Presented in partnership with Marriott International

As frequent travelers, we know that it’s almost impossible to compete with the perfect seaside escape. As we mentally dig our toes in the sand of our dream vacations, Mexico always remains at the top of our minds and lists. Having explored much of the colorful country, one destination always has us coming back for more – Cancun.

guide to cancun's beaches

Perfectly nestled on the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, bordering the azure waters of the Caribbean sea, there is a reason Cancun has become the mecca of beachfront vacation destinations. This bustling region has it all – from unspoiled natural wonders to world-class accommodations like The Riz-Carlton, Cancun, Marriott Cancun Resort, Renaissance Cancun Resort and Marina and the JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa just steps away from glittering sands. And, as Marriott Bonvoy members, we know our next trip to this tropical paradise will come complete with exclusive access to the most elevated travel experiences synonymous with the Marriott International brand.

If you’re spending your days dreaming of idyllic white-sand beaches, we have partnered with Marriott International to present the ultimate guide to Cancun’s pristine shores and all the treasures they hold.

Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres guide to cancun's beaches

Just across the bay from Cancun’s shores is the peaceful paradise of Isla Mujeres. Translating to “island of women,” here you’ll find a tranquil escape on pine-lined sands and calm crystal waters on what has been dubbed as one of the best beaches in all of Mexico. Take in every corner of the small island and get up close and personal with its natural inhabitants with a snorkel by the tangled mangroves or through the vibrant reefs at Garrafon Reef Park, part of the longest coral reef in the hemisphere.

Sacbe Beach Shack Marriott Cancun Resort

Upon your return to the mainland, lean into the beachy boho vibes discovered on Isla Mujeres at Sacbe Beach Shack. Feel the sand beneath your feet while enjoying local flavors like fresh Caribbean lobster tacos washed down with a classic margarita. 

*Tribe tip: Seamlessly arranged by the team at Marriott and their tour partners, set sail in style on a chartered yacht or take a private car by ferry just before sunrise. Because of Isla Mujeres’ geographical location, it has the honor of being the first point in Mexico to be kissed by the sun’s rays each morning. A spectacular light show worth the early morning trip! 

Isla Contoy

Isla Cotoy guide to cancun's beaches

In the warm Caribbean waters just north of Isla Mujeres, discover Isla Contoy, a true nature lover’s paradise. This lush hidden gem is lesser known than it’s popular neighbor and with only 200 visitors allowed per day — the island haven is just as exclusive as it is stunning. The natural preserve remains uninhabited and has become the most important bird sanctuary in the Mexican Caribbean with over 150 species of tropical and migratory birds calling Isla Contoy home. Hunker down on the white sands and put your bird watching skills to the test, you may even spot the likes of vibrant toucans among the trees or impressive brown pelicans gliding over the break. Take advantage of a day spent exploring the crystalline waters with a snorkel, dive, or leisurely swim then hike up the island’s 65-foot watchtower boasting impressive views. Dream of the soothing sounds of colorful birds as you relax beneath the swaying palms with a day trip planned to perfection complete with a delicious lunch of traditional Yucatan fish tikin xic aboard a two-story catamaran. 

Playa Marlin

Playa Marlin, Cancun beaches, casitas The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun

Bask in the Caribbean sun on the sugar-white sands of Playa Marlin. Nestled within the glamorous hotel zone, enjoy a more private sunbathing experience (or an adventurous parasail) on miles of sand that stretch to Yamil Lu’um, the smallest of Cancun’s ruins, perfect for a late afternoon of exploring while on a beachside stroll. Make your way back in time for sunset and treat yourself to a foot-in-sand experience with an exquisite meal at Casitas, a private alfresco dinner set against the backdrop of soft ocean waves and dim light (compliments of the bright Mexico moon). This coastal chic affair is only made more brilliant by the menu of fresh seafood and mains catered to every pallet, impressive wine list, and bespoke service. 

Playa Ballenas

playa ballenas guide to cancun's beaches

Take a stroll along the white powder sand just steps outside the Marriott Cancun Resort and the JW Marriott Cancun Resort and Spa to Playa Ballenas, a long quiet stretch of beach in the hotel zone. Playa Ballenas is also one of the many beaches in Cancun with Blue Flag certification from the Foundation for Environmental Education, meaning it promotes the sustainable and educational management of its coastline. Wash your worries away with a dip in the turquoise waters and a game of beach volleyball before refueling with a casual beachside meal at BeachWalk. Listen to the sounds of the crashing waves while indulging in a coconut encrusted red snapper sandwich paired with a freshly made coconut rum smoothie served directly from the coconut itself. 

Playa Delfines 

playa delfines guide to cancun's beaches

Translating to “dolphin beach,” Playa Delfines is a ribbon of sand situated just before the mysterious Mayan ruins of El Rey. While the rougher conditions aren’t the best for swimming these waters, it is one of the few surf spots in the city if you’re looking to catch a wave beneath the Caribbean sun or stay shoreside and make your way up to the mirador, or lookout deck, and take in endless shades of ocean blues (maybe you’ll even spot a dolphin or two!). Leisurely make your way back along the coast to The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun’s 1,200 foot stretch of beach to reset for the evening in your exclusive private cabana outfitted with every luxury including wooden floors, lounge chairs, a hammock, and the finest touch of personalized service, like select spa services to really turn vacation mode “on.” 

Sea Turtle Release Programs

Marriott International Cancun sea turtle release program

From mid-spring to mid-fall, thousands of sea turtles descend upon the sands of Cancun to lay their eggs on the very shores in which they were born. In what is known as one of nature’s most magical phenomena, watching the hatchlings make their way into the moon-lit waters is a once in a lifetime experience you can safely be a part of. Through Marriott International’s strong commitment to conservation and the environment, their sea turtle release programs at numerous resorts have been instrumental in helping protect these endangered species. Witness firsthand the delicate process performed by these “Guardians of the Turtles” as they carefully move freshly hatched eggs to artificial nests helping to protect them from predators and other disturbances. Once the hatchlings are ready for their journey to the sea, gather on the sand in the early evening and assist in releasing the hatchlings into the warm waters of the Caribbean and cheers to a safe journey in their new home.   

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