Xcaret vs. Xel-Há: What is the difference?

August 07, 2023

What park should I choose? 

If you are planning a trip to Riviera Maya for the first time, visiting the most emblematic places like Xcaret or Xel-Há is undoubtedly on your list.

While these two of the world's largest natural parks have a lot to offer, they also provide a variety of activities depending on the trip's purpose, preferences, or personal interests.

We will provide all the information you need to begin your adventure if you have a short trip and must choose only one of them.

To begin with, we recommend you take into account the following points to plan your next trip to any park

General information about each park and what it includes:

· Location and transportation

· Schedules

· Consider activities for children (if it’s a family trip)

· Style of activities (water, adventure, cultural)

· Food, beverages, and types of restaurants

· Prices

· Appropriate clothing

· Photo packages and activities at an additional cost

· Weather and the best time to travel

Which park is better for me?

Experiencing both will be an unforgettable experience! They are part of the world's most popular theme and eco-archaeological parks with unique attractions according to Travelers' Choice 2022 by TripAdvisor®.


However, deciding which park to visit will depend on the type of activities you wish to do. For example, there might be different depending on whether you are on a romantic getaway, a trip with friends, or simply a family moment with the kids.

If we talk about differences, the main one is that Xcaret is a cultural theme park with a wide range of activities and shows. It offers snorkeling and swimming on the beach, its Butterfly Pavilion, its Coral Reef Aquarium, pre-Hispanic ceremonies and dances, and the famous show "Xcaret México Espectacular" that will make your skin crawl in excitement.


On the other hand, Xel-Há focuses more on aquatic activities and natural beauty, with a large cove for snorkeling and exploring natural wonders underwater.

The park has an unlimited buffet, so you can eat and drink as much as you want.

At the same time, Xel-Há has activities with a touch of adrenaline and aquatic adventures that will make your experience more fun. You can climb the highest waterslide in Riviera Maya and enjoy the breathtaking jungle scenery!

To understand a little better the differences between both parks in a quick and easy way, we leave you the following table:

Xcaret Xel - Há
Hours Everyday from
8:30 a.m. till 10:00 p.m.
Everyday from
8:30 a.m. till 6:00 p.m.
Location 15 min from Playa del Carmen
Between Playa del Carmen and Tulum
Atractions 50 23
Highlights · Xcaret México Espectacular
· Underground rivers
· Butterfly Pavilion
· Largest cove in Riviera Maya
· Unlimited snorkel
· Unlimited buffet and open bar

Basic entry with food and beverages included

One word to define the park
Cultural Aquatic

Let's talk a bit about Xcaret

Did you know that Xcaret means "small cove" in Mayan? This is because of the connection between the land and the sea.

Fun fact: Its location was an attractive spot for the pre-Hispanic people who lived in the region, building a port and turning Xcaret into a thriving mercantile center. 


This park is full of activities and natural attractions. If you are looking for a place that brings together all kinds of experiences, Xcaret is a worthwhile option. Not only can you do aquatic activities, but you can also learn more about Mexican culture through traditions, music, dance, art, and gastronomy.

To visit Xcaret is to understand Mexico through its cultural richness.  


You will be able to experience a connection with nature as you are surrounded by natural scenery. This will show you how wonderful our land is.

The theme park represents most authentically the diversity of Mexican culture and expressions such as mariachi, charreria, pirekua, Papantla flyers, and the famous Day of the Dead tradition. 

What is Xel-Há like?

Xel-Há is home to diverse species of flora and fauna. A park near Tulum that takes your breath away with a feeling of connection surrounded by a calm and natural environment. Additionally, you can explore the jungle by bicycle.

Hammocks are a pleasant place to relax and disconnect from the routine. You can also spend hours in the vast cove snorkeling and have fun with its many attractions, such as the waterslide and the small water zip-lines. 


Fun fact: Xel-Há means "where water is born" because of the joining of several underground rivers that flow into the cove. 

One of the most beautiful parts of this park is the unlimited buffet and open bar. Here you can visit its three restaurants (Xula Vista, Cocina del Pueblo, and Terraza) to taste the finest Mexican and international cuisine.


What are the main attractions included in each park?

Xel - Há Xcaret
Unlimited snorkel
Underground rivers
Unlimited buffet and open bar
Xcaret México Espectacular
Scenic Lighthouse
Children’s World
River and mangroves
Coral Reef Aquarium
Archaeological site
Stone of Courage
Pre-Hispanic Village
Hacienda Henequenera
Salpichanga Zip-line
Mexican Cemetery
Chuc Kay Flight
House of Whispers
Caprichos Bay
Charrería equestrian show
Children’s World
Scenic Tower
Ixchel Rift and Dorado Cave
Pre-hispanic dances
Jungle trails
Butterfly Pavilion
Floating Town
Bike rides
Beach access, cove, and natural pools
Plant Nursery
Rainforest trail
Queen Conch Sanctuary
Chapel of our lady of Guadalupe and St. Francis of Assisi

Activities with additional cost

Xel - Há Xcaret

Buffet and beverages (included in the Xcaret Plus admision
Photo and video packages
Photo and video packages
Optional Activities:
· Adrenalina (boat ride at a speed of up to 90 km/h and 360º turns).
· SeaTrek (underwater walk)
· Scuba Cenote
· Suba Inlet
· Power Snorkel (powerful jet to dive into the water)
· Zip-Bike (combination of bicycle and a zip-line to explore the jungle)
· Manatee Encounter
· Rays Encounter
· Spa
· Swimming with dolphins
· Fish therapy
Optional Activities:
· Adventure Kids (an experience for children with the smallest stingrays).
· Dinner during the show Xcaret México Espectacular
· Swimming with dolphins
· Paraxute
· Interactive encounter with stingrays
· SeaTrek (underwater walk)
· Snuba Reef
· Temazcal
· Snorkel tour
· Xpa

Who can visit Xcaret and Xel-Há

Everyone is welcome here! From the youngest to the oldest, all of them will find something that will make their experience as fulfilling as possible.

The type of activity you choose depends entirely on your taste.

For example, if you enjoy water activities, prefer an all-inclusive plan where you can enjoy unlimited food, and your ideal scenario is to cool off in a natural pool where at the same time you can feel the adrenaline of a waterslide, we recommend Xel-Há. 


Here you can share moments of relaxation and admire nature from a more conscious and closer perspective.

On the other hand, if your thing is the natural connection with wildlife, but you are also interested in exploring Mexican traditions, culture, dance, and art, then Xcaret is the park you are looking for.  


There, you will also learn about the history of our ancestors. In addition, you will visit a Mexican cemetery, where you can see how Mexicans honor their deceased with rich traditions.

Both parks have activities for children and are suitable for visiting with large families who are nature lovers. 

Parks with a sustainable approach

One important thing you should know about Xcaret and Xel-Há is that both are part of Grupo Xcaret’s vision that promotes the care, conservation, and protection of the environment, as well as the creatures that live in it.

Did you know that Xel-Há has several conservation programs, such as one for the red macaw, another one for the queen conch, and another one for the manatee?


An essential action implemented was the responsible management of solid waste, with 70% of it recovered for recycling.  

Now that you know more about these two incredible parks and their main attractions, let's review some differences in detail.

How to get to Xcaret and Xel-Há?

Both parks are located in Riviera Maya. Xel-Há is near Tulum and Xcaret is near Playa del Carmen.

You can purchase transportation from your hotel or several pick-up points in Cancun or Riviera Maya at an additional cost.

These are the transfer times by car with regular traffic but it is recommended that you check real-time traffic on the day of your visit so you don't have any surprises.


From Cancun: 1 hour

From Playa del Carmen: 15 minutes

From Tulum: 45 minutes


From Cancun: 1 hour and 20 minutes

From Playa del Carmen: 40 minutes

From Tulum: 20 minutes

Another way to get there is by public transportation on ADO buses. They do not have many departure times, so it is advisable to book in advance.

Prices and entrance fees

Different price plans are available for you to choose from based on your travel plans.


Xcaret entrance: Basic entrance fee includes more than 50 attractions but with food and beverages available at an additional cost.

*Snorkel equipment is also available at an extra cost.

Xcaret Plus (recommended): Includes more than 50 attractions + buffet and beverages in one of the five restaurants in Xcaret.

*This admission gets you access to the exclusive Plus Area with complimentary lockers and snorkel equipment for the underground rivers.

Xcaret Total: Xcaret Plus admission + 1 Optional Activity.

*You can choose between SeaTrek or Adrenalina.

Xcaret at Night: Includes entrance to the park beginning at 4:00 p.m. without food.

*Specially designed to enjoy the Xcaret México Espectacular presentation.


Xel-Há All-Inclusive: More than 14 included activities + snorkel, buffet, and unlimited drinks.

*Use of snorkel equipment included

Xel-Há Total: Xel-Há All-Inclusive admission + 1 Optional Activity.

*You can choose between SeaTrek, Snuba Caleta, or Adrenalina.

What else do I need for my visit?

Here are our expert tips and recommendations for you to enjoy your visit.

Xcaret Xel - Há
We know how helpful sunscreen is. However, it is necessary that before your visit, you verify that it is biodegradable.
To avoid waiting in line, we recommend buying your tickets in advance.
Plan your itinerary. Arrange your activities so you can have the most rewarding experience.
Both parks have water stations to refill your water flask to stay hydrated. Make sure to bring yours!
Bring comfortable shoes for long walks.
We recommend the use of water shoes for a better experience.
Xcaret does not include a towel in your visit, don't forget to add it and a change of clothes; you will be in the park until 10 p.m.
Carry a small backpack with the essentials: a change of clothes, sunglasses, and biodegradable sunscreen.
If you wish, consider bringing money to buy souvenirs and photo packages.
You can use GoPro to capture fantastic images and videos for both parks.
Use your phone and a waterproof case if you don't have a waterproof camera. Don't forget your power bank either (your phone will probably run out of battery after so many photos).

So, which park is better?

In our opinion, neither is better than the other. Both are different, with activities for those who love nature.

Choose activities according to your travel plans and read the details of each activity.

Tip: We recommend you visit our Instagram accounts for Xcaret and Xel-Há, where hundreds of travelers share their experiences and can also serve as inspiration.

You can list the activities you like the most and choose the park with the highest votes for your preference.

You may now have a clearer idea of what to expect during your next trip to this paradisiacal location that will become a favorite for life.

Until next time! 👋🏻

¡Con la maleta lista! Apasionada de la fotografía y los viajes de aventura. Me encontrarás siempre fotografiando un atardecer y acariciando a cualquier perrito. 🐶


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