Best Undiscovered Beaches on Riviera Maya: Xpu-ha
Xpu-ha, a long stretch of white sand beach south of Playa del Carmen, is one of the best beaches on Mexico’s Riviera Maya coast for swimming, snorkeling or just chilling out. In fact, it offers such a perfect combination of clear, clean waters, limited undertow and soft white sand, it’s hard to believe it’s still under the radar of most visitors.
Maybe it’s because its name doesn’t exactly roll off your tongue (pronounce it as shpoo-ha and you’ll be pretty close) but during our month-long stay in Playa del Carmen a few months ago, it was one of my favourite beaches. Xpu-ha beach is the kind of place you should visit now before the crowds arrive.
Here’s what you need to know about this perfect patch of beach paradise:
Location of XPU-ha Beach:
Xpu-ha is located around 25 kilometers south of Playa del Carmen off Highway 307 on the way to Tulum. This stretch of beach has the added bonus of having been spared the large quantities of sargasso seaweed, a pesky grass that’s plaguing other beaches in Mexico and the Caribbean. It’s a short walk in from the highway.
Getting to Xpu-Ha Beach:
The good news is that it’s relatively easy to get to Playa Xpu-Ha, even if you don’t have your own car. You can take a taxi (we were quoted 350 MXN pesos for a one-way fare) or you can hop on one of the minivans known as colectivos. Unlike Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca where a colectivo is most often a pick-up truck with a buzzer in back, here on the swanky Riviera Maya, they are air-conditioned, relatively new mini-vans, complete with seat belts. Not only are they comfortable but they are cheap. Our ride (one-way) cost just 70 pesos ( under $4 USD) for 2 people.
You can catch a colectivo in Playa del Carmen at the corner of 20 Avenida and 2 Calle Norte, a 5 minute walk from Walmart. The vans headed to Tulum will be pointing north on the street. You just climb into one with an open door, grab a seat and tell the driver where you are going. In this case, say Xpu-ha which is pronounced shpoo-ha (shouting “poo-pa” from the back of a crowded van is likely one of the most embarrassing things you could ever do ).
Once the mini-van is full, it will depart, making stops along the highway to let other passengers out. You pay your fare when you get out. After a 20 minute ride, you’ll arrive at your highway stop ( km 265), then cross the highway, pay 40 pesos at the kiosk, get a wristband and walk down the dirt road with the sign for La Playa restaurant. Save your food bill so you can get a refund of your 40 pesos on your way out ( assuming you leave before 6 pm). It’s an easy 10 minute walk, past mangroves and fruit trees, and is mostly shady.
What to do at Xpu-Ha Beach:
Unless you bring your own beach chairs, food and drink, your best option for the day is Restaurant La Playa. It’s hard to miss it as it’s the largest restaurant on the beach. The clamshell chairs and tables are free to use for the whole day with a minimum order of food and drink. This gets you access to tidy washrooms with flush toilets, showers, lockers and change rooms. It’s also very family-friendly.
On calm days, the water is fine for swimming, snorkelling or just splashing about. It’s one of the best beaches in Mexico for families. Even non-swimmers ( like me) will find it an easy spot to swim, assuming you don’t arrive on a windy day. If it’s windy you can always go kitesurfing. But what most people do is just hang out and relax on the beach. Sip a cocktail, order a bucket of beer, go for a long walk or, if you plan your visit and arrive on a Saturday or Sunday around 2:30 pm, you can listen to live jazz or salsa music at Restaurant & Beach Club La Playa.
Food to Eat at Xpu-Ha Beach:
Prices aren’t as low at Restaurant & Beach Club La Playa as they are in the heart of Playa del Carmen so expect to pay 180 pesos for ceviche or aguachile (a tasty combo of shrimp mixed with tomato, cucumber, cilantro, lime, serrano chile and red onion). If you’re nervous about eating raw seafood, you don’t need to worry here. At Restaurant & Beach Club La Playa, the shrimp is boiled before it’s mixed with the vegetables. A huge double order of ceviche is 330 pesos ($18 USD) and comes with enough condiments to stock an OXXO store. A bucket of six beer is 150 MXN pesos (8 USD). Wine is 55 pesos a glass and a Michelado 15 pesos.There’s even a kid’s menu!
Restaurant & Beach Club La Playa: The beach club and restaurant is open daily. In low season the hours are 11:00 am to 7:00 pm and during High Season ( Winter) hours are 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. In high season, arrive early, as lounge chairs disappear fast. Live music begins at 2:30 pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Visit the website at Restaurant & Beach Club La Playa for more details.
Love beaches? To discover more about vacations on other beaches in Mexico, check out these beach reports: