Xcacel Beach: A Nature Reserve with a Hidden Cenote

Finding places like Xcacel Beach in the coastal strip of the Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo is always an adventure.

This turtle sanctuary remains semi-unknown, although it is slowly gaining popularity.

This beautiful beach is located 18 km from the Magical Town of Tulum.

You can reach this nature reserve in less than 25 minutes by Federal Highway 307, which runs along the coast if you’re driving.

If you don’t have a car, you can go by public transport, which you can take in downtown Tulum.

The trip to Xcalcel costs 35 pesos per person and takes less than 30 minutes.

I always recommend renting a car when visiting Quintana Roo, it is cheaper, easier, and you can see several places in a short time.

Suppose you are in Playa del Carmen, as from Tulum, you can also get there by car or public transport (it’s around 40 minutes). Don’t forget to tell the driver to get off at Xcacel-Xcacelito.

Xcacel Beach and the Sea Turtle Sanctuary

xcacel beach
Source: Maritxu / shutterstock.com

This ecological reserve is strictly protected (in 1998, it was designated a protected area), which allows the ecosystem of dunes to serve as a natural barrier with its low but strong vegetation that sinks into the sand.

Although the beach is still pretty quiet in Xcacel, people are starting to come from other places, and tourists are looking for more isolated areas not as crowded as Playa del Carmen or Akumal.

The water on this beach is usually calm, but it can be pretty rough and full of sargassum and other algae dragged by the storm when the wind picks up.

Two varieties of turtles, the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and the white turtle (Chelonia mydas), have their annual nesting in Xcacel.

That is why the authorities have tried to protect them by creating the reserve. 

They come here because the coral reef that runs along the entire east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula (the second-largest in the world) opens a gap through which the turtles enter the coast.

Between May and October, at dusk, the turtles offer a spectacle that is usually watched by biologists but open to those who want to enjoy something unique.

However, if you go outside the turtle nesting season, you will not regret it because right off the coast, just fifty meters away, is the reef, so bring your snorkeling equipment to see colorful fish in their coral habitat.

Visit the Cenote Xcacelito

xcacel beach
The jungle path to the Cenote – Source: Arturo Verea / shutterstock.com

As if its beautiful white sand beach and turquoise waters were not enough, a few hundred meters away lies another of Xcacel’s secrets: the Xcacelito cenote.

This cenote is one of the closest to the beach, hidden among the dense mangrove.

As soon as you enter on the right, follow a well-marked path without getting lost, which ends in a walkway that allows you to cross the mangrove swamp and reach the cenote.

Inside this freshwater cenote, hundreds of small fish will nibble your skin in search of dead cells to gorge on. A free fish pedicure!

The sensation of swimming without being frightened is fantastic, especially if you bring your snorkeling goggles.

It will help you appreciate the blue and green tones that merge with the sun’s rays on a background of fossilized corals and mangrove roots.

You may want to read: Where are the Best Cenotes in Mexico? TOP 23

Xcacel Beach general information

At the entrance to the beach, which is barely visible from the road from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, a dirt road leads to the beach.

Right before you get there, you will have to pay a small donation to preserve the turtle sanctuary at the guardhouse.

Xcacel has restrooms and showers, and there is a small restaurant. The beach is open from 9 am to 5 pm, and the cenote from 10 am to 4:30 pm.

To bathe in the cenote, you should not use mosquito repellent or sunscreen because you can damage the ecosystem.

I hope you make time to visit this beach; it’s worth it.

There are so many hidden places along the Mexican Caribbean coast that there are still several ones I probably never even heard of.

That’s the beauty of my country; there’s always something new to discover. Stay safe and see you next time. Vamonos!

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