inhabitants, San Bruno is actually more of a beach hamlet, than a beach town and this area is so small that if you didn’t specifically know that there was a gorgeous beach here, you could easily just drive right by and miss it.
This stretch of coastline is stunning, relatively quiet, and unknown to most travelers. The sunsets from here are magical but if you really want to experience this beach at its best, consider booking a couple of nights stay at the luxury Casa Ku hotel, or spend the day hanging out at the chic Kokomo beach club.
Casa Ku only opened back in 2022 and its “rooms” are standalone circular thatched bungalows designed to look like bird nests. Despite the beauty of some of the beaches in the Yucatan, it really isn’t common to find bohemian Tulum-style properties in this area, so Casa Ku is an exception in luxury.
Anyone can visit their beach bar and restaurant, even if you are not a hotel guest and their menu offering of elevated Mexican and Yucatecan cuisine has been some of the best food I have eaten in the Yucatan. Meanwhile, a day pass at Kokomo Beach Club enables you to enjoy use of the property’s pools, cabanas, kayaks, and other water sports equipment.
From San Bruno, you can easily travel out to Telchac Puerto, Xcambo, and Laguna Rosada.
The port of San Crisanto, encompassed by photogenic coconut groves, is one of the more secluded of the Yucatan beaches on this list. It is set in the easternmost part of the Yucatan state, as you approach the end of the Ruta Esmerelda.
The beach here is a perfect place to relax for a day or two, and the sunrise and sunset views here are among the most beautiful in the Yucatan. You can also opt to take a boat tour through the mangroves with a local guide.
There are a couple of seafood restaurants here that accept cash only so be sure to visit an ATM before you arrive. Accommodation-wise, there are not really any mid-range or luxe hotels here yet, mostly Airbnbs and homestays.
Every July, San Crisanto hosts its annual “coconut festival” which sees hundreds of vendors set up stalls selling all manner of coconut treats and desserts.
Santa Clara Beach is the penultimate beach along the Yucatan’s Emerald Coast and it is little more than a tranquil, off-the-beaten-path fishing village.
Few tourists venture here since Santa Clara is two hours away from the center of Merida and inaccessible without a car. The drive to the beach, however, is charming.
As you head along the coastline to Santa Clara, you will see flamingos and other migratory birds flying overhead as they feast on brine shrimp and other creatures in the waters.
There are a few restaurants here, serving light bites, tacos, and seafood but the majority of them are only open on weekends as tourists seldom stop by during the week. So, depending on when you plan on visiting Santa Clara, you might want to pick up some snacks or pack a picnic.
The waters here are clean and clear. If you are here early in the morning, you might catch the local fishermen preparing their boats to set sail.
Then just before sunset, you may see them bringing their day’s catch back to shore.
Dzilam de Bravo
Dzilam de Bravo is the final beach along the stretch of the Yucatan peninsula known as the Emerald Coast. It is a quiet, sleepy place filled with natural beauty and very few (if any) tourists.
There are a few interesting things to see in the area, so you can combine your visit with a trip to the gorgeous Cenote Elepeten, Cenote Ayim and Cenote Labim. To the east of the port, you will find the Yalkubul lighthouse, one of the most prominent parts of the coastline.
Few people have heard of Dzilam de Bravo but it has an interesting history. It was here where the Spanish conquerors landed to begin their conquest of the Yucatan.
Today, it remains an important fishing port, with a beautiful, undisturbed beach. Nearby, you will find the tomb of the famous French 19th-century pirate, Jean Laffite.
Visiting Yucatan Beaches FAQs
Do you have any further questions or concerns about visiting the best beaches in the Yucatan, safety in the Yucatan, or planning a trip here in general? I have enclosed the answers to some frequently asked questions on the topic below.
Hopefully, this will give you the information you are looking for but if not, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Does Merida have good beaches?
The Yucatan capital of Merida is located about 30km inland in the center of the Yucatan state. It doesn’t sit on the coastline or have any beaches of its own, but there are several gorgeous spots nearby.
The beach town of Progreso is the closest to Merida. Locals and expats will often drive here at weekends when they want a bit of sand, sea, and sunshine.
A little further along the coast, you have Yucalpeten “Pig Beach”, Chelem, Chicxulub, and Uaymitun which are all less than an hour away from Merida.
Does Yucatan have a beach?
Yes. The Yucatan state and the wider Yucatan peninsula are home to dozens of gorgeous sandy beaches that would rival those in Quintana Roo and elsewhere in Mexico.
Does Yucatan have nice beaches?
There are many beautiful beaches scattered throughout the Yucatan peninsula. There is something for everyone – whether you are looking for a serviced public beach with all the amenities or a secret hidden cove that makes you feel like Tom Hanks in Castaway!
Can you swim in the Yucatan peninsula?
Yes. The waters across the Yucatan peninsula are usually clear, calm, and perfect for swimming or snorkeling in.
It is always hot in this part of Mexico. Even the winters here see temperatures that are warmer than summers in some countries!
You can expect an average water temperature of 77.4°F / 25.2°C January and in 86°F/30°C July. This isnt an area where there are rough or choppy seas with strong undercurrents so you dont need to worry about looking out for warnings and flags here like you do in say, Puerto Vallarta.
Are there any nudist beaches in the Yucatan?
No. There are not currently any nude beaches in the Yucatan state and even going topless would be frowned upon and attract attention in this conservative state. There are a couple of nude beaches in Los Cabos, Oaxaca and Jalisco, as well as a couple of “clothing optional” resorts in Los Cabos and Cancun.
When is the best time to visit the Yucatan Beaches?
The temperatures and weather conditions during this time are perfect for enjoying a day at the beach. Temperatures range between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius, with some warmer days.
The skies are blue, and rainfall is minimal. If you plan your Yucatan itinerary. from May onwards, you will be met with higher humidity, more rainfall, and temperatures that soar as high as 45 degrees Celsius.
Final thoughts on the best Yucatan beaches
As you can see, you have plenty of options available when it comes to determening which Yucatan beaches you want to visit during your time here. Do keep in mind that with the exception of the beaches that are super close to Merida (like Progreso and Chicxulub), it can be tricky to get to many of these places independently which is why I always recommend renting a car.
Many of these beaches do not have shade so consider taking a tent, windbreaker or a sun umbrella. It can get extremely hot here, especially at midday or between March and September so ne sure to wear sun lotion, even on a cloudy or windy day.
Reef-safe sunscreens are recommended for swimming at Mexican beaches and cenotes as they protect the unique ecosystems that exist. Fortunately, most sunscreens sold at Mexican convenience stores, pharmacies and supermarkets are reef-safe – just look out for the little logo.
Do you have any further questions about the best beach towns in Yucatan?
Feel free to connect with me via email, social media, or by dropping a comment below.
Buen Viaje! Melissa xo