Xel Ha vs Xcaret: Choose the Perfect Eco-Park for Your Riviera Maya Adventure

If you’re planning a trip to the beautiful Riviera Maya in Mexico, you may be wondering which eco-park to visit: Xel-Ha or Xcaret? Both parks offer a variety of activities, beautiful natural surroundings, and opportunities for adventure, but which one is the best fit for you?

There are several eco-parks and attractions to explore in Quintana Roo, all beginning with the letter “X” including Xenses, Xplor, Xcaret and Xel Ha. The two most popular parks are Xcaret and Xel-Ha, and it can be challenging to choose between them if time is limited. However, both parks are worth a visit, and it’s essential to prioritize what interests you the most to make the most of your time.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at both parks and explore the similarities and differences between them. By the end, you should have a better idea of which park will suit your interests and travel style, so let’s start the Xel Ha vs Xcaret battle!

Xel Ha vs Xcaret Comparison Table

OverviewXel HaXcaret
LocationAbout 20 minutes north of Tulum and 30 minutes south of Playa del CarmenAbout 10 minutes south of Playa del Carmen
FeaturesKnown for its crystal-clear water, natural inlet, and aquatic adventuresAdventure park with water activities and many cultural experiences and wildlife exhibits
Cost$95 USD$115 USD
ActivitiesSnorkeling, ziplining, waterslides, tubing, cliff jumping and more. 50 activities including snorkeling, swimming, underground river exploration, and cultural and wildlife exhibits.
HoursEveryday 8:30 AM to 6:00 PMEveryday 8:30 AM-10:30 PM

Xcaret and Xel Ha parks are unique in their own ways, with notable differences in their physical settings, locations, and activities. Both parks offer a distinct experience, with a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy. At Xel Ha, visitors can enjoy snorkeling in a natural aquarium, swimming in rivers, and exploring caves.

Xcaret, on the other hand, offers a glimpse of Mexico’s cultural heritage through its exhibits, performances, and traditional cuisine. Visitors can also enjoy water activities such as swimming with dolphins, snorkeling, and swimming in underground rivers.

Both parks offer a unique blend of nature and culture, making them ideal destinations for eco-tourists and travelers.

Photo via Xcaret

Xel Ha Overview

✔️ Pros:

  • The natural inlet with its crystal-clear water is stunning and offers great snorkeling and swimming opportunities.
  • The park has a relaxed and tranquil vibe, making it a great spot for those looking to unwind and soak up the sun.
  • Cheaper than Xcaret
  • Unlimited alcoholic drinks!
  • Closer to Tulum

❌ Cons:

  • The park’s focus is mostly on water activities, so visitors looking for other types of entertainment may be disappointed.
  • The park can get crowded during peak seasons, which can detract from the experience.
  • The cost of admission and food/drinks within the park can be quite expensive.
  • Further away from Playa Del Carmen

Xcaret Overview

✔️ Pros:

  • The park offers a wide range of activities, including cultural performances, wildlife exhibits, and underground river exploration.
  • More bars and restaurants to choose from.
  • The park has a fun and adventurous vibe, making it a great spot for families or groups of friends.
  • Closer to Playa Del Carmen

❌ Cons:

  • The park can be quite busy, especially during peak seasons, which can detract from the experience.
  • Xcaret can be expensive, especially if you want to participate in multiple activities or purchase food and drinks within the park.
  • Some visitors may find the focus on cultural experiences and wildlife exhibits to be less appealing than other activities.
  • Food or alcohol not included in price.
  • Further from Tulum.
Photo via Xcaret

Xel Ha: Natural Beauty and Water Adventures

Xel Ha is an eco-park located about 20 minutes north of Tulum. The park is known for its natural beauty, crystal-clear water, and a wide variety of water activities. It is the perfect spot for snorkeling, swimming, and relaxing in the sun.

One of the main attractions at Xel Ha is the natural inlet that is filled with fresh and saltwater from underground rivers and the Caribbean Sea. Visitors can swim and snorkel in the inlet and explore the surrounding mangroves, caves, and cenotes. There are also zip-lines, cliff jumps, and a lazy river that takes you through the heart of the park.

Photo via Xcaret

If you’re looking for a more relaxed experience, Xel Ha also offers several quiet lagoons and beaches where you can soak up the sun, enjoy a cold drink, and take in the beautiful scenery.

Another unique aspect of Xel Ha is its commitment to environmental sustainability. The park has received numerous awards for its conservation efforts and offers educational programs on sustainability and marine biology.

Xel Ha Activities

Scenic Lighthouse

Photo via Xcaret

The Scenic Lighthouse is a renowned attraction at Xel Ha, offering visitors the opportunity to climb to the top and enjoy breathtaking views of the seaside. One can either choose to descend via one of its four waterslides or simply stay at the top to take in the scenery. This iconic water slide is not to be missed during your visit to Xel Ha.


Photo via Xcaret

At Xel Ha, there are various locations where visitors can go snorkeling such as lagoons, cenotes, and beaches. The park provides snorkeling gear for guests to use and discover the diverse marine life in the area.


Photo via Xcaret

Ziplining or “Salpichanga” as it’s called at Xel Ha is a thrilling activity that involves gliding on an overwater zipline while holding on to metal handles. The experience culminates with a refreshing splash into the crystal-clear waters of the Xel Ha inlet.

River Tubing

Visitors can enjoy a leisurely swim down the river or take a tube to float along, with the added excitement of trying out rope bridges at platforms along the way. However, the cenotes are not accessible for swimming, if you’re looking for more information about cenotes, check out our extensive guide here.

Xcaret: Culture, Wildlife, and Adventure

Xcaret is an eco-park located about 10 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. The park is known for its combination of culture, wildlife, and adventure. It offers a wide range of activities, including snorkeling, swimming, and exploring underground rivers and caves.

One of the main attractions at Xcaret is the cultural performances that take place throughout the day. Visitors can watch traditional Mexican dances, music, and theater shows that highlight the country’s rich history and cultural traditions. There is also a Mayan Village that showcases traditional handicrafts and a replica of a Mayan village.

Photo via Xcaret

Xcaret also has several exhibits that feature local wildlife, including sea turtles, jaguars, and flamingos. Visitors can learn about the animals and their natural habitats and even participate in feeding and caring for them.

If you’re looking for adventure, Xcaret has plenty of options, including zip-lining, cave exploration, and snorkeling. The park also has a large underground river system that you can explore by swimming or rafting.

Xcaret Activities

Cultural Activities

Throughout the day, there are various performances and exhibitions to enjoy. One popular attraction is the Papantla Flyers, who soar high into the sky and gracefully return to the ground. Additionally, visitors can witness an impressive equestrian show in the evening, featuring riders showcasing their acrobatic abilities on horseback.

In the Mayan Village, pre-Hispanic dances are performed every afternoon, showcasing stories from Mexican mythology. The park is full of various Xcaret shows and performances, including parades and dancers, which can be experienced while walking around. These performances are sure to captivate and leave a lasting impression on visitors.

Photo via Xcaret

The most popular event at Xcaret is the nightly Mexico Espectacular show, which is included with night admission. The spectacle commences with a stunning display of fire and folklore, as actors on a Mayan ball court engage in an age-old game to pay tribute to the Fire God. The captivating performance is sure to leave you spellbound, as it draws you in from the very start.

The show provides an interactive experience of Mexican history, specifically the Spanish conquest and the resulting forced conversion to Christianity. The performances involve over 300 actors dressed in intricate costumes, showcasing the music, dance, and cultural aspects of various regions in Mexico.

If you are trying to decide between Xel Ha vs Xcaret, and are interested in entertainment and shows, then it would be better to opt for Xcaret.

Wildlife Exhibits

Xcaret is a nature-oriented park that offers a variety of animal and nature-inspired activities. The park’s aquarium is a highlight, boasting an impressive collection of over 500 coral reef structures and 5000 marine organisms. Visitors can even engage with some of the animals.

Photo via Xcaret

Located near the aquarium in Xcaret is a place where sea turtles are kept for educational and conservation purposes. These turtles come in various sizes and will be released into the ocean once they are big enough to survive on their own. For a more intimate encounter, you can even snorkel with sea turtles in Akumal, which is just 30 minutes away.

Swimming and Snorkeling

After strolling through the park, if you feel a little heated, there are numerous options to refresh yourself at Xcaret. Natural pools and a lagoon are among the many swimming areas available.

Photo via Xcaret

I enjoyed swimming in the underground rivers, namely Blue River, Maya River, and Manatee River. These rivers offer a unique experience where one can float through tunnels and observe rock formations while wearing a life vest and snorkeling equipment. Each river is approximately 600 meters long, with several exit points along the way.

Xel Ha vs Xcaret: Which Park Should You Pick?

Still deciding on Xel Ha vs Xcaret? Both parks offer unique experiences that are worth checking out. If you’re looking for a more relaxed experience and want to focus on water activities, Xel Ha is the perfect choice. The park’s natural beauty, crystal-clear water, and commitment to environmental sustainability make it a must-visit spot.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more immersive experience that combines culture, wildlife, and adventure, Xcaret is the way to go. The park’s cultural performances, wildlife exhibits, and underground river system offer something for everyone.

Ultimately, the choice of Xel Ha vs Xcaret will depend on your interests and travel style. If you have the time, consider visiting both parks to get the full experience of the Riviera Maya’s natural beauty and cultural richness.

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