Xcalak is a small sleepy fishing village on the Costa Maya, it is at the southernmost point of the state of Quintana Roo in Mexico, near the Belize border. Xcalak is known for its spectacular beaches, clear turquoise waters, sport fishing and scuba diving on the offshore reefs.

Aerial view of Xcalak.



Just offshore of the Caribbean coast lies a 700 mile long reef called the Great Mesoamerican Reef. It is the second largest barrier reef in the world and streches from the tip of Cancun all the way down the coast of Honduras. The Xcalak reef is part of the Great Mesoamerican reef.

Sunrise in Xcalak

The reef protects the shoreline and creates the long, wide strips of soft, powdery sand that make the beaches so popular. It also ensures that the waters are generally calm with low waves, making them ideal for swimming, snorkling and other aquatic activities.

Get in


By plane


Xcalak has a small airport that can accommodate small, private aircraft. The nearest cities with available commercial flights are Cancún, Tulum, and Chetumal. Buses are available for travel to Xcalak from both cities. However, many tourists rent a car for the trip to Xcalak. Xcalak is approximately a 6-hour drive from Cancun and a 2.5-hour drive from Chetumal.

By bus


There are two Caribe buses to Xcalak from Chetumal daily:

  • The first leaves from the second-class bus station in Chetumal at 05:40, passing through the first-class bus station at around 06:00.
  • The second leaves at 16:10/16:30. The bus goes from Chetumal to Mahahual, and then along the beach road for around 10 km towards Xcalak. At this point it turns off onto the surfaced interior road for the rest of the trip. It's the bus to take if you're staying at one of the hotels between Mahahual and Xcalak.

The outbound Caribe buses leave from beside the lighthouse at 05:00 and 14:00, and return to the second-class bus station only. You can also board the bus from the south end of town just before the Tourist Information Office.

Get around


Walk, boat, swim.

This is a small village and the people aren't really hung up on addresses or street names. Just ask a local and they'll point you the right way. Just because you hear of a business with no address or phone number doesn't mean it's not real or legit. Again, just ask. It's the way things are done.

Diving the Chinchoro Bank of Xcalak
  • 1 Xcalak Reef National Park (Parque Nacional Arrecife de Xcalak). The reef itself lies about 500 meters offshore. The waters are comfortable year-round with temperatures between 21C and 27C. The water is clear with a light aquamarine color, underwater visibility ranges from about 15m to 30m. The water depth near the reef ranges from 1m to 3m, so it is ideal for snorkling. The park extends 40km along the Xcalak coast for a total surface area of 18,000 hectares. The park includes the seaside reef lagoon, mangroves, river deltas, the freshwater bay and of course, the coral reefs.
  • 2 Banco de Chinchorro (Chinchorro Banks Biosphere Reserve). The Chinchorro Reef lies just offshore from Xcalak, 22 km east of town. It is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. In addition to diving the reefs, it is a good spot for birdwatching and an alligator sanctuary is on the island. Dive shops can arrange dive trips to the reef and pangas can be hired for the day to take you out to the island.
  • SUP (stand-up paddleboard) - the warm, calm waters around Xcalak are ideal for SUP



Scuba diving


There's a great reef offshore and it's also close to the Chinchorro Banks, which is a great dive spot some 30 km offshore. There are a couple of dive operators north of Xcalak:

  • Costa de Cocos - part of a full service resort.
  • XTC Dive Center - Good equipment, great staff and divemasters. XTC has the only marine park trips to dive or snorkel Chinchorro Banks.



Snorkeling is an excellent opportunity to have the reef virtually to yourself, which makes Xcalak a great destination for travelers. Local fishermen can provide a boat trip out to the reef for a few dollars. Escorted snorkeling tours are available from the XTC Dive Centre.

The main snorkeling areas are to the south and to the north of the town and about 200 to 300 meters off shore. In some places, the reef breaks the surface and is easily visible. Inside the reef there is abundant sea life in 1 to 3 meters of water with many tropical fish, the occasional ray, turtle and small nurse shark.

On the ocean side of the reef, easily accessed through numerous channels, the reef extends from the surface down 5 to 10 meters to a sandy bottom. There are a wide variety of larger reef fish.

The restaurant at Costa De Cocos is the best restaurant in Xcalak. The fish is always fresh, and the pizza is excellent.

  • 1 Restaurante Silvia. Popular seafood restaurant. Grilled fish, shrimp, ceviche, lobster tails.











Go next


By boat to Belize


You can arrange a boat to Caye Caulker in Belize at one of the dive shops or with one of the captains in town. The crossing is smooth and relatively quick.

Immigration can however be a problem. There are no banks in XCalak (the nearest is in Chetumal) and so you would need to pay your Tourist Card (FMT) before arriving in XCalak. There also doesn't appear to be an active immigration office in XCalak (as of 2009); the closest is in Mahahual.

This city travel guide to Xcalak is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.