So you’ve made it to Cancun/Tulum/Riveria Maya/Cozumel/, but after a couple of days of living the good life, you’re craving something different from the usual beach, tan, tequila shots routine (read my post on clubbing in Cancun here). You’re craving something fun but not too much effort, low key cultural, and easy to enjoy without breaking the bank. Don’t worry, I got u fam.
Xcaret is an eco-archaeological theme park located a little over an hour south of Cancun, an hour north of Tulum, and about 15 minutes from Playa Del Carmen. It is open literally every day of the year, 8:30am to 10:30pm. There are so many attractions that a trip to Xcaret could easily become a multi-day trip, with everything from snorkeling with sharks to learning about ancient Mayan villages.
Going to Xcaret (along with Xplor, one of their other parks) was definitely one of the biggest highlights of my Cancun trip a few years ago. I had very little knowledge about the park and kind of just stumbled upon it and decided to check it out, and even without any insider tips, I had a blast. BUT, knowing what I do now would have helped out a lot. Like, first off….how do I get there and where do I buy tickets??
It’s the age of the internet, so obviously the first step would be to just buy the park ticket and bus package online on the Xcaret website, right? That’s what I did on my first trip to Cancun.
My advice now would be to wait and buy them from a tour group in Cancun.
There are plenty of tour groups selling discounted tickets (including Xcaret!) on the “Cancun strip,” and you can get them even cheaper than that if you’re willing to haggle. I would have definitely done this the first time around if I had known that the same packages were sold in person right outside of the hotels for tons cheaper than online, even if you don’t haggle (you definitely should though, no harm in trying!). If you’re feeling shy about your Spanish skills, don’t fret, a lot of the tour groups also speak English. If you don’t speak English very well either (congrats on reading this far, I’m impressed!) or just hate speaking to people, then alright, you can go ahead and buy your tickets online, but just know you’re missing out on a great deal!
However you buy your tickets, I would hands down recommend getting the bus pick-up/drop-off included. It’s less stressful and a lot cheaper than trying to get a taxi. If you happen to be renting a car already, parking is free at Xcaret.
There’s a crazy amount of stuff to do. It’s just INSANE. I didn’t even get through everything. I’m not going to post pictures for everything because….well, this post would go on forever, but I’ll post a few !
- Scenic tower: Y’all know I love a good viewpoint! You can see a lot of the Riviera Maya forests and coastline!
- Chapel of Guadalupe: This chapel is amazing! And there are cutouts of famous Mexican figures in the pews.
- Archaeological sites
- Butterfly pavilion
- Mexican Folk Art museum
- Marine turtle sanctuary: Their sea turtle conservation program is certified by ALPZA and recognized for leading and pioneering conservation programs in the area.
- Jaguar island
- Underground rivers: Think Lazy River x1000
- Manatee Lagoon
- Tropical jungle trail
- Voladores de Papantla: Remember that scene from The Road to El Dorado when Miguel is swinging around a potem from his legs? YEAH. THEY DO THAT HERE.
- Natural museum of orchids and bromeliads
- Xcaret Mexico Espectacular show: This is literally one of my favorite activities offered, it’s an AMAZING show, showcasing art forms, dances, and music from all over Mexico. YOU ABSOLUTELY CANNOT MISS THIS SHOW.
JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT THERE COULDN’T POSSIBLY BE ANY MORE TO DO. There’s optional activities that you can book for an extra fee, most of them are self explanatory and they are timed appointments.
- Adrenalina: Super fast speed boat fun times
- Adventure kids: An interactive experience with stingrays (I think?) for the little ones!
- Wine tasting: It’s for groups of 10 or more
- Dolphin ride
- Swim with sharks: I actually did this one! There’s a giant tank with a few sharks, fish, and uh, other water creatures swimming around. One of the sides of the tank is made of glass (can’t see it in the picture, the tank is A LOT deeper than it looks), and there’s an underground walkway where people walk by underground and point at you like you’re a cute little otter at the aquarium. If you’re a mermaid, your friends can take some really SWEET underwater pictures of you from the window. I am not a mermaid though, and all of my pictures underwater were pretty atrocious (mostly me forgetting I can breathe underwater and choking). BUT it was fun nonetheless. And they even give you a shark feeding lesson! The instructors were hilarious and helpful and politely looked away when I actually smacked my face with my snorkel mask.
- Stingrays encounter: An interactive experience with stingrays for the big ones!
- Sea Trek: You wear a helmet and do cool stuff underwater
- Snuba: Think snorkeling, but with an oxygen tank. I did this one too!Basically your “snorkel mask” is attached to an oxygen tank that is floating on a little boat. The line is pretty long, but it’s definitely not deep sea. There are two Snuba activities offered, I chose to take the boat out to the Barracuda Reef and swim/flop around in the ocean looking for fish.
- Temascal and Xpa: The perfect relaxation
- Free range snorkeling: Xcaret is right on the coast, and there are a few openings out to the sea that you are free to just snorkel away. They have buoys and nets too keep you from going out too far (plus lifeguards! No worries if you’re bringing the kids). Sorry for the picture quality, I apparently had a giant drop of water on my GoPro and didn’t notice hahah.
WHAT TO BRING:
- sunscreen that is reef safe! (super important! They WILL check your sunscreen at the gate to confirm)
- towel (in fact, bring a couple)
- water shoes (way more durable and comfortable than sandals, trust)
- hair ties if you have long hair (TRUST)
- waterproof camera
- snorkel equipment (though if you sign up for an extra snorkeling activity, you get to keep the snorkel gear)
- snacks (cuz you’re going to get hungry with all that swimming. BUT they also have a great snack stand if you don’t pack any snacks)
- change of clothes (on the off-chance you don’t want to walk around in your dried off swimsuit)
I definitely loved having paradise and adventure in the same place, somewhere I could go explore ruins, chill in a hammock for half an hour with a delicious pineapple smoothie, then jump right back into the action when I was ready! I also liked how there were so many activities and things to do. There was never a moment where I was bored or felt like I was ready to go home. I also love that they readily have life jackets and float donuts available if needed/wanted.
MY NOT FAVS:
With so much stuff to do and look at and see, it’s easy to get lost. Make sure to grab a map on your way in, you’ll need it! While they do have wheelchairs and strollers available for rental, some routes are not wheelchair accessible, so that’s something to keep in mind. There are also a couple locker rooms with showers, but they are VERY spaced out so be sure to plan accordingly if you plan to visit your locker frequently. I went on the off-season, and it wasn’t that crowded at all, but I can imagine during the high season, lockers may fill up.
Bottom line, you definitely gotta visit Xcaret. It’s one of my favorite amusement parks in the world, because there’s such a vast variety of activities and I also learned a lot about marine animals (and I have a background in biology) and Mexico. It’s rare to find real culture in amusement parks; it was super refreshing. Plus, part of your admission goes to support sea turtle and red macaw programs! Check it out if you get the chance and it works for you! What activity are you most excited to do?