Riviera Maya: Places to Explore

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Xcalak

As the southernmost town in Quintana Roo, Xcalak (pronounced ish-ka-lack), is 11 km (7 miles) from the Belize border (by water), and has a little of both places in its local life. Spanish is still the primary language, although most people speak English, and you'll sometimes hear a Caribbean patois. Getting here is an adventure, since you first have to drive just short of the beach in Mahahual, and then cut over another 61 km (37 miles) to reach the entrance of Xcalak. From here, beach properties are down a rough and pitted road, but it's worth the effort. This remote area offers excellent saltwater fly-fishing for a variety of catches including tarpon, bonefish, and permit.

This national reserve is on the tip of a peninsula that divides Chetumal Bay from the Caribbean. Flowers, birds, and butterflies are abundant here, and the terrain is marked by savannas, marshes, streams, and lagoons dotted with islands. There are also fabulously deserted beaches, and a small town center comprised of bars, restaurants, and a few food shops. Although Xcalak has electricity, it's not very dependable. There is no air-conditioning and no phones, other than satellite cell phones for emergency. To book a hotel, email the property rather than call since you probably won’t get through.

Visitor amenities are few, and the town itself lacks a nightlife; the hotels cater mostly to rugged types who come to bird-watch on Bird Island or to dive at Banco Chinchorro, a coral atoll and national park some two hours northeast by boat. This is also a great launching point for day trips to Belize. Most hotels and businesses close down during hurricane season, so check ahead to make sure your destination is open.

Although there has been minimal coastal development of private homes, all construction near Xcalak is bound by stringent environmental laws. The entire coast in this area is a designated National Marine Park, which protects the natural beauty of this frontier village.

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