If you read my previous post, you know that we stayed at Hotel Xcaret Arte. This meant that we had access to all the parks. Transportation left from the hotel directly. There were only three parks that did not need a reservation. One of these parks are actually the same: Xplor during the day and Xplor Fuego at night. You need to make reservations BEFORE you get to the hotel. We made our reservations two weeks before we left. We had to call the hotel and have them send us a reservation form. We secured all the parks we requested, but not on the days that we wanted. I guess in order to do that you need to send it in even earlier.
We chose Xoximilico, Xenotes, Xel-Ha (with the Tulum option), and Xenses. The other options were Xavage (which was an extreme park), a ferry to Isla de las Mujeres, and a trip to Chichen Itza. We have been to Chichen Itza and would not have chosen it due to the bus time alone. The ferry was also an all day excursion. We did not chose Xavage because it did not have any activities we really wanted to do.
The first night we were at the hotel we took the bus over to Xplor Fuego. It took some time because the bus stops at the Hotel Mexico, Xcaret Paruque, and then Xplor. We did not bring any swimwear, which meant that our options for activities were limited. The only one we could do without getting wet was the amphibious vehicles (ATVs). We were surprised that it was an actual ATV that I drove throughout the entire park for 3km. I drove through the jungle and caves. I can’t imagine you would ever be able to do this experience in the U.S. I could have hit the ATV in front of me, hit a tree or the cave. I couldn’t go super fast, but I could have caused some damage. It was awesome. They took pictures of us during the ride and we were able to see them on our TV back at the hotel, which was cool. We also stopped at the restaurant to grab drinks. It’s a buffet, but they make you wait and seat you at a table. That was odd. We figured we could go back one night and do the other activities.
The next night we had a reservation at Xomilico (Cho-mil-ico). The bus picked us up at 3:25. It took over an hour to get to the park, which is right next to Xavage. It was a brutal ride because the AC on the bus did not work very well. After arriving, they strongly suggest you use the restroom because you will be on the boat for two hours. We had to walk at least a mile to get to the boats. It had a lovely view of Xavage’s high ropes course and water boat ride though.
We were each assigned a boat on the bus by stickers. Each boat was named after an area in Mexico. We were in Yucatan. Each boat had around 20 people plus the guide and the man pushing the boat with a pole. When we first sat down, there was a tray in front of us with samples of different appetizers from Mexico.
As you can see from the picture, there was beans and cheese, guacamole, tomato and onion, Oaxaca cheese ball, a corn puree and corn mold, a ceviche, and some tiny fish and crickets. I tried everything but the corn mold and ceviche. The fish don’t really have a taste and neither do the crickets, except for a bit salty. The beans and guacamole were very good. They give you the same kind of tray for dinner. However, I told them I was allergic to peppers, so they could not give me the sampler. I received a plate of grilled chicken with spinach and zucchini. It was pretty bland, but I probably would not have eaten much of the sampler plate. On the table in the middle of the boat, there is a cooler so you can reach in and grab soda or beer whenever you want. There were also pitchers of water and hibiscus water and some ice buckets.
The guide gets everyone to introduce themselves. He also has a bottle of tequila and offers everyone shots at frequent intervals. We also played a couple of games that involved drinking or dancing. The first stop on the water was a mariachi band. They were excellent. The boats tie up to the boat with the band and then drift off after a song or two. The next stop was to clear our appetizers and get our dinner. After dinner we stopped for a bathroom break and for them to clean the boats. There was a dessert sampler tray when we returned to the boat. Then we arrived at another band and danced around the boat. At the end of the trip there was a band AND the mariachi band again.
Xomilico was fine. It was not my favorite thing we did. It was not terrible. The tequila was reposado and I enjoyed doing a few shots. It was neat to try different foods, but it was not as interesting as I thought it would be. I thought there would be more music. I enjoyed the bands we heard, but there was a lot of down time that the guide did a good job keeping us busy, but it was not the entertainment I was seeking. Jef did not enjoy this at all. He had no interest in any of the foods or alcohol.
On our third day we had a time share presentation in the morning and decided to go to Xcaret Park after lunch. It was very hot. We had a chance to see the Flying Men right after we entered the park. I read and taught students about this tradition and was really excited to be able to see it in person. It is just as harrowing to watch as I imagined. They climb the pole with no harness and secure themselves with the rope once on top. The man who plays the music is never secure. You can watch him lean over each man as they spin and later he lays down completely. It made my hands sweat to watch him. Once they jump off the platform they spin around 13 times headfirst. It’s really neat to watch.
I’m going to be honest. I was not that interested in Xcaret Park. I may have been in a bad mood or it was just too hot for me, but I was not that enamored of what we saw. The Aviary was well built and we saw some cool birds. Jef was actually bitten by one of the pelicans. He was walking by and it reached over and bit his elbow! They had a recreation of a Mayan village as well as a ball court There were trails and different sections with animals and there was also an area to do water sports. We did not explore that much of the park. We knew there was a show at night, but we left after only a couple of hours because it was not holding our interest.
We returned to the hotel to enjoy some pool time and relax because the next day we had our excursion to Tulum and Xel-Ha (Shel Ha). We had to board the bus by 7:25am. They drove us to a bus transfer area at Xel Ha, where some passengers went right into the park and you were able to book extra cost activities for the day since they fill up quickly. We did not opt to do any extra activities, but you could go on a fast boat, parasail, swim with dolphins, etc. We used the facilities and waited about 15 minutes for our bus. On the way to Tulum we were all given two bracelets to wear. One was admission to the ruins and the other was to show we paid an extra tax. We disembarked near an area that was selling a lot of souvenirs and boarded an open air bus to take us to the entrance.
They split us into two groups, one for Spanish speakers and one for English. A couple of Spanish speakers came with our group to even out the numbers. Our guide was not very fluent with English. He did his best, but our tour took longer because he could not find the right words to explain things to us. It was a little painful at times. Tulum was a cool city. I enjoyed seeing the buildings as well as how the ocean played a part in their community. They were restoring one of the buildings when we were there. That was neat to watch.
They gave us a little free time to wander around Tulum on our own after the tour. We checked out the area by the ocean. On the way back to the bus, I had to use the bathroom. We had to pay for it and it was not ideal. As we walked to the bus, vendors called to us the whole time. I hate when they do that. There were a lot of them and everyone wanted to sell you something. Our drive back to Xel Ha only took around 15-20 minutes.
The first thing we did at Xel Ha was change into our swim clothes and shoes and put everything in a locker. Then we headed to a buffet restaurant. The one we wanted to try was still serving breakfast (it was noon), so we went to the ”fast food buffet”. The food was ok. They had pizza, wings, hamburgers, hot dogs, salad, etc. After lunch we decided to go float in an inner tube. It was very relaxing. When we got out of the water, we walked all around the spring area. There are points were you can jump off cliffs, jump off a rope swing, explore caves, do a rope climbing adventure in the water, zipline into the water, and wander around the spring. Jef jumped off two of the cliff areas and used the rope swing. We both explored the caves.
Jef wanted to try out the water slide, but once he found out that you had to climb over 200 steps to get to it, he decided he was not the interested. We walked over a moving bridge, which was wild because of the ocean’s waves and everyone jumping on it. We took a break at the hammock area, but it was packed with people and the hammocks we found were not comfortable like our ones at the hotel. We decided to head back to the spring head and take a tube down the whole river. It was very peaceful in the beginning because it is narrow and secluded by trees. Then you float by all the different activities and the water is full of people, then a giant fish decides to hang out under your butt and follow you around! I was freaking out.
We grabbed a little something to eat after floating and were lucky to get a table at the fast food buffet. The lines to the other restaurants were massive. When we returned to the lockers to change, it was a madhouse. I would definitely suggest getting to the locker area a little early to be able to change and/or shower faster. We walked back to the bus depot and were quickly ushered onto a bus once they saw our bracelets for the hotel.
I really enjoyed Xel Ha. The water was beautiful. They had quite a few activities that were included that were fun to do and a good number of activities you could pay extra to experience. Although we walked a lot to get around the park and try different activities, I still found it to be a relaxing day. Exploring the cave and floating on the tubes were fun. It’s definitely a place the whole family could enjoy.
The park I looked forward to the most was Xenotes. We had to board the van at 8:25am. Our van also stopped at two other resorts to pick up passengers. We were told that we would experience five different Cenotes. The drive there took at least an hour an a half with the extra pick ups. We were in an area that had over 200 Cenotes. The owner of Xcaret parks rents these cenotes in order to have the Xenotes experience. There were a variety that we were going to experience: open, closed, and partially open. We were going to zipline, kayak, snorkel, swim, rappel, and cliff dive. The driver gave us the name of the Cenote before every stop and told us what we would experience. The names were traditional and meant Sun, Earth, Water, Fire, and Air. I honestly don’t remember which were which. The first was one with two ziplines. You could hold onto a bar or sit in a hammock. The guide gave us several options as how to sit. I chose princess both times because I am a wimp and didn’t want to hang upside down or anything. It was fun. After the first cenote they gave us a snack and something to drink. Several members of our group opted not to do many of the activities, which I found fascinating. We only visited five cenotes and they did not experience at least two.
The second cenote was for snorkeling. I put the mask on my head and swam around exploring. You could see through the water well without the mask and there was not much to see in terms of wildlife. It was a beautiful cenote with a section that had a ton of birds’ nexts (Orioles) and they flew around like bats. It was neat to watch them. I should mention that we had to get into the van and travel through dirt roads and basically jungle to get each cenote. We had to pick up a life vest at every cenote and make sure to shake it vigorously before putting it on. There are all kinds of things that could have hidden in those vests. The third cenote was for kayaking. The water was not as clear in this one, but the views as we kayaked were very pretty.
The fourth cenote was the one I was looking forward to the most. It was the one we had to rappel into. We couldn’t even see into it. We had to climb this structure, while hooked into ropes because it was so steep. When we got to the top we could see into the cenote. It was far and we were not in charge of how fast or slow we rappelled into it. Jef decided to do it upside down. I just went feet first. It was the most beautiful cenote that I have ever seen.
Once you finish the rappel, you have to jump into the water and swim over to the platform. There you can either sit and watch everyone swim or you can jump off the top and join them. There were two places to jump. I chose the lower one, of course, but I still did it! It was about 7 feet high.
This cenote was the coolest one. We swam around and we found bats nesting in the ceiling. They were moving around a little bit, which was really neat to discover. The color of the water was unreal and the natural light shining in made it look otherworldly. The guide had to keep yelling at us to get out and eat lunch. No one wanted to leave.
Our lunch was a buffet style. There was a vegetable soup that had bacon in it and was made with chicken broth. I’m not sure how that would work for a vegetarian. They had rolls with meat, cheese, and other additions like olives and sauces. You could also get some salad and a brownie or some grapes for dessert. They had several soft drinks as well as wine and beer to drink. It was a satisfying sandwich.
Our last cenote had a water slide and a zipline. I went down the water slide twice. I didn’t want to hang on to the bar for the zipline and just drop. The waterslide was pretty fast and fun. After the second run, you had to swim to the end. I swam to the island and waited for Jef to try the zipline, then we swam together. We were the last of our group to get to the end. Jef climbed up and jumped off a cliff into the cenote at the end. I walked back chatting with a woman from Germany. It was interesting to hear about how another country was handling the pandemic.
On Sunday almost all of the parks are closed. However, Xcaret Parque has the Mexico Espectaculo at night. We decided to check it out. We got to the park after 6 and wanted to grab something to eat, but almost all the restaurants were closed. We went over to the stadium area and when you walk in, a number of actors are posing for you along the walkway and entrance. The costumes and make up were spectacular.
The arena where they show the Espectaculo is open to the air. However, it was quite hot and they do not have any fans. The lower sections are dedicated to those people who pay for dinner, which is served during the show. It was traditional Mexican food, so I knew Jef would not eat it. Each seat has a small candle and at the beginning of the show one of the ushers comes and lights it for you and you pass along the flame to the person next to you. It was beautiful to see all the candles around the stadium.
I will preface here that we left the show at intermission because of both the heat and our hunger. The bartender told me that the first half of the show told the story of the history of Mexico and the second half had a lot of traditional dances. As I mentioned before, the costumes and make up were unreal. They play a traditional Mayan/Aztec ball game during the show in which the players may only use their hips to hit the ball. They did an excellent job. The other game they play is with a fireball and what appeared to be hockey sticks. They had to get the fireball into the pit. This was amazing. They flung the fireball into the air and I was shocked that no one was burned. The part of the show that was unreal to me was when the Spanish came and basically took over the Native people and converted them to Christianity. There was a sign above that said no one was victorious and no one lost because it is what created the people of Mexico. I think the Native people may take some offense to that. I did.
I would definitely recommend going to this show. It was entertaining and beautiful to watch. It was the one redeeming aspect of this park for us.
The last park we visited was Xenses (Senses). We had some issues with the reservation and were not told that we could only go either in the morning or in the afternoon. Luckily we were ready before 10:30 and were able to board the bus to go. We arrived and were given a locker. We thought we could do a number of things in the park without our bathing suits. We were wrong. We did a few things in the pinwheel (the building you enter first with the lockers) and took a bunch of pictures, then we went through the Town. There is water flowing uphill here and we went into rooms that were upside down and up staircases that were very difficult to climb. It made me a little nauseous. After we made it through, we found out that all the activities required a bathing suit. We returned to the lockers and changed. You are not allowed to wear a hat or sunglasses.
The first activity that we did was a bird flight zipline. Yes, you lay down in a harness and fly through the air. It was very cool. Then you can float through a lazy river. This was SUPER slow. We pushed ourselves along a bit because we were barely moving. The next activity was a sludge river. You are pretty much lying in mud and you float along. This was much shorter, but just as slow. After you get out of the sludge, you can rinse off with buckets that dump water on you. Then you walk through rain. I didn’t enjoy this activity because I could barely see where I was going. The last activity is walking through a sauna. That was nice.
There was only one thing left to do in the park and that was the Xensatorium and the Path of Feeling. We had to remove our shoes and waited in line for about twenty minutes to enter this path. We were told that it would be completely dark and we would walk through five ecosystems. If we were uncomfortable at any time, we could wave our arms and someone would come and get us out. They have you walk barefoot because you have to feel the different environments on your feet. It was one of the coolest things we experienced at these parks. It takes about ten minutes for you to walk through the whole thing and there are sounds and smells as well. You cannot even see your hand in front of your face. You have to feel your way through. You walked through water with pebbles, over a bridge, and into a smooth cave. I loved it.
I’m sorry that I don’t have more pictures of Xenses, but you had to purchase them and we were not interested in doing so. The only thing we missed at this park was a waterslide. I knew it would be too much for me. It only took about three hours for us to complete the activities in this park, which was nice because it was on our last day of our vacation.
All in all, I think staying at Xcaret Arte was worth it in order to experience all these parks. Obviously some of the parks are better than others and it all depends of what you want to experience. My favorite was Xenotes. I loved experiencing all those different bodies of water. I thought Xenses was really fun and unique as well. I would not recommend Xoximilico unless you like to hang out with strangers and get drunk, then it is perfect. I also really enjoyed Xel Ha. There was a lot to do there. Xcaret Parque was not for me, but there are a lot of activities and I can see why other people would like it. I would suggest at the very least going to the Espectaculo at night. That was definitely worth our time. I wish that we had time to check out all the ziplines at Xplor Fuego. That was the one thing we missed.
If you are planning a trip to Xcaret Mexico or Arte, make sure you make reservations to the parks weeks before you leave or there may not be space. I would also suggest booking on the Xcaret website. They give you good deals. Also, be aware that if no one in your group speaks Spanish, you may have some communication issues on your trip. I thought it was a fun and unique experience for our honeymoon.