K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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While the beaches on the Caribbean side of Mexico are often talked about, there are plenty of stunning stretches of sand along both sides of the Baja Peninsula, with the Pacific to the west and the Sea of Cortez to the east. In fact, you might want to plan a trip around one or more of them. Whether you’re looking for peaceful beach strolls, swimming and snorkeling or a little more action, you’ll find something ideal on this list.
Playa Balandra, or Balandra Beach, is frequently named Mexico’s most beautiful beach. A top destination in La Paz, it’s consistently ranked among the world with its soft powdery sands lined with palapas with incredibly clear, calm turquoise waters along the shoreline. You won’t find any resorts here, although there’s usually a food truck and a vendor or two in the parking lot. It doesn’t get deeper than just above waist level, and at low tide, you can easily walk across the sandy bottom of the bay to visit the unusual rock formations like the famous mushroom-shaped rock. But swimming here is almost a transformational experience you really don’t want to miss. Schools of tropical fish can usually be seen in pools that form near the rocks, so you may want to bring a snorkel and a mask too.
Playa del Amor, or Lovers Beach, which ironically backs Divorce Beach, is one of the most famous in Mexico with its beautiful sands and iconic arch that often appears in images advertising the delights of Cabo San Lucas. Easily accessible by water taxi from the Cabo marina, snorkeling can be enjoyed in clear azure waters on the Sea of Cortez side. And while you’re here, you can take advantage of this tourist hotspot’s many outstanding restaurants serving local favorites like smoked marlin and chocolate clams. Of course, it’s renowned for its lively party scene with lots of bars and clubs from The Office and Mango Deck to Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo.
Punta Arena is a remote stretch of white sandy beach that lies about a 35-minute drive from the small town of La Ventana. As access is via bumpy dirt roads (no four-wheel-drive necessary), it remains wonderfully peaceful and offers outstanding snorkeling and diving in brilliant clear turquoise waters. Among the myriad of marine life is a wide range of colorful fish, dolphins and even flying mobula rays that leap as high as six feet out of the water from late April through July and November through January, most often around sunset. If you like beachcombing, you’ll love it here too, with gorgeous seashells scattered across the sand. As there are no facilities, you’ll have to bring your own food, drinks and other supplies.
Todos Santos lies between the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range and the Pacific Ocean, with a long stretch of often empty golden sands just minutes from downtown. While the waves are too powerful for swimming, it’s a great spot for experienced surfers, skimboarding and tranquil beach strolls. From December through April, you can watch or join in and help with baby sea turtle releases too. Throughout the year, sunsets are truly magical (Todos Santos is a Pueblo Magico, or magic town meaning it offers an extra special experience to visitors). One of the best ways to end any day here is to be mesmerized by the myriad of colors splashed across the ocean.
Playa de Tecolote, or Tecolote Beach, is just around the corner from Balanda and is another one of the top beaches for swimming near La Paz. This stretch is usually fairly tranquil yet you’ll find a number of facilities, including casual eateries for barefoot dining on local fare like marlin en escabeche, perfectly paired with a cold Pacifico, right on the beach. There are a number of other activities that can be enjoyed here too, like boat trips to the uninhabited island of Espíritu Santo and water sports rentals, including wave runners and paddleboards.
Cabo Pulmo is often referred to as the “jewel of the East Cape.” It follows a 70-mile stretch of coast all the way from San Jose del Cabo to Los Barriles, with many unspoiled beaches to be found throughout. Especially popular for diving, it’s home to one of just three living reefs on the entire continent, located within a 10-mile-long by three-mile-wide underwater national park. This is one of the oldest living coral reefs, holding the highest concentration of sea life in the Sea of Cortez with all sorts of tropical fish, sea turtles, manta rays, sea lions, moray eels and bull sharks. And, no matter where you are on the beach, on this side of the peninsula you can look forward to waking up to some especially glorious sunrises.
Playa Santa Maria isn’t crowded like the beaches near the most popular tourist spots in Cabo, set in a cove with beautiful waters in incredible shades of blue that are part of a marine sanctuary. There’s a reef that’s just offshore with a wealth of colorful fish, making it ideal for snorkeling. The morning is the best time to come for optimum underwater visibility, and as there are no facilities, other than a dirt parking lot and a couple of vendors, be sure to bring what you need with you.
Just 40 minutes north of Cabo San Lucas, Playa Los Cerritos is one of the most popular spots for surfing in Baja. Beginners will find an ideal surf break, along with surf shops for renting gear and schools for lessons, while the more experienced will especially enjoy it when a big swell hits. It can be surfed throughout the year, with the most consistent swells rolling through in the wintertime. In between surfing, relax at one of the many beach bars and dine on tasty offerings in cheap food stands.
Bahía Concepción is home to over 50 miles of beaches and they’re all stunning and often you won’t see another soul on the sand. If you head just south of Mulege, you’ll find 20 miles of especially dramatic scenery with countless photo-ops. The glistening bay, in various vibrant shades of blue and green also offers great swimming, kayaking and snorkeling. Just some of the marine life you might encounter include pufferfish, angelfish, green and brown moray eels, sweet lips, turtles, sea lions, manta rays, octopus and even whales in the wintertime.
Head to the east side of the La Paz peninsula, about 40 minutes from the city, and you can enjoy remote El Saltito. This jewel of a beach is only about a quarter of a mile or so from a paved road and offers beautiful white and golden sands that lie between the rocky points at either end. Enjoy amazing snorkeling or paddle out in a kayak to an island nesting sanctuary for seabirds in just a few minutes. You’re likely to be alone, among the birds and the fish, so if you’re seeking romance and seclusion, it’s guaranteed to be unforgettable. Bring a beach umbrella for shade and dance to your own tunes.
Espiritu Santo Island is famous for its marine life, bringing close encounters with friendly sea lions and their pups, and it’s also home to some of the most breathtaking beaches in the south of Baja. Every single one of them is spectacular, but this one is particularly dreamy with its idyllic white sands framed by aquamarine water. The only downside is that you’ll need to get here by boat or kayak. Fortunately, there are a number of day trips from La Paz offered by tour companies like Baja Sur Tours that will not only bring you to the beach but allow you to snorkel among the sea lions.
Isla de Carmen sits six miles off the Loreto coast in Loreto Bay National Marine Park and is home to some of the world’s most stunning beaches, while the water is absolutely surreal. As it isn’t on the tourism radar, there aren’t rows and rows of sunbathers or partiers, rather plenty of places to enjoy seclusion among paradise. From January to late March, the marine park is filled with dozens of blue whales that come to feast on the plentiful food too.
One of the best swimming beaches in the Cabo area, Tequila Cove is located in front of Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort along the tourist corridor about 30 minutes from downtown. For those who aren’t staying at the property, there’s a public path that provides access to the pristine white sands. There’s a huge man-made breakwater that allows for safe swimming along with a variety of other activities in the water.
Medano Beach sits in the heart of the Cabo party scene, so it obviously isn’t the place to go to avoid crowds, but it is the best swimming beach in the immediate area. While the sands will be packed with people (particularly during the tourist season from mid-December through April), once you jump into those clear aquamarine waters, you won’t have to worry about bumping elbows with all those tourists. There’s even an area roped off for swimming. You can also rent kayaks and wave runners, go parasailing and more. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll find plenty of eateries to satisfy it along the two-mile-long stretch of beach.