Travel to Xcalak, Mexico

Xcalak is located on a peninsula on the southern tip of the state of Quintana Roo only about 6 miles north of the border with Belize. If you don’t already know, it takes a long time to get there from just about anywhere in the world.

Even Chetumal, the capital city of Quintana Roo, which lies only 30 miles across the bay from Xcalak requires a minimum of 2-1/2 hours to drive up the coast and then back down a peninsula to reach the village.

For most visitors coming from the U.S., the most direct way to get to Xcalak is to fly into Cancun, pick up a rental car and head south on Highway 307. Depending on the speed you drive and how many stops you make, it will take you roughly 4-1/2 to 5 hours.

Or, you can fly into Cozumel, take the ferry over to Playa Del Carmen and rent a car there for the drive down. We find we tend to get better rates if we make a reservation prior arriving in Mexico. Hertz or Budget often offers the best deals and both have an office in both Cancun and Playa. While jeeps are fun, for this trip, you will probably be more comfortable in a car with windows and doors.

You should plan your drive down to Xcalak to arrive in daylight. If it looks like you will be arriving at night, we strongly recommend that you spend the first night in Playa or Tulum or somewhere else on the way down.

It is also possible to charter a small private plane from either Cancun or Cozumel for a flight directly into Xcalak. We’ve heard rumors that Continental is planning a flight into Chetumal soon so at some point in the near future, it may be possible to fly there and rent a car for the 2-1/2 hour drive.

If coming from Cancun or Cozumel, the drive through Quintana Roo is an adventure in its own right. The road goes right by the entrance to the cliff-side Mayan archeological site in Tulum and from there, through a rain forest in the international biosphere reserve of Sian Ka’an. You may see kids that appear to have walked out of the jungle standing along side the road with baby monkeys or parrots for sale. It is not unusual to observe exotic birds and other fauna at any point in the drive.

During one trip we traveled through clouds of butterflies for about 15 miles that were so thick that truckers were pulling off the road to clean their radiators. You will see lots of Mayan mounds and even an occasional small Mayan temple from the road. You may also encounter federal military checkpoints where soldiers are checking for narcotics trafficking. While they may want to search the car or luggage, there’s no need to be alarmed. As long as you aren’t carrying any contraband, you’ll pass right through.

No matter how much gas you have, you should top off your tank in the town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto. There is a great little taco stand across the street from the gas station with pork tortas and chicken tamales to die for. And if you weren’t able to find all the supplies you needed for your trip in Playa Del Carmen or Tulum, you can pick up water, beer, extra ice and a few other grocery items and visit an ATM machine in Felipe Carrillo Puerto.

For most of the drive, you are on decent paved roads. You’ll stay on Highway 307 all the way down the Yucatan coast until you’re just south of the town of Limones where you’ll take a left at an intersection known as “Cafatel”. There are several signs there indicating the turn for both Majahual and Xcalak. After a drive of approximately 50 kilometers on a newly paved road, take a right towards Xcalak. It will be impossible to miss the turn. There will be a military checkpoint at the intersection although on our last few visits, we’ve been waved right through. From the checkpoint, the road is 60 kilometers of smooth highway taking you to within a few kilometers of the town. On a recent drive, it took us almost exactly 2-hours to drive from the gas station in Felipe Carrillo Puerto to the town of Xcalak driving at a speed of just over 100 kilometers (or 60 miles) per hour. The drive included a stop at the checkpoint of five to ten minutes.

While we usually don’t recommend it, it is possible to get to Xcalak via public transportation. There are two 2nd class busses per day from Chetumal. Because of the number of stops and the condition of the buses, the ride can take up to 4-hours.

The same two 2nd class buses from Chetumal also make a stop in Limones on the way to Xcalak. The published times indicate an earlier departure but usally, they leave Limones aorund 8:00am and 5pm and take about 2-1/2 hours each way. The one-way fare is about N$40 pesos.

Or you could take a first class bus from either Chetumal heading north or any point north (like Cancun, Playa Del. Carmen or Tulum) heading south and get off in Limones and catch what is likely to be a pretty rickety cab ride of 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Other than the time and difficulty of taking a 2nd class bus ride, another problem with the public transport options is that once in Xcalak, you will be without transportion except for one or two taxis that sometimes run. That’s fine if you plan to stay exclusively in town but if you want to get out of town and do any exploring, it presents a problem.