Playa Xcacel Guide: Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting in 2023

Wondering about visiting Playa Xcacel this year? Look no further!

Playa Xcacel is a picturesque beach and sanctuary reserve, offering a breathtaking escape from the busy crowds in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or other nearby tourist destinations.

I have been visiting this beautiful secret spot many times and in this post, I will tell you all about it!

Although Playa Xcacel isn’t far from the action, it’s still considered a hidden gem, with crystal-clear turquoise waters and relatively uncrowded sandy beaches.

Suppose you’re interested in swimming in the lively waters of Playa Xcacel, volunteering to support the turtles of Playa Xcacel, exploring the jungle and cenote near Playa Xcacel, or any other sunny beach activities.

In that case, you’re in the right place.

In this comprehensive Playa Xcacel guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about Playa Xcacel, including how to get there, the beach’s unique features, the array of activities available, and other essential information for your trip.

The beautiful shore of Playa Xcacel surrounded by trees on a sunny day.
Playa Xcacel

Playa Xcacel: At a glance

👉🏽 Where is Playa Xcacel located?

Playa Xcacel is located 112 km (69 miles) from Cancun, 45 km (28 miles) from Playa del Carmen, and 20 km (12 miles) from Tulum.

Playa Xcacel is off the main Highway 307, which connects Cancun to Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and other coastal cities and towns.

This stunning beach oasis is on the way to Tulum, from Cancun or Playa del Carmen, just past Akumal Beach.

It shares the beautiful coast that has become so famous and world-renowned in the Riviera Maya, so it’s no surprise it’s also one of the most beautiful beaches in Quintana Roo, Mexico.

📍 Xcacel Beach Map

Playa xcacel map
© Google Maps – Where is Xcacel Beach? Click on the image to open the Map

What makes Playa Xcacel special?

✔️ The turtles

The beach here is a part of the Xcacel-Xcacelito Wildlife Sanctuary, which was established to safeguard sea turtle nesting sites and other wildlife in the surrounding region.

This beach is a crucial nesting ground for three species of turtles:

🐢 Loggerhead

🐢 Green

🐢 Hawksbill

The sanctuary closely monitors the turtles’ nesting to ensure the eggs are undisturbed and protected.

The entrance fees go to support this cause, and the sanctuary works hard to spread awareness and accurate information about these turtles and their importance to the habitat.

✔️ Jungle & Cenotes

Upon walking up to Playa Xcacel, you’ll immediately notice the intense beauty of the dense and untouched jungle that borders the coastline of this secluded beach.

The wilderness offers a glimpse into the thriving wildlife of the region and makes Playa Xcacel the perfect refuge because it feels detached from the surrounding busyness.

It feels like stepping into a tropical paradise where nature thrives and wildlife finds refuge.

The jungle truly offers a beautiful backdrop for beachgoers seeking an immersive and authentic beach/jungle experience.

And if the long stretch of white sand beach, shadowed by the lush jungle, isn’t enough, you also have Cenote Xcacelito (little Xcacel).

Cenote Xcacelito is only a few meters from Playa Xcacel, hidden amongst the mangroves.

The Cenote is a freshwater retreat and a beautiful glimpse into the unique cave system connecting Mexico’s cenotes.

Unfortunately, Cenote Xcacelito was closed to the public in 2018.

View of Xcacel Beach on a cloudy day.

✔️ Relaxing ambiance

Playa Xcacel’s secluded location and the surrounding natural beauty contribute to a genuinely relaxing ambiance.

This is the quintessential “off-the-beaten-path” beach. Few people know about the beach, and accompanying cenote and fewer take the time to venture out this far.

Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and other surrounding towns are convenient and great for all travelers.

But sometimes, you want a little more peace and quiet or just a few hours alone.

Well, Playa Xcacel is perfect for just that. You can easily escape the crowds and relax in the tranquility of everything Playa Xcacel is.

Things to know when visiting Playa Xcacel

1. Xcacel entrance fee

Playa Xcacel currently charges:

🎫 97 MXN (6 USD) for foreigners

🎫 51 MXN (3 USD) for Mexican nationals

🎫 25 MXN (1.50 USD) for Quintana Roo residents

Technically, the entrance fee is a donation that goes entirely to the protection program of the sanctuary.

The shore of Xcacel Beach with small waves.

2. Xcacel beach hours (the beach is closed on Mondays)

Playa Xcacel is open from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays. Sometimes the park stays open until 5 p.m. However, it’s best to plan for the usual closure of 4 p.m.

3. Read the signs for safe and prohibited areas

There are “Danger Zones” to note at Playa Xcacel. These are areas where swimming is unsafe, no matter the weather.

The current can sometimes be intense, and the waves can be enormous.

A sign at the beach entrance signals the beach’s unsafe swimming areas and the “Danger Zones.”

Follow the signs and avoid the prohibited areas for your safety and wildlife.

4. There are no complete facilities at all

Playa Xcacel is a simple beach that focuses on conservation and protecting the wildlife thriving along the coast and in the waters.

That being said, don’t expect any luxury facilities.

There are some simple showers and restrooms near the entrance, and that is mainly all you’ll find.

Ensure you bring anything else you might need for your day at the beach and exploring the beautiful jungle.

The price signage on the entrance of Xcacel Beach.
Xcacel Beach prices and precautions

5. Don’t expect many activities (compared to other beaches in Mexico)

Playa Xcacel is a secluded beach, which means there aren’t many exciting beach activities and countless vendors walking up and down the length of the pristine sands.

While crowded beaches bring out the jetskis, banana boats, parasailing, massage tables, and street vendors, Playa Xcacel sees much less of this.

You should plan on nothing more than a relaxing trip to Playa Xcacel and leave the adventurous watersports to the other more popular beaches.

6. Follow Playa Xcacel beach rules

Playa Xcacel takes the time and effort to ensure the wildlife’s safety and the park’s conservation.

If you decide to go to Playa Xcacel, you must respect their rules and show respect for the environment.

Here are the beach rules you must follow:

📌 No smoking

📌 No food or drinks (including alcohol) – water and some fruits are allowed

📌 No speakers

📌 No pets

📌 All garbage must be placed in a trash bin or carried out with you

📌 Don’t wear repellant or lotions when going in the ocean

📌 Don’t touch the turtles or turtles’ nest

Xcacel Playa volunteers will likely check your bag upon entering to ensure you aren’t bringing anything against the rules.

The entrance of Xcacel Beach.
Playa Xcacel’s entrance

Things to do in Playa Xcacel

👍🏼 Relax or swim at the beach

What better thing to do at the beach than relax or swim?

Most of us go to the beach to do that, and Playa Xcacel is one of the best spots.

The beach never gets too crowded, there usually isn’t much noise or activity, and the gentle crashing of the waves on the shore creates a tranquil environment.

The water temperature is warm, so jumping in the ocean for a cool down should be pretty easy.

Some entrances can get rocky, so watch for a smooth entry and calm waves.

👍🏼 Explore cenote Xcacelito

Cenote Xcacelito is located at the far end of the beach, but it is closed indefinitely to tourists.

You can’t swim in the waters, but you can walk down to that side of the beach and wander around the corner of the beach.

Remember to respect nature, and don’t leave the allotted zones for tourists.

If you want to explore an open cenote you can swim in, Cenote Xunaan Ha is only about 3.2 km (2 miles) from Playa Xcacel.

View of the huge waves in Xcacel Beach.

👍🏼 Go snorkeling

Playa Xcacel also has excellent snorkeling and a small reef teaming with tons of vibrant marine life and colorful fish.

The coral reef is located on the north side of the beach (the left of the beach if you’re facing the ocean). The reef is right at the end of this side of the beach.

The waves break about 200 meters from the shore, signaling where the coral reef is. You can swim directly out to the reef from the coast.

There’s a break from the current and waves near the reef, but the current can be strong just off the reef.

Try to swim directly from shore to the coral reef, and avoid venturing too far off the reef and the shore.

👍🏼 Volunteer and support the Xcacel turtles

You can volunteer at Playa Xcacel with the sea turtles. Most people go through Flora, Fauna, y Cultura for volunteer opportunities.

Flora, Fauna, y Cultura is a non-profit civil association that works to conserve key ecosystems in Quintana Roo and the surrounding area.

You can spend a day with this organization cleaning the beaches, working with sea turtles, and preserving the overall well-being of this ecosystem.

They usually ask for a small donation from the volunteers, which gets put back into the conservation efforts.

The shore of Playa Xcacel with white sand beach.

👍🏼 Go on a night turtle-watching tour

The turtle nesting season at Playa Xcacel is from April to October.

However, almost all the activity happens in the evenings, so you wouldn’t be able to see the nesting-in-action on a regular beach trip.

You might be able to coordinate a night turtle-watching tour when partnering with one of the local conservation groups for Playa Xcacel.

If you do so, it’s a great way to experience the unique nesting patterns of these local turtles.

👍🏼 Catch some waves and surf (depends on the beach condition)

Quintana Roo and the Riviera Maya are not world-renowned for good surf conditions. For that, most people travel to the west coast.

However, there can be surprisingly good surf conditions at Playa Xcacel sometimes.

The waves do pick up when the wind picks up, so keep an eye on the local wind report and bring your board down to the beach.

Just stay away from the dangerous currents, and go with friends. You’ll have more fun that way and know you can watch out for one another.

The shore of Playa Xcacel with seaweeds.

How to get to Playa Xcacel

🚙 Drive or rent a car

The easiest way to get to Playa Xcacel is by driving.

Playa Xcacel is about 32 km (20 miles) south of Cancun and 48 km (30 miles) south of Playa del Carmen.

You can drive on Highway 307 and watch for the sign on the right side of the highway (coming from Cancun).

In case you miss the sign, use Google Maps or GPS for directions.

Once you turn off the highway, drive to the end of the dirt road, which leads you directly to the public parking.

🚕 Hire a taxi

You can also easily hire a taxi to get to Playa Xcacel. The taxi should take about 20 minutes from Cancun and cost around 400 MXN (24 USD).

The trouble will be returning. No taxis are waiting near Playa Xcacel, so you must coordinate a return time with your taxi driver.

View of clean shore of white sand in Xcacel Beach.

🚌 Public transportation

You can also take public transportation, or colectivos, to Playa Xcacel.

🚍 From Cancun, take a colectivo toward Playa del Carmen

🚍 From Playa del Carmen, take a colectivo toward Tulum

🚍 From Tulum, take a colectivo toward Playa del Carmen/Cancun

You can tell the colectivo driver to drop you off at Xcacel, and they will drop you off on the side of the highway.

What to bring for a trip to Playa Xcacel

Remember that there aren’t any facilities, restaurants, or “extras” at Playa Xcacel. You’ll want to bring everything you think you’ll need. Here are a few ideas of things you may wish to do at Xcacel:

💡 Water shoes to protect your feet

💡 Beach towels, umbrellas, or chairs

💡 Snorkel gear

💡 Cash for entrance/donations

💡 Reef safe sunscreen

💡 Plenty of water and snacks

And, of course, anything else that comes to mind!

View of Xcacel Beach with tourists.

Best time to visit Playa Xcacel

Weather year-round in the Riviera Maya ranges from warm to extremely hot and humid. Winter months (December-January) tend to be more mild temperatures.

And every year, loggerhead and green sea turtles go to Xcacel Beach from April to October to lay their eggs.

If you plan on volunteering at Playa Xcacel, arrange it during nesting season.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much is the entrance fee at Playa Xcacel?

The entrance fee at Playa Xcacel is 97 MXN (6 USD) for foreigners.

Can you see turtles at Xcacel Beach?

You can see turtles at Xcacel Beach if you’re there at the right times. Generally, the turtles are only active in the evenings during nesting season (April – November).

View of Playa Xcacel where people are swimming.

Can you bring food and drinks to Xcacel Beach?

No, you cannot bring food and drinks to Xcacel Beach. Water and some fruits are the only things allowed on the beach.

How far is Playa Xcacel from Playa del Carmen?

Playa Xcacel is about 30 km (18 miles) south of Playa del Carmen.

View of the waves of Xcacel Beach as it hits the shore.

Final Thoughts: Playa Xcacel Guide

Playa Xcacel is a beautiful beach closely connected to some vital conservation efforts in the Riviera Maya.

If you’re interested in preserving the region’s sea turtles and want to be involved, consider volunteering with the local conservation group.

If you just want to escape from the busy beaches of other tourist destinations, you can easily find peace and quiet at Playa Xcacel.

For whatever reason you make the trip, you will surely have a relaxing time with a stunning view.