Mexico’s Xcaret park in Cancun is an eco-extravaganza of things to see and do. Formerly an important Mayan port and town, Xcaret is the size of 40 football fields, and although it has been called Mexico’s Disney World, it’s unique for its insights into traditional Mayan culture and its luxurious location right on the beach.
Entrance to the park is not cheap. Tickets usually cost just over US$100 for adults, and while there any many packages and optional activities available (including swimming with sharks, dolphin rides, and a traditional sweat lodge) most visitors find that the park’s regular activities keep them pretty busy for a day or even two days. The food here is expensive, so our advice is to buy the Xcaret-plus package that includes one meal while you are here. The package also includes free snorkel rental, which you will definitely want to have.
You can also buy tickets more cheaply online or direct through the Xcaret website. Do also remember to bring biodegradable sunscreen with you, or the park will force you to buy their own expensive brands. You can buy combo tickets that will give you access to both Xcaret and other adventure parks in the area such as Xplor, Xel-ha, Xenses, and Xoximilco.
There are several routes suggested by the park for different types of guest. The truth is that you don’t have to follow a route at all, but if you think your interests line up with a certain set of activities, it might be worth letting someone else plan your day. On the Ruta Del Río you will see all kinds of wild creatures up close, as well as archeological sites and an orchid museum; the Ruta Acuario allows you to see and interact with marine life such as sea turtles and sharks; the Ruta Playa focuses on the beach and snorkeling in the clear Caribbean waters; Ruta Delfines has more snorkeling options, lots of relaxing, and spa amenities; the Ruta Pueblo Maya engages guests with the history and culture of the area’s original inhabitants, including the games they played and the way they lived; and the Ruta México Espectacular offers Mexican folk art and the Virgin of Guadalupe Chapel.
There are lots of eating options in the park, none particularly cheap, but many good. We suggest that you check out the traditional Mexican restaurants and skip the international food (you came to Mexico for the real thing, right?). El Manglar is probably the most highly recommended, but there are also La Cocina, and Cenas Mexico Espectacular, which is located right next to where the end-of-the-day show is held.
There are snack bars scattered throughout the park that sell cold drinks and simple stuff like hamburgers, and this makes for a slightly cheaper menu than at the full restaurants. You can’t bring food into the park, but you can re-enter if you would like to have a parking lot picnic and then come back. As mentioned above, paying for an Xcaret-plus ticket is a good idea if you know you are going to eat at least one meal here.
You won’t want to miss the incredible water activities available in the park: swimming in underground rivers, snorkeling in the Caribbean, even lying on the beach for a spell – the park’s location make it ideal for water babies of all ages. You also shouldn’t miss the end-of-the-day spectacle, which includes art, dance, music, and lights. It’s an homage to Mexico’s history, from prehistoric times through to today, using music and dance to illustrate the passage of time. The cost of the show is included in every ticket price and it starts at 7 p.m. daily.
Xcaret offers a few activities that you won’t be able to get at just any theme park. Though all their optional activities cost extra, if you are looking for a special something to do during your visit, look no further. The Xpá is located in a lagoon surrounded by underground rivers and you have the option of choosing between two different kinds of relaxing massage. The Xcaret Temescal is a ancient indigenous tradition that involves several ritual stages in a sweat lodge to cleanse your mind, body, and spirit, and a cooling swim afterwards. Xcaret also offer wine tasting in their wine cellar, with delicious Mexican wine and food pairings. Adrenalina is a high-speed boat ride out in the Caribbean. There are also a myriad of options for snorkeling, diving, swimming with dolphins and sharks, and visiting underwater landscapes as a couple or a family.
It’s important to get the lay of the land, and for first-time visitors, it’s recommended that you head to the top of the park’s lookout tour to get a sense of the park’s layout. Below is a sneak preview of the park; take a look in advance to help plan your day. You can use credit cards or cash here, and there are ATMs, but we suggest you take you cash out in advance and avoid high transaction fees.
Make sure that you take a look at the day’s shows and events when you arrive, so you can plan you time accordingly. You don’t need to rent a locker if you want to snorkel in the underground rivers, as at the beginning of the route you can lock your things into a bag that only you have a key to, and they will be sent to the end point of your swimming route.
Finally, take time to relax and enjoy the scenery. There is much to see, but don’t spend the whole day running!