Cancun, Mexico, is one of the most picturesque places in the world. With around 22 kilometres of glorious white sandy beach, Cancun offers the idyllic kind of holiday you dream about from your desk. A purpose-built holiday resort, the North Side has tranquil water while the East Side provides the perfect waves for surfing. Each beach has something different to offer so whether you want to snorkel or sunbathe, entertain children or seek peace and quiet, travel to Cancun and you'll be rewarded.
Playa Delfines – which means 'dolphin beach' – has some of the brightest and bluest sea in the whole of Cancun. One of the city's largest beaches, it's popular among thrill-seekers, with parasailers and jet skiers enjoying the sometimes-rough water.
There are no hotels, no restaurants or anything at all built on the beach, so bring a picnic of tacos and bask in your own little bit of secluded paradise. If you decide to drive, this is one of the only beaches in the region with free parking, meaning you can have a cheap, relaxing day with no worries at all.
Playa Linda is a small beach, but there's an awful lot going on here. It's bordered by a number of hotels, making it a lively stretch – and a convenient one for accessing activities such as kayak hire or hopping on a tour boat to Isla Muheres. It's also home to the Rotating Scenic Tower that gives visitors a bird's eye view of the area, after which you can chill out in one of the funky cocktail bars.
Known by the locals simply as 'playa', Playa del Carmen is a cosmopolitan beach lined with beach clubs and hotels so there's always something to do, and is a popular spot to stop at on holidays to Cancun.
Bring your own beach kit, or easily purchase a day-pass at one of the resorts where you can get sunloungers, umbrellas and waiter service. The main beach can get quite busy, but a bit of seclusion's never far away – just head a little south to Playacar, where you should be able to find your own little bit of paradise.
North Beach – Playa Norte – is on the northern end of an island just off the coast of Cancun. Isla Mujeres – translating as the 'Island of Women' – is a stunning destination that's well worth the extra effort to visit. It's not actually that difficult to get to anyway – ferries leave the Terminal Martima Puerto Juarez, 10 minutes north of downtown Cancun, every half hour.
North Beach is home to views straight out of a movie, and is one of the only places where you can see the sun set over the ocean. There are several beach bars where you can sip cocktails or order all the local delicacies, as well as perhaps the best water in all of Cancun – shallow and crystal clear, it's perfect for children to paddle in without causing too much worry for parents.
One of the closest beaches to Cancun, just outside the city and situated halfway between the mainland and the north-side bridge, is pretty Pearl Beach. The sea is practically wave-free here, making it ideal for children or less-confident swimmers who want to bask in the ocean like they would in a bath. It's away from the bustling beach-front bars, but you'll still find the essential amenities here.
Playa Tortugas is perfect for the thrill seeker, with snorkelling, sailboard rentals and a bungee tower over the water. For a more relaxing day there's an ocean-front restaurant, a marina and an indoor craft market at the edge of the sand.
While it can get busy here, especially on weekends, it's an interesting place to try new things and you can easily head past the rocks to find a more peaceful setting. Perfect for families, there are deeper waters than at other beaches – so the grown-ups can enjoy a leisurely swim – as well as shallower areas for the children.
It's worth making a 90-minute excursion to this spot. Akumal – meaning 'place of the turtles' – is a wonderful environment where you can get close to beautiful sea animals. While the beach is beautiful, it's the water that's the most breathtaking. Because it's in an inlet, the sea is calm and protected from large waves – meaning it's the perfect place to snorkel or kayak. There's an amazing underwater world just waiting to be explored, too. You can find turtles, barracuda, a range of tropical fish and even perhaps a few – harmless – sharks.