Quintana Roo, Cancún
All Cancún beaches are urban, as they are in the hotel zone. Still, they have the most turquoise waters and soft sand that you can imagine. And Playa Caracol has exactly that!
Cancún has 22km of beaches and sand, which is crushed coral rather than crushed rock. Because of the composition of the sand the beaches here do not get hot. The sand here stays cool to the touch regardless of how hot the day is. At some beaches the sand is so fine that it clings to you, and all your stuff, like powder. Amazing!
And that is exactly what you will find at the beach Caracol (Snail in English). It is a small beach at km 9 in the hotel zone, tucked between hotels and their beaches. This beach is designated as a public beach. While the beach may be small, the white powdery sand and the truly turquoise water make up for it. The beach is also popular with the local families because of its flat seabed and not very strong currents. The sea temperature is around 27°C most of the year. The sea view is great because although you have large hotels on your left and right, there are a few piers in the sea, making the beach look romantic.
I came to this beach with my husband in December 2017, on Christmas Eve. By then, we had been living in Riviera Maya (Playa del Carmen) for four years, and we had been to most of the beaches around. So we were just looking for a change on that day. We found the beach small but very clean. Perhaps it is useful to emphasise that all beaches in Mexico are federal property and everyone is free to roam them at will. So while the beach is small, technically you can walk along the beach in front of the hotels a bit further on, and nobody will stop you. You can also put your towel down at any of those spots.
We found a spot behind the pier, with only one other family on it, so it felt like a private beach for us. I built a sandman there, to remind us that it was Christmas. The fine sand particles were wet and just stuck to each other, just like snow when you build a snowman. We were so mesmerised by the quality of the sand that we also attempted to leave our footmarks in it. Just playing around in the sand, like small kids. You just can't help it, when the sand is so gorgeous!
The downside of the beach could be the deckchairs and umbrellas, if you are after them. We could not work out how or who to rent them from; perhaps you have to come in the early morning to get them. We asked at the restaurant and they said they were not for rent but we could clearly see people renting them (in fact all were taken). We were not too concerned so we let it be. Also the beach has no restrooms, nor formal lifeguards. But there is Alebris beach bar, which has a pier for the ferries to the popular island of Isla Mujeres and a large palapa roof, giving a great shade on a hot day. And a shop next to the bar sells the ferry tickets (no toilets there either). There are also shopping malls across the road from the beach… We had our lunch at the Alebris bar, just a simple burger and a beer. The only other option was a hot dog (and some fruit and fresh juice, if you are there at breakfast time). No frills, but sufficient and a nice pier view.
This is not a nude beach. For that matter, there are no nude beaches in Cancún although there are several 'clothing-optional' resorts in the area. Some women choose to go topless along Cancún’s beaches, and this is accepted. From time to time you may see members of the Mexican military patrolling the beach, carrying machine guns. This is normal so don’t be alarmed!
There are many water sport rentals along the beach to the west of Playa Caracol. But if you are looking for snorkelling, this is not the best beach for it. Good snorkelling is found near the reef and near rocky places with calm water. Cancún does not have many of these places. Many people do snorkel at the southern end of the Hotel Zone down near the Westin Hotel and Club Med. There are rocks there and the water is calm enough for the fish. The best option is to get to one of the beaches out of town or go to the islands of Isla Mujeres and Cozumel.
Parking looks impossible at first sight, but we were offered a valet service for 50 pesos. Just turn into the alley right next to Hertz, drive along the narrow path (beside the parked cars) and the staff will look after you.
How to get there:
Caracol Beach is located at km 9 off Boulevard Kukulkán in the Hotel Zone. Opposite, across the road, is Plaza Caracol, the Xcaret dock and the Convention Centre. If you are going by bus: Blue Line Stop #64; Green Line Stop #65.
Nearly all publicly accessible beaches (and many hotels) have a lifeguard on duty. Lifeguards know the waters here and know the signs of riptides and dangerous undertow; it’s wise to listen to them if they signal you.