The massive nature park called Xcaret may be the Riviera Maya’s most touristy attraction, but there’s a reason it’s popular: It’s the only place in the area where you can do it all—snorkel, visit animal habitats, swim through an underground river, try different Mexican delicacies, play with dolphins, learn about Mayan culture, and take in traditional regional dances at an extravagant nightly show—all in a single day. What’s more, it’s remarkably baby- and toddler-friendly. The so-called Plus pass is a smart option that includes lunch, lockers, and snorkel gear for a price equal to general admission and a meal. Best day of the week to visit: Tuesdays, for smaller crowds. Best season: early November, for Day of the Dead.
The Magical World of Xcaret
Riviera Maya’s popular archaeological park, Xcaret is where Mexican culture, history, and the ecological diversity for which the area is known are highlighted in one entertaining package. You’ll find a vast slate of eco-adventures such as snorkeling in cenotes, swimming with dolphins, horseback riding, scuba diving, bird watching and basic beach pleasures. Or if you prefer, transport yourself to the secret world of the ancient Maya, visiting jungle-studded archaeological sites, and a replica of a Maya village, which showcases daily life, including a demonstration of the legendary, 2,000-year-old Maya ball game called pok-ta-pok. When night falls, dancers in the Gran Tlachco amphitheater stage a magical tour of Mexico from mythical Maya ceremonies through the Spanish conquest to modern Mexico. Book seats in the dining area and indulge in a three-course meal while viewing the brilliant musical spectacle.
Sacred Maya Journey
Each May since 2007, the area has been reenacting La Travesía Sagrada Maya (Sacred Maya Journey), a ritual which was conducted for more than 1,000 years by the ancient Maya. Tracing the steps of their ancestors, current inhabitants of the area participate in a 17-mile canoe trip from Ppolé (modern-day Xcaret on the Riviera Maya) to the island of Cuzamil (Cozumel), which in Mayan means “swallow.” Once there, they pay homage at the shrine of Ixchel, goddess of the moon, childbirth, procreation, and medicine, before returning to Xcaret. The modern-day pilgrimage begins days before, with a marketplace at Xcaret, where they trade objects to be offered to the goddess. Just as their forebears did, they use currency in the form of the cocoa bean - considered “food of the gods.” Dates are in late May.
Despite being considered a park tourist too, is worth a visit to see some of Mexico‘s exuberant nature and its colorful culture. The park has options diving, rest and good nutrition.