Five Best Mexico Beach Resorts

August 5, 2010 by
Categories: Beaches, Destinations, Loreto, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Escondido, Retirement, San Francisco, Sayulita, Surfing, Vacation

by Glynna Prentice,
International Living

If your idea of the perfect vacation or retirement spot is by an ocean where the beach living is easy, look no further than Mexico. With nearly 6,000 miles of coastline, Mexico offers plenty of gorgeous beaches to choose from, as well as plenty of well-known resorts. But why stick with the tried-and-true? Here are five Mexico resorts that offer the best in beach living…and several of these may be off your radar.

For Water-sport Lovers Head to Loreto, Baja California Sur

Loreto sits on the Sea of Cortez, looking out at the bay that Jacques Cousteau dubbed “the world’s aquarium.” The Sea of Cortez teems with marine life, making it an excellent place for scuba diving, snorkeling and whale-watching. In fact, in Loreto you can enjoy just about any water sport ever invented. Get tired of the water? Just head to the desert and mountains outside town for a little hiking. For nature-lovers, it doesn’t get much better than Loreto.

This Mexico resort offers small-town living with a twist. The local population is less than 20,000, but Loreto gets tourists and snowbirds to liven things up. For big-city amenities, it’s only a few hours’ drive to La Paz, the state capital. And it’s only 700 miles to the U.S. border with Arizona and California (so you can actually drive here).

Some people come down for a visit and find that they never want to leave… It happens easily when you stay at a small B&B where you feel like one of the family. Or you can arrange to rent a house or condo for a few weeks. Both options are possible here.

Two Mexico Resorts Off the Beaten Path

San Pancho and Sayulita, in the state of Nayarit are two small towns at the southern tip of a 100-mile stretch of Pacific coast that’s been dubbed the Riviera Nayarit. They’re less than two hours north of Puerto Vallarta, one of Mexico’s most international beach resorts. But San Pancho and Sayulita are a world away from Vallarta’s glitz. In these little towns you’ll find low-rise homes and boutique hotels, dirt streets, a laid-back feel—and plenty of art galleries. The expats who have moved here are an artsy crowd.

On this part of the Riviera Nayarit, you can feel blissfully away from it all…yet be within hailing distance of Puerto Vallarta’s urban vibe. Head north up this coast and find plenty of small fishing villages that are practically undiscovered. But that’s changing…Mexico’s tourism development agency FONATUR has picked this entire coast for major development.

Use San Pancho or Sayulita as a base for exploring the area…or just kick back and enjoy their artsy ambience.

Laid-back in Puerto Escondido, state of Oaxaca.

This little town on Mexico’s southern Pacific coast has long beaches where the afternoon sun seems to shine brighter than it does in other places. Puerto Escondido is a Mexico resort with a laid-back vibe and a small expat community of young, hip beach lovers who’ve mostly come here for a single reason: to surf.

That’s because Puerto Escondido is one of the top 10 surfing meccas in the world. In fact, if you’re a serious surfer, you’ve no doubt heard of Puerto Escondido.

For the rest of us the town has largely remained unknown. That’s because Puerto Escondido is also hard to reach. But that’s due to change. Mexico is building a high-speed road to connect Puerto Escondido to the state capital, Oaxaca. The trip, which now takes nine hours along a winding mountain road, will be cut down to three hours when the highway is finished.

When that happens, Puerto Escondido’s beaches and bright sunny afternoons will be within easy reach.

Caribbean Beaches of Playa del Carmen, state of Quintana Roo.

Ten to 15 years ago, Playa del Carmen, on the Yucatán Peninsula’s Caribbean coast, was a simple fishing village where you got the ferry to the island of Cozumel. Today it’s a chic destination on its own—and the heart of the stretch of Caribbean coast known as the Riviera Maya.

In Playa del Carmen you’ll find beautiful beaches where you can enjoy swimming, parasailing, body surfing, and fishing off the coast. On shore, Playa offers everything from high-end, boutique stores selling designer wear to funky stalls where you can buy crystals and get your hair braided. The restaurant options are equally varied.

For comfortable beach living, there’s not much you can’t find in Playa these days, thanks to the range of shops and services. For anything you can’t find, just head to Cancún, less than an hour away. In fact, Cancún’s international airport is only half an hour from Playa—making this trendy town easy to reach.

If you want a beach town with upscale amenities and a bohemian edge, then Playa del Carmen may be the place for you.

Great Seafood at Progreso, state of Yucatán.

Progreso is the largest town on the Yucatán Gulf Coast, a stretch of coastline running west and north of Mérida, the state capital. Progreso is a port and cruise ship stop, a low-key Mexico resort with a population of about 10,000.

Enjoy lunch at a seaside restaurant along Progreso’s boardwalk (malecón), then skip across the sand for a quick dip in the warm Gulf waters. Seafood is excellent and cheap here—you can get a plate of seafood ceviche that will serve two for only about $10.

One of the best things about Progreso is its easy access. It’s only half an hour from Mérida, with its big-city shopping (English-language cineplexes, shopping malls and U.S.-style warehouse stores) and international airport. But Progreso is also well-connected to all the other little beach towns along this stretch of coast.

And what a coast it is…with stretches of empty beach or sandy coves where flamingoes feed, and little fishing villages where boats bob at their moorings.

The Yucatán Gulf coast remains one of the best bargains in coastal Mexico. Along this coast you can still find houses near the beach for well under $100,000. Even in Progreso this price will get you a home within a short walk or drive of the beach.

So come on down to Mexico, where there’s a beach town for every taste.