Xcaret Park, Riviera Maya
Introduction to Xcaret
This eco-archaeological park provides an engaging journey through Mexico’s traditions and nature. Often termed “Mexico’s Disneyland”, Xcaret is in a league of its own. No rides or gimmicks, it’s just a fun immersive experience into culture and ecology. It’s large enough that a one day visit is absolutely grueling. Plan 2 full days if you can. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes (beach shoes are best) and light clothing because it gets very hot in the day. More than 50 interactive attractions provide a high quality and fun experience of the Yucatan’s wildlife, geology, cultural heritage, art and cuisine. It makes for an unforgettable experience. Plus, the food and drink are excellent, and bathrooms are well-distributed.
Xcaret Travel Advice
Avoid the add-on priced activities such as dolphin swim, speed boat tour, snuba or sea trek (helmet dive). There is more than enough included with the basic admission to keep you busy for several days. A good place to get your bearings, is to start with the view tower, which affords a 360 degree of the park and a good portion of the peninsula. Take your map up the tower and relax for a few minutes to plan your day. Strollers are available to rent for the kids, as are wheelchairs and electric scooters for the mobility challenged. Good idea, because it’s a lot of walking. Do plan to stay for the evening show – it’s a MUST. You might want to find and arrange for a dependable taxi to pick you up at about 8:45pm or so. If you’re staying in Playa del Carmen or Cancun, it might be worth it to buy a tour that includes transportation.
Yucatan Peninsula Wildlife
Just a small sampling of the wildlife in their natural habitats within the park includes a beautiful butterfly pavilion, spacious and natural aviary, manatee bay, jaguar island, monkey island, bat cave, and deer as well as tapir/peccary habitat. They are clearly interpreted and viewing is unobstructed. Clearly well-cared for and treasured animals.
Trails wind thru jungle vegetation, emerging at key exhibits like the orchid and bromeliad showcase, or the fungus garden. I couldn’t help but marvel at the diversity of plants and animals both in the staged areas and roaming free throughout the grounds.
Cenotes and Mangroves
You can swim, snorkel and float in an underground river about a mile long through limestone caverns until you reach the river outlet into the beautiful blue Caribbean Sea, Fish are in the water everywhere, so be sure to bring a small waterproof camera for loads of photographic fun. Yes, bring bathing suits, towels, and wear comfortable beach shoes. Lockers are provided for a nominal fee or towels & lockers included in the price of the premium “Plus” package. Lockers are distributed in modules throughout the park. Your challenge will be to remember which module YOUR locker was located in. To ensure a towel, shoes and dry clothes are available when you reach the end of the underground river, you will put these in a bag provided when you pick up your bright pink life vest and optional flippers at the river entry point. Xcaret staff will take your bag to the river exit point at the sea for you to retrieve. Convenient!
This underground river exit point is at a lovely beach on the bay where you can relax (hammocks and lounge chairs), have a bite to eat, a drink, or let the kids play in the shallows for as long as you like. There are also outdoor showers there for you to rinse off. If you are claustrophobic, be aware that the river does wind thru darkened cave areas, but always emerges into the open air after a short swim. Also, live bats do inhabit corners of some of the caves, but in the day, they are sleeping and won’t bother you if you don’t bother them (ie. No screaming in terror).
Caribbean Sea Habitats
Xcaret supports a fascinating array of marine habitats, including an extensive coral reef aquarium, a natural coral reef, a marine turtle hatchery, stingray exhibit, and an opportunity to swim with dolphins (dolphins are an extra fee unless you purchase a premium package).
Mayan Archaeology & Culture
Here you may glimpse Mayan ceremonies, tour a Mayan village, explore Mayan ruins, and enjoy an amazing live exhibition of the famously difficult Mayan ball game where losers were beheaded. None of these displays are trivialized or patronizing. Oh, and the losing team is no longer beheaded. The Danza de los Voladores, or Dance of the Flyers is also performed. This is a Mayan ceremonial circular flight tethered upside down by the feet that spirals from a hundred feet in the air and descends to the ground. How do the ceremonial fliers keep from passing out?
Honoring Mexican Heritage
Watch a rodeo or traditional “Fiesta Charra” which is a display of equestrian skills, and tour a typical hacienda. Beverages and delicious cuisine enhance your experience, either as part of the package deal, or purchased on your own. When night falls, enjoy the “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular”, a celebration of light and color that spans the history of Mexico. This is included in the price of general admission.
Xcaret Travel Guide
Believe it or not, this barely scratches the surface of what is available! Yes, we really love this place. Admission is expensive, but worth every peso. Experiencias Xcaret’s pricing structure is very complicated. Our travel advice is to spend some time on their website to find the package you want, and purchase on the internet 2-3 weeks in advance for up to a 15% discount.
Generally, adults are $99/day. It costs less for kids ($50 or $65 for the Plus Package). The Xcaret Plus admission is currently $129/adult. Budget travel advice: Go to the website, buy tickets in advance and save up to 15%. Also, look for package deals when bundled with admission to other affiliated Riviera Maya parks (Xel-Ha, Xplor, Xoximilco, and tours such as Chichen Itza. Be sure to click the “Special Promotions” tab of the Xcaret website. Read up on it.
Xcaret Tips & Tricks
Best days to visit—although somewhat counter-intuitive, the best days are Saturdays and Sundays (fewer people as many are traveling on those days). Bring sunblock, which must be 100% biodegradable (order online before you leave home). This is the case for any coral reef area. Sunblocks containing the following ingredients may not be used in the park to ensure the health and safety of sensitive habitats and animals: Benzophenone, Etilhexila, Homosalate, Octyl methoxycinnamate, Octyl salicylate, Octinoxate, Oxybenzone, Butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane. Yucck! Why would anyone want to slather these chemicals on their body anyway?! Oh, and no outside food or beverages are allowed within the park. Xcaret operates 365 days/year from 8:30am to roughly 10:30 pm. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Can’t stop going back whenever we’re in the area.