What to Expect Snorkeling in Xcalak

If you’ve planned a beach vacation to the Yucatan recently, chances are you’ve heard that snorkeling in Xcalak is the best thing since sliced bread. Xcalak is set up for water-enthusiasts to snorkel FROM SHORE, see GADS of tropical fish, and enjoy the SHELTER of the world’s 2nd largest barrier reef.

All that, while AVOIDING tourists and having the Xcalak beach to THEMSELVES.

Let me guess, the un-touristy aspect seems just too damn good to be true, right? Especially when ever-popular guidebook Lonely Plant calls Xcalak “the perfect escape” and online review-king TripAdvisor gives nearby Tulum a Travelers Choice award.

If it sounds like Xcalak is too ideal to escape tourism, you’re right! Except the average Joe likely isn’t going to spend the time to get there.

If (like us) you believe getting away from the tequila-soaked masses is worth a day’s drive, then Xcalak is the right beach vacation for you. Get all the info in your free PDF guide to Xcalak.

And here’s our insider account of what you can expect when snorkeling in Xcalak.

What snorkeling in Xcalak is like

Xcalak snorkeling reef map
  • Gads of brag-worthy fish. There are so many tropical fish living in the shallow coral heads around Xcalak, we won’t bother naming all of them. Besides tiny colourful tropical types, when snorkeling in Xcalak it’s not uncommon to catch sight of the rare eagle ray, turtle, squid, giant grouper, or barracuda.
  • Coral heads close to shore. The Mesoamerican barrier reef is about 400 meters from Xcalak’s shore. And between shore and reef you’ll find shallow coral heads, where fish thrive. Many beach accommodations in Xcalak have coral heads just off their beach. Snorkeling is as easy as rolling out of bed and hopping into the water! Before booking, ask if your accommodation has snorkel gear for guest use (lots do).
  • Calm and clear. The big sea waves break on the barrier reef before reaching Xcalak. This makes the water smooth and calm for snorkeling. No big waves also keeps the stunning turquoise sea crystal clear for 20 to 30 meters, making for great visibility underwater.
  • Shallow and warm. Most of the snorkeling from shore in Xcalak will be in 2 or 3 meters of water. At this depth you’ll see colourful fish, coral heads, and a mesmerizing, white sand bottom. And you can stand up! The water temperature in Xcalak is about 30 C / 80 F in summer, so all you need to wear snorkeling is shorts and a shirt. In winter, the water is a bit cooler at around 26 C / 78 F. You may want a light exposure vest for winter snorkeling.

If DIY snorkeling isn’t for you, check out XTC Diveshop’s snorkeling tours (tell them XcalakMexico.com sent you).

Tips for Your First Time Snorkeling in Xcalak

The first time snorkeling in Xcalak can be both exciting and stressful. The sun is warm. The water is stunning. And then there’s a mask and a weird tube you stick in your mouth.

Everyone says “go snorkeling”, then they don’t give you any good instructions.

We won’t be there to guide you the first time you snorkel in Xcalak. But we can give you some Xcalak specific tips to remember:

1 – To see clearly through Xcalak’s turquoise water, you need to wear a mask. Expect the mask to be a bit leaky, it happens to everyone. Just stand up in the shallow water and empty the mask when it fills with water. No biggie.

To avoid disappointment:

Bring contact lenses. Because in Xcalak you cannot buy prescription snorkeling masks. And your eyeglasses will NOT fit under a normal mask.

2 – For first-timers, breathing through a snorkel gives you a bit of a head rush. Breathing through a tube takes some getting used to…

To mitigate the head rush:

In Xcalak the water is so clear you can spot coral heads (dark spots in the water), and swim to them before you put your face in the water. Swim to an interesting location before you start breathing through the snorkel and you’ll probably stay out snorkeling longer.

3 – If you don’t swim well, floating on the surface (snorkeling) can tire you out.

To avoid exhaustion:

When snorkeling in Xcalak, the national marine park rules say you’re required to wear a floatation vest. There’s (almost) no enforcement, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear a vest. Floatation devices makes snorkeling easier, and safer.

Still unsure about snorkeling in Xcalak? Get comfortable with these beginner snorkeling tips.