Xcaret Park is a place that has many attractions wrapped up into a single area—it’s a theme park, archeological park, eco-park, and cultural park. You can spend one minute swimming through an underground cave, the next climbing up a Mayan ruin, and the next partaking in a chocolate workshop . . . if they weren’t so far from each other. For this reason, planning your route at Xcaret before you arrive is crucial so you can check off all the items on your bucket list.
Ready to learn how? Let’s begin!
The advantage of Xcaret’s location
If lush jungles and warm Caribbean waters are up your alley, Xcaret will feel like paradise. But exactly where is Xcaret located?
Xcaret sits in an inlet about 15 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. In fact, “Xcaret” is a Mayan word for “little inlet.”
When you’re planning how to get to Xcaret, you have several options. If you’ll be arriving from Playa del Carmen, you can catch a morning bus or minivan shuttle. Alternatively, you can travel from Cancun to Xcaret by bus, shuttle, or private car. Day trips from Cancun to Xcaret are common, so transfers depart from the airport, Hotel Zone, and the downtown ADO bus station.
First things first: Get yourself a map
Xcaret is 200 acres of fun, but that’s a lot of ground to cover. If you’ve already done some research online, you’ve likely come across Xcaret Park reviews with warnings from well-intentioned people saying that it’s impossible to visit all of Xcaret in a day.
However, I’d argue that it’s mostly possible if you’re not traveling with young children and you don’t mind the heat. In fact, I managed to visit nearly every area in Xcaret in one day by planning out my route in advance. Was it worth it? To me, absolutely. Is it for everyone? Definitely not—it was a fast-paced day, and I put in nearly 10 miles of walking, not to mention swim time.
Needless to say, whether you plan to spend one day or one week at Xcaret, I recommend getting yourself a Xcaret Park map. An excellent way to do this is by downloading their free app.
Tips for managing Xcaret’s routes
Despite having your map (or app) in hand, arriving in Xcaret can still feel overwhelming when you first get there. So, this is my recommendation: Look down.
Xcaret has done a beautiful job of using color-coded lines to help visitors navigate their six routes. I found maps and signs around Xcaret to be sparser than I expected. But in hindsight, they draw the “map” right into the sidewalk for you—whenever I was unsure about where to go, I simply followed the color-coded line and eventually arrived.
Of course, you need to know what Xcaret Park activities there are to determine which (or all) routes you want to see. So, below are some highlights. I’ve put an asterisk by attractions that are Xcaret-proclaimed must-sees.
Black line: Del Rio Route
This is the main route through Xcaret; it’s the route you’ll be on upon entering the park, and all other routes branch off it. So, if you’re ever in doubt about your whereabouts, return there to reorient yourself.
- Underground River*
- Paradise River*
- Archaeological Site
- Children’s World
Pro tip: There are three underground rivers you can swim in. They each last about an hour, so most people only choose one. Paradise River is also an underground experience, but it’s via a tranquil 15-minute boat ride. I recommend doing Paradise River and a swim if your time allows because it gives you a different perspective (and photo opportunity) of the river.
Blue line: Acuario Route
Marine lovers will be amazed by the array of aquatic displays on the Acuario Route. Most of the activities are outside, but they also offer a beautiful (and air-conditioned) indoor aquarium.
- Coral Reef Aquarium*
- Sea Turtles
- Open Theater
Green line: Playa Route
If you want to visit Xcaret for its stunning beaches and snorkeling opportunities, make a beeline to the green line. Some Xcaret entrance tickets include snorkel gear. If yours doesn’t, you can rent it on the spot upon your arrival.
- Snorkeling Inlet*
- Sea Trek
- Several beach view restaurants
Red line: Delfines Route
If you’ve explored every nook and cranny of the Playa Route but are still wondering what to do at Xcaret Park that involves the ocean, make your way over to the Delfines Route. Since the blue, green, and red lines all interconnect, you don’t have to backtrack to the Del Rio Route to arrive at each one.
- Natural Pools*
- Adrenalina Boat Ride
- Snuba Reef
White line: Pueblo Maya Route
On the Pueblo Maya Route, you can get in touch with both Mayan culture and nature. There are many workshops in this area—chocolate, wool, and coconut workshops are some examples. However, each workshop only runs a few times per day, so plan accordingly!
- Mayan Village*
- Butterfly Pavilion*
- Jaguar Island*
- Mexican Cemetery
Brown line: Mexico Espectacular Route
Although Xcaret calls this a “brick” color, I think it’s misleading because the route itself isn’t brick. So, just look for the brown line which starts to the left of the main entrance when you enter the park.
- Scenic Tower*
- Xcaret Mexico Espectacular performances
- Pre-Hispanic Welcome
- Horse Maternity Ward
Start preparing your bags
Knowing what to take to Xcaret Park is just as important as planning your route. If you plan on swimming, Xcaret requires visitors to use biodegradable sunscreen to keep the water clear and marine life healthy. Bathing suits, towels, a change of clothes, and sunscreen are also a must. I recommend bringing flip flops and sneakers—you’ll be doing tons of walking. Finally, don’t forget your camera so you can relive your visit when you return home.