A Day at Xcaret Park
During the last week of September 2018, I took my mom on a trip down to Mexico. During our stay we received complimentary passes to visit Xcaret, one of the theme parks in the Mayan Riviera so I could check it out for all of you!
After a Game Plan chat, we agreed to focus our day in on non-water activities. Xcaret is huge. In fact, at 200 acres, it’s over twice the size of Disneyland. So if you can imagine yourself trying to get from Tomorrowland all the way over to Splash Mountain, you have a sense of the daunting task ahead. But it’s an awesome park and I know I’d like to go back – because for every one thing we saw or experienced, another 5 were left unexplored. I’m already looking forward to trying out the underground rivers on my next visit!
Xcaret, unlike some of it’s sister parks, is not an all inclusive park. At the time of writing, the basic price is $100 USD for adults and $50 USD for children. You can add on food and transportation for another $60. Lockers and snorkel gear rental are also not included. Finally, the park has a number of optional activities for an additional cost including swimming with nurse sharks, dolphins or manatees, Snuba, Parasailing, dinner and preferred seats for the evening show, an onsite spa, a Mayan steam bath…the list of possibilities is endless.
But Xcaret also has a number of attractions, shows and sites that are included in your admission. I’m barely going to be able to scratch the surface here and we had a full day without doing any additional activities because, well...did I mention the park is huge?
We started our day on the “White Line”. Sections of the park are colour coded, and paths along the ground have these colours to help guide you around the park. We followed the white line and found ourselves going through underground systems to a replica Mayan village. Here, you’ll find a series of workshops and you can purchase hand made craft items. I found a vendor whose family paints images on the feathers of the macaws in the park. I love buying hand made, locally produced items and loved the re-purposing of the macaw feathers, so it was an easy sell. I also spoke with a gentleman who was weaving hammocks. I asked how long it would take to weave the hammock he was working on (below) and he told me 30 hours. He showed me a large double hammock that took him 3 weeks to finish weaving.
Past the village, we found the replica of a Mexican Cemetary, the House of Whispers and the chapel of St. Francis of Assisi. At this point, we were at the highest point in the park and from here, we entered the Aviary.
Of all the attractions we saw, the Aviary was by far my favourite. We started at the highest point which places you in the high canopy of the jungle and you wind your way down until you reach the jungle floor. Xcaret’s site states that you can find 1500 birds in the aviary, though I suspect the number actually inside at any given time is much less (unless they’re counting unhatched eggs as well). You’ll see Scarlet and Military macaws, as well as toucans, vultures, eagles, pelicans and a whole host of other bird types that I don’t know. The space is gorgeous.
Next we walked through one of the world’s largest butterfly pavilions with around 20 different species. Jaguar Island was under refurbishment, so we followed the red line down to the ocean for lunch. We opted for an a la carte option over purchasing the buffet meal. We each had a delicious Angus burger with fries (restaurant, not fast food quality – cooked to order) and a bottle of water each and I had a bottle of beer. The restaurant also provided chips with a dip. Together, our lunch came to roughly $30 USD, roughly the price of one buffet and believe me, we did not walk away hungry.
After lunch, we followed the blue line over to the aquarium section. Xcaret’s huge on conservation. We turned a corner and I looked down to see MASSIVE turtles. For some reason I hadn’t expected a turtle to be so big, and was taken back by just how large they were – and there were so many! Just up the ramp were roughly 4 small pools filled with small baby turtles. Once they reach a certain maturity they’ll be released into the wild as a way to try and grow the native turtle population which is currently classified as endangered. Between 1996 and 2013 over 7 million turtles had been released – a million of those were from 2013 alone! We then passed a sting ray pool and watched trainers feed the animals. Next, was the Shark Tank. Several guests were snorkeling with the nurse sharks and yours truly seethed with jealousy because swimming with sharks is on my bucket list. But, that was saved for another day. Finally, we walked through the indoor (glorious air conditioning!) aquarium filled with over 5000 marine animals including coral, jelly fish, starfish and a number of fish.
In addition to conservation, Mexican Culture is a huge theme at Xcaret and in the “Brown Line” area you’ll find the Stables, Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the Mexican Folk Art Museum as well as a Hacienda. The interior of the Hacienda is a great little spot hidden away from the crowds to find a quiet place to sit and relax. It’s also on the brown line, which leads you to the theatre for the evening show.
Now friends, the day had been full, and good, and mostly in the shade which was wonderful because it was a hot and humid day. But evening was falling and it was time to go to the theatre and find a seat for the evening show. I'd heard it was amazing, but nothing could have prepared me.
I was blown away. The show seemed to have everything. We sat through two hours of Mexican culture, history, music and traditions executed flawlessly. The show begins with the Mayans and we get to watch a match of Pok ta Pok – a version of basketball where the hoop is vertical and you have to use your hip (your hip!) to get the ball through the hole and Mayan Fireball which I can only describe as hockey…but on fire.
Next, came a depiction of the Spanish colonizing Mexico. While Xcaret’s show writers, I believe, down played colonization and the impact it had on the indigenous peoples of Mexico, I still found myself tearing up as an entire civilization was torn down. After intermission, the show changes course and we find ourselves traveling throughout Mexico, singing, dancing and embracing the uniqueness of each region. I loved seeing how each area has unique character – how does music in Jalisco differ from Oaxaca? How does traditional dress change from the Northern Region to the Central Region? It was fascinating to see the similarities and differences so clearly.
The finale has pretty much everything you could ask for!
Now, if you’re like me you look at the price and think, “Holy Toledo Batman, that’s a lot of Gotham Dubloons”. But at 9:15pm, as we were walking to the transportation back to our hotel after the Espectacular show, I thought “I get it”. The value for your dollar, particularly if you stay for the show, is excellent. On one hand, you are helping to fuel a massive conservation program, in addition to a strong social responsibility agenda. Gender equality policies for staff hiring, disaster relief, health programs for communities, reforestation efforts, exposure for over 500 local artisans during the year and recycling programs for the parks inorganic waste are just some of the programs on top of the promotion and rescuing of, Mexican traditions. And to top it all off is a show with over 300 performers that they do nightly. No wonder the Xcaret family of parks receives so many awards.
Before going I was a little unsure of what to expect, but as I left, I was in awe of the park, the staff, and the quality of our day. Worth every penny.
You’ll need to wear biodegradable sunscreen. Your local dive shop should have some. I have also found it at MEC. Prices will be cheaper if you buy in Canada at a store (even cheaper than Amazon) than if you purchase once in the park.
Wear comfortable shoes. The amount of walking you’ll be doing is intense.
Skip the $30pp buffet meal and go for the a la carte if you’re concerned about price. The menu was good and the prices were not insane.
Most people go to the rivers first which spit you out at the far end of the park down at the ocean. If you want to avoid the crowds, start at the top, along the white, blue or black lines.
There are discounts to be had – so if you’re looking to go, chat with me to see about the different ways we can provide you discounts.
Consider purchasing a two day pass to maximize your visit or consider staying at the on site hotel.
The bathrooms in the Main Plaza are the best.
A single scoop of ice cream is 65 pesos, but a double scoop is only 20 pesos more, so go double!
Avoid lingering after the show – the folks on the busses are waiting for you so they can get back to their resort and go to bed. It's late. Don’t make them wait by trying on all the t-shirts in the gift shop, or worse, miss the "be back here by this time" time. Our driver had 2 names on his list and they weren't at the bus by the cut off time, so left them behind.
There are surprisingly few benches or places to rest so take advantage of them when you find them.
Consider taking a face cloth or similar. I’m not a sweaty person typically, but I walked around all day with paper towel from the bathroom so I could wipe my face.
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