Mahahual or Xcalak – Which Should You Choose?

So, you’ve found an untouched Mexican beach destination of Costa Maya. Congrats!

Costa Maya – south of the Riviera Maya – is an excellent place to enjoy the Mexican sun and escape from tourist crowds. Costa Maya is less-developed, quieter, and more pristine than the Riviera Maya (home to tourist metropolises Cancun and Playa del Carmen).

Now – where to stay? The two best places to stay in Costa Maya are Mahahual and Xcalak.

But which do you choose?

Read on to find out about these two Costa Maya towns, and then you’ll be able to decide whether Mahahual or Xcalak is right for you, and watch the video to see what the towns are like.


A small coastal town, Mahahual is around 4 ½ hours from Cancun. Along the beach-side malecon (paved, pedestrian walkway), you’ll find mostly low-rise, concrete buildings and tourist-oriented restaurants and shops. Grab a beer at a table on the sand, get a massage, or rent snorkel gear or a jet-ski – it’s all available in Mahahual.

Cruise ships disgorge passengers into the town regularly, and it makes for a lively atmosphere with plenty of new friends for you to meet.

Not a town with tons of luxury to be had, don’t expect fancy digs, fine dining, or valet parking.

Here’s what you’ll find in Mahahual:

  • A cruise ship port
  • Lots of restaurants and accommodations
  • Tourist activities like snorkeling rentals, bike rentals, jet-ski rentals
  • Lots of people to meet
  • Shopping
  • A Mayan-themed waterpark!

You’ll love it if you:

  • Like shopping for a wide range of Mexican souvenirs
  • Want to meet people who take cruises
  • Enjoy water activities and sports
  • Don’t need 5-star resort pampering
  • Want to get away from crowds on the Riviera Maya


Just 8 miles from the border with Belize, you can’t get much more south on the Yucatan peninsula. It’s remote, and not just because it’s a 6-hour drive from Cancun – the town itself is on water and electricity systems, but most accommodations aren’t. They’re off-grid, which means solar power and cistern water. Adventure!

In Xcalak, there aren’t souvenir shops, rental kiosks, grocery stores, or much of anything commercial. What you’ll find is pristine, protected Caribbean water, lush jungle, and unspoiled beaches. For those who love nature, quiet time, and escaping crowds this is a perfect place.

See here, for the internet’s definitive guide on getting to Xcalak.

In Xcalak it’s more about what you won’t find:

  • A cruise ship port
  • Crowds
  • Touts
  • Shopping
  • Extensive water sports or boat traffic
  • Tons of restaurants (you’ll likely be making your own food in your kitchenette)
  • A wide choice of 5-star accommodations

You’ll love it if you:

  • Prefer sea breeze to air conditioning
  • Love geckos and hermit crabs
  • Would rather have memories than buy souvenirs
  • Don’t mind driving on a dirt road
  • Like to cook for yourself
  • Want to get away from the crowds in Mahahual

If you’re a beach lover, be sure to check out this post, describing Xcalak Beach in detail.

So now you know what makes Mahahual and Xcalak different, and what makes each one special. Now it’s easy to decide whether you’d like Mahahual or Xcalak.

Of course, it’s obvious that we prefer Xcalak. And if you do too, you’ll be needing our free Xcalak Travel Guide.

Download the guide here, and make your visit to Xcalak one of your best vacations ever.