The thing I love about Playa del Carmen is its magnificent location on the Caribbean sea. Playa is a lively town filled with all the modern conveniences of stores, restaurants, cinemas, and fantastic accommodation options. There are a myriad of activities on offer from diving to paddle boarding, sailing, snorkeling and many more. With so much to do, it’s impossible to be bored in Playa del Carmen!

‘Playa’ is also perfectly located for exploring the surrounding Caribbean coastline, a pristine stretch of white sand and clear, turquoise water. I recently visited the nearby beach of Xcacel, about a 30 minute drive south of town.

Although not very far, Xcacel feels like a world away from civilization. There were no beach clubs or hotels to be seen as we made our way over the dunes and onto the shore. The wind whipped through my hair as I took in the rugged beauty of the scene, thundering waves crashing onto the sand.

Xcacel Beach

‘This is wild,’ I thought to myself, reminded of the power and beauty of mother nature when she is left untouched. I sat on the sand and dug my feet into its cool embrace, watching as my friends took to the water to body surf the ferocious waves.

Xcacel beach

A few people set up on the beach for the day with chairs and umbrellas, whilst two inquisitive local residents waddled past. A little girl ran over to feed the iguanas some of her lunch as I watched them tentatively, ready to make a run for it if necessary!

Xcacel beach

My friends had enough of being whipped around by the sea and collapsed onto the sand, panting. After basking in the sun for a while, we decided to check out the nearby cenote (natural fresh water pool). We made our way over the dunes and into a clearing dotted with palm trees, where a colorful sign pointed in the direction of a jungle path.

Xcacel beach

Surrounded on both sides by a wall of lush green foliage, we made our way along the sandy pathway, occasionally catching a glimpse of the azure sea over the dunes to our left.

Xcacel beach

The path curved inland, taking us through a mangrove filled with cool, shallow water.

Suddenly, the cenote appeared at the end of the path. It was unlike any I had seen before, smaller and surrounded on all sides by tangled foliage which seemed to rise out from the water. I donned my snorkel and observed the many fish living in the natural pool, some of them coming over to nibble on my feet, giving me a natural (but very ticklish!) foot spa.

Xcacel beach cenote

Sitting on a rocky ledge, I observed the scene; people swimming and laughing, the trees swaying in the breeze, fish darting through the clear water and birds perching on overhanging branches. It was hard to believe we were just a 30 minute drive from the luxury of our condo hotel in Playa del Carmen.

I was looking forward to getting back to civilization, but grateful to have experienced the rugged natural beauty of Xcacel beach and its ‘secret cenote’, an experience I won’t forget any time soon.

*Xcacel beach is about a 30 min drive south of Playa del Carmen, before Tulum, and can be reached by taxi, van or car. There is a small charge of 10 pesos (less than $1) per person at the gate.