The beautiful, unspoiled landscape of Xcacel Beach (Playa Xcacel) is one of the coolest hidden gems in Mexico. Unlike other beaches in the Yucatan Peninsula, Playa Xcacel remains relatively untouched by mass tourism. Although you’ll find a few families and visitors, the most significant appeal of going to Xcacel Beach is that you’ll have the place practically to yourself!
Not only will you be treated to sandy coasts, swaying palm trees, and crystal clear waters, but you’ll also get the chance to see wild sea turtles. That’s because Xcacel Beach is a protected turtle sanctuary and nature reserve.
Best time to visit Playa Xcacel Beach: Every year from April until October, hundreds of loggerhead and green sea turtles make their way up the beach to nest and hatch babies. The sponsored Flora, Fauna & Culture protection program and hard-working volunteers make sure that the entire area remains a safe place not just for visitors, but for the nesting turtles.
Xcacel Beach (pronounced Ish-kah-cell) is a wonderful place to spend the day. It’s close to both Tulum and Playa del Carmen, making it an easy day trip during your vacation. For those visiting during the turtle nesting season, making a quick stop at Xcacel Beach to see these breathtaking creatures is a no-brainer. If you’re eager to relax on a quiet beach with nothing between you and miles of open ocean, then make sure to add Xcacel Beach to your bucket list.
When is Xcacel Beach Open
- Daily hours: 10 am – 4 pm, closed on Mondays
What is the entrance fee to Playa Xcacel
- Entrance fee: 88 pesos suggested donation to the Flora, Fauna & Culture protection program
Where is Xcacel Beach
Between the sparkling blue ocean and the white-sand beaches, it’s easy to see why Xcacel Beach is one of the most beautiful destinations in Mexico. However, getting to this little slice of paradise takes some planning. That’s because Playa Xcacel is off the beaten path, and can be difficult to find if you’re not careful. You could easily miss the sign when driving down the highway.
Xcacel Beach is roughly 30 miles south of Playa del Carmen. If you’re arriving by car, this is approximately a 35 to 40-minute drive down Highway 307 depending on traffic. From Tulum, it’s only 20 minutes by a car heading north on Highway 307. The beach is situated a few miles from the town of Akumal, which is right in between Chemuyil and Xel-Ha Park.
How to get to Playa Xcacel
By Car: As you’re driving, it’s important to pay attention to the signs along the road. The only sign to the beach is the entrance sign, which means you won’t get any warning of where to turn-off beforehand. If you aren’t paying attention, it’s possible that you might drive right by the entrance to the beach! This isn’t the end of the world, just make a U-turn and keep your eyes open for the sign.
By Taxi: Another option is to take a taxi. A roundtrip taxi ride will cost you roughly $75-100, so it’s not the most affordable option. Taxis are not the easiest to negotiate or deal with, we hardly ever use them because of the cost and hassle.
By Colectivo: If you want to use public transportation to get to Xcacel Beach, you can hitch a ride on the colectivo bus. From Tulum, you’ll want to catch the bus going towards Playa del Carmen. If you’re staying in Playa del Carmen, then you’ll want to get on the bus headed towards Tulum. It’s relatively easy to take the colectivo to Xcacel Beach, as both buses will stop right at the entrance.
What Makes Xcacel Beach Special?
There are plenty of tropical beaches in the Yucatan Peninsula where you can easily spend a relaxing vacation. However, Playa Xcacel is one of the coolest places to visit because it’s so incredibly different from other beaches in the area.
Sea Turtle Nesting Grounds
If you’re hoping to spend some time with some of Mexico’s most charming residents, then make sure to visit Xcacel. Every year from April to October, you’ll find hundreds of sea turtles that come to the beach to breed and nest.
During the nesting season, there are two main types of turtles that roam the beach. The first kind of turtle is the Chelonia mydas, or green sea turtle. These turtles can weigh up to 440 pounds and lay as many as 120 eggs each year. At Playa Xcacel Beach, you’ll also find Caretta caretta, or Loggerhead turtles, which are larger than their green sea turtle cousins.
Undeveloped Slice of Paradise
One of the best things about Playa Xcacel is that it’s not overcrowded with locals and tourists. That’s why it’s an excellent destination for those looking for a quiet, tranquil place to lay out in the sun or swim in the ocean.
Don’t except any big facilities or shops. While Xcacel Beach does have a few toilets and showers, there aren’t any restaurants, cafes, or water sport rental booths. If you plan on spending the day at Xcacel Beach, you’ll need to bring everything with you (as long as it abides by the Xcacel Beach rules) and all your garbage out with you.
Proximity to the Jungle and Cenote
Xcacel Beach is the perfect mix of beach and jungle. Located just steps away from the roaring ocean is a lush jungle filled with vines, trees, and tropical plants, which is unique compared to other beaches in the area.
You’ll also need to walk through the jungle in order to reach the Xcacel Cenote, a small swimming hole located in the same area as the beach. You’ll trek over a wooden boardwalk surrounded by green foliage before arriving at the hidden swimming hole. Where else can you explore the depths of the jungle while also going for a swim in the crashing waves of the ocean?
Things You Can Do at Xcacel Beach
Compared to other beaches in Mexico, Xcacel Beach isn’t the best place for water sports, loud parties, or beach games. It’s important to remember that the entire area is a protected nature reserve and sanctuary, which means it has to adhere to certain measures, unlike other public beaches.
However, there are still plenty of things you can do at Playa Xcacel to keep you entertained. It’s also the perfect destination for those interested in just soaking in the tranquil beauty of nature without the noise or crowds of tourists. Whether you’re snorkeling with marine life or helping baby turtles swim safely to sea, you’re guaranteed to see that Xcacel Beach is unlike any place you’ll see along the Riviera Maya.
1. Take a Dip in the Xcacel Cenote
Playa Xcacel is a wonderful destination for sunbathing and spending the day in the sun. However, it can get quite hot during the peak of the day, especially considering there aren’t any places for shade. If you need to cool off, then you’re in luck!
To the left of the beach, you’ll find a small pathway that winds through the heart of the jungle. This leads to the Xcacel Cenote, a small swimming hole surrounded by lush vines and towering trees. It offers the perfect refreshing escape away from the beating sun. It’s only about 15-feet wide, so it can be crowded during busy times of the day. Although you’ll only be allowed to swim in the cenote for 20 minutes, it’s worth the wait just to dip your toes in the sparkling turquoise waters.
If 20 minutes wasn’t enough cenote time, make sure to check out some of the other cenotes in Mexico nearby.
2. Volunteer to Protect the Turtles
Why just visit the sea turtles when you can do something to help protect them? Flora, Fauna & Culture is an environmental program for sea turtle lovers of all ages. For a $25 donation, you’ll be able to learn more about the conservation efforts being done to protect these lovable creatures.
If you’re lucky and come during the right season, you might also get the chance to help the baby turtles leave their nest. You’ll protect and escort them while they make their way from the nest directly into the ocean.
If you’re interested in participating in the Flora, Fauna & Culture program, please email [email protected]
3. Take a Night Turtle Watching Tour
Although the Flora, Fauna & Culture program works endlessly throughout the day to protect the turtles, most of the conservation occurs at night. You can sign up for a night tour to see the turtles laying eggs or the babies hatching from their shells.
The release of the baby turtles is also done at night once the park is closed. This is safer for the turtles as beachgoers and visitors won’t be crowding the beach and blocking their path. If you’re interested in joining a night turtle watching tour, you can book directly with the volunteers or online with an organized tour group.
4. Snorkel with Tropical Fish
With calm waters and a protected barrier reef, Xcacel Beach is also a great place for snorkeling. Even if you’re just a few feet from the shore, you’ll have the chance to swim with schools of tropical fish. The coral reef stops about 600 feet on the north end side of the beach, so you’ll have plenty of space to explore the underwater world. It’s common to see ocean triggerfish, needlefish, sergeant majors, and sailor grunts swimming alongside you.
Keep in mind there are no on-site shops that rent out snorkeling equipment. If you want to go snorkeling, you will need to bring your mask and fins with you to the beach. During the turtle nesting season between April and October, certain parts of the beach can be closed off to protect the turtles.
5. Sunbathing on the Sandy Shores
No trip to Mexico would be complete without spending a few hours working on your tan. While there are plenty of beaches in the Yucatan Peninsula, Xcacel Beach is a favorite amongst locals and tourists because it’s rarely busy.
There are no sheltered areas or lounge chairs for rent, so you’ll need to bring anything you want to take to the beach with you. The sun can be very intense during the afternoon, so it’s recommended to carry a beach umbrella to offer some protection.
6. Surfing at Playa Xcacel
When the conditions are right you can actually catch some decent waves here at Playa Xcacel. When the winds are up, there’s a good chance there will be waves at the beach.
Rules of Xcacel Beach
Unlike other beaches in the Riveria Maya, Playa Xcacel is protected by the Secretaría de Ecología y Medio Ambiente de Quintana Roo, or SEMA for short. As a designated nature reserve, there are few rules you’ll need to abide by during your visit. This guarantees the safety of the turtles as well as protection for the surrounding environment.
During your visit, you’ll be greeted by local volunteers who will tell you a bit about the history of Xcacel Beach. They will also take the time to share the different rules for visiting the beach, and how you can do your part to protect the environment and the region.
Here are the regulations for visiting Playa Xcacel Beach:
Smoking is not allowed – Not only is the smoke damaging to the environment, but cigarette butts and ash should not be littered along the beach.
All garbage must be placed in a trash bin – If you bring food or snacks, do not leave any garbage on the ground or beach. You must place the trash in a bin, or take it back with you away from the beach. This ensures that the shoreline is kept as clean and litter-free as possible.
No food or alcohol – Generally speaking, no food is allowed on the beach or in the cenote. Although you are allowed to bring in fruit and water, anything else is prohibited in the nature reserve. As always, take your bottles and trash with you or toss it in a garbage bin when you leave.
Do not touch the turtles or the turtles’ nests – Touching the turtles is strictly prohibited, as human contact can be extremely dangerous to their habitat and well-being. You are also not allowed to wander around the bushes or trees, as that’s where the turtles tend to nest.
Do not wear repellents or lotions when going in the water – The ingredients in chemicals in many of our lotions can be toxic and damaging not just to the turtles, but to the ocean itself. If you plan to go swimming, then you are only allowed to wear biodegradable sunscreen.
The volunteers working at Xcacel Beach will check your bag to make sure that you aren’t bringing any harmful lotions or repellents into the park.
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