How about a day in a small paradise on the Riviera Maya? Are you going to be travelling near Playa del Carmen and Tulum? Would you like to explore the world of the Mayans and learn a bit more about the history of Mexico? Then I have a tip for you:
Xcaret – a leisure park with lots of water
I visited this amusement park when I was in Mexico for the first time and although I went solo I had a lot of fun – going with friends would have obviously been loads more fun. Hence why I decided to drag my best friend from Canada along with me – well to say I dragged her along isn't true though, she jumped for joy when I told her!
What is Xcaret?
Xcaret is a water, recreation and amusement park near Playa del Carmen. I recommend you to plan to stay a whole day, because there is so much to see and to experience. Besides some water activities, there is also a zoo with different animals from Mexico and Latin America, but also a wonderful show in the evening. There are many restaurants and small stands where you can recharge your batteries. But more about that later 😉
My highlights in Xcaret
There is so much to discover in Xcaret. Here are my top three highlights:
Rio Azul – Blue River
This river winds its way through the entire park and promises lots of fun. At the very beginning you are given a bag to store all your belongings in. Don’t bring along any valuable because you risk getting them wet.
Equipped with life jackets and fins (which I completely overlooked) we head into the cool and refreshing water!
I'd recommend heading off to the Rio right when you get to Xcaret in the morning – then it's less crowded and you'll be enjoying yourself even more. Some sections lead through cave-like tunnels and sometimes it's pitch-black. Another very useful tip that you toes will be thanking me for is to wear water shoes or sandals – the river bed is a bit bumpy.
You'll be cruising through the whole park and you'll be seeing manatees in their compound, there's even some walls made of glass so you can look them in the eye.
That sounds like creepy, right? But Mexicans celebrate the death of their loved ones. On the 1st of November – the Dia de los Muertos – the deceased are remembered. But remembering your loved one is nothing like in Austria, in Austria it’s a sad day – in Mexico people cook their loved ones favourite dishes and remember and celebrate their lives. Mexican graveyards couldn’t be more different to the ones I am used to in Austria. They are colourful and lovingly decorated. In Xcaret, one of these cemeteries was built, and yes visiting felt a little strange but wouldn’t you rather celebrate than mourn?
Show in the evening
Be sure not to miss the show even if you’re feeling a little tired (I did too!) This show has fascinated me for years and still does.
How so? It gives a wonderful insight into the life of the Mayan people, the arrival of the Spaniards and the wars of how the Catholic Church has fought its bloody way through Mexico, to this day. The costumes of the performers are gorgeous and so colourful, that I would like to join them on stage to dance.
There is also a second part of the show that shows Mexico today. The 31 federal states that make up Mexico today share some common customs, but at the same time they are more different than one can imagine. With different dances, songs and costumes, differences of states are highlighted and I once again fell in love with Mexico. So enthusiastic and colourful – I just love it!
What I didn’t like so much
Even though I would love to only write about positive things, I still want you to think about this:
I am a great animal lover, but I am also aware that animals are a magnet for tourists. Therefore the zoo, which extends through the whole park, is of course useful – if one thinks of the money and visitor numbers. But it breaks my heart to see the manatees suffer in such tiny pools – a manatee had seriously injured itself on the wooden planks. The dolphins jump through the air and the visitors are delighted, but wouldn’t it be much more sensible to leave the animals in the sea be themselves and inform the visitors about why there are no more dolphins? That would be something the media would write about. Xcaret is one of the first parks in Mexico to educate its visitors about what it means for the animals to live in captivity. In a small space. Without future.
The other aspect is money. A day ticket to Xcaret costs 100 US $ which is not cheap – food isn’t included. I was there for the first time in 2011, and the price seemed very steep to me, but so many had recommended the park. There are still countless activities, which are not included in the entrance fee and again cost a lot of money.
My best friend and I were also invited on an adrenaline boat trip – she loved it and I just felt uncomfortable, the boat kept moving abruptly and was deliberately flooded several times. Tastes are different indeed – everyone else in the boat seemed to love it!
Why should you visit Xcaret?
Xcaret isn’t a cheap day trip for backpackers, but if you want to splurge on a fun day in a park with a great evening show, I can recommend Xcaret. There are also plenty of extra activities to be had, such as the adrenaline boat trip, Snuba and Sea Trek (diving activities), which is a lot of fun even if you are not a certified diver. Then there are some relaxation activities like massages and sauna uhhhh!
Important tips for Xcaret
- Biodegradable sun cream – because regular sun creams harm the corals and the water (far too few people know about this issue)
- Long sleeved shirt – as sun protection
- Bring your own food to save money
- Also bring water
- take the first bus from Playa del Carmen
How to get to Xcaret
The easiest way is to buy a return ticket from ADO at the bus station in Playa del Carmen a few days before the planned visit to the park. Round trips are less than 5 € and there are two buses early in the morning and in the evening to go back to Playa. There are also ADO buses from Cancun.
Have you ever been to Xcaret or any other park in Yucatán?
Note: Thanks to Xcaret for the lovely invitation – we enjoyed our they in the park!