Things To Do in Xcalak

Xcalak is an ideal place to do nothing. Luxuriate in that. Lie in a hammock on the beach and read a book. Gaze at the sky at night and see more stars than you ever thought existed. Observe the herons, cormorants, pelicans and sea gulls as they fish. Watch the clouds go by. Ask someone for directions to the pier on the bay and walk along the shore picking up Mayan pottery shards.

In recent years, The Chetumal Bay Flats nearby Xcalak has developed a great reputation among serious fisherman as one of the latest undiscovered locations to land bonefish, tarpon and permit, “The Big 3” of salt water fly-fishing; rivaling the better known Ascension Bay region that lies just north of the area.

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Costa de Cocos has their own well regarded fishing operation but there are quite a few very good fishing guides in the area you can contact directly including Captain Victor Castro and Captain José. Fishing trips can also be booked through the XTC dive shop.

As you are probably aware, the area is well known for diving and snorkling.  Click here to reach our section on that.

If you’re interested in bird watching, see Adolfo Acevedo at his store El Paton or at the Xcalak Caribe Bar in Xcalak about a tour to Bird Island, a rookery for spoonbills and other tropical species on a small island in the bay. Adolfo has an excellent knowledge of the birds in the area and speaks very good English. The trip to the island can also include snorkeling. Others in town (including XTC and many of the local fishing guides) also offer similar services.

 We’ve heard that recently, kayak trips are being run on Rio Huatch (pronounced Ree-OH Watch), which is the bridge about 20 kilometers north of the house on the beach road.

If you want to make a trip to San Pedro on Ambergee’s Cay in Belize, the best way to get there is by boat. You should talk to XTC or ask at your hotel about arranging a trip.

While only 40 miles away across the lagoon, it takes 3-hours to make the drive to Chetumal, the capital of the state of Quintana Roo. Chetumal is a frontier border town and is famous in that part of the world as a shopping center. In fact, the duty free liquor stores at the border crossing with Belize near Chetumal has the lowest prices I’ve seen anywhere in the world for some brands of liquor.  

Chetumal is also a good jumping off point for trips further south into Belize or Guatemala and west into the Mexican state of Chiapas.  Regular bus services to all those plus other locations originate in Chetumal.  There is also a daily water jet express service from Chetumal to San Pedro and Caye Caulker, Belize.

There is a very nice museum in Chetumal tracing the history of the Mayan people. If you decide to go, take your passport and visa with you as on the way back, you will pass through an immigration station north of Chetumal set up to stop illegal entry from Belize.

At one time, there was a plan to offer ferry service between Xcalak and Chetumal. A nice pier was built on the lagoon in Xcalak but on the first trip, the operator discovered that the lagoon was too shallow to make reliable crossings and so it was discontinued. We’ve heard some rumors that there is another plan to make use of some sort of hovercraft for the run but at this writing, there is no ferry service to Chetumal.

Even if you can’t make a ferry trip, you may want to drive across the peninsula past the airport to the ferry pier. On your drive, watch for interesting birds and other animals. On one such drive, we happened upon three monkeys casually walking across the road. The shore along the lagoon is littered with lots of old pottery shards.

Along the way to Chetumal, you pass through the village of Pedro A. Santos. It is the home of an expatriate American Mormon community. Don’t be surprised if the children selling fruits and baked goods alongside the road there have blond hair and blue eyes.

 Near Pedro A. Santos, you can take a nature trail and jungle walk at a place the locals have named Buena Vista. Look for the signs on the left. The last time we checked, 3 to 5 hour tours were available on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at a cost of about $50 per person. If you can’t find it, stop in at Jackson’s Restaurant in Pedro A. Santos and ask retired US Navy Seaman “Action” Jackson how to get there. After Pedro A Santos you will pass the resort town of Bacalar, famous for its beautiful blue lagoon.

 With the new cruise ship pier in Majahual comes the need for excursions for passengers off of the ships. Partly because of that and of course more importantly due to the scientific and anthropological interest, the ruins of Chacchoban near the town of Limones are being restored by the History and Anthropology National Institute. We haven’t visited there yet but have heard that the site is largely un-excavated, which to be honest, is not totally a bad thing in our opinion. To date the excavated area includes one main pyramid and several other small buildings.

The nearest Mayan Ruin of note is Kohunlich located about 40 miles west of Chetumal. It is famous for the six-foot high stone masks that adorn the side of the main temple. These carvings are thought to represent the sun god Kinich Ahau. There are more than 500 mounds at Kohunlich, a site occupied from 300-1200 AD. To get there, take Highway 186 west of Chetumal. After about 26 miles (43 klms.) there is a turnoff for the road to Kohunlich. Keep in mind that if you decide to travel to Kohunlich, it is an all-day excursion. In fact, you might even consider making it an overnight trip.