The Best Beaches for Kids in Mexico

Some of Mexico's best beaches for kids are right in the tourist zones and some are just slightly off the beaten path. They all share one thing in common---a mix of fun, adventure and experiences generally not available in most kids' hometowns. Sun, sand and tropical or semi-tropical landscapes are common to all, yet each has its own distinct attractions and flavor. Mexico has a variety of beaches that offer opportunities for kids to do what kids love most: be engaged, try new adventures and have fun.

  1. Surfing and Boogie Boarding

    • Boogie boarders find wave sets to love on Mexico beaches.
      Boogie boarders find wave sets to love on Mexico beaches.

      The Pacific coast beaches of Mexico's Costalegre or "lively coast" give kids---even beginners---plenty of swift and usually not-excessively-high wave action for boogie boarding. The sport costs little to try, since boards can be rented or purchased without great investment.

      The beaches of Manzanillo are among the Pacific coast's most populated and popular boogie boarding spots for local residents and visitors to Mexico. Since the flight to Manzanillo is only about 3 hours from Los Angeles, California, this is a popular getaway for American families.

      Wave boarding along the surf that curls into nearby less populated coves gives kids plenty of thrills with the bonus of fewer tourists sharing the beach. About an hour's drive north lie inlets and bays such as those at Boca de Iguanas and Tenacatita (locally known as "the aquarium"). For families who want to explore just a bit more off the beaten path, this section of Mexico's Pacific coast usually has surf that is kid-friendly in terms of wave height. This goes for surfers, too. Beginners can find wave sets to love along the Costalegre.

    Snorkeling Opportunities

    • Plenty of sea life can be seen at Paamul.
      Plenty of sea life can be seen at Paamul.

      The Mayan Riviera lies along the highway between Cancun and Tulum. This tourist corridor about an hour south of Cancun is known for having the world's second-largest barrier reef. The highway in this area is frequented by rental cars, taxis and buses, and along the popular route are roads leading off from the main highway to coastal settlements. One of these leads to the rather isolated, sheltered cove of Paamul. A reef lies immediately offshore from Paamul's quiet beach. Often, the surf is mild, visibility great and plenty of sea life is visible to the snorkeler.

      Having a world of reef fish within a few feet and a brief wade from shore is a great way to introduce kids to the joys of ocean exploration. When return-to-beach access is so quick and handy, even timid kids can explore with confidence. A nearby beach-based dive shop has snorkel gear for rent. Caution: Should surf action surge on the day of the visit, snorkelers should take care to avoid the coral.

    Shell Hunting and Sea Life

    • Tidepools at San Carlos are filled with sea life.
      Tidepools at San Carlos are filled with sea life.

      The Sea of Cortez is home to hundreds of species of fish, and an abundance of shellfish can be counted here. Kids of any age can satisfy their sea shell hunting urges on the Sea of Cortez in San Carlos, with the occasional find of an intact sand dollar. Another spot where shells are often found is along San Francisco Beach just east of the Fiesta Hotel near the condominiums Pilar.

      As for being able to wade among real live starfish, anemones and small reef fish, the cove called Playa Piedras Pintas ("speckled rocks") is a likely spot. The turnoff to the cove is about 3 1/2 miles north of the center of San Carlos, just before you reach the Mirador Escénico ("scenic lookout").

    Saving Sea Turtle Hatchlings

    • Taking part in Mexico's conservation efforts is fun for kids.
      Taking part in Mexico's conservation efforts is fun for kids.

      For kids who long for a tropical beach combined with a Jurassic-park-like jungle reserve, the beach area of San Francisco in the state of Nayarit is the place. Known to locals as "San Pancho," San Francisco is about 25 miles north of Puerto Vallarta and just 3 miles north of Sayulita.

      Here, kids and their families can visit the marine turtle nursery operated by Grupo Ecológico de la Costa Verde. On Wednesday evenings after sunset during the summer and fall sea turtle nesting season, families can help release sea turtle hatchlings. After the hatchling release, participants watch an educational photo presentation about sea turtles at the Costa Azul Hotel. The hotel provides details on the activity, and Grupo Ecológico de la Costa Verde is the conservation organization behind the events.

    Dolphin Fun

    • A dolphin opportunity exists near Cancun at Isla Mujeres.
      A dolphin opportunity exists near Cancun at Isla Mujeres.

      Cancun is one of several of Mexico's beach havens that has something special: an opportunity for kids to swim and play with dolphins. There's a chance to learn about dolphin behavior and biology, to stroke a dolphin's soft skin and listen to its happy-sounding chatter. Even very young kids (together with their parents) can participate.

      Dolphin Discovery Cancun offers a dolphin encounter program at Isla Mujeres, an island in the Cancun area accessible via a ferry boat ride. Participants can swim if they choose, but they do not need to. The youngest of children and the oldest of visitors can enjoy the experience by remaining on a platform without being deeper than waist high in the water. There is a cost for the adventure, and children under a height limit of 2 ft., 11 in. must be accompanied by a paying adult.

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  • Photo Credit beach play 9 image by Pix by Marti from a boy and his bodyboard image by jc from Boy with diving mask and snorkel image by Sergey Kolesnikov from fishes in a pool image by Sebastian Grecu from Baby Sea Turtle image by CCali from dolphin care image by Xavier MARCHANT from

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