Xcacel and Xcacelito
A few kilometers outside Tulum you'll find its best beach: it's a natural reserve called XCACEL, where you can enjoy a beautifil beach and a small cenote.
SEMA (Secretaría de Ecología y Medio Ambiente) declared this area a natural reserve for the protection of sea turtles in 1998, and even if it is open to the public you won't see the crowds that are invading Akumal beach.
Once you arrive at the entrance of the beach you will be welcomed by the volunteers that take care of the area; they will explain you the basic rules that you have to follow to protect the environment, such as
- you are not allowed to smoke
- you cannot leave garbage on the ground
- you cannot touch or walk on turtles' nests
- you cannot use repellents or lotions when swimming in the cenote
The entrance has no fee but the volunteers will ask you for a donation to help the activities of preservation.
Only a few meters after the entrance you will see a toilet and some showers, everything is really basic but considering that this is a reserve and not a resort it was far more than I expected.
REMEMBER: there are no bars or shops nearby so bring water and food with you.
The beach (Xcacel)
When you enter the area you will see a parking lot and the bathroom and showers in front of you.
If you arrive in the morning I suggest you start your visit to Xcacel with the beach, the sun could be too strong at midday, and it will be perfect to swim in the cenote when the weather is too hot. All you have to do is taking the path at your left, you'll walk under beautiful palm trees till you get to the beach.
As there are no facilities, if you need some shadow you'll just have to look for a palm tall enough to lay under it (the majority of the trees are quite small), or bring an umbrella with you.
What you'll find here is white sand, pristine water, peace...and most of all turtle nests, all well marked so nobody can walk upon them. If you like snorkeling you will see some nice fishes, but I honestly didn't see any turtles while I was there.
What I really liked os that you actually see volunteers patrolling the areas to check on the respect of this unique environment.
The resting area
When you are done with the beach just go back to the bathrooms and take the path on the left, before you get to the cenote you'll find a couple of resting areas with tall palm trees and nice rocks that you can use as tables.
I was there in the summer and I have to say that it was a bit crowdy, especially the first area, with a lot of people cooking and listening to music...if you are looking for something quieter try the second one, just before the cenote.
What I really enjoyed, apart from the shadow, the sound of the sea and the breeze, was the presence of some little friends that came out of their hides as soon as they understood we had food! Dozens of beautiful hermit crabs started walking around hoping to get something to eat, everyone of them had a different size and color, it was an amazing surprise to meet them.
The cenote (Xcacelito)
If you fear you can get lost while going to the cenote don't worry, you'll find this sign on your way
Once you get to the cenote you may find a queue, the place is quite small and to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy its beauty the entrance is organized in turns. Anyway don't worry, you'll wait under palm trees in good company of some curious iguanas.
How to get there
It's really easy and cheap to get to Xcacel with public transportation
From TULUM: take a colectivo -white minivan- from the pueblo (there are designed stops) direction Playa del Carmen, from the road in front of the San Francisco Supermarket (opposite to the entrance) or in front of the ruins (same side of the street). If you are waiting on the road just raise you hand to ask for a stop.
In summer 2017 the prices for a ride were around 20 pesos according to the company (there at least 3 companies the drives colectivos in that direction). The cheaper one at the time was the "Tiburones del Caribe", they have a RED stripe on the van.
Ask the driver to stop you at Xcacel beach, you'll find the path just under the big sign
From PLAYA DEL CARMEN: take a colectivo direction Tulum. Ask the driver to stop you in Xcacel beach, you'll have to cross the street and you'll find the path to the beach.