Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Mexico
The turquoise shallow sea, white powdery sand and the laid-back charm will make you smile instantly! Xpu Há is a trendsetter among Mexican beaches: busy but serene and calm.
The ancient Maya named this bay Xpu-Há, 'morning dew'. Rather romantic. You will find it romantic too. The bay is not invaded (yet) by large hotel complexes, only a few small ones on the east side. The beach is long , perfect for walks. The west side is always empty, even at high peak, if you want a really quiet spot.
However, the central part around La Playa restaurant is popular with the locals and can be very busy. The restaurants are often packed. It's a beach club so you will need to pay the entry fee of 50 pesos per person by the gate off the highway but if you consume in a restaurant (200 pesos per person), your entry fee will be paid back to you.
You'll find all kinds of sports here: snorkelling, kite surfing, swimming, free-diving, boogie boarding, paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing, beach volleyball and beach soccer. You can hire the equipment and the instructors, if you are a beginner in any of the water sports. Outside holidays, it's relatively quiet but I must admit that during the New Year and Easter holidays it's overcrowded. I come here frequently with friends and family; it's a fun day trip out of Playa (but always outside those two main holidays). We put up our own chairs and an umbrella. Or spend the day at the restaurant, in the shade.
Services include a couple of restaurants, a few beach bars, music (live Thursday to Sunday), art shops, beach chairs for rent, beach huts to rent for the night, recently renovated camping (rebranded as glamping), public toilets and a showers. You can hire the loungers and their cost depends on the type of the chair you choose (wooden, plastic, with cushion or without), between 80-150 pesos, and the palapas (shelters roofed with palm leaves) go for 100 pesos. There are shallow reefs about 500m out from the beach and to rent snorkelling gear from the kite surfing store is $15USD per hour (price of 2018).
Xpu Ha is not only a beach; it's also an ecological reserve. It's surrounded by mangrove and coral reef, harbouring many marine species such as turtles, rays, sea urchins, starfish, crabs, and fish of all sizes and colours, plus a beautiful range of seabirds.
Turtles choose this beach to lay their eggs from May to September. Please maintain a considerable distance so you don't stress them. It is also recommended not to use sunscreen when you go into the sea, to protect the coral reef. Dogs are not allowed but locals go to the west end of the beach (away from the bars) with their dogs and that's fine. If you walk about, try and spot some of the coastal dune plants that protect the beach: baybean (canavalia rosea), octopus bush (heliotropium foertherianum), beach cabbage (scaevola taccada) and sea grape (coccoloba uvifera).
How to get there:
The beach can be reached by a colectivo for 30 pesos (a small bus leaves Playa frequently from Calle 2, between Avenidas 10 and 15). It is on Federal Route 307, on Km 265, between the towns of Puerto Aventuras and Akumal, 15 minutes (25km) south of Playa del Carmen.
The exact position is between the Catalonia Royal Tulum hotel and Club Tulum Hotel. There are two points for public access from the Tulum direction (if you're driving south from Playa, make a U-turn). Both charge 50 pesos entry fee per person. This does not include the cost of the loungers.