After spending a few days in Playa del Carmen we decided to venture out to one of the multiple tourist parks near town. The 3 main parks are Xplor (caters to the adventurous people with zip lining, 4 wheel driving and such), Xel-ha and Xcarat (both cater to the more sensible people like us!). We aren’t adrenalin junkies or in our 20s anymore (unfortunately!), so it was a toss up between the last two. We choose Xcarat.
Xcarat is an eco-theme park located a few miles south of Playa del Carmen. The easiest way there is by taxi and it only set us back a little over $10. As always in Mexico we made sure we agreed to a price first.
There are a two different entry tickets. You can either just pick up park entry for $79 USD per person, or for $30 more you can get a free lunch (a choice of meals, including buffets, in one of 5 restaurants within the park), hire of a locker, as well as the hire of snorkeling equipment. The extra $30 was a bit of a no brainer for us, as buying lunch in the park will set you back the best part of $30 anyway, so why not pay upfront and get some snorkeling gear and a locker thrown in as well.
The park itself was very well set out with heaps to do. While there were plenty of people around the park it wasn’t crowded and it wasn’t unusual to find yourself walking a path all alone.
Being an eco-park there were a lot of animals around. One of my highlights was a huge section on sea turtles, including an area where they hatch baby turtles (only during hatching seasons). There were dolphins, monkeys, bats, some big cats (Jaguars) and a huge aquarium to name a few. There was even a butterfly house with hundreds of butterflies including a beautiful blue one that Nicole chased around trying to get a photo of (to no avail!).
The park also has 100s of birds, with my favorite being the macaw. The colorful bird is native to Mexico and there are a lot of them scattered throughout the park. We could definitely hear them when they are near! There is an area within the park where they breed them and we got to see some that were only a few days old. There are also Pink Flamingos, which are one of Nicole’s favorites.
Being an eco-park it wasn’t all about looking at pretty animals, there was lots of information for everyone. We learned a lot as we went through the park. There is even some real exciting stuff about compost (okay, not all the information was that exciting!).
One of the highlights of the park was snorkeling the underground river. This is part of the extra $30 we paid at the start. Basically we grabbed some snorkels and flippers and swum our way down a man-made river, which is sometimes out in the open and sometimes through dark tunnels.
The river was several hundred meters long and it snaked through the park. It was really quite enjoyable; for one we were out of the Mexican heat, and secondly, it is a very relaxing and fun swim. Some of the water was crystal clear to swim through, however some of it got quite murky, particularly when there were people stirring up the water ahead (some people just don’t know how to snorkel!). It was pretty cool swimming along and looking down at the colorful fish.
There are also some really great swimming holes, some of which are also great for snorkeling. There’s also a great little man-made beach which would be perfect for the kids to play in as there is a bar for mum and dad to enjoy a nice cold drink!
For lunch we chose one of the buffets. The food and service was good and there was plenty to choose from. As you walk around the park, there are plenty of snacks outlets. Just be aware that you will be paying twice the amount as you would in Playa del Carmen. There’s a standard ‘park’ pricing system here!
After running around seeing everything, and once the feet get a little tired, there are plenty of places to relax. You can chill out and drink a Corona while laying back on your own deck chair. Or for those want to really relax, there are hammocks near the water. We could just lay back and listen to the ocean roll in. In fact there was one couple that were so relaxed I’m sure I heard them snoring!
There are also several cultural shows throughout the park. They have been ‘Hollywooded’ up, but are entertaining none the less. Shows include an equestrian show, The Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers) and Xcarat at night, to name a few. Xcarat at night is definitely the pick of the shows to see and everyone will be there, so you may want to get there early for a good seat if the park is busy.
Staying on the cultural theme there are some Mayan Ruins onsite to see, as well as an old Mexican cemetery and a Hacienda Henequenera (House of Mexican Folk Art). Also don’t miss the St Francis of Assis Chapel, which you can even use for a wedding location.
The park is definitely aimed at the tourist and isn’t cheap, but it will take a good full day to get around and is very enjoyable. It would be great for kids of all ages.
It is something different to do if you get bored of walking down the famous 5th Ave (the tourist strip), drinking a Corona at a corner bar or chilling at the beach. Hmm maybe you should go to the park even if you don’t ever get bored of that!
Have you ever been to one of Playa’s eco-parks?