If you read my recent post about how to spend a day in Mexico then you’ll already know about our visit to Chichén Itzá, Cenote Hubiku and the Mexican town of Valladolid, but Mexico also has a ton of adventure parks, including the ever popular Xel-Há Park in Tulum, pronounced “shell-ha”. There were so many parks to choose from, so we ended up without about five places on our wishlist, but Xel-Há is one which definitely stood out above the rest. Usually when you think water parks, you think kids running around and bombing down slides, but this water park is totally different to any I’ve seen before.
Xel-Há Park is right in the heart of Riviera Maya and is so easy to get to if you’re in the area. Our hotel was just south of Playa Del Carmen and it literally took no more than ten minutes on the bus. The park is absolutely massive has an entrance on the same scale as the likes of Thorpe Park and Alton Towers, gift shop and all, but when you get inside it’s not what you’d expect – unless you Googled it about ten times beforehand like I did. Let’s just say this is not your average water park!
There’s actually only one tower with slides, which is also the lighthouse. Doesn’t sound much like a water park does it? This is because the water park aspect is actually a natural lagoon which you basically get to float around in as you please, without anyone invading your space, or any officials telling you where to go or when to get out. I wish I had, but I didn’t go on the slides the first time and when we went back for round two they were closed, so I missed out on the view from the top, which Darryl said was unreal. So, if you go – don’t wait until later to go on the slides!
After that we walked right the way up to the top of the park, seeing the parrots, sting rays and manatees along the way. You can also cycle this route if you want to. When you reach the end of the trail you can get into a rubber ring, single or double, and float your way through the mangroves until it opens out in the lagoon. I bobbed along in my rubber ring happily for about an hour while Darryl made use of the cliff jumping activities. Rather him than me. It was only about five metres high but that’s about four metres too high for me, so I left him to it. We carried on down past the zip-lining and rope swings, which I think you had to pay extra for, before we got the inlet. At the start we’d been given our snorkelling equipment, so this was the point that we got to snorkel around for hours on end at our leisure. The fish that you swim with are absolutely incredible, and completely harmless, so this was definitely the highlight of the day for me. It’s not something I’d ever done before, and who knows, I might never get to again.
We climbed up onto to floating bridge like little wrinkled prunes from being in water for so long, and headed to one of the restaurants for some lunch. The best bit? Everywhere is all-inclusive, all day long, so obviously we stuffed ourselves. We ate the best traditional Mexican food of the holiday and drank one too many cocktails, before setting off to explore the grottos and cenotes on the other side. We’d ditched our life jackets by this point so we didn’t get to swim in the cenotes, but having already been in one on a previous trip, we weren’t too bothered. Honestly, this place was just beautiful, and there’s so much to do for both adults and the kids.
Some tips: allocate a whole day for this park. Some trips combine the park with another trip, such as a visit to ruins, but half a day really isn’t long enough. Oh, and as ‘naggy-mum’ as it sounds, don’t forget to keep applying your sun screen! We got stupidly burnt on this day, because when you’re in the water distracted by all of the animals, you forget that there’s one hell of a hot sun beating down on you. They ask you to use eco-friendly sun protection to preserve the eco-park, so maybe buy this before you go to avoid spending a small fortune once you’re there.
I really can’t recommend this place enough, and at approximately £62pp, I don’t think it’s too expensive considering everything you get for your money. We definitely got our money’s worth in food alone. Although it’s essentially an animal park, it doesn’t have that ‘trapped animals in a zoo’ vibe. The only part I wasn’t keen on was how small the manatee enclosure was, but everywhere else was great for the animals. Even the stingrays could swim off at any point, but they were trained to come back, which is way better in my opinion. Seriously, if you go to Mexico, make sure you set a day aside to go to Xel-Há Park! You won’t regret it.