Xcaret is a ecoarcheological park located in Riviera Maya, just in front of the Mexican Caribbean. Its name means ‘little inlet’, since one of its attractions is a quiet and small bay, suitable for swimming and snorkeling. As a theme park, Xcaret has focused on the promotion of Mexican culture, particularly the heritage of the Maya civilization. Various events like the show "Xcaret Mexico Espectacular" let the tourists see a colorful mosaic of traditions and most representative dances of Mexico. In addition to the recreation of a Mayan village and cemetery, there is an archaeological site in Xcaret restored by the National Institute of Anthropology and History. Likewise, there is a Mexican wine cellar and a replica of an hacienda henequenera, a typical building of the Yucatan Peninsula during the Porfirio Diaz time.
For the Maya, Xcaret was an important commercial harbor called Pole. It was also the starting point of a pilgrimage that made the Maya to the island of Cozumel to worship Ix Chel, goddess of fertility and the moon. In 1984 the architect Miguel Quintana Pali bought five acres of land in the municipality of Solidaridad, Quintana Roo for private project of household. When he was clearing the land he discovered cenotes and underground rivers of great beauty. So he changed his mind and sided with the Oscar, Marcos and Carlos Constandse to develop the idea of the park which finally opened in December 1990.
Xcaret is a place honored by nature because it combines the greenness of the Mexico’s southeastern jungle with the beauty of the Caribbean Sea. Likewise, Xcaret has the the characteristic underground rivers and cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Flora and fauna
Due to its location, Xcaret is home of many flora and fauna species. In addition, the park's ecological vocation is manifested in preservation programs for endangered species like sea turtles, manatees and jaguars. The park has specific spaces which have been adapted for the care and display of the typical species of the southeastern Mexico. These are:
REGIONAL WILDLIFE BREEDING FARM. Xcaret houses some 44 species of tropical birds, most from Mexico's southeast. To date, we have successfully reproduced the Scarlet and Military Macaw, Yucatan Green Parrot, Lilac-Crowned Amazon, White-Fronted Parrot, Yellow-Naped Parrot, Yellow-Headed Parrot, Pichichi Duck, Keel-billed Toucan, Aracar Toucanet, Ocellated Turkey, Great Currasow and Crested Guan.
JAGUAR ISLAND. Jaguars, the largest felines in America, were sacred to the ancient Maya and especially venerated for their superb strength and beautiful pelts. Today is an endangered species. Xcaret shows some examples of pumas and jaguars in two large islands.
DEER REFUGE. White-tail and Brocket deer are endemic to this region and are part of Xcaret's animal, protection and breeding programs.
BUTTERFLY PAVILION. Xcaret's Butterfly House is the first butterfly breeding facility in Mexico. The structure is 49 feet high and has nearly 38,000 sq. ft. of free flying space, the largest such facility in the world.
In addition to these spaces, there is one crocodile farm in Xcaret, a "territory of the tapir ', a cave of bats, a manatee lagoon and an island of spider monkeys and howler monkeys.
MARINE TURTLES. Since 1990, sea turtles have been protected in Mexico by federal law. Xcaret, in coordination with the Ministry of the Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries (SEMARNAP), the National Institute of Fisheries (INP) and the National Institute of Ecology (INE) protects the two species that nest on the beaches of Quintana Roo: the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the loggerhead (Caretta caretta). During the summer nesting season, Xcaret sets up turtle camps and patrols 100 km. (60 miles) of coastlines, on the look out for nests and possible predators or poachers. After 60 days, the little turtles hatch and many of them are handed over to the Conservation Program in our Aquarium. When they arrive at the Park, the hatchlings are marked by a graft technique that allows us to study their migratory routes and identify them when they return to nest 25 years later.
Until they are released into the wild at the end of a year, they are part of the Park's Environmental Education Program to teach visitors about sea turtles' life cycle and the measures taken to protect these endangered species. During the season, Xcaret and a group of enthusiastic amateur conservationists release an average of 300,000 hatchlings from the Park's turtle camps and neighboring beaches. Some ecological tours invite Park visitors to participate in the turtle release activities.
CORAL REEF AQUARIUM. The only one of its kind in the Americas, the coral reef aquarium transports visitors to the depths of the Caribbean Sea. It exhibits the biodiversity of the ocean's underwater gardens, with different ecosystems thriving at distinct depths. Very few aquariums in the world have been able to exhibit long-term healthy samples of these delicate and complex ecosystems. More than 300 corals have been planted successfully on the artificial reef structures, thanks, in part, to the unfiltered sea water continuous pumping system that allows free flow of plankton directly into the exhibit tanks, along with sponge larvae, corals, mollusks and algae that start natural colonization processes. This Xcaret marine exhibit includes more than 5,000 living organisms.
FLORA. The forest in southeast Mexico is home to numerous species of tree and bush fruits, timber, ornamental, medicinal, for construction or for rituals. In the Xcaret ecological tours visitor have some products that are derived from regional plants: gum, sisal fiber, coconut candy, cinnamon, vanilla, achiote, among others.
Twenty-five hybrids and 89 of the 105 orchid species found in the region are cultivated at the Xcaret's Orchid Greenhouse.
The climate is tropical in Xcaret. It is important to use biodegradable sunblock and repellent. Use comfortable and light clothing and shoes or sandals. Don’t forget the bathing suit.
You can rent a car for a nice, easy drive to Xcaret. Taxis from Cancun to Xcaret cost between US $80.00 and US $100 one way. Buses are available from the downtown bus station for about US $3.00 per person.
Playa Express or Mayab Bus Lines leave every 30 minutes from 5.00 AM to 8:00 PM and leave you on the highway (about half a mile from Xcaret's Main Entrance.).
A small shuttle called "El Despeinado" will take out to the main entrance. Departures every half hour from 8:30 AM to 10:00 PM. “El Despeinado” Shuttle service is free.
You can take a taxi from your hotel to the bus station (about US $8.00 one way) or public transportation (about $6 Pesos per person.)
From Playa del Carmen:
Take a taxi from Playa del Carmen to Xcaret for about US $15.00. the trip takes about 15 minutes.
Buses in Playa del Carmen:
Autobuses Riviera bus line
Departures at 9:30 and 10:20 a.m. only.
Round trip fare per person: US $5.00
Return at 5:15 and 8:45 p.m. only.
You arrive and depart from Xcaret's main gate.
Autobuses Maya bus line:
Departures every hour from 4:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Fare: US $3.00 per person.
Buses will leave you on the highway (half a mile from Xcaret main entrance.) A small shuttle called "El Despeinado" will take out to the main entrance.
Departures every half hour from 8:30 AM to 10:00 PM.
“El Despeinado” Shuttle service is free.
Take the ferry from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen at a cost of about $120 Pesos one way per person. Ferry service is available daily from 7:00 AM to 2:00 PM and from 4:00 PM to 11:00 PM. The trip takes about 45 minutes. Once you arrive at the Playa del Carmen dock, take a taxi, bus or rent a car.
BASIC ADMISSION. Admission to Xcaret, including its attractions and “Xcaret México Espectacular” celebration
XCARET PLUS PACKAGE. Admission to the Park. Includes a buffet meal with fruit drink and coffee, 2 soft drinks or 2 fruit drinks or 1 beer or 2 bags of chips, snorkeling equipment, towel and locker in the exclusive 'Plus Area', 10% discount on some optional activities.
XCARET AT NIGHT.Basic admission after 3:00 p.m. and “Xcaret México Espectacular” celebration.
TWO-DAY PASS. Park admission for two days. Pay basic admission fee and half-price for the second day.
Xcaret has an enormous selection of entertainment alternative and natural attractions.
UNDERGROUND RIVERS. Xcaret's rivers are part of a network of underground channels that riddle the Yucatan Peninsula.
PARADISE RIVER. This trek takes visitors by raft along the crystalline waters crossed by the tropical hiking trail, where they can observe regional wildlife like deer and howler monkeys while enjoying the majestic jungle of the state of Quintana Roo.
THE INLET. The Cove, with a top depth of 1.2 meters (3'11") and no currents or waves, is the ideal place for learning to snorkel. Archaeologists think that the Maya launched their canoes from this point to sail to Cozumel, after purifying their bodies and souls in the area's sacred wells.
BEACHES AND NATURAL POOLS. To one side of Xcaret beach, behind the Aquarium, are the park's natural sinkholes, pools of sea water that are naturally recycled with the tides, kind of like a Jacuzzi.
There are optional activities with an extra charge to the access.
SWIM WITH DOLPHINS. This activity consist in a program that gives a close look at the habitat of these mammals, and a close encounter with their impressive natural abilities. Visitors can play with them, watch them under the water and feel how fast they swim.
SNORKEL TOUR-The Xcaret Snorkeling Tour takes the visitor to one of the best places to practice this sport, where can be enjoyed the exotic kaleidoscope of flora and fauna of the coral reef.
SEA TREK- A spectacular and unforgettable submarine walk for which is not necessary to swim or dive. Visitors can admire underwater species which are within five meters deep in the sea and they even not get wet their hair.
FAMILY and SNUBA SNUBA REEF- Snuba is the new sport that combines the technology of diving with the freedom of snorkeling.
SWIMMING WITH SHARKS AND SWIM WITH RAYS- Xcaret is one of the few places in America where you can live these unusual and exciting experiences. Living with these sea creatures allows us to lose fear and admire for their beauty and intelligence.
The visitor can also enjoy activities such as the bathhouse, the Spa at Xcaret or a wine cellar tour, among others.
Xcaret cultural activities provide insight into the cultural richness of Mexico in its entire splendor. By the afternoon, enjoy the costume parade, the celebration charro, a tour of the archaeological site or, on the cemetery and the Mayan people. What you can not miss of Xcaret is the show "Xcaret Mexico Espectacular", a kaleidoscope of color and music which includes an emotional journey through the history of Mexico as well as an exciting ball game.
Take your time to make a tour of the jungle. You can also take a break off the beaches of Xcaret, which are a sampling of the beautiful Mexican Caribbean.
Xcaret has several shops carefully distributed throughout the Park so visitors will always have easy access to souvenirs, basic personal items and a pharmacy. Souvenirs ar available at the Main Plaza, Casa de los Murmullos, Recuerdos del Acuario, Souvenirs de Actividades Acuáticas, La Playa, Salida de Ríos, México en la Piel and Souvenirs de Delfines store.
Xcaret has six different restaurants. Most of them have the Distinctive H granted by the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Health to meet the standards of quality and service. From typical dishes of the region to 'fast food' can be found at Xcaret's restaurants, which are: La Laguna, La Caleta, La Peninsula, Dos Playas, The Kitchen and The Orchid Bar.
Next to Xcaret is Occidental Grand Flamenco Xcaret. The park is only six kilometers from Playa del Carmen where there is a great choice of hotels for all budgets. Another option is to stay in Cancun, which is approximately 57 kilometers from Xcaret. Along the Riviera Maya there are several thotels that offer Xcaret tours by travel agencies.
Xcaret is a great park immersed in the Quintana Roo jungle. Because of its location and nature, is a place where people sensitive to high temperatures, or with respiratory or heart problems may experience difficulties. Xcaret offers medical services and trained personnel to handle any emergency.