Discloser- We were given a tour and compensated in exchange for this review, and our opinions are 110% our own. We LOVE Xcaret!
Finally… The trip we have been waiting for! Finally time to visit Mexico with my family, and we were over the moon. The Mayan Riviera truly offers so much to do and see, literally tons of activities left and right. And if there is one thing I want in my children, is for them to be well traveled and be exposed to different countries, religions and cultures… that is truly something that no smartphone app can provide. So when we heard of Xcaret, checked out their site and reviews; we knew we just had to go!
Xcaret is present all over the Mayan Riviera, whether it is a billboard, bus or even sponsoring a local sports event, they are everywhere! I knew it had to be great. Getting there was seamless, just 5 minutes south of gorgeous Playa del Carmen, lays Xcaret, a 200 plus acre nature reserve. Xcaret is open 365 days a week, and their staff of almost 1,200 truly welcome you with open arms; after all, “Mi Casa es su Casa” (My house is your house).
You can’t miss Xcaret off the highway. Pulling into the entrance we were amazed at the majestic outlined rock and plant formations, plus the parking lot was super easy to navigate. We got there pretty early and thankfully able to find a perfect spot. Which is super important after a long day of activities and walking with the kids back to the car.
We were met at the welcome center by Leo; Xcaret’s representative. A super friendly guy that has a true passion for Xcaret and all the work they do! He welcomed us with open arms and treated us like royalty from the start. He handed us these cute little satchels for the adults complete with sun block, bug repellant and a small towel. Everything you would need for an adventure in the jungle! For the kids, he gave them little “passport” books filled with a cute story about how Xcaret came about along with tons of facts.
As soon as you walk thru there is an area directly to your left to stock up on any last minute items you may need, as well as strollers for the kiddos & wheelchair rentals. Perfect since we just might have left ours in Indy… Oops!
Now the good stuff. I’m not even sure where to start. There was so much to do and see. We were totally dazzled by the time we left. Which is never a bad thing. Bring it on!
Our first stop was the Macaw bird refuge. WOW!! There you will find the birds NOT in cages and just living in their natural environment. They have an amazing Macaw breeding hut where you can see thru the windows to view each stage of the Macaw growing process. So fascinating to see. Great stuff for the kids to learn and comprehend.
There are macaws everywhere you looked. Blue ones, red ones, green ones, yellow ones. They all seemed pretty happy to stay right where they were; they clearly loved being the center of attention.
Xcaret’s Regional Wildlife Breeding Farm shelters over 24 species of Mexican birds. Most of these birds are in danger of extinction due to the deforestation of their natural habitat. No bueno! Xcaret has joined forces with various branches of the Mexican Government to develop and deploy conservation programs that are producing results as you read this.
As a surprise, Leo allowed me to be apart of the releasing of the Macaws. I never realized how heavy they were until trying to hold one straight out while it was sitting in my hand. Phew! I definitely should have worked out more… The release of the Macaws is seriously something you would only see on T.V. You can read more about these beauties here.
There is something to see everywhere you look. It’s not like most nature parks where it’s just trees and rocks all around. It’s the total opposite. Xcaret is all about interaction; you really get that one on one experience, which is so important when you are trying to understand a whole different culture. Xcaret really prides on this issue, and when I asked Leo what Xcarets main goal is? He said: “We want our guests to experience what a beautiful country Mexico is in all of its forms; flora, fauna, cultural and of course its people. And for all of them to leave with a smile!” Priceless..
Next up was the beautiful cenotes (underground freshwater streams). Over 1 hour of flowing along some of the most gorgeous scenery you can imagine, all while visiting parts of Xcaret that you can only experience while snorkeling. Mayan villages, temples and even some Mexican folklore are part of this amazing experience. And let me tell you, Xcaret takes care of everything. With the Xcaret Plus admission, all you have to do is show up! You will be provided a locker, towels, top of the line snorkeling equipment, and last but not least… delicious food! The total package.
Which brings me to my favorite subject… FOOD! Who does’t love food? Especially when it’s FRESH and made right in front of you. I always appreciate someone else cooking. And no dishes!
Not only did Leo have great passion for Xcaret, but he also holds Mexican food very close to his heart, so we even got a total run down of the huge selection of food at their “La laguna” restaurant. It’s an enormous restaurant all built in stone and with a hut roof nestled in the jungle right next to… you guessed it. The Jaguars! Have you ever had a 5 star meal all while enjoying the Caribbean breeze and looking into a Jaguars habitat? Well you can here! Check out this view:
While dining on delicious Mexican food and natural fruit juices made from scratch (sodas and alcohol available) we couldn’t help but to show our excitement for the big show that night. “Mexico Espectacular” (Spectacular Mexico) is an award winning show about the history of Mexico as a country and as a contributor to the world.
In between dinner we had the chance to discover many charming and less popular areas of Xcaret such as the Mexican Cemetery, and a state of the art orchid and tropical plant nursery where they research and grow wild flora. Which brings me to trivia time! Did you know that Vanilla is a type of orchid? Crazy!
We also visited a traditional Mexican Hacienda that represents everything about Mexico during the Spanish-colonial era. Everything from traditional Mexican kids toys, arts and crafts, and even home decoration, all truly charming.
One of my most memorable sights of Xcaret is the Chapel, inspired in a traditional Mexican “Iglesia” (church). It boosts a 50ft tall Zapote tree trunk hand carved to the image of the “Virgen de Guadalupe” (Virgin of Guadalupe). It sits up high at the altar with a gorgeous multi-purpose stage below, which seems to be floating as a cenote flows around it. Normally Sunday mass is held there, but for a special price you can host your amazingly special wedding there! Words really cannot describe how awe-inspiring this chapel really is.
It’s been a day full of nature, swimming, birds, jaguars, panthers, Mayan culture and food. We even got to lead flamingos from one habitat to another as part of a flamingo research project! What more could we want?! The one event that everyone in Xcaret is extra proud of!
Mexico Espectacular, that’s what we want. How much would you say you know about Mexican culture? I’m not talking about your local Mexican restaurant with colorful walls and carved wooden chairs, where chimichangas and burritos roam free… both not genuinely Mexican by the way. Ha!
Through the show you will become intimate with Mexico’s true culture and history; from the moment the Aztecs founded Tenochtitlan (modern Mexico city), to the fall of the Aztec empire at the hands of the Spanish Conquistadores. Did you know that the Spanish introduced the horse to the American Continent through Mexico? The Aztecs actually thought of them as monsters, so it was this psychological warfare along with disease like small pox that really played on the Spanish behalf. Mexico Espectacular recreates the epic battles that took place through this crucial time in world history. Then comes the transition that Mexico had to undergo from a Polytheistic culture to Monotheistic and being a Catholic based society, and how all the Spanish friars and Monks converted every Aztec in the land. I know, I know… total fact check! But I just wanted you to know. It’s important!
Then, at that moment… Mexico is formed, but still a colony of Spain though, which is later freed from the old Kingdom in the Revolution of 1910. Unto modern Mexico as we know it.
Xcaret employs a staff of almost 300 actors and actresses, and catalogue over 3,000 props and traditional folkloric clothing. Did you know that Mexico is very much so like the United States of America? The actual name for Mexico is “Estados Unidos Mexicanos” which means United States of Mexico and believe it or not, that name stood long before the forming of their neighbors at the north.
Mexico consists of 30 different states plus a capital state, which is Mexico City; all of these states are represented in “Mexico Espectacular” along with their music, dances and folklore! There is just so much to learn, even a fellow visitor sitting next to me during the show (local guest) that even him as Mexican got a great history refresher about his country!
So the fun had to come to a close, it was exactly 12 hours we had been at Xcaret, and let me tell you; it was life changing. The smiles, the laughter of my kids, that look of amazement in our faces is something that can’t be forgotten. It’s not a theme park, it’s not a zoo… it’s so much more. I truly feel that Xcaret has fulfilled the vision of its founders, to teach the people of the world about Mexico, its nature, culture, and to do it with so from the heart.
And so Xcaret did…
We have a TON more pictures. If you want to see them all you can check them out here. If not, thanks for checking out our review. Hope you get a glimpse of Xcaret and if you are ever in Mexico you HAVE to go!