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A true oasis of peace in the middle of a highly urbanised Riviera Maya, the wild and well preserved Xcacel beach is an invite to a snorkeling time in the heart of the nature. North of Xcacel beach there is a small coral reef, well sheltered from the waves, where you can swim along a wide diversity of colourful fish. Since Xcacel is a sanctuary for sea turtles, the whole area is protected and fishing is banned.

School of horse-eye jacks at Xcacel
Large groups of horse-eye jacks live at Xcacel reef.

How to get to Xcacel snorkeling spot?

Xcacel beach is located 8 km south of Akumal, around twenty kilometers north of Tulum, and less than 3 km from Xel-Ha park. If you do not have a car, you can ask a taxi or a collectivo to drop you off at the intersection with Road 307 (marked by a big sign, location here), then walk to the beach (around 500m).

The site is only opened from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 a.m to 4 p.m and there is an entrance fee (Pesos 88/person for foreigners). From May to November, during the turtles’ spawning season, the water activities are limited and certain parts of the beach are closed.

Xcacel Beach snorkeling map

Water entrance for snorkeling Xcacel

Once you are on the beach, walk towards the north (your left while facing the sea) for around 400 – 500m. You will find yourself in front of Xcacel coral reef, on which waves break around 200m away from the shore. Enter the water directly from the beach.

Xcacel snorkeling exploration

The snorkeling spot is located north of Xcacel beach, where a small coral reef has formed, stretching along approx. 400 m parallel to the beach. Stay within the area sheltered by the reef and do not move towards south, where the sea might be dangerous.

Elkhorn coral at Xcacel
In some places, you’ll find nice elkhorn coral.

In the “lagoon” which stretches between the beach and the reef, the depth of the water does not exceed 6 to 8ft/2 to 2.50m in the deepest areas. Close to the shore, the seafloor is bare and not very interesting. Farther off, close to the reef, the coral cover is in a variable state, but here and there you can find beautiful patches of lettuce coral, brain coral, and Elkhorn coral.

In particular, several varieties of gorgonians, including black sea rod (Plexaura homomalla), but also common and purple sea fans) form true underwater forests in certain areas.

Sailors grunt shoaling at Xcacel Beach
Close to the reef, you may spot dozens of sailors grunt shoaling between the corals.

Xcacel reef is part of a protected sanctuary, which allows spotting many types of fish. When finswimming over the reef, you will surely sight sergeant majors, blue tang, doctorfish tang, ocean triggerfish, or even needlefish caught while stealthily hunting right below the surface of the water.

During your snorkeling, you might even come across one of the enormous schools of hundreds of sailors grunts which live in the lagoon or a group of horse-eye jack resting close to the corals.

Even if Xcacel is a sanctuary for green sea turtles, it is very rare to see them in the water in this spot, since they only come here for laying their eggs on the beach. In order to snorkel with sea turtles, it is better to go to Akumal Bay, a short drive away.

Restaurants and accommodation near Xcacel

It is forbidden to bring food on the beach, but picnic tables have been installed close to the parking lot. Visitors are asked to take away their waste (as there are no garbage bins there). There are toilet facilities at the entrance in the sanctuary.


  • Level required Intermediate
  • Protected areaXcacel Área Natural Protegida Estatal
  • Maximum depth7ft/2.5m
  • Water entranceFrom a sandy beach
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersLow
  • Access costsEntrance fee pesos 88pp.
  • Restaurants nearbyNo, picnic tables next to the parking
  • Public toilets & showersYes

MAP Spot

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.