The southernmost town in Quintana Roo, Xcalak (pronounced ish-ka-lack) is only 11 km (7 miles) from the Belize border by water, and a little of both places is evident in 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, but it's worth the effort. After all, this remote area offers excellent saltwater fly-fishing; flowers, birds, and butterflies are abundant; and the terrain is marked by savannas, marshes, streams, and island-dotted lagoons. You’ll also find fabulously deserted beaches and a small town center comprised of bars, restaurants, and a few food shops.

The entire coast in this area is a designated National Marine Park, and all construction near Xcalak is bound by stringent environmental laws, which protect the natural beauty. By extension, electricity isn’t very dependable and tourist amenities are few; the community has no nightlife, and hotels (the majority of which close down during hurricane season) cater mostly to rugged outdoorsy types.

Since there are no standard phones here and cell service is very limited, visitors should plan on being out of touch, or doing as the locals do and keep connected via email or Skype. The lack of phone lines means no one accepts credit cards either; moreover, there are no banks or ATMs in or near Xcalak—the closest ATMs are 64 km (40 miles) north in Mahahual—so bring plenty of cash for your entire stay.

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