Xel-ha, one of the Xcaret parks in Quintana Roo, Mexico is their all inclusive park. We arrived as the park opened and headed straight for the breakfast buffet which was surprisingly nice. The choice of food was varied with hot and cold options. There was plenty of fresh fruit, cheeses and yogurt and also normal hot options including Mexican hot options such as a Mexican stew. There were lots of drinks to choose from including different fruit waters.
After breakfast we set off to find some lockers. We ended up with lockers near to the snorkeling and river bag pick up. This was also where you picked up snorkels and flippers and towels. You can get towels as many times as you like by asking at the locker key desk. You can get one snorkel, mask and flippers per person and your wristband is scanned when you pick these up and when you return them.
We got changed and left everything in the locker before heading to the train and bike stop. To get to the top of the tubing and snorkeling river you can either cycle or take a train. We decided to be adventurous and cycle! We walked to the bike pick up where we were each given a bike and sent on our way. I did notice a few helmets available, but not many. We were barefoot, which is a little uncomfortable for bike pedals so I would suggest wearing shoes. You can put your belongings and shoes in a bag at the top of the river which is padlocked and you are given the key. You can then pick your bag back up at the end of the river and get your belongings out so you could easily wear shoes to cycle.
The cycle path is easy to ride, there are a couple of small trees in the middle of the path and a few small slopes, but nothing too taxing. The cycle path winds through the jungle and there are paths to stop at and explore along the way. We also came across a giant lizard which was fun!
At the end of the cycle path, we returned our bikes, picked up our life vests and headed down to the tubing river. There are two starts to the river, one for tubing and one for snorkeling. We chose tubing as the river is quite long and I’d been told the snorkeling was better back near the lockers.
There was hardly any queue for the tubes. There were individual tubes or double tubes available and once we were in them, we had our photo taken and then we were off, floating through the mangroves to the wider river. The thing I liked about Xel-ha is that the park is based around the natural pre-existing environment so the tubing was down an actual river towards an inlet. The current wasn’t particularly strong so we found that we needed to paddle ourselves along a bit to get anywhere. We also found that, unless you stay in the middle, you will end up stuck in the overgrowth!
Along the river, there were many activities. You could get out and jump off the rocks or there was a large assault course. The assault course had obstacles to climb and zip wires into the water. Near the end of the river, we abandoned our tubes as the current had almost stopped and we seemed to be staying in one spot. We swam to shore and headed to the snack bar for lunch.
Xel-ha has 5 different restaurants to choose from and you can eat in as many as you like, as often as you like. There are also bars throughout the park where you can get alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks. The frozen pina coladas are especially nice and non alcoholic versions of all cocktails are also available.
The snack bar had a selection of ingredients to make your own burger or hot dog. It also served pizza and had a salad bar. This was probably my least favorite of the restaurants due to the limited vegetarian food but it filled us up and gave us some much needed energy for snorkeling.
After lunch, we picked up our snorkels and jumped into the sparkling clear waters of the inlet. At first it didn’t seem like there were many fish but then we swam to the rocks and were pleasantly surprised by the colorful yellow and blue fish. The cove of Xel-Ha Park is protected and home to a variety of marine species such as parrotfish, angelfish,sergeant major, pufferfish, damselfish, snapper, barracudas, and queen conch. More dangerous marine life is kept out of the swimming area by underwater nets. For those that don’t want to snorkel, there are tubes available which are clear so you can see the fish through them as you float around.
We had a lot of fun snorkeling and then got out further down the path and walked back to the lockers through the children’s area. This area looked really fun with climbing nets in the trees, play equipment and water slides into the bay.
We then decided to walk to the other side of the park. We passed by some of the paid extra activities like sea trekking and swimming with stingrays and came across a long floating bridge. In the distance we could see a really tall lighthouse surrounded by water slides which we never got time to explore – we will try those next time!
The floating bridge crosses the inlet at the entrance to the sea so it moves a lot as the waves go under it. We had great fun trying to walk across without falling. On the other side of the bridge was a cave cenote you can swim in. We somehow missed the entrance to this and carried on up the path through the jungle, through some caves, to an adventure cenote with a rope swing. Again this was all in an impressively natural environment.
Further up the path was the entrance to the sky cycle, another paid for activity, and past the sea scooters. We realised we had done a whole loop and ended up back at the top of the tubing river. We decided to cycle back so grabbed some bikes and cycled back to near the lockers.
By this time it was almost 4.30 and, as the restaurants shut at 5, we got dressed and headed to the international buffet. This one had a good selection of food so we tried some and then went back to the buffet where we had breakfast to finish our meal. Of all the restaurants, this was our favorite.
After our meal, we walked out of the park, stopping to watch the dolphins playing on the way.
We really enjoyed our day at Xel-ha and, as we did with the Xcaret park, we found there was too much to do in one day. We missed experiencing the slides, kite flying, the bay area, cave cenotes, the underground river, queen conch sanctuary and the bee keeping, all things we would love to go back and do. There were also many extra activities you could pay extra for including swimming with dolphins, sea trek, snuba, manatee encounter, stingray encounter, zip bikes, a speed boat ride and a spa. If it is your first (or even second) visit, there is enough to do without paying for the extra activities.
We loved Xel-ha and if we are ever lucky enough to make it back to Mexico, we will definitely go back. You can watch our adventure on our Youtube channel here. Don’t forget to subscribe while you are there and click on the little bell so Youtube lets you know when we post more adventures.
Taking an autistic child to Xel-ha?
You can watch our visit to Xel-ha on our youtube channel to get a better idea of what the park looks like and some of the activities.
Xel-ha is huge! You will need to keep your child with you at all times.
The children’s area is fun, life vests are available for this area. If your child likes water, sand and climbing, they will probably love it here.
The tubing river has double tubes so you can share a tube with your child. It took us around an hour and a half to get down the river.
There are 5 buffet restaurants available. The American snack buffet does pizza, hot dogs and burgers.
There are toilets throughout the park.
The bike ride took around 15 minutes. There is also a train to the top of the river.
There is a lot of walking involved to get between activities.
I didnt notice much background music other than a xylophone band playing near the bar.
We didn’t queue all day other than for the buffet at 4.40pm. It is worth noting that the people at the end of this queue didn’t get into the buffet before it closed and were turned away after waiting in line. Also if you are in the buffet at this time, they warn you to fill your plate as they do start to put food away and stop serving whilst you are eating.
The park is spread out so not too crowded on or near activities but can feel more crowded in the middle near the lockers and restaurants.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you would like to read more then feel free to follow my blog or like my Facebook page which I keep up to date with new posts as they are written. You can also find me on Instagram, Twitter @KidsOnTour1 and now on Youtube – subscribe to my channel for upcoming videos!