Xel-Ha is different things to different people.
To some it's a tricked out theme park that spoils what would otherwise be a beautiful collection of lagoons along the Yucatan peninsula's eastern coastline. To others, it's is a one-stop vacation destination, with a variety of recreational opportunities, thoughtfully accommodating foreign guests.
Well, it's both.
Personally, I think that those who dismiss it as a tourist trap are missing out. The park is beautiful, well organized and customer-friendly.
Plan to spend the day, and get there early. There's lots to do and if you have the whole day you won't feel guilty if you decide to climb into a hammock slung between palm trees by the beach an take a nap.
Explorers John Lloyd Stephens
and Frederick Catherwood
, during the second of their two famous expiedtions to the Yucatan discovered inscribed stelae on the site in 1841, evidence of the once thriving culture that spread thought the entire region.
Originally settled in the Classic and Post Classic Maya periods, Xel-Ha was substantially rebuilt during the late Post Classic. It was still an active settlement at the time of the conquest, and was not completely abandoned until sometime in the 18th century. For most of its history Xel-Ha was an active seaport serving the inland city of Coba.
In 1527, this was also site of the ill-fated expedition of Francisco de Montejo (the Elder), a lieutenant of Cortez, who sought to establish the first permanent settlement on the Yucatan mainland. Mayan warriors fiercely resisted his attempt and, despite receiving reinforcements and provisions, he was forced to give up the enterprise in 1546 with only a third of his original contingent left alive.
This attraction is really three things: nature park, aquatic zoo and archaeological site. There are paved trails that wind through the "jungle" and along the lagoons. Form these can see a variety of flora and fauna, everything from exotic plants to sea turtles. Then, if you like, you can wade along the beach, go snorkeling or even swim with the dolphins.
There are several places to eat that offer everything from snacks to full service, sit down meals. Those who are a little timid about Mexican cuisine can relax. Attractions like this that cater to foreign tourists offer "international cuisine," which, though usually less interesting than the main menu, will be bland and familiar.
All Inclusive Package
The current promotion ($75 USD with an additional 10% off if booked online) offers:
The Inclusive package includes (and here we quote):
- Park admission
- All the drinks are on the house!
- Delicious food among an enormous variety of Mexican and international cuisine
- Snorkel equipment, so you can explore the most impressive inlet in Mexico
- Lifejacket, so that you can swim safely
- Hammocks, so that you can enjoy a delightful rest among incredible scenery
- Floating inner tubes
- Amazing adventures like the Trepachanga, the Cliff of Courage, and the Rock Climb
Don't be confused, however: "all-inclusive" is this case does not
include accommodations. Here's the link for more information: Xel-Ha All Inclusive.
Xel-Ha is located about 25 miles south of Playa del Carmen centro
and 65 miles or so south of Cancun
. It is just off Route 301, the main road which runs all the way from Cancun to Chetumal.
Where to Stay
For a list of accommodations in the area, see our list of Playa del Carmen hotels
return from Xel-Ha to www.yucatan-vacations-for-seniors.com