A guide to getting around Xcaret Park

It’s easy to miss out on incredible activities at Xcaret Park unless you have a plan. Read on for actionable tips about mapping your route.

Mayan River, Xcaret

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. 

Similarly, Tulum, Cozumel, and many destinations near the Carretera Federal 307 (the highway bordering Xcaret) all make for an easy trip to “the most emblematic park” in the Riviera Maya.

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. 

Attractions include:

  • 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. 

Attractions include:

  • Coral Reef Aquarium*
  • Sea Turtles
  • Sharks
  • 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.

Attractions include:

  • Snorkeling Inlet*
  • Beach
  • 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.

Attractions include:

  • Natural Pools*
  • Adrenalina Boat Ride
  • Snuba Reef
  • Paraxute

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! 

Attractions include:

  • 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.

Attractions include:

  • 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.

Posted September 6, 2021
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Laura Olds
Laura Olds of A Piece of Travel is a digital nomad who adds twice as many destinations to her bucket list with each one she checks off. She's a full-time writer and part-time street dog whisperer. In her free time, she enjoys running, yoga, and taste-testing her way through the world.
image of blog writer Laura