Travel Guide: Xcacel Área Natural Protegida Estata
Playa Xcacel (Xcacel Beach) is a secluded beach and sea turtle sanctuary along the beautiful Riviera Maya in Mexico. It’s one of the few beaches in the area where you can enjoy the crystal clear Caribbean ocean without the crowds.
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Where is Xcacel Beach?
Xcacel on the Yucatan Peninsula in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. The dreamy Xcacel Beach is located just outside Chemuyil, a small Mexican town between Tulum and Playa Del Carmen. It’s only twenty minutes from Tulum, about forty minutes from Playa Del Carmen, and one hour and forty minutes from Cancun.
Things to do at Xcacel Beach
Relax on a quiet, peaceful beach
Xcacel is a hidden gem. It’s the perfect beach to relax, soak in the sun, and read. There are rarely more than a few groups of people scattered across the large beach, and loud music is not allowed, so visiting is always a serene experience.
Bring your own beach towel and an umbrella because there are no places nearby to rent or buy a lounge chair, towel, or umbrella.
Swim in the crystal clear waters
The Mayan Riviera is known worldwide for its pristine, turquoise waters. With so few visitors, Xcacel is a stunning spot to take a dip. Swimming is permitted at the northern part of the beach, where the water is calm and shallow. If you are unsure about the water conditions, check with the staff.
Snorkel along the coral reef
If you bring goggles or snorkel gear, you can swim with various tropical fish species, sea turtles, and sting rays at Playa Xcacel. Marine wildlife can be spotted near coral in the beach’s northern part. Snorkel safely, ensuring the water is calm and deep enough that you will not get pushed into coral or rocks.
Walk along the shore
Xcacel’s long beach is the perfect setting for a slow walk along the shore. Share a conversation with a travel buddy, or walk alone and take in the surroundings.
How to Get to Xcacel Playa
Take a Colectivo to Xcacel
The cheapest way to get to Xcacel is by colectivo. Colectivos are a local form of public transportation in many parts of Mexico that are both cheap and efficient. Colectivo vans run both directions from Playa Del Carmen and Tulum along Highway 307 every few minutes.
Flag down a colectivo in either town and make sure they’re going in the right direction (toward Playa Del Carmen from Tulum and toward Tulum from Playa Del Carmen). Tell the driver you’re headed to Xcacel (say voy a Xcacel).
I recommend keeping an eye on where you’re at on your phone’s GPS to make sure you don’t miss the stop. When they stop, you’ll have to pay in cash. Expect to pay $30-60 pesos depending on where you’re coming from. You’ll be dropped on the side of the highway, right on the road to Xcacel Beach. The walk from the highway to the beach is about ten minutes down a dirt road.
When it’s time to head home, you’ll have to walk back down the dirt road and wave down a colectivo from the highway. Many colectivos will be full, so be patient and expect to wait a few minutes.
Drive to Xcacel
Taking your own car is the most convenient and comfortable way to get to Xcacel. Follow directions on Google Maps to Xcacel Área Natural Protegida Estatal. Pay close attention to the GPS directions because there is only one sign for the beach, and it can be challenging to see when driving. Once you’re off the highway, you’ll have to go down a bumpy dirt road for a few minutes before reaching the park. Parking is free, but you do need to pay the $97 peso entry fee for each person.
Take a Taxi to Xcacel
You can also reach Xcacel by taxi. Be warned, though, taxis around this area can be excessively expensive. Before you get in a taxi, ask how much it will cost. You could pay up to $50 USD (or more) depending on where you are coming from. When you can easily take a colectivo for a few dollars, taxis don’t feel worth it for me.
If you choose to take a taxi, try to arrange your return trip with your taxi driver because it’s such a remote location.
Know Before You Go: Xcacel Beach Turtle Sanctuary
You need to know a few things before you head to Xcacel Beach.
Xcacel is a nature reserve: Xcacel Playa is a nature reserve. Because of this, there are strictly enforced rules that you must follow.
There will probably be seaweed on the beach: Brown seaweed washes up daily on each beach in the Mayan Riviera. It’s natural and normal, but it is swept away by resort staff and Mexican tourism companies at most beaches for aesthetic reasons. Xcacel is a nature reserve, not a resort, so you will see seaweed on the beach.
Pack everything you need: One of the reasons why Xcacel is so serene is that the beach is undeveloped. The flip side of this is that there is nowhere to buy water or food and no beach chairs for rent. Pack everything you need—water, a beach towel, and a beach umbrella, if needed.
Refrain from bringing food or alcohol: Other than fruit, you aren’t allowed to bring any food or alcohol to Xcacel. The staff may ask to check your bag, so make sure you leave your snacks at home.
Speakers are not allowed: At Xcacel, you can enjoy the sounds of nature, but you’ll have to leave speakers at home and refrain from playing music.
Leave pets at home: Sadly, pets aren’t allowed at Playa Xcacel.
Xcacel Área Natural Protegida Estatal Hours
Xcacel is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am-4pm, and it is closed on Mondays.
Xcacel Área Natural Protegida Estatal Entrance Fee
Foreigners must pay a $97 peso entry fee per person. Quintana Roo residents pay $25 pesos and Mexican nationals pay $51 pesos.
Frequently asked questions:
When is turtle nesting season?
Turtle nesting season happens between April and October each year. Sea turtles venture onto the beach at night to lay their eggs, so it’s unlikely to see sea turtles while visiting the beach during the day.
Is there a cenote at Xcacel Beach?
There is a cenote within Xcacel Área Natural Protegida Estatal (Cenote Xcacelito), but it is no longer open to the public.
Is there a bathroom at Playa Xcacel?
There are bathrooms and changing rooms available for free at the entrance of Playa Xcacel.
Is it safe to swim at Xcacel Beach?
In normal conditions, swimming in the designated areas at Xcacel Beach is safe. The waves are usually small, but a current can drag you south in the water. If you feel unsafe, avoid swimming.
What else is there to do nearby Xcacel?
There are several other things to do nearby Xcacel, including:
- Xel-Há Park: Xel-Há park is next to the Xcacel nature reserve. In many ways, Xel-Há is the opposite of quiet Xcacel, but both have their own perks. There are dozens of things to do at Xel-Há, from zip-lining through the jungle to inner-tubing down a mangrove-covered river. An all-inclusive entry fee includes activities, food, drinks, towels, and snorkeling equipment.
- Ciudad Chemuyil: Across the highway from Xcacel is a small Mexican community, Chemuyil. Wander through the small town, try local street food, and converse with the friendly locals.
- Cenotes: There are dozens of stunning cenotes within a few miles of Xcacel. Most notably, Cenote Xunaan Ha, Cenote Dos Ojos, and Cenote Nic Te Ha.
Essential Mexico Travel Resources
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