Xcalak in the Southern most tip of Mexico, boarding Belize, was never a dive destination we had heard too much about, so arriving to this sleepy town on the Caribbean coast we could have never predicted what the ocean had in store for us. Could this be Mexico's best dive destination? Dive in with us as we tell you exactly why you're going to be wanting to make he journey to XTC Dive Centre in Xcalak very soon.
Scuba Diving in Xcalak
The closet dive site to XTC dive centre - and in our opinion the best! We didn't do one dive here without seeing a manatee, usually as soon as we dived in. However this site is more famous for the huge school of Tarpon fish that congregate here all year round. There's no where else in the world you can dive this close to such huge Tarpon fish, it is a truly magical experience. Especially when you watch a manatee dive in and out to say hi! Simply
This site has the distinctive horseshoe shaped wall of a cenote. There are large coral heads in the center, swim throughs where moray eels like to hide, and lots of black wire coral on the overhangs. After following the curve of the horseshoe, this site continues south into the tongue and groove formations of another site, The G-Spot.
Beautiful swim throughs as well as big open spaces with tons of marine life and coral formations. This was where we had the amazing experience of watching 7 mantaees swim by us on a safety stop. La Pozeta will always be a special dive site for us.
A site favoured by underwater explorers and admirers of natural architecture situated south of the XTC dive centre. The dive starts off with a drop down to an expansive coral garden, which is a hive of activity, from sea fans flowing in the surge, to parrot fish gliding from coral to coral feeding. Following the wall down, the adventure begins with a visit to “The Cathedral,” a massive chamber at about 28m with a collapsed rock in the middle causing a spectacular opening to the top of the reef . The dive continues along the wall to reveal another, much narrower entrance in the reef. Advanced divers only.
A favourite site for a lot of divers for its easy balance of large coral heads and overhangs all resting upon a white sandy carpet. Popular for its manatee inhabitants, this site is often used for teaching courses as it’s easy conditions and flat sandy areas provide a perfect stage for training. Great for beginners at 12 - 19m.
Xcalack is the gateway to Banco Chinchorro - a biosphere reserve with a collection of inhabited islands and the Northern hemisphere's largest coral atoll. It has earned a reputation as one of the last unspoiled dive destinations this side of the world and benefits from being both remote, inaccesible and with access requiring special permits from the Mexican Federal Government. Many people come to Xcalack just to dive here, especially recently since Banco Chinchooro has become one of the only places in the world you can 'dive' (swim) with crocodiles. Home to the largest population of American crocodiles in the world, local fishermen got to know their behaviours and after years of observation they realised these types of crocodiles were not interested in humans and preyed only on fish, birds and crustaceans. We will explain more to you about swimming with crocodiles in another article but if you'd like more information on how to book contact Yucatan Dive Trek.
Where is Xcalak and how do I get there?
There's a reason you've not heard of Xcalak before. Mexico is over-saturated with well known (and awesome) land-based dive locations like Tulum, Los Cabos, La Paz, Cancun and so many more, all offering their own unique dive experience, and all with one thing in common; they are fairly easy to get to, all within a few hours of an airport. Xcalak is NOT that easy to get to, which separates the adventurers from the convenient adventurers.
A village of 375 inhabitants in the municipality of Quintana Roo, on the Caribbean coast of Mexico it is one of the last "unspoiled" stretches of Mexican Caribbean located on the southern end of the Costa Maya.
How to get there
As a scuba diver we are sure you've travelled further distanced to get somewhere, and getting to Xcalak really isn't that hard - it's just people compare it to getting to closer destinations in Mexico, but just WAIT until you hear about the diving here.
Car - This is your best bet if you aren't travelling in a group. Hire a car from Cancun airport and drive on down. It'll take you about 4-5 hours.
Bus - Ready for an adventure? ADO is the best bus company in Mexico and are actually really reliable and comfortable - they even have air con! From Playa Del Carmen you can get a bus to Mahahual. Mahahual is about 90 minuets from Xcalak where you can hop on another bus. Alternatively from Cancun you can make your way to the city of Chetumal and from there you can take a second-class Caribe bus to Xcalak.
Taxi - Just no, it'll cost you around $400 from Cancun.
Private transfer packages are also available through XTC Dive Centre who we highly recommend you seeking advice from before you travel to Xcalak. Yucatan Dive Trek also organise full scuba diving tours of Yucatan which will take you to Xcalak and other areas with all your accommodation, diving and transportation included.
For more information on things to do, places to do stay and where to eat in Xcalak check out this Xcalak guide here.
Other things you need to know about diving in Xcalak
Best time of year: ALL YEAR
Water temperature: 27 - 28c all year round. No wetsuit needed!
Where to stay: Xcalak is a small town, luckily XTC have their own accommodation, and honestly you won't want to leave the dive centre once you are there! It's one of the coolest dive centres we've seen in a long time, perched right on the ocean with some hammocks, palm trees, and a load of good vibes!
Things to bring: Mosquito repellent, bio-degradable sunscreen, scuba equipment - obviously - but you can hire that at XTC if you don't want to travel with it. A smile - the staff will like you better!
Where to stay in Xcalak
There a few places to stay in Xcalack so you really don't have many options. Because competition is low prices are fairly high and there's no real budget options in Xcalak.
This hotel is apart of XTC dive centre, located right on the beach looking out onto the ocean. It's clean, spacious and really you never need to leave the 'complex' if you are a diver. You can eat, sleep and dive there - they even offer packages for exactly that.
Rooms start from $100 a night.
A great restaurant which also has some basic accommodation starting from $75 a night (note, we haven't stayed here, and it hasn't come very well recommended).
Located in the 'town' not on the beach this basic guest house starts at $72 a night
Super nice villas on the beachfront, family run, starting at low season at $110 per night.
Great for big groups, but equally awesome for couples wanting a baller house all to themselves. We had friends staying here (2 people) and they hired the whole house for $60 a night, and it's HUGE. It sleeps 12 people, has 5 bathrooms with a huge kitchen, beach area and includes kayaks. It's kind of creepily big for 2 people, but good for a party! Only available on AirBnB - get £15 free AirBnB credit from us here.
There are random AirBnB accommodations that pop up based on availability across Xcalak and it's worth checking up to see if there are any deals. You can also get £15 free AirBnB credit from us here.