Xcalak Mexico is a little fishing village located in Mexico right next to the border with Belize. Located on the Meso-American Reef the Xcalak Reef National Park is somehow still one of the best kept scuba diving secrets in Mexico. Another perfect spot along the Caribbean Sea that receives far less tourist attention
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Where is Xcalak?
Some of the towns names in Mexico come from the mayan language and can be challenging to pronounce them. Xcalak is pronounced ish-kalak.
Located in the Costa Maya, the southern part of Quintana Roo on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, Xcalak is only about 20 km from Belize. It’s about 650 kilometers from Cancun and 68 km from Mahahual. To put it another way, six hours driving or all the livelong day by bus. Check below the Xcalak Mexico map to give you a better idea to situate Xcalak Quintana Roo.
Xcalak Mexico Map
How to get to Xcalak?
CAR ⎯ Most visitors to Xcalak arrive at the Cancun International Airport (CUN). From there, the best way to get to Xcalak is to rent a car and drive south on Highway 307. Depending on traffic and how many stops you make, the trip will take about 6 to 7 hours.
BUS ⎯ First you need to get to Mahahual. So, head to the ADO bus terminal in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Bacalar or Chetumal and hop on a bus from ADO company or Mayab. From Chetumal, you can take the second-class Caribe bus to Xcalak. The Caribe bus leaves from Chetumal to Xcalak twice a day—once in the morning and once in the afternoon. The Caribe bus to Xcalak stops in Bacalar, Limones, and Mahahual before getting to Xcalak Mexico. Once in Mahahual, there are only 2 bus going to Xcalak Mexico, leaving at 6am and 6pm. If you miss the connexion, a taxi will cost you around 30 USD.
PRIVATE TRANSFER ⎯ From far the most comfortable option. You choose your departure time and travel in a comfortable vehicule! Highly recommend a van transportation from Cancun or the Riviera Maya.
Xcalak Quintana Roo
This remote area combines aspects of both Mexico and Belize; with language being the measurement of this combination. Xcalak Mexico (pronounced ish-kalak) is a great place for those seeking the more remote, less refined areas of the Caribbean Coast with untold natural beauty both above and below the waterline. Xcalak was the largest city in Quintana Roo until it was destroyed by Hurricane Janet in 1955. Before the storm, Xcalak’s economy was very healthy, boasting developments such as stone and wood construction, an ice factory, and electric plant, storehouses for large quantities of copra, grocery stores, a billiard hall, a movie theater, and an ice cream factory. Xcalak was the most important supply center in the region. The opening of dive shops in the 1980´s increased tourism and marked the beginning of a new period.
There are approximately today 300 native inhabitants of Xcalak, most rely on fishing for their livelihood. Given Xcalak’s limited development, you’d be right to guess that the tourist hotels take sustainability seriously. Accommodations are off-grid, which gives any vacation in Xcalak a touch of adventure. Electricity comes from solar panels, except for on cloudy days when a diesel generator kicks in, and the rooftops capture rainwater and channel it into underground cisterns to use for showers and cleaning. With the scarcity of resources in mind, it’s not surprising that there’s no air conditioning—here, you’ll have to count on the Caribbean breeze and ceiling fans to stay cool.
Where to Stay in Xcalak?
How do you find your accommodation once you’ve arrived in Xcalak Mexico?
Xcalak is a small remote fishing village. The town itself doesn’t offer much for tourist convenience. In town are tiendas (local convenience stores), the National Reef Park office, a small clinic, and a few restaurants. Some accommodations are in town, but most travelers will head up the North Beach Road, where the beach is better and where you will find Xcalak hotels. Because of the low competition, prices tend to be hight, you won´t find many budget options in Xcalak Mexico. The list below is the Xcalak lodging we recommend:
Things to do in Xcalak
Snorkeling in Xcalak Mexico
Xcalak offers some great snorkeling. You can go norkeling from the jetty where dive boats launch in the village, it is a quite shallow sandy bottom area with small patches of reef, where you might see eagle rays, barracudas, turtle and some other fish. The best snorkeling trips are offered by XTC dive center and you can go on either 2 or 5 hour excursions to the coral reefs, where you will see a large variety of fish, sometimes even the large tarpon. The boat stops at different spots on the reef that are shallow enough for comfortable snorkeling in the clear, warm water of the Carribeans. On snorkeling trips to Xcalak Reef Marine Reserve, mangrove forest manatees are often seen.
Scuba Diving in Xcalak Mexico
Xcalak is also a less travelled but much revered scuba diving destination in Mexico. With clear underwater visibility, warm temperatures, and the presence of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the coast of Xcalak offers fantastic scuba diving. Divers will wait for a good day to access the Chinchorro Banks, a large coral atoll which is an underwater ship graveyard. When conditions are not ideal for the Banks, the second largest barrier reef, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, is a great diving alternative filled with tropical fish, sponges and coral. Some of the most exciting underwater experiences include seeing manatees and diving with schools of yardstick-long tarpon. Scuba enthusiasts should consider an overnight trip to the Banco Chinchorro atoll, an underwater paradise with a pristine biosphere, shipwrecks, and coral canyons.
Fly Fishing in Xcalak Mexico
Xcalak Mexico is renowned for fly fishing and is a top saltwater, fly fishing, flats fishing and bone fishing area. The fishing is world-class and sought out by fishing enthusiasts. The mangrove waterways of Bacalar Chico, just south of Xcalak between Mexico and Belize, are home to many varieties of birds and fish. Anglers will seldom see any competition from others for coveted fish like permit, tarpon and bonefish.
Kayaking and paddlebording in Xcalak Mexico
Both the saltwater flats and inland lagoons make for excellent kayaking and SUP. If you wish, you can join a kayaking tour, which is usually paired with a snorkeling excursion. Or, use the free kayaks and SUPs offered at most beachside hotels.
Bird watching in Xcalak Mexico
Xcalak is a hidden gem for Carribean bird watching with pelicans, egrets, frigate birds, grackles, interesting local birds like the Ocellated Turkey and more often being seen here. Inland, the ecosystem is a fragile mix of mangrove lagoons and thick jungle. The fresh (but slightly salty) water in the lagoons hosts an entirely different species of wildlife than the saltwater flats.
Visit the Zarazoga Canal
South of Xcalak, the narrow Zaragoza canal joins the turquoise Caribbean Sea with the shallow (also turquoise) Bay of Chetumal. The 0.8-mile Zaragoza Canal was built in 1901, to make it possible for small boats to travel from the sea to the city of Chetumal, while remaining completely within Mexican waters. This is probably the most local thing to do in Xcalak Mexico. If you are a bit adventurous, walk around the village and for sure, a fisherman will come to you and offer you a tour on “lancha” to the Canal of Zaragosa and on the reef. If it happends, do it! This is not a trap, they will offer the best time ever. You will discover the canal, go through the mangroves, naviguate on the laguna, snorkel in the very healthy reef and if you get lucky, you guide will catch sea snail “caracoles” and make you a delicious ceviche you you get back on the beach!!!
If you are looking for a local experience, don´t hesitate!
Book your trip
Are you ready to book your trip? .Here are the websites you can use to book your trip, get inspired with the best things to do in your destinations and travel smarter.
- Kiwi.com– A great website to book your flights. It has good airfares but you need to search regulaly as the prices are constantly changing
- Booking.com – The best website to book your accommodation, you can book and cancel free up until a certain point, especially when your plans are forever changing. It’s easy to use and has one of the widest selections.
- Airbnb – You can get some really nice places to stay here. If you don’t have an account and you click on this link then you will get $36 off your first booking.
- Hotel.com – Huge choice of hotels with free cancellation up until a certain point. It’s easy to use and has one of the widest selections.
- Agoda – Agoda is very good if you are searching hotels, resorts, houses. They always have attractive promotions.
- Xcaret Group – Xcaret Group is the most famous theme park in the Riviera Maya. If you visit Cancun, check their prices here to get good discounts.
- Viator – If you need to find inspiration about things to do in Cozumel, check on Viator to see the tours they offer for diving and other activities
- Rental Cars – Looking to rent a. car while you are away? I always book through Rental Cars as they do a search of all of the big sites and find the best deals.
- Yacht Rental – If you are thinking of spending time in a paradise beach destination with friends or family, this is a good option to enjoy the beach life.
- Sailing Trip – For cruising holidays, book a sailing trip, they have many trip destinations, lehghts and standing.
- Dive the World – If you are a diver, book a diving trip with them. They have dive packages everywhere in the world with very attractive prices.
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