4 Secret Beaches of the Mayan Riviera

Posted What to Do by Sarah Fazendin on January 30, 2015

While popular beaches like Cancun’s Playa Caracol and Akumal deliver a quintessential Riviera Maya experience, many families are keen to get off the beaten path.  Although the Riviera Maya is becoming increasingly popular as a world-class beach destination, it’s still absolutely possible to find a pristine, secluded beach that you and your family can call your own for the day. You just need to know where to look.

Here are four of my favorite untouched, secluded Riviera Maya beaches. Make sure to follow directions carefully because many of them aren’t well marked.

Sian Ka’an Biosphere: An untouched wilderness

Photo Courtesy of EcoColor Tours

If you're looking for something a bit more authentic, natural and remote, the beaches within this UNESCO World Heritage site are worth checking out. Many travelers consider them to be the best they’ve ever seen, and they are very secluded.

At over 1.3 million acres, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere is the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean. The reserve is an excellent place to view tropical birds, including the Roseate Spoonbill, Boatbilled Heron and Frigate, in and around the isolated mangrove islands which serve as a nesting ground.  

It’s best to park near the main observation deck, which is worth the hike for majestic views of the park and ocean. Then, walk about 100 feet through the jungle to reach the beach where you can claim a piece of paradise.

Bring your own water and food into the reserve if you plan on spending the day at the beach here, as there are no services in the park.

If you're coming from Cancun and Playa del Carmen, drive south on Highway 307 and turn left at the main Tulum intersection to head towards the beach. The biosphere is located at the Southern end of the main beachfront road, or Boca Paila in Tulum.  The entry fee is only about US $2 per vehicle.

Playa X’cacel: Snorkeling in a sanctuary

Photo Courtesy of Flickr

This is one of the Riviera Maya’s most isolated, magical beaches. With no hotels, resorts, or beach clubs, it remains very quiet year round.

The beach is surrounded by foliage-covered sand dunes that border the clean white sand at the shoreline. When the water is calm, the snorkeling here is outstanding.

Look for a colorful sign in the sand on top of the dunes as you approach the beach that says “Cenote.” The arrow points to a small trail cut through the jungle foliage to a natural freshwater lagoon. Here you can safely snorkel in the crystal clear water with thousands of small fish.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr

A massive movement is currently underway to protect this beach from resort development, and keep it as a sanctuary for sea turtles and other endangered animals.

There’s usually a guard here who charges about 10 pesos per car to enter. Again be sure to bring plenty of food and water, as you won’t find any stores on or near the beach. To get here drive down Highway 307 past Chemuyil. Look for a dirt road right before Xel-Ha park. This crescent shaped beach is right next to the eco-park.

Xpu-Ha Beach: Reefs and ruins

Photo Courtesy of Flickr

The coral reef here keeps these waters safe, calm and inviting and makes this an ideal beach for sea kayaking and other water sports. If you plan to snorkel here, be sure to bring biodegradable sunblock, which is widely available at stores throughout the Riviera Maya. Regular sunblock can harm the coral and other marine life.

When you arrive, walk north for the best clean white stretch of beach.

To the south you’ll run into seaweed and rocks, so that area is best avoided for swimming. However, in this direction you’ll find ancient Mayan ruins perched on the rocks which are fun to explore. There are a few private villas and small hotels on this stretch of beach, but generally Xpu-Ha Beach stays very quiet.

Photo Courtesy of Townsendpdx

Xpu-Ha Beach is located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum along Highway 307. Watch for signs signaling the beach entrance from the highway. Look for the “Road Access 4” sign to get to the public beach. Here you’ll also find a small restaurant and a locally owned dive shop.

Soliman Bay: Secret beach cabanas

Photo Courtesy of Flickr

Soliman Bay is tucked away in a quiet residential community with a few private villas and boutique hotels. But like most beaches in Mexico, it’s open to the public. It’s a great place to spend the day with the family snorkeling, relaxing, and enjoying lunch at one of the local hotels or renting a kayak. The snorkeling here is fantastic!

Soliman Bay is located just South of Akumal, about halfway between Akumal and Tulum. Here you will find over 2 miles of secluded, white sand beach.