topic from the pull-down menu below.
You will need cash for EVERYTHING in Xcalak, and you cannot get any here: no bank, no cash machine. There is now a bank cash machine at the Pemex station in Majahual, a mere 45 minutes from Xcalak. But you should not expect that it will necessarily have any cash for you. There are cash machines in Tulum, Felipe Carrillo Puerto, and Bacalar. But unless you want to risk spending your time going from machine to machine (and do you even know where they are?) trying to find one with some cash in it, and that accepts your card (international transactions are becoming increasingly difficult), to be safe, you should plan to get all the cash you expect to need before you leave Playa del Carmen coming from the north, or Chetumal if you’re coming from the south. Do not bother with Travelers Checks. Very few places in Xcalak accept them.
You probably won’t find many places south of Tulum where you can use a credit card. In places like Cancun and Playa del Carmen, credit cards are readily accepted. The problem you may encounter is that after you have used your credit card a time or two, your credit card carrier may put a “freeze” on your card. They consider any transactions in Mexico to be highly suspect (like no one with a credit card would ever be in Mexico). You might want to contact your credit card carrier before you come, and alert them the card may be used for transactions in Mexico, and that they are legitimate.
It is best to have a combination of both. Some places give you a better rate for dollars than the official exchange rate. At other places, you will pay a premium for using dollars. Be aware of what the current exchange rate is. Some places will have their prices posted in both dollars and pesos, or will have their exchange rate posted. If they don’t, ask what the exchange rate (“tipo de cambio”) is for U.S dollars. Then decide whether to pay in dollars or pesos.
to get to Xcalak are in the "Getting Here" section, along with a map
of Xcalak. The most important thing for visitors to know is, DO NOT DRIVE
AFTER DARK! Very few roads have lights. Many cars won’t have lights on,
either. And there even may be livestock grazing on the roads after dark.
Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism provides a service called the
Green Angels. These are bilingual mechanics driving green trucks who patrol the
major highways every day. They provide emergency assistance, and charge only for
parts and gasoline. But it can seem like a long wait until daylight, which is
the next time you can start looking for a Green Angel if your car breaks down at
night. There aren’t any shoulders on the road, either. So if there’s a
“disabled vehicle” (aka
“broken down car”) in the road, it’s in the road, not pulled off on a
shoulder. It’s highly unlikely that there will be any flares or bright orange
signs to help you see the car before you hit it. And if you’re the broken down
car, it will be just as hard for any other vehicle to see you in the dark.
There are more gas stations in the Yucatan than there used to be, but they’re still few and far between. The Pemex station in Majahual opened in October 2003. It’s a little bit past the turn-off to Xcalak, so if you need to get gas there, you’ll have to pass the turn to Xcalak and then go back. But if you're driving south on Highway 307, it's still a good idea to fill up in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, because the Pemex in Majahual sometimes runs out of gas.
When you pay for gas, be sure to count out each bill to the attendant. Do not simply hand over a bill, or bills, without specifying the amount.
There isn't a gas station in Xcalak, but it is possible to buy a few liters of gas in town. If you're in Chetumal, you can fill up in the city or at the Pemex just outside the city when you get on 307 to head north toward Xcalak. If you're coming in from the west, there's a Pemex on 186 not too far from the junction with 307. There are now several Pemex stations on 307 in Bacalar.You may encounter military checkpoints at various points along the way. Although these young soldiers wear imposing uniforms and carry guns, there is no reason to get upset, unless you have drugs or weapons with you, which would be an extremely stupid thing to do. We can’t emphasize enough how stupid that would be! They’re really not there to hassle you or give you a hard time; they’re trying to keep the country safe (and it provides jobs for young men who would not otherwise have many opportunities). Just be pleasant, and they will be, too.
Depending on how many visitors there are in Xcalak at the time, anywhere from one to several local small restaurants may be open. The closest restaurant is just a short stroll down the beach. For delicious, authentic local home cooking (literally: the restaurant is their house!) prepared however you like it, have lunch or dinner at Toby's Brisas del Mar in the Xcalak pueblo. Silvia's Loncheria, another home-based restaurant, next to Toby’s, is a unique local experience. And if you’re lucky enough to be here when the Leaky Palapa is open (reservations almost always necessary), you may well enjoy one of the best meals you’ve ever had. Many of our returning guests plan their trips to Xcalak based on when The Leaky Palapa will be open. And remember, at Casa Carolina you have your own kitchen in your room. You can always shop at the local stores and from the trucks that come right to our door, and enjoy making your own meals with fresh local ingredients. You won’t get a better view while you eat than the one from your room!
Although you can buy some things in the stores in Xcalak, you should not make the assumption that “of course” you will be able to buy some specific thing, no matter how many other small Mexican or Caribbean towns you have been in. Bring a hat, sunscreen, and insect repellent. No matter how well you tan, bring a strong sunscreen…none of this “SPF 4” stuff. In case you’re caught without your bug spray, you might want to have some itch cream with you. If there’s a condiment or food item you just can’t live without, you'd better bring it. Bring a camera and film, if you use film. If you use a digital camera, either bring enough memory cards, or have a device on which you can download your pictures to free up memory on your card. The disposable underwater cameras take nice pictures, and eliminate the worry about getting a good camera wet while you’re on a boat or at the water, even if you’re not underwater.You should also plan to bring with you anything you're inclined to use in the way of "pharmaceuticals": aspirin or preferred substitute, cold remedies, antihistamine, upset stomach medicine...whatever. You aren't any more likely to need these things here than you are anywhere else, but if you do need them, you can’t get them here. There is a medical clinic in town where they treat emergencies, and they have antibiotics and such. And there is now a pharmacy at the cruise ship pier in Majahual, but it is open only when there is a ship in port. Other than that, the closest thing to what we think of as a pharmacy is in Bacalar, which is about 100 miles away.
Remember that you will need cash—pesos, dollars, or even Euros—for virtually everything you may want to do in Xcalak, and that you can’t get any here: no bank, no ATM. There are now ATMs in Mahahual, a mere 45 minutes from Xcalak, but you should not depend on them necessarily having any money in them. You should bring enough cash for everything you can anticipate wanting to do while you’re in Xcalak. Do not plan to use Travelers checks.
Our solar powered electrical system is more than adequate to provide lights and keep the refrigerators running 24 hours a day. But appliances whose purpose is to produce heat use large amounts of energy. Specifically, hair dryers, curling irons, flat irons, electric rollers, clothes irons, electric coffeepots, and toasters are the biggest users of energy. If you insist on styling your hair with an electric appliance, we won’t have lights to see how it looks when you finish. (And the cold drinks in our refrigerators will become warm drinks.) You might consider that worth the trade-off, but the other guests probably won’t! So try letting your hair dry naturally. We promise you will look just as good as everyone else.
We always enjoy shopping for produce at the public market in Carrillo Puerto (you’re stopping for gas there, anyway). The prices are probably the most reasonable you’ll find. The market is on the right as you’re going south, north of the Pemex station in town. But it is not an “open air” market and you will probably have to ask someone where it is the first time you go there. The traffic signs as you approach Felipe Carrillo Puerto try to divert traffic to the east (left as you're heading south), away from the center of town. In terms of getting here, it doesn't matter which way you go. But if you want to shop at the public market, get gas at the Pemex in the center of town (where there is an ATM inside the bank at the Pemex), or eat at any of the restaurants in the town center, you will need to stay on the local traffic route, and not follow the diversion to the left.
There’s a small government-run supermarket, the ISSSTE (don’t ask us what the acronym means) on the right as you head out of Carrillo Puerto. But if you’re from the U.S., you probably won’t recognize this store as a “supermarket.” You’ll be looking for something bigger. It’s the only building with its own parking lot facing 307.
There are a few very small stores in Xcalak. They’re open mainly in the morning and late afternoon/early evening. Their stock is limited. Trucks selling produce and other food items come right to our door at least twice a week. The quality of their merchandise is generally excellent. If you’re staying long enough, you can put in special orders and they’ll bring what you’ve requested on their next trip.
We do not. We know that “packages” often sound appealing to people, and they sound like it will cost you less. But we think travel should offer the opportunity of discovery. Our experience has been that it is only when we get to a place that we discover all sorts of things we would like to do, and often, wonderful places to eat. When you go someplace for the first time, how is it possible to know exactly what you will want to do while you are there?
When we return to a place we have been before, we may know what we loved enough to want to do again, and what we did not have the chance to do on our previous visit. There may also be new opportunities that were not available before. Why try to make decisions about where you will eat, or how many times you will want to participate in a particular activity before you even get here? You could be denying yourself wonderful experiences. And remember, people who put together packages for you aren't doing it for the purpose of saving you money.
Take a look at the Fly Fishing Photo Gallery. The caption of each “grand slam” picture indicates the month it happened. You’ll see that the fishing is terrific here all year! It’s true that more fishermen come here in the winter than in the summer, but that is because in the summer there are more places they can fish than in the winter, not because the fishing isn’t as good here in the summer as in the winter.
If you’re sure that you want to fish with a guide, you most definitely should reserve a guide in advance. Some people have a great time walking the flats by themselves. It is common (if you know what you’re doing) to catch bonefish right in front of Casa Carolina, and a few people have even caught permit (see the picture at the top of our home page, with Casa Carolina in the background!). But your most productive fishing will be with a guide, from a boat. At busy times of year, the guides all will have been booked in advance and unless there is a last minute cancellation, you probably won’t find anyone available. At times of year that aren’t as busy, they might have left town to do other work to support their families, such as commercial fishing, if they didn’t have reservations for guiding. We are glad to reserve guides for our guests. Some of them now have email, and a couple of them even have their own web pages. If you would rather make the reservation yourself, we are glad to give our guests contact information for the guides.
Legally, yes. Strange as it may seem, you cannot buy the license here. Unless you have a Mexican bank account, you have to get it before you come. Click here for an application or contact information. It is advisable to apply as far in advance as possible, to be sure of receiving your license when you need it.
Some people ask us what the weather will be like during the time they’re planning their vacation. Although we don’t know what the weather will be on specific days in the future, we can tell you that the average weather varies very little throughout the year. Most of the time the daytime air temperature is in the 80’s Fahrenheit, and there is almost always a breeze. As the water temperature doesn’t change as quickly as air temperature, it is more predictable: usually in the low 80’s Fahrenheit, never getting colder than the high 70’s or warmer than 84ºF or 85ºF. As our weather is so consistent, we don’t have “seasons” for recreational activities: we enjoy diving, snorkeling, and fishing all year. But we cannot tell you if the weather will be conducive for any particular activity on any given day in the future.
There are very few days during the year when it rains all day here. Our version of “the rainy season” tends to be passing showers. Based on what guidebooks to the Yucatan say about average rainfall, Xcalak seems to get less rain than the rest of this coast.
It depends on the weather, and how the wind is blowing. If the wind is coming from the jungle, the bugs will come too. If the breeze is coming from the sea, it will blow the bugs right into the jungle and they won’t bother you at all.
The town of Xcalak does not have running water. Most townspeople get their water from wells. So there aren't any laundromats, and there isn't anyone who provides laundry service, because it just isn't feasible. Also, the town has only had electricity since 2004, and the power often goes out for a couple of days at a time. (Casa Carolina is solar-powered and has electricity 24 hours/day.) So the laundry would have to be done by hand, or at night.
Casa Carolina provides purified water for drinking. We collect rain water for everything else. If there isn't enough rain, we supplement our supply with well water. If we are not wasteful, we have enough water for our guests' personal use, and to be able to provide clean sheets and towels. But we do not have enough water to invite guests to do their personal laundry.
Most vacationers in Xcalak wear bathing suits most of the time, and so generate very little dirty laundry. You can wear very casual clothing every place in Xcalak, at any time. So you probably won't need to bring many clothes. While you can certainly wash out a thing or two in the sink or the shower, you should probably bring all the clean clothes you expect to need with you. If you are traveling for a length of time, you should not plan to catch up on your laundry while you're in Xcalak.
I Still Have Questions…Please e-mail us with any questions you still have. We’ll be glad to try to answer them for you.
Dive Snorkel Fly fish for the grand slam: tarpon, permit, and bonefish Fish the reef or troll for your dinner Kayak Ride bikes Read everything you’ve been trying to find time for Bird watch Swing in a hammock Take a boat trip to San Pedro, Belize Star gaze Challenge Bob to a game of bocce (Bob’s South Philly rules), or Play bocce with someone else (your own rules) Visit Mayan ruins Eat fish that was caught today Marvel at the changing colors of the sky and the water Play Chuck and Naomi's Cuban dominoes Hike in the jungle Make friends with a pelican (having some fish to offer will help) Eat the freshest coconut you've ever tasted, right off the tree Get away from the phone, the fax, your pager, your e-mail, and/or Do nothing at all
© 2003-2013 Casa Carolina, last updated 5/16/13