For those of you who haven’t heard yet, Xcaret Eco Park (and its many sister parks) is a big deal in these parts. Xcaret (pronounced eesh-car-et) is a must-see destination while visiting Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, and the rest of Riviera Maya.
During my latest trip to Mexico, after having considered visiting Xcaret on three trips prior and skipping it for one reason or another, we finally pulled the trigger and decided to visit Xcaret. The takeaway? This park is absolutely amazing!
After my visit, I truly believe that Xcaret Eco Park is the crown jewel of attractions offered in the Riviera Maya.
We did so much during our time there and learned so much about Mexican/Mayan culture along the way. All in all, it was an unforgettable experience that we’d recommend to anyone visiting Cancun/Playa Del Carmen.
Great! So does that mean you can stop reading? Well, not so fast–I did want to mention a few concerns, tips, and tricks before you hop off. The one major question that most travelers have when considering a visit to Xcaret is the price. Yes, admission to Xcaret is not cheap.
So if you’re wondering if Xcaret Park is worth the hefty admission cost, keep reading! This post will break down the different components of the park for you so you can ultimately determine if what it offers is right for you.
At the end of the post, don’t miss my top essential tips to make your Xcaret Park experience that much better!
This post may contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running/pumping out useful and free content. Thanks a lot!
XCARET PARK: OVERVIEW
Xcaret Eco Park can easily be summed up as a massive, unforgettable eco-park located in the jungle of the popular Riviera Maya.
Xcaret can be considered all of the following: a water park, theme park, amusement park, cultural museum, and archaeological site–all in one place.
So how can one place be so many things all at once? Well, this is due to its prime location. It’s located in the Mayan jungle among trees, underground rivers, and cenotes while sitting right on the Caribbean Sea.
This family-friendly park features more than 50 natural and cultural attractions that will surely wow you from the minute you start exploring.
Among the highlights are the underground river swim, the Aviary, the Coral Reef Aquarium, and the Butterfly Pavilion. Aside from the natural attractions, you’ll also get to learn so much about Mexican culture through the Mayan ruins, Mayan Village, various art exhibits, as well as the epic Xcaret México Espectacular show.
XCARET PARK ADMISSION / TICKETS
Buying your ticket to Xcaret can be a bit confusing so let’s break everything down.
- Adults: $109.99 USD for the base ticket.
- Children: From 5 to 11 get 50% off the adult ticket price – $54.99 USD for the base ticket.
- Kids: Under 4 years old have free admission!
First off, Xcaret is NOT an all-inclusive eco-park. Instead, Xcaret offers build-your-own package options, with discounts if you book combo packages.
While Xcaret is not an all-inclusive park, you do have the chance to upgrade your admission ticket to make your visit almost all-inclusive. We personally opted for the Xcaret Plus Admission tickets and paid extra for the roundtrip transportation.
This meant that not only were we going to be picked up and dropped off at our hotel, but that we would also get to enjoy a lunch buffet (including 1 beer and unlimited non-alcoholic beverages) at the restaurant of our choice.
Our Xcaret Plus Admission tickets also allowed us to rent snorkel gear free of charge and access the exclusive Xcaret Plus area with lockers, dressing rooms and private restrooms–at no additional charge.
We highly recommend going with this option over the Basic Admission!
If you’d like to compare, here are all the other admission options:
- Xcaret Basic Admission – Enjoy the 50 attractions surrounded by jungle, underground rivers, and the Caribbean Sea. You’ll also get to enjoy the Mexican dances, Mayan archaeological vestiges, and the Xcaret México Espectacular presentation.
- Xcaret Plus – Besides the more than 50 attractions included in your Xcaret admission, you can also enjoy a buffet meal at the restaurant of your choice. You will also have access to Plus Area exclusive facilities, with lockers, dressing rooms and private restrooms, and the use of snorkel gear for the underground rivers.
- Xcaret Total – This admission includes a buffet lunch, access to the Plus facilities and 1 optional activity added to your experience: Snuba® Family, Sea Trek® or Adrenalina.
- Xcaret at Night – Grants you access into the park from 4:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Includes only admission (no food).
You can read more about the different experiences here on their website.
HOW TO GET TO XCARET PARK
There are a few different ways to get to Xcaret Park. The best choice for you will depend on where you are staying and what your budget is.
Don’t have time to read through this whole section? We recommend adding hotel transportation to your ticket purchase when buying your Xcaret tickets online.
Hotel Pick Up
Getting to Xcaret is super easy. If you purchase a package from a tour company or on their website directly, roundtrip transportation from your hotel is an optional add-on. This is what most people go with.
The vehicle that picks you up at your hotel on the day of your park visit may have the logo of any of the Xcaret Parks: Xcaret, Xel-Há, Xplor, or the company logo, Grupo Xcaret. The transfer may be by van or luxury bus, depending on the operation.
If your hotel is not on the hotel list, or you are staying at an Airbnb, hostel, or with friends/family in Mexico, you can choose between a few meeting points in Cancun and Playa Del Carmen.
For example, because we stayed at Hotel La Semilla, a boutique hotel in Playa Del Carmen (it is not a major resort hotel), we chose to meet in front of a restaurant located just a 2-minute walk from our hotel. When we arrived at the meeting point, there were about 30 to 50 others who had the same meeting point as us.
From there, we checked in and hopped onboard the Xcaret bus that was waiting for us!
If you are traveling with a larger group, it may make more financial sense to arrange your own private transfer from the hotel or resort you are staying at.
The private transfer will pick you up at your hotel and drive you directly to the park entrance. If you’ve arranged a private transfer for the trip back to your hotel, your private transfer will also bring you back to your hotel at the return time you select.
The ADO bus serves the entire Yucatán Peninsula, even Xcaret Park. Direct transportation to the park is available from the following three cities: Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Tulum.
From Cancun, you will have to catch the bus from the main bus terminal in downtown Cancun. If you are in Playa del Carmen, you must get to the ADO bus terminal located on Fifth Avenue. From Tulum, you must also get yourself to the ADO bus terminal in order to catch it to Xcaret Park.
Prices may vary depending on which city you’re coming from, but this will be your cheapest option for getting to Xcaret.
Taxis are relatively expensive in this region of Mexico. However, if you are going to be based in Playa Del Carmen, the cost may not be so bad. Xcaret is located about 6 miles south of Playa del Carmen, so fares will cost approximately $15.
You can easily find taxis near the ADO bus terminal or at any of the cross-streets along Fifth Avenue.
If you are coming from Tulum or Cancun areas, we do not recommend taking a taxi because of how expensive they are. Opt for Xcaret’s hotel transportation add-on instead!
Stay at Hotel Xcaret
Another option is to stay at Hotel Xcaret, the all-inclusive resort that is conveniently connected to the park.
As a guest of the hotel, your stay includes unlimited access and transportation to all the parks of Grupo Xcaret. That includes Xcaret, Xel-Há, Xplor, Xplor Fuego, Xoximilco, Xenses, Xavage and Xenotes! What a steal!
XCARET PARK: WHAT TO EXPECT
As soon as you enter the park and lay your eyes on the park map, you’ll begin to realize how massive the park is. Despite its size, getting around the park is pretty easy.
All the attractions are marked with easy-to-read signs and are located in a colored area. When trying to figure out which direction you need to go to, simply follow the colored paths to get there.
For example, to get to the Xcaret Plus area, you’ll always follow the black line. To get to the lunch buffet at the seafood restaurant, you’ll follow the red line.
Now that you’re more familiar with how to get around the park, let’s dive into what’s actually featured at the park! Here are a few of the major attractions at Xcaret.
Underground River Swim
One activity you absolutely cannot miss is swimming through the park’s network of underground rivers and caves.
The underground river swim activity is broken down into 4-5 segments. If you get tired of swimming or need to exit for any other reason, you can do so at the end of each segment.
If you are not a strong swimmer, no worries! Life jackets are provided (and required in order to do the swim). These things will really help you float in the river effortlessly.
Lastly, make sure you get a pair of fins by the entrance of the river. While they are optional, you should definitely take a pair with you. They make swimming through the cave portions so much easier!
Otherwise, you will have to grab onto a rope in the cave and pull yourself through. Not the worst experience in the world, but definitely takes a bit more effort. We learned that the hard way (we were pretty darn tired after doing the full river circuit without fins).
Want to experience the river without getting wet? You can opt to do the Paradise River ride, where you can sail aboard a comfortable raft along the transparent waters of the river.
Pro Tip: We regret not bringing a waterproof phone pouch with us. The underground river swim was so picturesque–it would have been really nice to snap a few photos during our swim!
While at Xcaret Park, you may encounter deer, bats, pink flamingos, sea turtles, colorful macaws, monkeys, jaguars, birds, and more.
Formal animal exhibits include the Coral Reef Aquarium, Aviary (a natural sanctuary where birds interact freely), Jaguars Island, Manatee Lagoon, and Butterfly Pavilion.
These exhibits are not to be missed, especially if you’re traveling with kids! They will love the opportunity to get up close and personal with the fauna of the park.
While there are no traditional coral reefs within the confines of the park, there is a little snorkeling inlet area where you can get your snorkel on.
I will say, even though seeing small schools of blue and yellow fish was cool, this is not a replacement for a real snorkel tour.
A few days prior to visiting Xcaret, we had actually done the Reef and Shipwreck Snorkeling Tour in Cancun, which was absolutely amazing (we saw massive schools of fish, barracuda, and even sea turtles). The water was bright and clear and the whole experience was magical.
Snorkeling at Xcaret really paled in comparison. It was pretty crowded in the water, and we found the water to be pretty murky and filmy (likely from everyone’s sunscreen washing off their bodies. Overall, the snorkeling activity was just okay.
Having said that, Xcaret does offer an optional snorkeling tour to the nearby coral reef, just a short boat ride from the park. There is an additional cost for this activity, but it’s likely going to be a better and more authentic snorkeling experience.
Shows / Performances
There are four different shows to enjoy during your Xcaret visit. Throughout the day you can enjoy several performances of the following:
- Papantla Flyers – ritual ceremony of the flyers on a tall pole
- Pre-hispanic Performances – 25-minute Mayan pre-Hispanic dance performances with drumming
- Horse Exhibitions – performances by charros and adelitas (women jockeys) riding Aztec horses.
The main attraction at Xcaret, however, is the evening México Espectacular, an epic performance and showcase of Mexico’s history featuring over 300 performers.
This show is most definitely the #1 highlight of all of Xcaret. I won’t give you too many spoilers, but there are huge bursts of color, beautiful dance ensembles, fire, and even horses and parrots featured in the show!
Pro Tip: This show is truly very entertaining and is not to be missed. If you have concerns about you or your kids lasting throughout the day, consider entering the park a bit later in the day (or even mid-day) in order to have the energy to watch the show at night.
From the “Bridge to Paradise” Mexican Cemetery to the colorful Mayan Village and the Mexican Folk Art Museum to the Hacienda Henequenera (showcasing a typical 19th-century Mexican mansion), you’ll get to experience a lot of what Mexico is all about outside of the jungle and water activities.
One of the coolest things to see at the park is the various archaeological sites dotted throughout the park. These ancient buildings witnessed important events in the commercial, maritime, and religious life of the former inhabitants of Polé (now Xcaret).
You can learn a lot by stopping to read the educational signage posted by the sites.
Restaurants / Dining
There are so many dining options at Xcaret and each of them offers something a little different. If you’ve opted for the Xcaret Plus admission or better, you’ll have the option to choose one of the following restaurants for your lunch buffet.
- LA ORQUÍDEA COFFEE SHOP – Features a breakfast buffet in the morning, lunch buffet at noon, and a la carte menu after 2pm.
- LA COCINA RESTAURANT – Buffet lunch specializing in Mexican cuisine, included with your Xcaret Plus admission.
- DOS PLAYAS RESTAURANT – Buffet lunch specializing in seafood and Caribbean-style cuisine; included with your Xcaret Plus admission.
- LA PENÍNSULA RESTAURANT – Buffet lunch specializing in international cuisine and seafood; included with your Xcaret Plus admission.
- EL YUCATECO RESTAURANT – Buffet lunch specializing in Yucatecan cuisine and pre-Hispanic ingredients; included with your Xcaret Plus admission.
- LA ISLA RESTAURANT – Buffet lunch specializing in international cuisine, located in the middle of a cave by an underground river.
- LA CALETA RESTAURANT – Buffet lunch specializing in grilled foods (like juicy steaks) & international foods; included with your Xcaret Plus admission.
- LA LAGUNA RESTAURANT – Buffet lunch specializing in international cuisine (such as Mexican appetizers, pasta, pizzas, and dessert); included with your Xcaret Plus admission.
- EL MANGLAR RESTAURANT – A la carte restaurant, specializes in seafood and dishes from the Pacific Coast of Mexico.
Depending on park conditions, some of the restaurants may not be open on the day of your visit. Be sure to check the website for the latest information.
We ate at La Peninsula Restaurant on our last visit. Not only was the food super delicious (aguachiles, ceviche, and seafood soup were my favorites), but we also enjoyed our food and drinks on the scenic palapa terrace overlooking the ocean. Truly not a bad place to enjoy a meal!
If you’re staying at a beachfront hotel, you can probably skip the beach at Xcaret. Otherwise, it’s a lovely stretch of beach perfect for young children or those who cannot swim. The water is very calm for the little ones to splash around in.
If you’re looking to sunbathe or relax, you’ll be glad to know that there are plenty of loungers and chairs available here.
And if you need a little nap during the day, head to the relaxing hammock area for a quick shut-eye session!
Xcaret has a ton of other optional activities for an additional cost. Here is just a sample of what they offer:
- Adrenalina – A thrilling boat ride at speeds up to 90 km/h, with 360° turns and immersions through the turquoise blue of the Caribbean Sea.
- Xcaret México Espectacular Dinner – Pair the best show ever with a seven-course dinner.
- Paraxute – Soar up to 600 ft (200 m) high by parasail
- Stingray Encounter – Feed and swim with huge, majestic stingrays as you learn about the care and conservation of their specie
- Sea Trek – Descend 16.4 ft and walk on the seabed admiring all the marine life while breathing like on the surface
- Xpá Xcaret – Indulge with a relaxing massage in the setting of a crystalline lagoon while listening to the relaxing sounds of a waterfall.
You can check out the complete list of optional activities here.
NOTE: While there are dolphin excursions, we do NOT recommend supporting this area of the park. Dolphins deserve to be free, not confined in a pool for the entertainment of humans. Captive dolphins are bred for a lifetime of captivity. A life in captivity is no life at all. Please don’t support these efforts!
THE BOTTOM LINE: IS XCARET WORTH THE MONEY
Xcaret is a great mix of adventure, culture, education, and relaxation. If you’re looking for a combo day filled with all of those things, then this park is right for you.
While admission to Xcaret Park is not cheap, we wholeheartedly believe that the whole experience is completely worth the money.
For the show alone, with its incredible production value, we would pay $100+ outright! Seriously, if this was a show offered in Las Vegas, I would not hesitate to pay full price for it. Layer in all the additional activities included with your admission and it’s a real steal!
Because of how large the park is, you’re going to be busy exploring the many exhibits, engaging in the activities, and watching the shows throughout the day. You will definitely not be bored here.
And if you need a rest, there are some really serene rest spots speckled throughout the park. There’s even a beach for you to enjoy if you’re looking for some real R&R! The best of both worlds!
If we had to recommend one package, we’d suggest the Xcaret Plus option. Not only do you get a buffet lunch during your park visit, but you’ll also be saving on locker rental and snorkel rental costs.
Having said all of that, Xcaret may still not be for you. If you’re looking primarily for a day of full-on adventure and adrenaline, Xplor may be the better option for you. Alternatively, if you’re looking for more water activities, Xel-Ha would be the better park for you.
All in all, I still stand by my stance that yes–Xcaret is worth the money!
XCARET PARK: ESSENTIAL PACKING LIST
You won’t need too much for your visit to Xcaret. These items below are considered essentials:
- Towel – grab from your hotel or bring a lightweight, quick-drying towel of your own
- Waterproof phone pouch – for epic river / underwater pics
- Change of clothes – for after your water activities
- Cash or credit card
- Admission confirmation voucher
- Non-toxic / natural bug spray
- Biodegradable sunscreen (see note below)
IMPORTANT NOTE ON SUNSCREENS:
To protect the natural balance of the water ecosystem within the park, Xcaret has a policy of just using biodegradable sunscreen (containing titanium oxide and zinc oxide).
Please adhere to this rule and use only sunscreen containing titanium oxide and zinc oxide at the park. This will really help minimize the negative environmental impact of products with chemicals.
And honestly, after my last trip to Mexico, I realized it’s not enough to just buy any ol’ bottle that has a “reef-friendly” label on it. It turns out many sunscreens claiming to be “reef-friendly” or “reef-safe” actually aren’t.
Products containing the following ingredients are NOT reef safe: oxybenzone, avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, or nanoparticles.
Always review the active ingredients on the bottle to be sure you’re really getting something reef-safe.
If you’re wondering what is safe, I’ve done the research so you don’t have to! Here are a few travel-sized biodegradable sunscreens you can easily buy on Amazon:
- Badger Reef Safe Sunscreen – SPF 40 Kids Clear Sport
- Badger Reef Safe Sunscreen- SPF 35 Clear Zinc Sport Unscented
- Thinksport SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen
- Babo Botanicals Zinc Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
- All Good Sport Face & Body Sunscreen Lotion
ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR YOUR XCARET PARK VISIT
- Xcaret Park is really big, clocking in at over 200 acres (81 hectares). Bring comfortable sandals or walking shoes.
- Because the park is so big, do plan out your day ahead of time. Prioritize the activities, exhibits, and areas you want to see at the beginning of the day because you might not be able to do it all!
- Do not miss the Mexico Espectacular show at the end of the day. If you leave Xcaret without catching the show, did you really experience Xcaret? Probably not.
- Xcaret is NOT all-inclusive. There are extra charges for day lockers, strollers, snorkel equipment, towels, food, and beverages. This leads us to the next tip….
- Go for the Xcaret Plus option. Yes, it costs more money, but the perks of this admission type are so convenient. With Xcaret plus, you get free snorkel gear, a free buffet lunch, and free usage of lockers.
- Opt for the additional transportation option. Admission with transportation is only $30 USD more, but saves you so much time and effort.
- If you’re traveling with kids 4 years old or under, admission to the park is free. Children between the ages of 5 to 12 years old will get a discounted rate on admission.
- Consider the Go City Cancun attraction pass if you want the Xcaret At Night admission. With an all-inclusive pass of 3 days or more, admission to Xcaret (or Xel-Ha) is included!
- Don’t forget to bring your snacks, sunhat, towel, swimsuit, biodegradable sunscreen, and a dry change of clothes. They have convenient lockers at the park, so don’t be afraid to bring stuff.
- Beat the lunch rush by heading to the restaurants before 12:30pm. Arrive any time after that and you may need to wait in long lines to get seated.
- Check out the different lunch menus before committing to a restaurant. Each of the restaurants serves something different, so explore the menus before settling with one.
- For the river swim, get the fins. You’ll be able to swim so much faster, especially in the areas where the current really slows you down.
- Bring snacks and water with you. While the park does not allow “outside food” you can still bring small snacks with you to munch on throughout the day, especially if you’re traveling with little ones who get hungry at random times.
- Please don’t swim with the dolphins. It’s not fair for the poor dolphins and probably not the safest thing for you or your kids.
- If there is any chance of rain in the forecast, bring ponchos! That way you’ll be able to continue exploring the park instead of having to huddle under a palapa for who knows how long (this happened to us). Xcaret gift shop also sells ponchos (we were suckers and had to buy their ponchos).
WHERE TO STAY FOR XCARET PARK
The most convenient option is to stay at the all-inclusive Hotel Xcaret Mexico, which is connected to the park.
Hotel Xcaret Mexico is one of the best all-inclusive resorts in Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya due to its location and abundance of adventure, adrenaline, and family-friendly activities.
What other park gives you unlimited and FREE access to all of Experiencias Xcaret’s nature parks and tours?
You read that right–this includes all the eco-parks like Xcaret, Xplor, Xplor Fuego, Xenses, Xavage, Xoximilco, Xel-Há, and Xenotes, as well as each of their dining plans! Together, these parks/activities will add up to 200 experiences of adventure, culture, and a whole bunch of fun!
The massive, 900-room Hotel Xcaret is an upscale yet friendly and welcoming all-inclusive resort that draws equal parts families and couples.
Adults will especially love the free yoga and meditation, the 10 restaurants that include an international buffet, Mexican, and Asian options, and the 8 bars around the resort. There is also a spa with cave-like treatment rooms, and three gyms.
There are also plenty of on-site activities for kids to enjoy, including swimming and snorkeling, as well as a kids’ club with organized activities.
The benefit of choosing this hotel is that admission to the various Xcaret parks is included in the resort’s price. This is a wonderful option for families or travelers looking to visit multiple Xcaret parks on their trip. Airport shuttle included!
Hotel Xcaret Arte (Adults Only)
Hotel Xcaret Arte is a new resort that opened its doors in mid-2021. Hotel Xcaret Arte has 900 adults-only (including young adults ages 16 and up) suites inspired by artists.
Similar to Hotel Xcaret above, when you stay at Hotel Xcaret Arte, you’re opting for the All-Fun All-Inclusive concept, where “all-inclusive” is defined a little differently than traditional resorts.
A stay at Hotel Xcaret Arte includes unlimited access to the most iconic eco-parks in Cancun and Riviera Maya: Xcaret, Xel-Há, Xplor, Xplor Fuego, Xenses, Xoximilco, Xavage and Xenotes.
Together, these parks/activities will add up to 200 experiences of adventure, culture, and a whole bunch of fun!
Moving on to the accommodations themselves, these rooms are all light, airy, and decorated with beautiful, timeless decor. Its eco-integrating architecture blends design and nature in a loving and responsible way, achieving a balance between ethics and aesthetics.
You’ll get to enjoy 9 gastronomic experiences under the care of some pretty big-time chefs in Mexico as well as various bars serving up carefully designed cocktails and coffee drinks.
On top of the all-inclusive food, drink, park access, and transportation to/from the parks, you’ll also have complimentary access to Mexican artistic workshops including weaving, painting, pottery, dance, and vegan cooking.
Hotel La Semilla
Hotel La Semilla is the wonderful design/boutique hotel that we stayed at in Playa Del Carmen.
Aside from the unforgettable free breakfast and hospitality, the benefit of staying here is that you’ll be close to the hustle and bustle of all things downtown Playa Del Carmen.
There are so many things to do in Playa, so we totally recommend staying in this town! While it is slightly further away from the park (17 minutes away), you can simply opt for roundtrip transportation along with your admission so you won’t have to worry about a thing.
XCARET PARK: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
And that concludes this Xcaret Park review post! We hope that this post has inspired you to try something new! If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below.