Are you interested in visiting the Xcaret parks in Riviera Maya Mexico and can’t decide between Xcaret and Xel Ha? You’ve come to the right guide!
With so many options to choose from, the Xcaret parks can be confusing, overwhelming, and downright difficult to navigate. Not to mention expensive and hard to pronounce!
That’s where I’m here to help! As a Playa del Carmen resident and local travel blogger, I’ve been lucky enough to experience the Xcaret parks firsthand.
In this ultimate Xcaret vs Xel Ha comparison guide, I’m going to give you all the information you need to choose between the two parks including park overviews, pros and cons, price comparisons, activity reviews, food and beverage ratings, visitor info, money saving tips, and more!
Read on to discover which Xcaret adventure park is best for you.
Which park is better Xel Ha or Xcaret?
Xcaret and Xel Ha are two of the most popular Xcaret parks in Riviera Maya, Mexico known for offering visitors an unforgettable and unique experience. But which one is better? It really comes down to personal preference!
If you’re looking for an adventure park that offers a little bit of everything, Xcaret is the better choice. Not only does it have water activities to keep you entertained, but it also has lots of rich history and culture to explore. There are also many different cultural activities to take part in, making it the perfect place to learn more about Mexico.
On the other hand, if you’re purely interested in water activities, Xel Ha is the better option. The park boasts crystal clear waters and plenty of different ways to enjoy them, from snorkeling and swimming to zip-lining and cliff jumping. No matter what your interests are, you’re sure to find something to love at Xel Ha.
About Xcaret and Xel Ha
Now, let’s dive in and take a more detailed look at both parks:
What is Xcaret like?
The original of Grupo Xcaret’s parks, Xcaret Park (pronounced “Ish-ka-ret”) features 50 attractions within its massive oceanfront property where you can spend a full day exploring cultural sites, swimming in underground rivers, exploring caves, and frolicking on beaches or natural pools.
Fun Fact: Xcaret means “small inlet” due to the park’s oceanfront location and because a part of the Caribbean Sea enters the land. Xcaret was once used as a merchandise port by the Mayans.
Drawing your attention towards Mexico’s colorful culture and heritage, Xcaret’s range of park activities makes it the perfect choice for families with younger children.
With a focus on wildlife, you can stroll through open-air aviaries, the Butterfly Pavilion, Coral Reef Aquarium, and interact with sea turtles and manatees. Plus, historians will love the Mayan ruins and Mexican Folk Art Museum.
But perhaps the main draw of Xcaret Park is the nightly Xcaret Mexico Espectacular production, which is a 300-person crew show that is a history lesson but fun – featuring pre-Hispanic dances and more.
You can read my full Xcaret park review in this post!
👉 Book your Xcaret tickets ahead of time by clicking here!
What is Xel Ha like?
Known for aquatic adventures, Xel-Ha Park (pronounced “Shell-Ha”) is located on an inlet of the Caribbean Sea, giving it a prime location for natural water activities.
Fun Fact: Xel-Há means “where water is born” because several underground rivers flow into the park’s Mexican Caribbean inlet.
Boardwalks and the Jungle Train connect the park’s cenotes, caves, mangrove tunnels, hidden beaches, and hammock gardens. In the center lies an expansive natural pool known as “La Caleta”, where flags mark areas rich in marine life.
While swimming and snorkeling take the spotlight, the eco water park isn’t just the region’s largest natural aquarium. Manmade slides, high jumps, and water zip lines add dimension to the park’s natural beauty and there’s even a mile-long lazy river.
For land activities, visitors can explore the manatee sanctuary, Mayan ruins, jungle trails, and biking paths. The park’s most famous structure is the Scenic Lighthouse, which you can climb for panoramic views over the park and descend down one of its four spiral water slides.
You can read my full Xel Ha review in this post!
👉 Book your Xel Ha tickets ahead of time by clicking here!
Xcaret and Xel Ha Location
Xcaret and Xel Ha are located on Mexico’s Caribbean coast in between the towns of Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
Both are situated on oceanfront inlets but Xcaret is closer to Playa del Carmen, while Xel-Ha can be found closer to Tulum.
Driving times from nearby destinations are as follows:
- Playa del Carmen to Xcaret: 15 minutes
- Tulum to Xcaret: 45 minutes
- Cancun to Xcaret: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Playa del Carmen to Xel Ha: 40 minutes
- Tulum to Xel Ha: 20 minutes
- Cancun to Xel Ha: 1 hour 30 minutes
Xcaret and Xel Ha Map
Xcaret vs Xel Ha: Pros and Cons
Next, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of Xcaret and Xel Ha:
Pros of Xcaret
- 50 activities to choose from
- Larger focus on Mexican culture and history
- Better accessibility for strollers and wheelchairs
- More restaurants and bars
- Closer to Playa del Carmen
Cons of Xcaret
- More expensive
- Food is not included
- Lots of add-ons and extra costs
- Premium water activities cost more
- Longer time commitment
- Fewer water activities
Pros of Xel Ha
- More water activities
- Beautiful beach and natural pools
- Unlimited alcoholic beverages
- Lots of marine animals and wildlife
- Less expensive
Cons of Xel Ha
- Fewer activities
- Less variety
- Upgraded activities cost more
- Further away from Playa del Carmen
- Can get crowded
Xcaret Park vs Xel Ha: Quick Comparison Table
|Park Name||Number of Activities||Park Hours||Basic Admission Cost||Buy Now|
|Xcaret||50+||Every day 8:30AM-10:30PM||$124.99 USD||BUY NOW|
|Xel Ha||20||Every day 8:30AM-6:00PM||$114.99 USD||BUY NOW|
Xcaret vs Xel Ha Reviews: Which has better activities?
The main difference between Xcaret and Xel Ha comes down to the types of activities you’ll get to experience at each park. Here’s a look at how each park stacks up:
Xcaret Park offers 50 different activities on its massive property. Once on-site, you’ll basically be free to explore its different routes with mini Mexican towns and cultural recreations like haciendas, plazas, Mayan villages, and a Mexican cemetery.
Kids and nature lovers will love the wildlife encounters like the Coral Reef Aquarium, Aviary, Butterfly Pavilion, Sea Turtles, and Manatee Lagoon.
Visitors can take a ride to the top of the 262 ft (80 m) tall Scenic Tower, the highest point in the Mayan Riviera featuring spectacular seaside views.
A couple of water activities are included in the basic admission like the Underground Rivers and Aquatic Paradise, but most of the premium water activities like Sea Trek, Snuba Reef, Snorkeling Tour, Stingray Encounter, and the Adrenalina Speed Boat come at an extra charge.
At night, you won’t want to miss the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular, which is a 300-person crew production and grand show featuring lively and colorful cultural performances and pre-hispanic dances.
🕙 With so many things to do and see, Xcaret is an entire day and night time commitment!
Included Xcaret Activities
Here’s a breakdown of the Xcaret activities that are included in the basic admission. You can find detailed descriptions of each activity on the Xcaret website here.
- Cultural Activities: Xcaret Mexico Espectacular, Scenic Tower, Main Plaza, Mexican Folk Art Museum, Archaeological Sites, “Bridge to Paradise” Mexican Cemetery, Mayan Village, Horse Exhibition, “Vino de Mexico Xcaret” Wine Cellar, Pre-Hispanic Performances, Papantla Flyers, Hacienda Henequenera, Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Francis of Assisi Chapel, House of Whispers, Xcaret Posadas
- Kids Activities: Coral Reef Aquarium, Sea Turtles, Jaguars Island, Butterfly Pavilion, Aviary, Regional Fauna, Children’s World
- Nature Lovers: Natural Museum of Orchids and Bromeliads, Manatee Lagoon, Tropical Jungle Trail
- Water Activities: Underground Rivers, Xcaret’s Aquatic Paradise, Paradise River
Optional Xcaret Activities
- Optional Activities (Add-Ons): Adrenalina (Speed Boat), Adventure Kids (Stingrays), Sharks Adventure, Stingray Encounter, Stingray Sea Trek, Sea Trek, Snuba Reef, Temazcal, Snorkeling Tour, Xpa Xcaret, Paraxute, Xcaret Mexico Espectacular Dinner, Wine Pairing at Xcaret Wine Cellar
Xel Ha Activities
Xel Ha offers over 20 activities that are included in the basic admission. Premium water activities can also be added for an additional fee.
Included Xel Ha Activities
Here are the main activities at Xel-Ha Mexico. You can find more detailed descriptions of all the activities on the Xel Ha website here.
- Scenic Lighthouse: The Scenic Lighthouse is the famous Xel Ha water slide and main attraction where you climb to the top and descend by one of its four waterslides or just stay at the viewpoint at the top for some spectacular seaside views.
- Snorkel Xel-Ha: Snorkeling spots are available all over the nature park in hidden lagoons, cenotes, and beaches. You’ll be able to pick up Xel Ha snorkel gear around these sites to explore the underwater world.
- Trepachanga: This activity puts your balance skills to the test by having to cross two parallel, suspended ropes over the river.
- Salpichanga: Salpichanga is an overwater zipline where you’ll have to hang on tight to metal handles and end with a splash in the fresh water of the Xel-Ha inlet.
- River Tour Xel-Ha: Xel-Ha’s River Tour is a mile long lazy river, where you can float with life jackets or on inner tubes, admiring the mangrove forest and other wildlife.
- Xel-Ha Cave: Known as the Mayan Cave, this natural cenote is considered a sacred place where you can snorkel or float among natural skylights.
- Cliff of Courage: The Cliff of Courage is a 16-foot wall and climbing challenge where you can jump off the top into the refreshing cold waters below.
- Other Activities: Chuc Kay’s Flight, Xel-Há Inlet, Bay of Caprices, Home River – Mangroves, Children’s World, “Ixchel” Grotto and “El Dorado” Cave, Mayan Wall, Jungle Trails, Chacah’s Garden, Cenotes, Floating Bridge, Land of Huh – Bike Ride, Xel-Há Nursery, Meliponary, Queen Conch Sanctuary Xel-Há
Optional Xel Ha Activities
These are the premium Xel Ha activities that come at an additional cost:
- Sea Trek Discover
- Adrenalina Xel Ha
- Snuba Cenote
- Power Xnorkel Xel-Há
- Zip-Bike Xel-Há
- Manatee Encounter
- Spa Xel-Há
- Stingray Encounter
- Sea Trek
- Snuba® Caleta
- Fish Therapy
Who are Xcaret and Xel Ha suited for?
Here’s an overview of who each park is best suited for:
Who is Xcaret best suited for?
Xcaret is probably best suited for families with smaller children. There are no age restrictions at Xcaret so it’s a great place to bring babies, toddlers, and young children to enjoy the park’s numerous children’s activities, natural pools, and wildlife encounters.
With its greater accessibility, Xcaret is also the best Xcaret park to visit for multi-generational families if traveling with both children and grandparents, as its paths are much easier to navigate with strollers and wheelchairs.
But at the same time, Xcaret is not just for kids. It’s also a great spot if you’re a nature lover and appreciate cultural activities. Visitors can learn about Mexican history and Mayan culture in a fun, colorful, and interactive environment.
And the Xcaret México Espectacular production is a true highlight for all ages!
Who is Xel Ha best suited for?
Xel Ha Riviera Maya is best suited for those that are active and love water activities. The beautiful natural park has a variety of adventurous attractions including water ziplines, obstacle courses, unlimited snorkeling, and high speed water slides.
Families with small children will also appreciate the kid-friendly attractions and activities available at Xel-Ha like Children’s World, water slides, and lazy rivers.
Plus, nature and animal lovers will enjoy the wildlife areas where you can see a variety of marine species like colorful fish, manatees, and stingrays up close.
Xcaret vs Xel Ha: Which is cheaper?
Next, let’s take a look at how the parks compare when it comes to admission costs:
Xcaret offers 4 different admission tickets: Xcaret Admission, Xcaret Plus Admission, Xcaret Total Admission, and Xcaret at Night Admission:
Xcaret Admission is the most basic admission package and includes the basic activities with no food included.
Current Xcaret Admission prices are as follows:
- Adults: $124.99 USD
- Kids (ages 5-11): $62.49 USD
- Kids (ages 4 and under): Free
Xcaret Plus Admission
Xcaret Plus Admission includes the basic admission, plus a lunch buffet at one of the park’s numerous restaurants. You’ll also get access to the exclusive Plus area with complimentary lockers, dressing rooms, private restrooms, as well as the use of snorkel equipment for the Underground Rivers.
Current Xcaret Plus Admission prices are as follows:
- Adults: $164.99 USD
- Kids (ages 5-11): $82.49 USD
- Kids (ages 4 and under): Free
Xcaret Total Admission
The Xcaret Total Admission is an upgraded package that includes everything in the Xcaret Plus Admission plus the choice of one activity: Sea Trek OR Adrenalina.
Current Xcaret Total Admission prices are as follows:
- Adults: $191.00 USD
- Kids (ages 5-11): $123.00 USD
- Kids (ages 4 and under): Free
Xcaret at Night Admission
The Xcaret at Night Admission only includes entrance to the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular with no food included.
Current Xcaret at Night Admission prices are as follows:
- Adults: $104.99 USD
- Kids (ages 5-11): $52.99 USD
- Kids (ages 4 and under): Free
👉 Book Xcaret tickets on the official website by clicking here!
Xel Ha Tickets
Xel Ha offers two different admission tickets: Xel Ha All Inclusive and Xel Ha Total:
Xel-Há All Inclusive
The Xel Ha all inclusive ticket is the basic admission which includes all of the basic Xel Ha activities, unlimited snorkeling, food and beverage (including alcohol), plus the use of snorkeling gear and a free snorkel.
Current Xel Ha All Inclusive admission prices are as follows:
- Adults: $114.99 USD
- Children (ages 5-11): $57.49 USD
The Xel Ha Total ticket is the upgraded admission and includes everything from the All Inclusive park ticket plus the choice of one premium activity: Adrenalina Speed Boat, Sea Trek, or Snuba Caleta.
Current Xel Ha Total admission prices are as follows:
- Adults: $138.00 USD
- Children (ages 5-11): $95.00 USD
👉 Book Xel Ha tickets on the official website by clicking here!
Xcaret vs Xel Ha: Which provides more value?
In my opinion, both parks offer excellent value for the money with their unique and fun attractions, beautifully landscaped grounds, well-maintained facilities and services, and overall experience.
However, when performing a value analysis, I do think Xel Ha provides more value for the fact that food, beverage, and unlimited alcohol is included in the basic admission ticket. It’s actually the only Xcaret park with an open bar, which adds a lot of value on top of all the fun activities.
This also provides a more convenient booking option so you won’t have to worry about spending more money once you’re in the park unless you want to do any of the premium water activities.
Xcaret does have many more activities with over 50 different things to do and see but you’ll still need to pay for food and beverage throughout the day whether you buy the upgraded Xcaret Plus ticket or just dine at the restaurants a la carte.
Plus, if you buy the basic ticket you’ll still need to pay small fees and refundable deposits for lockers and snorkel gear. Not to mention, the premium water activities come at a much higher cost.
But it also comes down to which types of activities you prefer and which type of experience would be more valuable and memorable for you. I think you will be very impressed by the quality of the parks no matter which one you choose!
How to Save Money on Xcaret Tickets
There are a few different Xcaret discounts available–take advantage of these automatic discounts outlined below to get the best deals on Xcaret tickets and avoid paying full price for admission tickets.
Book in Advance
You can automatically save by booking online on the official park website in advance:
- 10% off – ticket purchase 7 to 20 days in advance
- 15% off – ticket purchase at least 21 days in advance
Create Your Own Package
If you’re interested in visiting more than one of the Xcaret parks and tours, you can save by creating your own Xel Ha and Xcaret package:
- 15% off – ticket purchase for any combination package of two or more parks and tours
- 20% off – ticket purchase for any combination package of three or more parks and tours
👉 Click here to get your bundle discount by creating your own package
Stay at One of the Xcaret Hotels
Staying at an Xcaret all inclusive resort gives you all “fun-inclusive” access to the parks, meaning you get unlimited access to all of the Xcaret parks during your stay.
This is an especially great option for families if you plan on visiting more than one of the parks. Check out the hotel websites below for more info:
Xcaret also offers special discount tickets for Quintana Roo residents which is valid only at the park’s ticket booths, online, or through the contact center.
Tickets for Quintana Roo residents can be purchased through the website here but it is only available in the Spanish language.
You’ll need to present an Official ID of Quintana Roo to be eligible for the discount. For foreigners living in Quintana Roo, Temporary and Permanent Resident Cards are accepted.
Which is better for kids Xel Ha or Xcaret?
If you’re trying to decide between Xel Ha or Xcaret for kids, it really depends on the ages of your children. Both parks are very kid-friendly and are suited for children of all ages.
Xcaret is probably best for babies and very young children, as it is more accessible for strollers and has lots of shallow natural pools and kid-friendly splash areas. Plus, there’s lots of animals and wildlife that toddlers and small children would love.
On the other hand, Xel Ha is better suited for older kids that like adventure as they can take off and snorkel, zipline, and glide down the water slides on their own. With its Children’s World, Xel Ha is still suitable for young children but they should be very comfortable swimming and being around water.
But whichever theme park you choose, your kids are sure to have a blast!
Xcaret vs Xel Ha: Which has better food?
Here’s how each park compares when it comes to food and drink:
Xcaret Food and Drink
Xcaret offers over 15 food and drink outlets across its expansive grounds from buffet restaurants to snack bars to coffee shops. Unfortunately, some of the restaurants and bars are currently closed due to the park’s sanitary protocols.
Menu options include a range of Mexican food, international cuisine, and seafood. Even with a focus on elevated gastronomy, you’ll still be able to find burgers and pizza!
If you purchase the upgraded Xcaret admission with food included, you’ll be able to choose a buffet meal in one of the park’s restaurants. Any additional purchases throughout the day can be made a-la-carte.
In addition, premium food and beverage experiences can be purchased like the 7-course Mexico Espectacular Dinner and the Wine Pairing at Xcaret Cellar.
Xel Ha Food and Drink
Xel Ha offers four different buffet restaurants and bars to choose from. The menus feature international buffets, grilled specialties, Mexican gastronomy, and Yucatan cuisine. But you’ll still be able to find plenty of American dishes too!
Restaurants are open for both breakfast and lunch, and with unlimited dining included, you’ll be able to enjoy them as much as you want.
But perhaps the biggest perk of Xel Ha is that it’s the only Xcaret park with an open bar included in your ticket. You’ll get to enjoy unlimited beverages from the domestic open bar (like beer, margaritas, and frozen cocktails), which you can order at the many restaurants or bars throughout the park.
Travelista Tip: The rest areas at Xel Ha are a great spot for adults to relax and enjoy some drinks or tropical cocktails! You’ll even have lounge chairs and hammocks where you can chill out after a full day of activities.
Xel-Ha vs Xcaret Visitor Info
Here’s the basic visitor info for visiting Xel Ha and Xcaret:
Park Opening Hours
- Xcaret is open every day from 8:30AM-10:30PM
- Xel Ha is open every day from 8:30AM-6:00 PM
Transportation is not included in the price of admission. To get to Xcaret and Xel Ha, you can go on your own or add the round-trip transportation service to your ticket for an additional $30 USD per person.
If you do choose the transportation service, it’s important to know that transportation can only be added at the time of purchase, so be sure to add this when you’re buying your tickets.
Xcaret buses pickup from most major hotels in Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, and Cancun. If you’re staying at an AirBnB or vacation rental, they’ll give you a designated meeting point for pickup.
Travelista Tip: The Xcaret transportation service can add up for larger groups. Consider taking a taxi if you are looking to save money. From Playa del Carmen to Xcaret, a taxi only costs around $15 USD each way for up to 4 people.
Facilities and Services
In terms of facilities, both parks have very clean and well-maintained rest areas with hammocks, dressing rooms, restrooms, and showers. Additional services include WiFi, ATMs, and free parking.
Gift shops are also located around the parks where you can purchase park photos, souvenirs, and gear (like water shoes and rash guards).
Lockers are available at both parks to securely store your belongings throughout the day. Lockers are large enough for a medium sized backpack and you’ll be able to easily visit them throughout the day if you need to access your personal belongings.
Complimentary lockers are included in the price of admission at Xel-Ha and you’ll receive a locker key you’ll need to hold onto throughout the day–be sure not to lose it!
At Xcaret, the basic admission does not include lockers so you’ll need to pay $5.99 USD plus a $10 USD refundable deposit for the use of lockers. The upgraded Xcaret Plus and Total admission tickets include complimentary lockers in the exclusive Plus Area.
At Xel Ha, snorkeling equipment is included in the price of admission and you’ll be able to pick up flippers, masks, and snorkels at the various snorkeling spots throughout the park. A free snorkel is included so you’ll receive your own fresh snorkel and won’t have to worry about cleanliness.
Xcaret includes the use of life jackets for water activities. With the basic admission, snorkeling gear rental costs $10.99 USD and requires a refundable deposit of $25 USD. The Xcaret Plus ticket includes complimentary snorkel gear with a refundable deposit.
What’s cool about Xel Ha and Xcaret is that there are cameras and “Xelfies” photo opportunities seamlessly embedded all over the parks.
Tracking technology is inserted in your wristband so they can track your photos and you’ll be able to scan your wristband and review them all at the end of the day.
A Photo Pass can be added to your admission package upon purchase, or you can purchase them at the park gift shops on the day of the visit. The photo packages can be expensive but are a great way to capture your memories if you don’t have a GoPro or waterproof camera.
FAQs about Xcaret vs Xel Ha
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Xcaret vs Xel Ha:
What are the minimum age restrictions?
Both Xcaret and Xel Ha park are suitable for all ages and children under 4 years old are free.
What’s the cancellation policy?
For both Xel Ha and Xcaret, reservations canceled more than two days in advance of the date of visit are subject to a 10% administration fee.
Reservations canceled in 2 days or less before the visit date, or in case of a no-show, are not refundable. Optional activities are non-refundable.
More information on the Xcaret cancellation policy can be found here.
What should you wear to Xel Ha and Xcaret?
You will definitely be getting wet so you’ll want to wear a swimsuit, comfortable clothing, and water shoes.
I usually always wear a one-piece bathing suit, waterproof shorts, and a rash guard to be most comfortable on all the activities.
What should you bring to Xel Ha and Xcaret?
When visiting Xel Ha and Xcaret, you’ll want to bring biodegradable sunscreen (regular sunscreen is not permitted) and a change of clothes to dry off at the end of the day.
Towels are included at Xel Ha but not at Xcaret. If you choose to visit Xcaret, be sure to bring a towel to dry off after the water activities–otherwise you’ll have to pay for towel service. These microfiber beach towels are a great option as they are lightweight and dry quickly.
In addition, bring a GoPro or waterproof camera to capture some epic footage!
Final Thoughts: Which is better Xcaret or Xel Ha?
So, which is better Xel Ha or Xcaret? No matter which park you choose, you’re going to have an unforgettable time! But if you’re still undecided about Xcaret park or Xel Ha, here’s my take:
If you’re looking for a well-rounded adventure park experience that includes cultural activities, history, and water activities, Xcaret is the clear choice. Plus, you’ll get to experience the unforgettable Xcaret Mexico Espectacular night show which honestly could be an attraction on its own!
However, if you’re looking for more adventure and love water activities, Xel Ha is the better option. Plus, it provides a bit more value with food, beverages, and unlimited alcohol included in the basic admission ticket.
And if both parks sound good to you, then consider visiting both and get a discount by creating your own Xcaret and Xel Ha package!
Now that you know all about Xcaret and Xel Ha, which best describes how you’re feeling about each park?!