Xcaret Parks: Our In-Depth Experience

Xcaret by Mexico

The best amusement parks in the world have their own personality. Disney reigns in this regard, channeling the nostalgia created by its own branch of audiovisual entertainment and injecting it into its properties. Now, few parks represent a region of the world as well as those by Grupo Xcaret. This conglomerate based in Mexico’s Riviera Maya integrates culture, nature, service, sustainability and fun in its attractions like no other.

Exploring the whole of Xcaret requires a team. Destinos Ahora accepted the mission with the help of our teenage researchers: our children Camila, Natalia and Pedro. They took on this “really tough assignment” in order to paint you an accurate picture of the Xcaret experience.

That’s Xcaret with an “Eych”

Cementerio Puente al Paraíso | Puente al Paraíso Cementery
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

Grupo Xcaret has several theme parks located around the Playa del Carmen area, as well as guided tours to important tourist locations in the region. They all share an integrated identity with nature and the Mayan culture that inhabited the area in pre-Columbian times. Aside from this, each of their properties caters to different visitors with different tastes. “Each park is different, you cannot compaarre one to the other,” Camila explained in this regard.

The group’s name reflects this identity. Xcaret, a term used by the Mayan Empire to describe the area, means “small cove” or “estuary.” In its time, Xcaret was an important port and a grand commercial center for that civilization. For that reason, park staff make a point of pronouncing the letter “X” on all their properties as “Eych” instead of “Ex.” After all, that’s how their ancestors said it (“Chichén Itzá”, for example).

Detalle de la entrada del parque | Snapshot of the park entrance
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

1 Xcaret by México

Grupo Xcaret’s crown jewel, Xcaret by México is equal amounts a water park, theme park and eco-archeological reserve, nestled between tropical jungle and underground rivers. All wrapped in a cultural display representing Mexico and its vast natural resources.

“Xcaret by México is very much about Mexican culture,” Camila highlighted. “It has a church, a craft museum, ruins and a Mayan village. You start by entering some caves where you choose a path and swim through a cenote, exploring the underground caves around you. Then you find restaurants with different themes. There was an equestrian presentation with Paso Fino horse exhibitions and other shows.”

A National Review

SeaTrek
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

The structure of the park encapsulates the evolution of the region. The beaches, rivers, caves, aquariums and animal reserves highlight its paradise-like principles. “You see jaguars, pumas. They have an aquarium, snorkeling, undesea walks and a butterfly garden,” Camila recalled. “They also have an area with mangroves near the sea, full of fish, where you can swim.” According to Natalia, there were manta rays there. “There are stone men under the water,” Pedro added. Both Camila and Pedro admitted to being scared by these underwater statues. “You’re swimming and suddenly you see a person underwater.”

Voladores de Papantla | Papantla Flying Men
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

The Mayan Town and the archaeological ruins narrate the story of a great civilization integrated with nature. “They have activities like making chocolate, as well as colored skulls,” Natalia explained. “There are rituals and mini-shows throughout the afternoon.” These include impressive performances from the likes of the Voladores de Papantla. Five individuals in traditional clothing climb a tall mast. They dance and play melodies up there, and then launch themselves tied to ropes like birds in flight.

The Main Plaza, the chapels, the haciendas, and the “Bridge to Paradise” Cemetery describe how they went from a land conquered by the Spaniards to a nation with a vast folkloric identity. “They have a very nice cemetery with thousands of tombs and 12 steps for each month of the year. Each tomb has an inscription,” Camila explained.

Xcaret México Espectacular
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

Mexican Evening

Detalle del Xcaret México Espectacular
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

Everything leads up to the closing event, the Xcaret México Espectacular. “It is the most symbolic thing in the entire park,” said Camila. “Your park admission is basically just to see that show. Everything else is an extra.” According to Natalia, every activity within Xcaret by México slowly guides visitors toward the Gran Tlachco stage, where this spectacle takes place.

“In the show includes the fireball game, the hip scoring ball game, a retelling of Mexican colonization, the country’s history, and a sample of traditional dances from their most famous states,” according to our teens. The Xcaret México Espectacular pays worthy tribute to the country’s history and culture with more than 300 actors, musicians and singers performing live.

Xavage Monster Truck (Foto/Source: Grupo Xcaret)
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

2 Xavage

Strap on your protective helmet, as we explore more extreme emotions with Xavage by Xcaret. Located on the outskirts of Cancun, this park for adrenaline lovers stands out for its rafting adventures, rope courses, zip lines and monster trucks. “You go to Xavage to wear yourself out, then collapse from exhaustion in your bed,” Camila said. Each attraction within the park is identified by a species of animal that represents the experience, according to Natalia.

Xavage Rafting
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

Xavage offers breathtaking adventures by air, sea and land. You conquer the land with their Monster Trucks, huge-wheeled vehicles for rolling up mountains, over junk cars, and through mud at full speed. “We descended at full speed and got up to our teeth in mud,” Pedro recalled.

You need to be of legal age and have a valid driver’s license in order to get behind the wheel of a Monster Truck. The experience can intimidate even experienced drivers, but it has a high level of safety. “I rode with my aunt, who has an SUV, and even she got nervous,” Camila explained.

Motorboat Mayhem

Xavage Jet Boat
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

If you prefer aquatic action, Xavage has river rapids rafting, as well as fast speedboats like the Barracuda and the Dragonfly. “Our favorite attraction was the Dragonfly, a boat that makes 360-degree turns and goes super fast,” Camila said. “You’re hugging the edge of the river, you think you’re going to crash and suddenly the pilot steers away.” Other water options include kayaking and inflatable boat rafting down river rapids.

Fly Like an Eagle

Tirolesa o Zip Line Xavage (Foto/Source: Grupo Xcaret)
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

For aerial thrills you have the four Rope Courses, each identified by its height and level of difficulty. (Up to 36 meters or 118 feet high.) “You cross the first level in 40 minutes, the second in an hour and 40, the third in two hours, etc.,” Camila expressed. “It’s crazy!” An intense and exhausting, but ultimately safe, experience. In addition, there are several hydration points and park employees on the courses to help you cross or climb down if you’re unable to continue.

Zip Lines, the most dangerous seeming attraction, turns out to be the most calming. You are tied to a harness in a horizontal position and propelled from a high altitude through a wire system, which gives you a perfect overhead view of the park. The kids found it more relaxing than exciting. According to Natalia, “it is the only attraction where you’re idle. Park employees recommend you leave zip lines for last to relax and then go home.”

Pueblo inclinado en Xenses
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

3 Xenses

Our teen team’s favorite park is one of Grupo Xcaret’s latest. Xenses is an alternative theme park based on optical illusions and exploring the five senses. “It was one of the best, because it is suitable for the whole family,” Camila said.

Río subterráneo en Xenses
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

The park is divided into several routes named for the interactions they contain. Choosing the Route of Feeling, for example, takes you through the Path of Dwarves and Giants, a segment that uses forced perspective to play with your sense of scale.

Diverging Paths of Perception

The jewel of the Xenses by Xcaret experience, the must-see attraction, is the Xensatorio on the Route of Feeling. You walk barefoot in total darkness through a series of tunnels. Different biomes – desert, jungle, cave, snowy mountain – are emulated inside the tunnels using sound, climate control and interior decoration. The absence of visual information increases the sensitivity of your other senses. These sensations create mental images of the experience even though you are walking blind. By the end you reach an exit with torches, listen to music with inspiring messages and eventually arrive at an oasis called Eden. “You feel like you beat a video game,” Camila admitted.

Salida del Xensatorio en Xenses
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

Some less arresting options for the senses are the Riolajante or “Relaxing river” and the Lodorama on the Route of Doing. The salts in Riolajante’s waters keep you afloat, while Lodorama exfoliates your skin. Pedro described it as “a river of mud into which you enter and let yourself be carried away by the current.”

Piscina invertida en Xenses by Xcaret

The Route of Doing also contains a town made to confuse your sense of balance and logic. There you’ll find upside down houses, inverted pools and leaning rooms. Or are you the one who’s leaning?

Not everything in Xenses represents a meditation on human perception, since you also get some thrills. Pedro in particular preferred the Xenses Bird Flight to the Xavage zip line. “The flight takes place at a lower altitude than Xenses, but it is faster and has curves,” he said.

Trajineras Xoximilco by Xcaret

4 Xoximilco

We pause a bit from all the action and adventure to enjoy something more relaxed and adult-oriented. Welcome to the “floating Mexican party” that is Xoximilco by Xcaret. Housed within the Xavage complex itself, the attraction replicates Mexico City’s famous raft trips along the Xochimilco canal.

Trajinera

You enter Xochimilco through an area called La Isla, a small village center with a souvenir shop. From there you board one of several trajineras, colorful roofed rafts propelled by gondoliers. Each ship contains a table full of Mexican drinks and cuisine. Our host started us out with a tequila toast and guided us through tasting each Mexican ingredient. Mole, nachos, cheese, guacamole, tortillas, chilis and even chapulines or fried Mexican crickets. It tastes better than it looks and our guide recommended its aphrodisiac qualities.

Floating Party

Mariachis

The trajinera crosses under trees, arches and colonial structures such as a church. A surprise is hidden in every corner of the journey, wheter it’s artists playing bottles as music instruments and mariachis in rafts. Meanwhile, the host entertains the group with stories and jokes. After the tasting they bring out local desserts such as alegría, tarugo, cocada, honey caramel with sesame seeds and Puebla ham.

The best part of the night happens when all the trajineras come together in the middle of the river, surrounded by mariachis playing ranchera music. It’s hard not to get up and dance among so many people and unfiltered joy. The adults in our group loved Xoximilco in particular and it is an excellent option to enjoy as a couple.

Xplor Fuego (Foto/Source: Grupo Xcaret)
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

5 Xplor & Xplor Fuego

Tirolesa o zip line en Xplor
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

After that short break we resume the action in Playa del Carmen with Xplor by Xcaret. The largest zip line park in the world contains two circuits to transport you above the jungle through trees, waterfalls and caves. You can use traditional zip line harnesses or you can opt for Hamacuatizaje. This more chic and comfy approach sits you in a hammock supported by zip lines, where you slide sitting in the air and land in the water.

But there is more than zip lines, for Xplor by Xcaret has several underground rivers. You can swim or ride a raft to explore flooded prehistoric caverns filled with stalactites and stalagmites. The cold water and the grandeur of these natural formations will make you feel like an explorer.

Viaje en balsa por río subterráneo
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

If you prefer open spaces, Xplor by Xcaret offers amphibious vehicles for exploring the jungle. Two circuits guide you through caves and hanging bridges to get your adrenaline pumping in this fun family activity. Just like with Xavage, you need to be of legal age and have a valid license to drive the vehicle.

Fire After Dark

Think Xplor by Xcaret is exciting during the day? Get ready to discover its dark side. By sundown, Xplor by Xcaret becomes Xplor Fuego, an alternative park with the same adventures, but illuminated by torchlight. It really feels like two parks in one. The additional elements that Xplor Fuego by Xcaret brings – fire and shadows – create a more intense, dark and thrilling atmosphere in the park that’s almost a bit sensual.

Xel Há by Xcaret (Foto/Source: Grupo Xcaret)
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

6 Xel Há

We finish our Grupo Xcaret parks tour with possibly the most virginal of them all. Located in Tulum, Xel Há by Xcaret is a cove serving double duty as both a nature reserve and a water park. The area preserves its ancestral Mayan name – meaning “where the water is born” – from when it served as a port, trade center, pilgrimage point and refuge for sailors.

Tucán | Toucan
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

The Xel Há by Xcaret approach is about relaxing and reconnecting with nature. There you can bathe on the beach, swim in the river, watch sea life as you snorkel, tour the caves, ride a bicycle, appreciate the land fauna throughout the jungle trails, or just rest in the hammock area. If you feel too disconnected from the modern world among so much natural beauty, relax: they have WiFi available.

Xel Há by Xcaret also has its exciting side. The park’s symbol, the 40-meter-high Mirador Lighthouse, offers you spectacular views of the Riviera Maya and you can quickly descend it on a slide. There’s also the Trepachanga and Salpichanga, two zip lines circuits that end with a dip in the pool. The bravest ones can tackle the Stone of Valor, a five-meter (16-foot) high climbable rock wall. Get to the top, jump into the void and fall into the waters of Xel Há, if you dare.

Detalle del agua dentro de un cenote
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

Get to Know Mexico the Xcaret Way

Grupo Xcaret’s service is not limited to its properties. As we mentioned at the beginning, they also organize guided tours to important tourist attractions within the Riviera Maya.

Xichén by Xcaret takes you to the Mayan city of Chichén Itzá and its enigmatic pyramid, one of the most important archaeological sites in the Mexican Caribbean. With Cobá by Xcaret you visit one of the key archaeological sites that helped to better understand Mayan culture. Tulúm by Xcaret lets you discover the waters, white sands and Mayan cultural fragments that highlight this magical Mexican town. The Xenotes Oasis Maya Tour by Xcaret takes ypu by kayak to explore the impressive beauty of four cenotes, deep natural wells, as well as the natural landscapes that surround them.

Hotel Xcaret México
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

Hotel Xcaret: Stay Close to the Action

Like any large park complex, Xcaret has its own themed lodging option. At Hotel Xcaret México in Playa del Carmen you can rest in all-inclusive luxury and enjoy the Riviera Maya’s beautiful tropical views during your park visit. Transportation is available to all Xcaret parks and tours. Its modern rooms come with views of the beach, the river, the jungle, or the sea.

Xcaret Hotel received the Five Diamond award this year from the North American Automotive Association (AAA). Due to its sustainable operation, in 2017 it became the first hotel in the Americas to receive the EarthCheck Certification for Planning and Design.

Xcaret Parks: Full of Awards and Praise

Speaking of awards, Grupo Xcaret parks are adored around the world, with praise and statuettes to spare. They were just named Best International Water Park at the sixth annual Travvy Awards, the fourth consecutive year they have received this honor.

Iguana
(Source: Grupo Xcaret.)

Additionally, they won the Liseberg Applause Award 2018, the world’s most prestigious award in the amusement park industry. Tourism site TripAdvisor awarded Xcaret parks its 2017 Certificate of Excellence for its consistently positive user reviews and ranking first in Playa del Carmen’s Things to Do list.

All these recognitions are well deserved. Based on our experience, Grupo Xcaret’s staff meticulously plans and maintains their attractions. All their employees are courteous and efficient. The way they promote sustainability and care for the environment is admirable. (They offer bug repellent and sunscreens that’s not harmful to their natural habitats, for example.) The logistics and precision with which they manage their properties and organize their tours is impeccable.

For these reasons we recommend all Xcaret parks and attractions as must-see activities when visiting Mexico’s Riviera Maya. High praise from a group of youngsters as demanding as ours.

Grupo Xcaret cuenta con transporte para las atracciones que hayan reservado desde varios puntos céntricos de Cancún | Grupo Xcaret has buses to pick up guest at several strategic meeting spots around Cancun and take them to their reserved parks and attractions

Now, Some Tips

Save and Enjoy Even More

Purchase your tickets on the official Xcaret site if you plan to visit more than one theme park. Purchase packages are available for multiple parks and attractions, as well extra discounts for MasterCard holders. The site header lets you switch prices between dollars or your local currency if available.

Pick Me Up

PYou may get to Xcaret parks on your own by taxi or rented vehicle. However, the best way to geth there is to have them pick you up from several well’distributed spots throught Quintana Roo and its bordering areas.

“All the parks have transportation that you can pay extra for,” Camila said. “They pick you up at a specific point and return you there when you leave. Xcaret is the one that is furthest away, for example.”

Natalia chimed in. “Exploring all of Xcaret requires staying the whole day. You spend it walking and doing activities. The final show starts at nine o’clock at night. You’re better off taking the bus to avoid driving afgter dark, especially considering how far it is from Cancún”.

Ready for the Water

It seems rather obvious, but most of the attractions in all Xcaret parks are water-based. Bring your swimsuit.

Say Cheese!

There are cameras everywhere in all Xcaret parks, from strategic points on each route to inside the vehicles. If you fear your cell phone or personal camera may suffer any water damage, you can store them in an optional locker, purchase the optional photo package and you will receive digital memories of your visit by email.

Purchasing the photography package grants you a bracelet. Scan your bracelet at various points in the park and you will be get your picture taken. You also get photographed inside attractions. “At every exciting moment, a camera took unsuspecting photos of us,” Camila said.

Listen to the Team

Park employees are everywhere and ready to advise you where to go. “On every corner there is always someone who asks you which attraction you haven’t been to and recommends when to go because it is empty and where to go next,” Natalia explained.

Everything Is Not Included

Natalia recommends you make sure which activities incur additional costs at your selected park. “Activities such as swimming with dolphins, and the SeaTrek with sharks or manta rays are extra.” If you prefer a free alternative, choose the covered aquarium.

Some parks, such as Xavage, have an All Inclusive option with several meals. (You need that at Xavage in order to maintain your stamina.) Do your research on what options best suit your budget. There are drinking fountains available around the parks, so bring your water bottle.

Where to Find It

Xcaret by México/Xenses by Xcaret

Carretera Chetumal, Puerto Juárez Km. 282 Int. B Colonia Rancho Xcaret, 77580 Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, México

Xavage by Xcaret/Xoximilco by Xcaret

Carretera Cancún-Puerto Morelos, Km. 307 Mza. 01 Lote 01-02, 77580 Puerto Morelos Quintana Roo, México

Xplor by Xcaret/Hotel Xcaret México

Carretera Chetumal-Puerto Juárez, Km. 282, Av. Solidaridad 2, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, México

Xel Há by Xcaret

Carretera Chetumal Puerto Juárez, km 240, Locales 1 & 2, Módulo B, 77780 Xel-Há, Quintana Roo, México

+52 998 883 3143

xcaret.com

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