Located In Mexico’s Yucatan Region, this popular eco-adventure park entertains families with everything from cultural spectacles to lagoon snorkle trips.
Xcaret (“Ssh-karet”), the site of a centuries-old Maya trading post, is now a unique ecological theme park built on the Caribbean coastline of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It’s just four miles south of the lively nightlife of Playa del Carmen and about an hour’s drive from Cancun on what is now known as the Riviera Maya. But what exactly is Xcaret? The best way to describe it is a family-friendly adventure comprised of a tropical lagoon, colorful recreations of local traditions and living examples of the mysteries of the Maya world. It all makes for a Disneyland-like full day experience that climaxes with a night-time musical extravaganza celebrating the history and diverse traditions of Mexico.
Top Riviera Maya Attractions In One Location
When developers began to clear the site nearly 30 years ago, they uncovered sacred cenotes – water-filled caverns open to the sky that are connected by subterranean tunnels to form pristine underground rivers flowing to the sea. Swimming in this mysterious realm considered sacred to the Maya is one of the most popular activities here. (All swimmers are required to wear life jackets). Other water activities include swimming with dolphins and sharks, snorkeling on the coral reef, a Sea Trek among the colorful fish, and Snuba, a simple and safe combination of snorkeling and scuba diving that doesn’t require scuba certification. But adventures here are by no means limited to the watery realms. In this Eco-archeological setting, there are more than 40 activities to be enjoyed throughout the 12-acre park such as a walk through a tropical jungle trail brimming with gum trees, cinnamon and vanilla plants, all while being serenaded by squawking scarlet macaws. Other top attractions include the Butterfly Pavilion featuring species endemic to the Yucatan; a fragrant, colorful Living Museum of Orchids; and a visit to a model Maya village. Additionally, local wildlife including cougar, jaguar, and tapir are on view, and the park is also home to a rehabilitation area where turtles are hatched and released into the wild. Adventures of a more sedentary nature can also be discovered in one of the many tranquil spots perfect for a peaceful snooze in a hammock while the kids play in the sand. There’s even the option to book a hammock massage, a traditional local practice.
Cultural Highlights On Display
Xcaret is also popular for its cultural attractions, including stagings of Mexico’s mystical Day of the Dead Festival and the Papantla Flyers, always a favorite with crowds, especially the little ones. Drawing from an ancient pre-Columbian spectacle, the Papantla Flyers are four “bird men” who spin in circles in the air while suspended from a towering pole. Their leader (who you might say has the better job) dances and plays instruments below as an offering to the god of spring in exchange for a good harvest. Finally, at the end of the day, Xcaret puts on what many consider the best folkloric spectacle in the region, with over 300 performers on stage sharing colorful festivals from various regions of Mexico. Some of the highlights include re-enactments of the ball games of the ancient peoples of Mexico. The Maya game, played on a long court with a rock-hard rubber ball the size of a volleyball, played an important role in Maya society as a ritual in the battle between good and evil, between the gods of heaven and the lords of the underworld. Another game on display has been practiced for more than 3,000 in the state of Michoacán. It is played with sticks from various trees and a burning wood ball that represents the sun so that players must rely both on their skills and the strength of the trees.
Performances follow, including one representing the peasants from the Nacajuca region, who cheerfully play their hollow trunk drums and cane flutes to forget their sorrows at the end of a hard working day. Then, the humorous Old Men Dancers of Jaracuaro enter to depict the four southern stars where Mother Nature rules over the four elements: Earth, Water, Air and Fire. To re-live the full history of Mexico, one musical scene vibrantly enacts the arrival of the Spanish and the flight of the native people, followed by their evangelization, to become Mexico’s mestizo, or mixed race of today. In the grand finale, the powerful voices and magnificent costumes of Xcaret’s singers reflect other cherished Mexican traditions followed by a parting surprise that delights the captive audience. We won’t spoil it here though, you will have to go to experience the magic of Xcaret and the Riviera Maya for yourself.
If You Go
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