Xcalak: Your Ultimate Caribbean Escape

Last Updated Nov 30, 2023

Xcalak, often described as a” tiny town in the middle of nowhere”, offers something increasingly rare in our modern world: seclusion. This hidden treasure calls out to adventurers and those seeking genuine, unique experiences off the usual paths.

If you've ever dreamed of a place where time slows down, the beaches stretch for miles, and nature reigns supreme, then Xcalak is your oasis.

Here, you won't find bustling tourist crowds or flashy resorts. Instead, you'll discover a haven of tranquility where relaxation is an art form, and the unspoiled beauty of nature is the main attraction. Xcalak's pristine beaches, vibrant marine life, and welcoming locals are reasons enough to visit but believe me, there's so much more to explore in this secluded corner of the Mexican Caribbean.


Xcalak Location

If you thought that Mahahual was at the end of the world, wait for Xcalak.

Tucked away in the southernmost reaches of Quintana Roo, Xcalak finds its home on the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, where the Caribbean Sea meets the jungles of Mexico. Its remote location is a vital part of its charm, as it has been shielded from the rampant development seen in other coastal destinations.

Xcalak is not just a place; it's a journey to the edge of civilization. This village is about 400 miles (650 kilometers) from Cancun, a drive that takes you through the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula. As you venture deeper into this tranquil paradise, you'll notice that the road less traveled offers the greatest rewards.

How to Get There

Getting to Xcalak is an adventure in itself, and your choice of transportation can shape your experience.

Get to Xcalak by Car

From Cancun or Playa del Carmen, you can opt for a scenic road trip along the coast, a journey filled with picturesque views and opportunities to explore the vibrant culture of the region. The drive from Cancun International Airport (CUN) to Xcalak covers approximately 400 miles (650 kilometers), offering a chance to witness the changing landscapes of the Yucatan Peninsula. Don’t believe Google Maps, it will take you more than 6 hours, probably around 7 if you don’t stop.

If you're flying in, the nearest airport is Chetumal International Airport, approximately 81 miles (130 kilometers) away. From there, it's a breathtaking drive along the coastal highway, providing a glimpse of the natural beauty that awaits you in Xcalak. Enjoy the journey, for the destination is well worth it, and the road itself is an adventure filled with discoveries.

Avoid driving at night. If it’s getting late and you’re still far away stop in major tourist spots on your way such as Playa del Carmen, Tulum, or Felipe Carrillo Puerto, and continue your journey on the next day.

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Get to Xcalak by Bus

For those who prefer a more relaxed journey, ADO buses offer a comfortable way to travel from major tourist cities like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum to Chetumal, where you can catch a Caribe bus to Xcalak. While the bus ride may take even longer, it allows you to witness the changing landscapes and soak in the local culture along the way.

It's essential to note that if you plan to stay at a beachside accommodation, the bus will drop you off in the village, which may be quite a distance from your lodging.

In Chetumal, get on the Caribe bus to Xcalak: The Caribe bus departs from Chetumal twice a day, typically in the morning and afternoon. It makes stops in Bacalar, Limones, and Mahahual before reaching Xcalak.

If you plan to catch the afternoon Caribe bus, be aware that it arrives in Xcalak after dark, around 8 PM. Xcalak lacks taxi services, cell coverage, and public Wi-Fi, making it less than ideal for late-night arrivals.

Where to Stay in Xcalak

Accommodations in Xcalak reflect the village's commitment to preserving its natural surroundings. You'll find a range of options, from charming beachfront bungalows to eco-friendly retreats. Whether you're looking for a rustic cabana or a cozy inn, you'll find options that embrace the off-grid lifestyle, relying on rainwater collection and solar power.

Some noteworthy places to consider include Costa de Cocos, Hotel Tierra Maya, and Xcalak Caribe Lodge. These accommodations provide comfort but also immerse you in the unique vibe of Xcalak. You'll wake up to the sounds of the sea and the call of tropical birds, making each day a new adventure in paradise.

Where to Eat

While Xcalak may not be a culinary mecca, it offers a delightful range of local fare that captures the essence of the region. That’s why Mexican food is officially considered a cultural heritage of humanity. You don’t need a five-star restaurant to have a mind-blowing experience for your taste buds, it’s enough to get some tacos from a street sand.

Toby's Restaurant, a local favorite, is famous for its lionfish ceviche, a sustainable choice that supports the local ecosystem. Dining here is not just about the food; it's about experiencing the flavors of the Caribbean.

You'll also find fresh seafood caught daily, tropical fruits bursting with flavor, and a chance to try local coconuts. The simplicity of the cuisine aligns perfectly with the laid-back vibe of Xcalak.

Mangroves in Xcalak

What to Do in Xcalak

Xcalak's charm extends far beyond its powdery beaches. Here, you can immerse yourself in nature with activities like snorkeling along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, which ranks as the second-largest in the world. This underwater wonderland is full of colorful fish, corals, and other marine creatures, making it a true paradise for snorkelers and divers.

For anglers, Xcalak boasts a reputation as a premier fly fishing destination, with a chance to catch bonefish, tarpon, and snapper. The calm, crystal-clear waters of Chetumal Bay are an angler's dream, offering the opportunity to test your skills and create unforgettable memories.

Amazing sunrise in Xcalak

If you prefer calmer waters, consider kayaking or paddleboarding, to explore the lagoons and mangroves that surround Xcalak. As you paddle along, you'll encounter diverse bird species and perhaps if you are lucky, even spot manatees and dolphins in their natural habitat.

Of course, you can always choose the simplest of pleasures: beachcombing for natural treasures. Xcalak's beaches are a haven for seashell collectors as its seclusion has kept that virginal quality lost in the big tourist destinations. The town's laid-back vibe makes it easy to unwind in a hammock, indulge in fresh coconut, or sip on a cold beer as you watch the sun dip below the horizon.

When to Visit Xcalak

The best time to visit Xcalak depends on your preferences.

The dry season, from November to April, offers sunny days and excellent visibility for snorkeling and diving. However, this is also the high season, so expect more visitors during this period.

If you prefer a quieter experience and don't mind occasional showers, the rainy season, from May to October, is an excellent time to visit. The lush greenery comes alive, creating a perfect backdrop for birdwatching and exploring the natural beauty of the region.

Mahahual vs. Xcalak

My friends often ask me to compare Xcalak to Mahahual as these two places are close to each other, and Mahahual is also considered a remote and not-so-obvious travel destination in Riviera Maya. Let me say that while Xcalak and Mahahual share the captivating beauty of the Caribbean coast, they offer distinct experiences for travelers.

Mahahual, often bustling with cruise ship tourists, boasts a more lively atmosphere, complete with beachside bars and shops. In contrast, Xcalak remains a serene escape where the sounds of nature replace the hum of crowds. If you're seeking solitude and an untouched coastline, Xcalak's secluded beaches are a dream come true. However, if you prefer a vibrant social scene and easy access to amenities, Mahahual might be your preferred destination. Both places have their unique charm, making the choice between them a matter of personal preference.

Banco Chinchorro in Xcalak

  • 1. Cash is King: Xcalak is a remote destination, and while some accommodations and restaurants may accept credit cards, it's wise to carry cash. ATMs can be scarce in the area, so ensure you have enough Mexican pesos for your stay, including tips and small expenses.
  • 2. Travel Insurance: Before embarking on your journey to Xcalak, consider purchasing comprehensive travel insurance. This should cover any unexpected medical expenses, trip cancellations, or lost luggage, providing you with peace of mind during your trip.
  • 3. Eco-Friendly Mindset: Many accommodations in Xcalak rely on sustainable practices such as rainwater collection and solar power. Respect their efforts by conserving water and electricity during your stay.
  • 4. Language: While many locals in Xcalak do speak English, it's always helpful to know some basic Spanish phrases. It can highly improve your experience and interactions with the locals.
  • 5. Staying Connected: Xcalak may have limited cell phone coverage and Wi-Fi access, depending on your location. Inform your family and friends that you may not always be available.

Get Ready for Xcalak Adventure

Xcalak is definitely not for everybody. It is a destination for the free spirits, the explorers, and those who long for a simpler, more meaningful connection with the world around them. So, why wait? Pack your sense of adventure and discover the hidden paradise of Xcalak – a place where time stands still, and nature stretches out before you in all its unspoiled glory.

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