So you want to know how to get to Xcalak? The best way to get there is to rent a car and drive. The town of Xcalak is approximately 400 km (250 mi) south of Cancun international airport. Getting to Xcalak Mexico, you’ll travel past the Riviera Maya to the Costa Maya region, next to the Mexico / Belize border.
If you won’t be driving to Xcalak, you can take a bus that will drop you in town. At the end of this post is Mayab + Caribe bus information, and a neat video that shows you what getting to Xcalak by bus is like.
Driving to Xcalak from Cancun
Watch this video about getting to Xcalak, for sure. But also skim the post (it has bonus details + tips not included in the video).
Xcalak has an airstrip. But if you’re thinking you’ll fly down in your personal aircraft, think again. Last we heard the airport in Xcalak is only for military use.
Most visitors to Xcalak arrive in Mexico at the Cancun International Airport (CUN). From there, getting to Xcalak is easiest by renting a car and driving. The trip realistically takes between 6 and 7 hours (even if Google Maps says it only takes 5).
Directions to Xcalak from Cancun are straightforward:
- Hwy 307 south: from the Cancun airport get on Hwy 307 and drive south towards Chetumal for 294 km / 182 mi.
- Optional: take the toll road around the town of Felipe Carillo Puerto (28 pesos). Look for signs saying “Libramiento Felipe Carillo Puerto”
- Towards Mahahaul: exit Hwy 307 for Mahahaul, drive 51 km / 32 mi to the Xcalak intersection, which is just before the Pemex gas station.
- Towards Xcalak: Turn right for Xcalak, drive for 60 km / 37 mi along the jungle road. You’re there.
That’s it for directions to Xcalak (told you they were simple).
About driving in Mexico on Highway 307
Get the free Xcalak Travel Guide for an offline summary of the driving directions, driving tips, and a tourist map of Xcalak (plus loads of other helpful stuff for the first time visitor).
Is driving in Mexico scary? Driving in the Yucatan is similar to driving in the U.S. and Canada – yes, there is plenty of traffic but most drivers obey road signs and traffic lights. We have found drivers in Mexico to be more courteous than many drivers in Canadian cities!
What are the roads like? From Cancun to Xcalak, expect paved roads. Most of the drive will be on the well-maintained, two- to four-lane highway 307 which follows the Yucatan’s coast. Don’t expect any coastal views, though – they’re blocked by ostentatious resort entrances.
Traffic on four-lane highway 307 is heavy from Cancun and through to the city of Playa del Carmen, but after passing the next major town (Tulum), traffic gets lighter.
What about driving at night? It’s not a good idea to drive to Xcalak at night. If you arrive in Mexico/Cancun in the afternoon or evening, stay the night somewhere part-way and travel to Xcalak in the morning.
On the way to Xcalak you will pass through several large-ish towns:
Playa del Carmen – 1 hour south of Cancun – expect heavy four-lane traffic. It can be stressful driving through Playa, especially because the painted lanes on the highway are sometimes faded.
Tulum – 2 hours south of Cancun – expect speed bumps, bicycles, and pedestrians crossing the road as you drive through the town. Tulum has several ATMs (including Scotiabank and HSBC). If you haven’t withdrawn pesos at the airport, this is a good place to stop and get some, as Xcalak is cash only. Tulum also has two grocery stores: Saint Francis de Assisi and the Chedraui (a major grocery and department store).
Tip – Stop in Tulum to get groceries, booze, and pesos.
Felipe Carrillo Puerto – 3 hours south of Cancun – get gas in Felipe Carrillo Puerto at the Pemex gas station as you enter town, or at a second Pemex as you leave town. After Felipe Carrillo Puerto gas stations are rare. There is an ATM at the center of town (in case you didn’t get pesos in Tulum).
What is a “tope”? You’ll see signs with a picture of a speed bump that say “tope” along 307 especially before and after towns and villages. Mexican speed bumps / topes are aggressive. Go over topes as slow as possible. Be vigilant for tope signs – taking a tope too fast will damage your vehicle.
Is gassing up in Mexico different from home? Yes. Your only option is full-serve, and the attendant should always show you that the pump is zeroed before he or she starts pumping. Choose from Premium or Regular, and use cash or credit card at most gas stations when getting to Xcalak.
Gas station attendants are always happy to accept a small tip (5 to 10 pesos) after cleaning your windshield and pumping your gas. Also – be prepared with 5 pesos if you want to use the gas station bathroom.
What do I do at a police checkpoint? It’s not uncommon to encounter police checkpoints along highway 307, but they rarely stop vehicles. If you’re stopped at a checkpoint, show your license/ID and your vehicle’s registration. The police on highway 307 are used to tourists and should wave you through without hassle.
What if my vehicle breaks down? If your vehicle breaks down getting to Xcalak on highway 307, it’s likely the Green Angels will come to your rescue. These green and white tow trucks ply the highway 307 helping stranded motorists. The Green Angels are government sponsored and offer their services for free, but accept donations. They will do what they can to help get you on your way again.
About leaving Hwy 307 and driving towards Mahahaul
On Hwy 307 just south of the small town of Limones, is the exit to Mahahaul. The exit is clearly marked. The highway to Mahahaul is a wide two-lane road. There aren’t many houses or sights on the highway to Mahahaul.
Stop for hot sauce at KM 5. Five kilometers after you turn off highway 307, you’ll come to a farm on the left called (creatively) KM 5. The jalapenos that make the shop’s hot sauce are grown on site. There is a wide spectrum of tastes, from mild to nuclear. Stock up for your vacation, and support the local economy!
Get gas if you didn’t. 52 kilometers in, just after the exit to Xcalak and just before Mahahaul, is a Pemex gas station. Gas up here if you didn’t in Felipe Carrillo Puerto – there are no gas stations in Xcalak.
Once you’ve gassed up, turn around, take the exit to Xcalak, and you’re almost there. Woot.
About the Mahahaul to Xcalak highway
After taking the exit just before Mahahaul to Xcalak, you have 60 more km (37 mi) to go. This highway is two-lanes wide and the jungle encroaches, making it a narrow drive. Keep an eye out for wildlife and stick to your side of the road on blind corners.
Follow the narrow highway to Xcalak for around 45 minutes and you’ll reach a T-intersection. You’ll see signs for accommodations pointing left, towards town. Unless you’re headed to the tiny Xcalak airstrip on the right, turn left here. Only 5 more minutes until you get to Xcalak.
When you reach the town of Xcalak you’ll be at another T-intersection, in front of a soccer field and signs for accommodations. If you’re staying on the beach road (and we hope you are), drive through town until you reach the dirt beach road where you’ll find most of the accommodations in Xcalak.
We provide a town map of Xcalak and the beach road to help you out.
Do I need 4×4 in Xcalak? No, you don’t need four-wheel drive. While it would be an advantage on the beach road (especially in muddy, rainy conditions), you can easily travel the road with a two-wheel drive rental car.
Negotiate the pot holes and bumps in the north beach road slowly, keeping an eye out for sunbathing iguanas and motorbikes coming up behind you.
Once you’ve navigated the beach road and arrived at your accommodation, congratulations! It’s time to relax and enjoy Xcalak.
Download the Xcalak Travel Guide for a summary of Xcalak driving tips, a map of the town, accommodation summaries, and what to bring when you visit.
Taking the bus to Xcalak
We don’t recommend taking a bus to Xcalak if you want to stay at a beach side accommodation. Most accommodations are outside of town, too far to comfortably walk.
There aren’t many options for taking the bus, making getting to Xcalak a time-consuming adventure.
- From Cancun make your way to the city of Chetumal using one of many bus services (ADO has tourist-quality buses). From Chetumal you can take a second-class Caribe bus to Xcalak.
- The Caribe bus leaves from Chetumal to Xcalak twice a day – once in the morning and once in the afternoon. The Caribe bus to Xcalak stops in Bacalar, Limones, and Mahahual before heading for Xcalak. The total trip takes 4 hours.
- If you decide to intersect the bus in Limones (see note below for the adventurous), the Caribe bus is scheduled to arrive in Limones at 7:30 AM and 6:00 PM (give or take 30 minutes).
For the adventurous only: it is possible to avoid going all the way to Chetumal to catch the Caribe bus. By timing it so you take the right bus from Cancun to Limones, you can intercept the Caribe Xcalak bus in Limones, before it goes to Xcalak. This is risky as bus schedules are more like guidelines, but if you pull it off it will save a few hours.
The Caribe bus to Xcalak will drop you off at the Xcalak town pier.
If you’re catching the evening Caribe bus to get to Xcalak, know that it arrives after dark, at about 8 PM. There are no taxi’s in Xcalak, and after dark is not a pleasant time to be looking for a place to stay.
Download the Xcalak Travel Guide for a summary of this entire post