Why Mexican beach towns doesn’t have to always mean Tulum or Playa del Carmen
Thank you for your kind words and for checking out the blog! Hmmm, great question. I think if I do not live in Sayulita, I might choose Bacalar or Mazunte. Somewhere in Oaxaca but still on the West Coast. For now, I really love living in the Nayarit area as this is not as popular with tourists yet. The costs are low and the quality of life is really great!
I am glad you decided to take a leap and move to Mexico this 2021 so please let me know if there’s anything I can help you with! I put together this post so you can better decide the best beach town in Mexico for you. I hope I’d have the privilege to know what you chose – I am really excited!
Good luck, Bette. And may the force be with you!
Mexican Beach Towns Overview
In 2018, Americans made over 20 million flights to Mexico. In 2019, the number of US citizens who traveled to Mexico amounted to approximately 32.39 million. And in 2020, despite the pandemic, these numbers did not go down a lot. Mexico remained open to American tourists during COVID-19.
Before writing this article, I’ve seen a lot of Mexican beach towns articles on the Internet and saw that the list was not as accurate. This list included Puerto Vallarta but PV is not a beach town – it’s a city. Others also put Acapulco which is another city with a beach. It is not a small town.
Another observation I saw in the listicles online is that everyone focused on Quintana Roo and the Baja California Sur Peninsula. From living on the Mexican West Coast for the last 3 years, I realized that people don’t really know what’s in here. As a result, all of the articles that appear on your searches seem to be saying the same thing. I tell you that this list will be different as I’m an actual person currently living in Mexico.
Most of the people who follow this blog are digital nomads but I’m afraid that these Mexican beach towns won’t really offer high-speed or fiber-optic Internet. These towns are small and infrastructure in these areas are not fully developed yet. I am not saying they don’t have wifi. They all do. It’s decent. However, if I am basing it on my experience through the number of Internet jobs that I do (I’ve been a digital nomad since 2011!), the Internet speed in these towns is not enough for me. It really depends on what you do for work!
In terms of safety, (which is everyone’s concern about Mexico), I assure you that these places are safe. I’ve been to all of them. I do have individual posts about these small towns so feel free to explore this blog to know more about Mexico travel.
I did not include the COVID situation in these small towns as in Mexico, that’s really non-existent (except in big cities like Mexico City and Guadalajara who have big numbers of COVID cases). But if you look at my individual travel guides for each town, I have a little blurb about the pandemic and I’m constantly updating it as I stay connected with the locals in these towns.
Again, I am here if you have any questions. Let’s get started!
#1: Sayulita, Nayarit
Welcome to my ex-home in Nayarit! I just moved out of Sayulita in October 2020 but I did not go that far, don’t worry. I still live in the Nayarit area, about 30 minutes from Sayulita. I am able to come often to this top Mexican beach town! What drew me to move to Sayulita is its very laid-back vibe: people are always out and about doing active things like surfing, yoga, and hiking. I do feel that if you are in the health and wellness industry, you will definitely thrive in Sayulita.
The age group of people visiting and living in Sayulita is between 19 – 50 years old. Sayulita is a party town so people come here not just for the beach. It has the most vibrant nightlife in all of Nayarit. I lived here for 2 years so if you want to know more about this surf town, you can go see my Sayulita blogs.
If you are interested in a blog that is purely about Sayulita, go visit the guys at Sayulita Insider – they have great content for travel, expat living, and local life in Sayulita!
#2: San Pancho, Nayarit
Just a 5-minute drive from Sayulita is another town called San Pancho. Though they are really close to each other, you’d be surprised how different the lifestyle in San Pancho is. Commonly known to San Francisco to Americans, this small beach town is home to great waves for surfing (honestly bigger than Sayulita waves) so many surfers from around the world are attracted to this town. There’s even a rumor that San Pancho will be the next Tulum and I don’t even know if I am going to be happy about that.
One of the reasons that people are drawn to visit San Pancho is that it’s a quiet town. No parties at night – just a lot of beaching lifestyle during the day. People who live in San Pancho go party in Sayulita since it’s just a short ride. They don’t want the loud parties in their land.
Get to know Mexico! See my Mexico Travel Guide
Another difference that San Pancho has from Sayulita is that there is an older demographic. People who live (and visit) here are approx 40 – 60 years old but I do have lots of friends in their 30s’ who are enjoying life in San Pancho. It really depends on what you are looking for as these two towns have this silent rivalry on which beach town is the best.
#3: Lo de Marcos
Go more north of San Pancho and you will reach Lo de Marcos in 15 minutes. It’s not popular at all – in fact, you won’t see lots about this place but it really is beautiful! I frequently go on day trips here since it’s just a 20-minute ride from my home in Sayulita.
It’s really small and is also very popular with surfers. There are not many bars and restaurants here but every time I visit, new businesses slowly start opening. Since Sayulita and San Pancho are getting more expensive each year, investors and American home buyers are also looking into buying properties here.
I recently went to check out land prices myself and was quite surprised with the price difference with Sayulita/San Pancho. I can see the Lo de Marcos is the next Mexican beach town that people will be investing in. If you want a quieter spot, then Lo de Marcos is for you!
#4: Punta de Mita
20 minutes south of Sayulita (towards Puerto Vallarta) lies Punta de Mita – home to the famous Marietas Islands. The lifestyle in Punta de Mita is a little bit more upper-class as big resorts like Conrad, The 4 Seasons, etc are here. This is usually an all-inclusive vacation spot.
Punta de Mita is also home to surfers as they get great breaks. There is no competition here with the number of people surfing – not as much as San Pancho or Sayulita where surf beaches are always full. It is also a great spot for diving in Nayarit. This season, we are currently watching all the whales migrate to the north! They are really really close to the shore and Punta de Mita is part of their route.
The type of tourists who come here are usually families and couples. People who live here are between the ages 45 – 75. There are lots of investment opportunities in Punta de Mita and if you’d like to know about this, get in touch with me via e-mail and we can talk!
I recently did my Oaxaca road trip and Mazunte was part of it. What I love about Mazunte is that it’s so small, you can even go around the whole town within 15 minutes! Mazunte not only has the beach but it also has mountain views. I stayed in a hotel overlooking the whole cove of Mazunte from above!
It was quite hard to walk around as there are many uphill, not to mention the fact that I did not properly time my Mazunte visit. If you remember hurricane Laura in September 2020, well, I was in this area and ended up staying in for days.
Overall, Mazunte is a place I’ll definitely check out whether you want to live or just visit. It really is a pueblo magico!
I love Bacalar and I will keep coming back! It’s really beautiful even though the wifi did not work for me all the time and it’s the only reason that keeps me from moving here! If I don’t heavily rely on the Internet for work, I probably moved here a long time ago!
However, this is not really a beach beach town per se. Even without the presence of an actual beach, you will see how Bacalar will still give you the tropical vibe!
Bacalar is close to the Belize border so if you want to have a picture of how this town is, think Belize but better. Bacalar’s Lagoon of Seven Colors is a popular spot due to its turquoise blue hues. There are many accommodations here overlooking the lake and they only cost $40 USD per night for 2 pax! If you plan to do a road trip, this is only 5-6hours away from Playa del Carmen. You can even pass by Tulum if you like!
If you’re an avid scuba diver, then Cozumel is your place! It’s less than an hour ferry ride from Playa del Carmen and it’s always a good idea to come here! I mean, look at the picture of this beach! People who visit PDC often miss Cozumel, not because they’re not interested but they don’t really know what’s in here.
It is still considered an underdeveloped island in Mexico but has been famed for its amazing diving spots. Lagoons with underwater caverns, dolphins, manta rays, and sea turtles are the usual sea creatures you will see in Cozumel. Plus, the abundance of dive shops here will make you want to get PADI certified!
Akumal is one of the most underrated destinations of Quintana Roo, just between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. I went here with some Mexican friends and did not see lots of foreign visitors. I feel like Akumal is still not that popular with tourists!
The weather in Akumal is 100% tropical and it’s a great winter destination in Mexico (when it’s not too hot). The name Akumal comes from the Mayan which means “place/land of the turtles.” In 2016, Akumal was certified as a turtle sanctuary. Yes, diving is also popular here! For non-divers, snorkeling is an option. The waters here are really clear!
#9: Puerto Morelos
Another not-so-popular spot in the state of Quintana Roo, Puerto Morelos is a fishing village in the Caribbean. Mangroves, cenotes, and jungles are some of its best features. It is also the main port in the state. Puerto Morelos is between Cancun and Playa del Carmen so you can easily make a day trip.
The vibe here is more bohemian and I felt very safe when I was here. The sand in Puerto Morelos is white and soft so it’s a really good beach for lounging. Diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and windsurfing are one of the most sought-after watersports here. For non-water enthusiasts, you can rent an ATV or a bicycle to discover the area.