The tiny fishing village of Xcalak lies just a short distance from the channel that marks the Mexico-Belize border, and a blessed long way from anything else. The town started out as a military outpost, and didn’t get its first real hotel until 1988.
Villagers had to wait another decade to get a paved road; before that, the only way in or out of town was by boat or via 55 kilometers (34 miles) of rutted beach tracks. Electrical lines were installed in 2004 but only in the village proper, so many outlying areas (including most of the better hotels) still rely on solar and wind power, as well as generators.
The town has no bank, no public phones, and no gas station. That is to say: perfect!
The area doesn’t have much beach but makes up for it with world-class fly-fishing, great snorkeling and diving, and a healthy coral reef and lagoon. A growing contingent of expats, mostly American and Canadian, have built homes here, some for personal use, others for rent, others as small hotels.
Large-scale tourism may be inevitable but still seems a long way off, and Xcalak remains a small and wonderfully laid-back place, perfect for those looking for some honest-to-goodness isolation.
Getting to Xcalak
Bus service is somewhat erratic in Xcalak. Theoretically, buses bound for Chetumal (with stops in Mahahual and Limones) leave twice daily, typically around 5 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. (4–5 hours, US$6), but it’s not unusual for one or both departures to be delayed or cancelled. Upon arrival, your hotel may send a car to pick you up; otherwise a taxi from town is about US$1.50.
Most travelers come in a rental car, which certainly simplifies life here. The closest gas station is on the main road to Mahahual, near the turnoff for Xcalak. However, it occasionally runs out of gas, so you should fill up on Highway 307 as well—Carrillo Puerto is a good spot. In a pinch, a few Xcalak families sell gas from barrels in their front yards; ask your hotel owner for help locating them.
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition