This article may contain references to some of our advertising partners. Should you click on these links, we may be compensated. For more about our advertising policies, read our full disclosure statement here.
Located in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, Xel-Ha is one of the region’s most popular tourist attractions – and for good reason. This sprawling ecological park is part aquarium, part theme park, and part nature preserve. Whether you’re looking for action or a place to relax, Xel-Ha boasts a wealth of different activities which makes it the perfect place for families and adult groups alike.
What Is Xel-Ha?
Xel-Ha is a natural ecological water park that prides itself on creating a memorable experience while protecting the environment. With more than 90 different species of fish, Xel-Ha is one of the best snorkeling destinations in Mexico. Surrounded by lush tropical beauty, there are literally acres upon acres of snorkeling sites located throughout the park. You’ll also find several cenotes and caves to check out. It’s like a giant outdoor aquarium, except you get to swim with the fish!
But, Xel-Ha isn’t just about snorkeling. There are plenty of other activities for park goers as well. If you’re adventurous, you can take a ride down the zip line, climb the cliff wall, or swim with dolphins. Both of my daughters (ages 4 and 6) decided to take a leap from the “Cliff of Courage” – a 20 foot drop straight into the water. They didn’t even hesitate and thought it was awesome! Here’s a video of the jump:
For a more relaxed trip, make time to take a nature stroll, float down the river on an inner tube, or even take a nap in a hammock. There’s also a very large playground area and small water slide that is perfect for smaller children. (My kids loved it!) And, don’t forget to scan your bracelet at each stop. There are hundreds of cameras located throughout the park, capturing all of the action so that you don’t even have to bring your own.
Xel-Ha has plenty of places to eat, as well. As with any attraction this size, the food is prepared to suit the taste of large crowds. Luckily, there are plenty of options for all tastes. You can grab a burger, eat at a Mexican style buffet, or dress up your own salad. You should be able to find something to whet your appetite, even if you’re a picky eater.
The Xel-Ha “All Inclusive Pass”
The best way to experience the park is to purchase the “All Inclusive Pass”. It generally runs about $80 USD if you purchase it ahead of time ($89 USD at the door), but it’s worth the cost. The all-inclusive pass covers your admission price and most of your activities for the day. Here’s a quick list of what’s included:
- Unlimited snorkeling with free equipment rental
- Use of towels and lockers
- Breakfast and lunch buffets
- Domestic open bar (Bonus!!!)
- Inner tubes for the river
- Children’s World
- Adventure World: aquatic zip-lines, five-meter high jumps and different rope games
- Tours of forest paths and gardens
- Hammocks and lounge chairs
You can also upgrade to the “Total All Inclusive Pass.” In addition to everything you get with the All Inclusive package, you’ll also get to choose one additional premium activity such as a crazy “Adrenalina” boat ride, “snuba” diving, or the “Sea Trek.” You can also purchase a package that includes swimming with dolphins.
Finally, you can choose to include tours of ancient Mayan ruins at places like Tulum or Coba. Additionally, you can add admission to other parks in the Xel-Ha family – like Xcaret and Xplor.
How to Get to Xel-Ha
Xel-Ha is open 365 days a year from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM. It is located about 110 km south of Cancun, 45 km south of Playa del Carmen, and about 9 km north of Tulum. You can purchase private transportation through the park itself with the Xel-Ha Tour option, take a bus from Cancun or Playa, or take a taxi. You can also drive there yourself, and parking is free.
Personally, I think the best way to get there is to rent a car. We drove there from our hotel in Cancun, and it was a piece of cake. A taxi ride was going to cost us about $250 round trip, which was far more than we were willing to spend. However, the car we rented cost just $75 for the day. That even included the complete insurance coverage, which wasn’t bad.
Getting to Xel-Ha was a piece of cake. Once we left our hotel, it literally took us two turns to get all the way to Xel-Ha. From the Hotel Zone in Cancun, take Punta Nizuc (the major/only road that runs along the hotel strip) toward the airport. Then, jump on the 307 and head south for about an hour and a half. Take the exit which is clearly marked Xel-Ha and you’re already pulling into the parking lot!
The drive is easy, safe, and simple. It is a straight shot south from either Cancun or Playa del Carmen, and the road is very well marked. Just be sure to purchase the full insurance coverage for your rental car as Mexico does not recognize insurance from outside the country. Additionally, you could be held liable for damages even if you aren’t at fault. Also, be aware of gas station scams. Pay for gas in Mexican Pesos, and be sure that you watch the gas pump! Even though I made it clear that I only wanted 300 pesos in gas, our gas attendant would have let us buy a full tank had I not shut off the pump!
Our trip to Xel-Ha was a ton of fun for our whole family. The snorkeling was great, the park was gorgeous, and all the activities were a blast. Even though the park clearly caters to families, it is a great outing for people of any age. Whether you’re looking for an exciting day full of adventure or a serene place to enjoy Riviera Maya’s natural beauty, a trip to Xel-Ha is something the whole family can enjoy.