Travel + Leisure

2022-05-13 21:08:48 By : Mr. Shawn Liao

There's no need to hop south of the border for powdery white sands or exceptional scuba diving. The town of Mexico Beach, Florida is a hidden gem on the Gulf of Mexico, with small-town charm and untouched sands. But it's not likely to stay hidden for much longer. According to Airbnb data collected in Q1 2022, Mexico Beach has become one of the top-searched domestic travel destinations for summer among U.S. travelers.

Mexico Beach will appeal to fans of sleepy, small towns. Located about a 45-minute drive east of Panama City, the town has a population of just about 1,060 people, according to the 2020 census. On the streets, you'll find mom-and-pop shops instead of the chain stores that line Florida's bigger cities. And as you're driving around, you'll notice there isn't a single traffic light around. So nothing will hold you back from the beach. 

And you'll probably want to get to the beach as quickly as possible. The sand at Mexico Beach is a geological rarity, made from only one type of quartz crystal. It's a point of local pride that the sands are powdery soft and remain cool, even in the hottest summer months. 

But if you overheat on the sands, be sure to head into the water to cool off. The Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association has been building and maintaining artificial reef systems in the area since 1997. If you choose to go scuba diving or snorkeling around Mexico Beach's reefs, you're likely to spot colorful fish like snapper and mackerel, along with turtles, jellyfish, and starfish. 

When you get hungry, be sure to indulge in the area's phenomenal seafood. (Naturally, the town's culinary specialty.) Two of the most popular local joints are Killer Seafood and Mango Marley's, where you'll want to try out the fish tacos.  

Mexico Beach is a beloved destination no matter the time of year, but one of its most popular nights is New Year's Eve. The town sits directly on the divide between Eastern and Central time zones. So each year, the town hosts a "New Year's Eve Celebrate Twice" event in partnership with the neighboring Port St. Joe. Celebrations kick off in Port St. Joe, and then, after midnight, attendees board a free shuttle back to Mexico Beach and ring in the new year twice. 

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at