Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Despite having a few resorts, Xcalacoco still remains a quiet beach, with a relaxed character and ambience. I imagine that Playa del Carmen used to be like this some years ago.
I came here with my friend Amanda and my husband Rhod for the first time in June 2017 (it took us three years to discover this beach) and we loved the low-key atmosphere. The beach is located south of Punta Maroma and a bit north of Playa proper. It is a 7km-long beach dotted with bungalows; small, exclusive resort hotels; and thatched-roof restaurants, backing into dense jungle. The designated public beach is small but you can put your towel down in front of any of the hotel deckchairs. The access to the public beach is free.
The water is relatively calm here because of the reef. There are wave breakers in front of the hotel Azul Fives with an easy and sandy access to the sea. Other parts of the beach are rocky. The rocks create small pools of water and if you look closely you will see tiny fish and crabs.
The public part of the beach is between the hotels Le Reve and Azul Fives. Just past Le Reve hotel there is a little souvenir shop and they sell cold fresh coco water. You can hire a deck chair for 100 pesos per person at this spot. You will need to bring your snacks as they don't sell food. There is actually a separate access to this spot from the road where you have to leave your car (the second path). Another option is the Coco Cabañas, with a restaurant open to the public. It is situated between hotels Petit Lafitte and Club de Playa Selvamar. You can rent two deckchairs for 200 pesos and I am told that their pizza and ceviche are fantastic (we did not try).
There are plenty of massage services on offer. If you love water sports, you can go paddle boarding, kayaking or even sailboarding. There are no public restrooms in the area; plan accordingly.
There are two piers on the beach; one belongs to the Azul Fives hotel and the other one to the Viceroy. They are closed to the public but you can rent them for events.
Xcalacoco means 'Twin Coconuts' in Mayan. There are some remnants of the Mayan structures, a little mound cordoned off by ropes, right by the Life Guard tower on the public beach. In the pre-Hispanic period it was a commercial port. There are also a few excavated ruins but they now sit within the grounds of the Sandos Caracol hotel. The Xcalacoco trail in the hotel also leads to a cenote (not accessible to the general public).
How to get there:
Go north on the 307 highway from Playa del Carmen. Go past the entrance to Grand Coral and at the traffic lights, just before the Coco Cola factory, turn right onto the side road. There is a sign for Xcalacoco beach on the highway.
Drive down the road about 3 minutes. You will pass several housing developments and arrive at a dead end. Park your car here on the access road as there is no formal car park.
Walk for about 30 seconds to the first entrance to the public beach and another minute or so to the second entrance. Parking is a bit limited but not too bad. We came here on Sunday, which is normally a busy beach day for the locals, but there were only about 15 cars parked here.
There is no public transportation. You could bike here or walk up the beach from Playa Del Carmen but it would take you about one hour.