I come from a place were almost every kid dreams about visiting a theme park in Florida. I don’t know when the Puerto Rican fascination with Disney World, Universal Studios and Busch Gardens started. What I do know is that these parks ignite a fire in the imagination of most of the island’s young population (and adults too). It’s crazy, I know, but it is something impregnated in the Puerto Rican idiosyncrasy.
To my dismay surprise, I ended up in Los Angeles where different flavors of Disney and Universal are venerated. Plus, in here we have the I-want-to-die parks such as Six Flags and Knott’s Berry Farm. I mean, I like to go to visit once in a while but I don’t understand why I have to pay to expose my brain to zero gravity and various g forces in 20 roller coasters. All this in. one. day. Perfect way to burn a couple hundred of neurons. In summary, I like them a little bit but it is not my ideal way to spend a day.
Because of my misunderstood aversion to theme parks, I had to put all my decision making skills into practice when considering a visit to Xcaret. Many describe this place as Mexico’s Disneyland (headache alert). However, as I continued investigating the offerings of this place, I discovered it is best described as an eco archeological park (not as a boring, plain theme park).
Now, because I am nice, I am going to give you the bottom line upfront. You have to experience Xcaret at least one (more if possible). Yes, I ended up visiting. Ans yes, I was sold after the visit. It is a park or place like you have never seen before. I am not sure who had the idea of developing such an amazing place but the nail was hit in the right spot. In this post, my aim is to show you why this park is different. Warning: there is not even one rollercoaster in Xcaret, so this is not that type of post.
A little bit of history
Xcaret was a Mayan port and trading center. The word Xcaret means “small inlet”. However, the original name of the site was p’ole’ which means merchandise or deal of merchants. The ruins of the Mayan site remains within the limits of the modern development.
Around the 80s, the land where the park is located was bought by Mexican investors. While cleaning the area, cenotes and underwater rivers were discovered. This is when the owners started to think about developing a different kind of park where visitors would learn about Mexico’s natural environment and cultural heritage.
What can be found inside the park
Like I said, this is not your typical park. For me the biggest asset of this place is the opportunity to enjoy all the offerings within a natural environment which can be better described as paradise.
Here are some of the offerings:
- Subterranean rivers
- Natural pool
- Coral reef aquarium
- Marine turtles exhibition
- Hammocks and rest areas
- Archeological zones
- Scenic gyratory tower
- Many animal exhibitions (jaguars, tapir, bees, butterflies, deer, spider monkeys and more)
- Botanical exhibitions (bromeliads, orchids and more)
- Mayan exhibitions
- Cultural exhibitions (church, cemetery, hacienda)
- A wide variety of shows including Pre-Hispanic dances, Mayan ball game and Mexico Espectacular (a show not to miss).
As you can see, there is something for everybody. One day is probably not going to let your experience everything the park has to offer. Therefore, you can decide beforehand what attractions you are most interested in.
Tip: Prepare to go early and leave late. Don’t worry, there are many places to rest your tired body. Don’t leave without seeing the Mexico Espectacular night show. The show deserves every minute of your time. As the name implies, this is a truly spectacular display of music and dance. I am going to discuss more of this in a future post.
Xcaret in photos
Here is the part where a give you a visual glimpse of what to expect of a visit.
Unfortunately, Disneyland and Xcaret are similar in one range: price. The entrance price is about $70 not including transportation. In addition, you have to pay $30 if you want to eat at one of the park’s buffets.
Xcaret is very close to Playa de Carmen. If you are staying in Playa, take a cheap combi (small van) to the entrance of the park. If you return late at night (after the show), your only option may be a taxi. You can also arrange transportation with a private tour company but this will add to the total price.
Have you visited Xcaret? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments section below.