This long, picturesque beach has clusters of development on either end and practically nothing in between. It seems only a matter of time before the owners of this enviable stretch of sand give their blessing to a megaresort, but for now it’s a gorgeous and peaceful spot where you could easily while away the whole day, or several.
La Playa Xpu-Há (Hwy. 307 Km. 265, tel. 984/106-0024, www.laplayaxpuha.com, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily) is a bustling club that offers a slew of classic beach activities, including parasailing, fishing, banana boats, snorkeling, and kayaking, all at standard prices. On weekends and holidays, there’s a US$2 per person “toll” at the entrance, charged by the landowner for upkeep of the access road. You get it back, though, as a credit on restaurant bills over US$10. There also is live music on Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 2:30 p.m.
Just down the beach, Xpu-Há Bonanza (entrance at Hwy. 307 Km. 265, tel. 984/116-4733, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily) has a much quieter scene, with a small number of beach chairs and umbrellas, yet close enough to La Playa to take advantage of the restaurant and water activities there. Parking and clean bathroom facilities are available.
In addition to the ocean reef, there’s great snorkeling in the numerous cenotes along the inland side of Highway 307, including a cluster just north of Xpu-Há. They vary in size, but most are like large ponds, some with high or overhanging limestone walls, and all filled with cool crystalline water—heaven on a hot day.
The cenote floor is often a jumble of stone slabs and in places quite deep—some even have gaping underwater caves that descend out of sight. The cenotes near Xpu-Há are not, however, the huge stalactite-laden caverns you may have seen in photos; for those, head south to Hidden Worlds or Dos Ojos cenote parks, both near Tulum.
Cenote Cristalino (Hwy. 307, 2 kilometers/1.2 miles north of Xpu-Há, 8 a.m.–6 p.m. daily) charges US$4.25, with no rental gear available. Much of this half-moon-shaped cenote is shallow and covered in algae, but one section extends under a deep overhanging rock ceiling.
Jardín del Edén (formerly Ponderosa Cenote, Hwy. 307, 1.75 kilometers/1 mile north of Xpu-Há, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Sun.–Fri.) is much larger than most cenotes—almost like a small lake—with a craggy floor that makes for fun snorkeling. At one end, the floor falls away into a deep underwater cave, where you can see divers emerging—or disappearing—into the abyss, their halogen lights piercing the shadows. A six-meter (19.7-foot) cliff is fun to jump off; just be alert for divers who may be coming up. Between cave-diving classes, snorkeling groups, and independent travelers, Jardín del Edén can get busy but is generally big enough to make a stop here worthwhile. Admission is US$4.25 adult, US$2.25 child, US$3.50 to rent mask and snorkel, and US$3.50 for a life vest.
At Cenote Azul (Hwy. 307, 1.5 kilometers/0.9 mile north of Xpu-Há, 8 a.m.–6 p.m. daily, US$4.25, US$3 mask and snorkel, US$3 life vest), a few large pools and a section of overhanging rock are the highlights, and walkways along the edges facilitate getting in and out.
Bahía Divers (Hwy. 307 Km 265, tel. 984/120-1546, www.bahiadivers.com) operates out of a small hut a short distance down the beach from La Playa Xpu-Há beach club. It offers the full gamut of ocean and cenote dives, plus certification courses and snorkeling and fishing trips, all with the advantage of small groups (six divers max) and personalized service. They also provide transport to and from your hotel, which is very handy. Ocean dives cost US$85 for two tanks (or US$155 to Isla Cozumel), while cenote diving runs US$110 for two tanks, all including gear. Snorkeling trips are US$25 per person in the ocean (minimum four people) or US$50 per person in the cenotes (minimum two).
Hotels and Restaurants
Xpu-Há Bonanza (entrance at Hwy. 307 Km. 265, tel. 984/116-4733, US$8.50 pp camping, US$15 RVs, US$42 s/d) is a low-key beachfront spot with room for camping and RVs, plus eight large hotel rooms. The latter have two beds and two hammocks and clean cold-water bathrooms, but they lack natural light. Travelers with tents can set up in the sand under a palm tree and have access to clean-ish shared bathrooms. To get here, look for a narrow dirt road with a small sign, just south of the Catalonia Royal Tulum resort.
Hotel Esencia (Hwy. 307 Km. 265, tel. 984/873-4835, U.S. tel. 877/528-3490 or 713/528-7162, www.hotelesencia.com, US$700–1,050 s/d with fan, US$950–2,050 two-br cottage) is a luxurious private estate turned resort. It boasts 29 gorgeous stark white rooms, each with a plunge pool and modern amenities like flat-screen TVs and surround-sound audio systems with MP3 ports. The beach is a mile long and just steps away, with plenty of palapa shades and loungers, so there’s no need to claim a spot before the sun rises. The hotel’s gourmet restaurant faces the Caribbean; guests can enjoy a daily continental breakfast as well as afternoon tea here. There’s also a full-service spa on-site, and yoga instruction is offered every morning. Service, as expected, is impeccable.
Getting to Xpu-Há
Each of the listings for Xpu-Há has its own access road, marked with large or small signs, and located at or near Km. 265 on the main coastal highway. Catalonia Royal Tulum resort is the largest and most obvious landmark; the other access roads are within a few hundred yards. La Plaza and Xpu-Há Bonanza, at the southern end of the beach, are the best access points if you’re only staying the day.
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition