The Scoop: Mahahual, on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, is home to turquoise water and pristine beaches that offer couples snorkeling, kite surfing, and many other adventurous activities. Nacional Beach Club & Bungalows, one of Mahahual’s most relaxing and convenient places to stay, allows guests to explore everything from the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef to the beach village of Mahahual. The resort has 10 unique bungalows, many of which include stunning views of the beautiful Caribbean Sea. For providing couples with a retreat where they can relax on the beach and enjoy intimate vacations while celebrating relationship milestones, Nacional Beach Club has earned our Editors’ Choice Award.

Couples searching for a unique Mexican vacation often have an ideal spot in mind. Some of Mexico’s favored destinations include access to a private beach and are located not too far from a bustling town. But couples often want to explore Mexico’s crystal blue waters without being surrounded by tourists fresh off a cruise ship.

That’s why many decide to travel to Mahahual, a coastal town on the Yucatan Peninsula that’s a less-crowded alternative to nearby Tulum, where many tourists flock. At Mahahual, visitors can stay in an intimate bungalow at the Nacional Beach Club, a colorful resort steps away from the beach.

The laid-back resort offers three types of bungalows: standard, deluxe, and Malecon housed in thatched-roof stone facade units along the waterfront. Couples who decide on the Malecon Bungalow can see the water from the front patio, and the lodging includes a king bed and air conditioning.

Photo of balcony at Nacional Beach Club

Nacional Beach Club allows couples to have a romantic vacation while avoiding the crowds.

Nacional Beach Club guests can spend one day scuba diving the Costa Maya in the Caribbean Sea, and the next day they can connect with a local business that teaches them to kite surf on the water. Visitors often take bike rides to explore the bustling city center of Mahahual.

“The center of town has a ton of little restaurants and small beach concessions packed with people,” said Evan McKenzie, who owns and operates the Nacional Beach Club with his wife, Ana.

After a few days of adventuring, couples may want to take it easy and enjoy the serene surroundings together. The bungalows are the perfect place to sit by the beach, read a book, and soak in the sun.

“Couples who want to go to mellow places away from the crowds come to us. And when they want something more relaxing, they choose us,” Evan said.

Private, Colorful Bungalows Located on the Beach

Evan and Ana have traveled the world but still haven’t found anywhere like their own resort.

“We always look for places like the Nacional Beach Club. We never find anything,” Evan told us.

What makes Nacional Beach Club so special is that it’s more spacious than similar resorts, where visitors are surrounded by other beachgoers. The private bungalows at the Beach Club face the sea or interior gardens; most other standalone accommodation structures are arranged in a “U” shape facing each other.

“Our bungalows are spaced out, so you have space, unlike everywhere else in town that’s pretty cramped,” Evan said.

The vegetation surrounding the bungalows and the sand pathways that lead couples around the property are also unique, according to Evan.

Guests can also choose from a variety of bungalows based on their budget. The McKenzies said they want to keep their resort affordable by offering a range of room rates so couples can stay there to celebrate their relationships.

The Deluxe Bungalow offers either a garden or an ocean view for those seeking a more upscale experience, depending on preference and price. Couples also have a private bathroom and air conditioning.

Partners seeking a more rustic vibe can opt for a Standard Bungalow, equipped with a private bathroom and garden views.

All guests also have access to the Beach Club restaurant, a colorful spot with windows that open to sea breezes. The restaurant serves local specialties, including octopus, lobster, shrimp, salads, sandwiches, and alcoholic beverages. And breakfast is included in the price of lodging.

The resort offers additional amenities — including chair and umbrella delivery to rooms or the beach, bicycles, WiFi, and parking — at no extra cost.

Mahahual, Mexico: A Less-Crowded Alternative to Tulum

Many tourists searching for turquoise water choose nearby Tulum, which Evan said seems to get busier every year. Mahahual offers a more peaceful environment with the same white beaches and clear blue water — and is more affordable than trendy Tulum.

“You don’t feel like you’re on a crowded beach when you’re here, and you don’t get hassled by people. It’s relaxed, and that’s what a lot of people look for,” Evan said.

Once a small fishing village, Mahahual is an undiscovered gem for tourists interested in visiting the Caribbean. Since fish are so plentiful in the area, many couples travel to Mahahual specifically to fly fish.

Photo of Nacional Beach Club room interior

Nacional Beach Club bungalows are just steps from pristine beaches.

“Fly fishing is huge. Some couples come down and fly fish together. We offer sport fishing, as well,” Evan said.

You don’t have to catch fish yourself to enjoy what the sea has to offer, either. In addition to Nacional Beach Club’s restaurant, there are many dining establishments in Mahahual that range from inexpensive food stands and stalls to upscale, high-end dining for celebrating relationship milestones.

One of the must-see spots for travelers to Mahahual is Banco Chinchorro, the largest coral reef in Mexico. It’s also the only atoll, or ring-shaped coral reef, in the Atlantic Ocean. There, you can see both goldfish and coral reefs. For scuba diving enthusiasts, Mahahual is one of the best diving spots in the Caribbean.

Adventurous couples looking for exhilarating activities, including dramatic zip-line circuits and giant slides, can spend the day at Maya, Lost Mayan Kingdom, a water park modeled on the Mayan kingdom and the archeological explorations there in the 1940s.

Nacional Beach Club: Couples Can Relax and Recharge

Evan and Ana were inspired to develop their resort when the two small business owners met in 2007. After a hurricane wiped out their companies, they decided to build Nacional Beach Club & Bungalows, which opened in 2009.

At first, the couple created three bungalows and intended on catering to cruise ship tourists who often came to Mahahual from the Costa Maya cruise port less than two miles away.

“But I realized we were missing our overnight guests. We started with three bungalows, but we needed more because our guests were saying they’d come back, and we wouldn’t have space for them,” Evan said.

Eventually, they added seven more bungalows. They also decided that they’d limit the number of cruise ship guests, so other guests at the Beach Club wouldn’t feel like it was overcrowded.

“Our guests have never complained because they feel like they have the place to themselves,” said Evan.

Many Nacional Beach Club guests leave glowing reviews.

“Evan and Ana make you feel so much at home at Nacional. This is a unique place with service and great accommodations. We love the bungalows on the Malecon,” Mary wrote in an online testimonial. “The details in each of these bungalows is amazing and just steps to the water. Beautiful place to watch sunrise or sit out on the deck and enjoy an evening watching the water and the stars.”

“This is the best place we found of all of our accommodations in Mexico! Evan is a great host, who knows how to make his guests feel welcome,” Liz added. “The price, food, beach, beers, and staff were great.”

More than a decade after they first opened Nacional Beach Club, Evan and Ana are confident that they’ve created a truly one-of-a-kind resort where couples can celebrate their relationships.

“We’re living our dream of creating a place where couples can enjoy, relax, and get the Caribbean vibe,” Evan said.