Talc-white beaches, reefs teeming with life, ruined temples in misty rainforests – the Riviera Maya offers a family or romantic beach holiday with a dash of Indian Jones adventure.
This huge eco-theme park offers visitors a pot pourri of ready-wrapped, family-sized Mexican attractions. There are Mayan sites, great snorkelling, cenotes and underground rivers, a purpose-built Mayan village and ‘Day of the Dead’ cemeteries. You can swim with dolphins, nurse sharks and manatees; and there are tame jungles populated with rainforest wildlife, and after-dark, a glitzy Maya ‘cultural show’.
Yes, you can the real thing elsewhere. But accept Xcaret as a kind of Maya World Disneyland and it’s great fun.
Be sure to stick around for the evening spectacular, where 300 or so performers recreate Mayan culture and history. Touristy and nothing like the real thing, but fun all the same.
Getting there & doing it
Xcaret is about 1 hour’s drive from Cancun, 15 minutes from Playa del Carmen, and 30 minutes north of Tulum. You can book a shuttle service with the park to collect you from your hotel, although these can be time-consuming and it’s far quicker (and not much more expensive) to hire a car. There are also hotels onsite.
The dolphin or shark encounters are always popular, so book well ahead for these to avoid disappointment. Advance online booking also offers discounts.
There’s free parking, but animal encounters, meals, rental equipment, and more all come on top of the basic entrance fee. There’s a fee to rent a locker (about £5) or snorkels (about £10 plus a deposit of £25).
When to do it
It’s open all year round, seven days a week. The evening spectacular show starts at 7pm.
The weather in the Mayan Riviera is generally good all year round, and the water is always warm enough for swimming. The rainy season from May through October sees the fewest visitors to Mayan Riviera. June through October is hurricane season. The dry season – November through April – gets busy everywhere.
If you can, avoid peak season in December to January, when it gets oppressively crowded, especially around Christmas and New Year.
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