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Xcaret - stay all day

Dolphins of Xcaret ecoparkIf you are going to Xcaret, plan to stay all day to get your money's worth. Entrance into the eco-archaeological park is pricey ($49 adult, $25 kids), and the park is often crowded, but if you want to do one big spending activity, Xcaret is a good choice. Buses run from Playa del Carmen and Cancun, and there is free parking for your car. Xcaret is open from 8:30am - 10:00pm every day.

Xcaret used to be a lagoon hidden in the jungle, but developers changed all that in 1992 by making it into a type of Mayan theme park. Although Xcaret is advertised like a water park, the dry land attractions are actually more interesting.

You can snorkel in the lagoon (rent equipment or bring your own). With so many visitors the coral isn't really alive, though it offers some of the best diving on the coast. They feed the fish in the lagoon so there is still plenty to see. Life vests and inner tubes are free.

Above ground things are more interesting, so bring your shoes:

  • Cenotes at Xcaret, MexicoMayan ruins - Xcaret was a Mayan settlement in the late Post Classic period and the park has excavated a dozen structures.
  • Aquarium - sort of run down, but a walk through gets you to the sea turtle farm
  • Sea turtles - turtles are hatched here, tagged, and released after 1 year. This way they are bigger and safer from predators. The turtles are usually released at 11am on the beach.
  • Aviary and small zoo with jaguars and other local animals.
  • Mushroom and orchid farm, and a botanical garden
  • Butterfly farm - a peaceful shady place to sit and relax.

The underground river is very crowded and sort of boring since there are no fish and the rock formations aren't stunning, but there are plenty of fish in the lagoons.

There is a new Maya Village River that has some open parts and winds through the model Maya village, bamboo forest and stained glass plaza. It is not as popular, but is actually better - less crowded and more interesting. The rivers start and end in the same place.

Swim With Dolphins

Swimming with the dolphins costs extra, but is one of Xcaret's big features. If you decide to do this, arrive early and make reservations 1st thing. There are height restrictions - so if your kids are young call before you go. You can swim with captured dolphins at this park or in Puerto Aventuras.

Call 998 8876840 in Cancun for Dolphin activities in Xcaret or Xel Ha.

  • Dive with a dolphin $130
  • Swim with dolphins $80
  • Interactive experience $55 (30 minutes)
  • Educational program $30 (15 minutes)

Other Paid Attractions

  • Diving - $35 for a one tank dive.
  • Snuba - scuba diving without a tank (you breathe from a hose)
  • Snorkel tours
  • Sea Trek - you where a scaphander helmet and walk on a path along the bottom of the sea
  • Horseback riding
  • Pony rides
  • Alas - ultralight tour is a cool way to see the coast line
  • Scenic tower - takes you really high for the best view of the park.

Stay all evening too

Perhaps the prize of Xcaret is the magnificent night show. Plan to stay for Xcaret at Night. It is worth the wait, and you can nap in the hammocks during the afternoon to rest up for the show.

The show begins at the new Gran Tlachco theater with a pre-Hispanic ball game and the "ball of fire". Sort of like hockey with the ball set on fire. It goes on to talk about a bit of history. The second half of the show features Mexico's regional music and dance. The theater is huge and covered, so it goes on rain or shine. There are more than 200 artists in the show.

On Sundays, Xcaret at Night starts at the main entrance with a tour of the reproduction Mayan Village in your choice of a half dozen languages. You walk through a candle lit cave and see an enactment of a Mayan ceremony in the village. Afterwards, everyone goes into the theater for a folkloric show. Currently, the show features music and dance from each of Mexico's states.

During the day, there are shows around the park like Mayan ceremonies in the "village", the Papantla Flyers, horse show, shark feeding, turtle release, etc.

The restaurants are a little expensive, but the Mexican Restaurant by the horse stables serves good food and in the afternoon you can watch the horse show from your table. Horse rides are extra, of course. For information about pre arranged tours to Xcaret contact Caribbean Coast Travel.

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