I traveled to Xel Ha with my family (wife and two kids) in July, 2013. I booked the excursion through my hotel concierge. I booked the transportation option as well because I thought it would be a lot more convenient, especially with the kids, if we could catch a bus right there at the hotel. I'm glad I did it that way--particularly on the return trip. You can catch an ADO bus from downtown and it takes you right to Xel Ha and back. Less money, but a little bit inconvenient to get there from the hotel zone and then get back when your day is done.
We booked our day through Xperiencias Xcaret, and I'm glad we did. They had everything running smoothly right from the start. When we got to Xel Ha the guide explained the park to us using a map. I could tell that others who did not have this explanation were a bit confused at first. The park is quite large, but we managed to cover almost all of it in one day. I agree with some of the other reviews when they say that this park combined with a dolphin swim or a Tulum excursion is too much for one day.
The park is all-inclusive, and there are several restaurants and bars scattered throughout. We ate breakfast to fill up before we snorkled the lazy river and the lagoon. I notice that some reviews said the food was average, but I thought it was great for both breakfast and lunch (particularly breakfast).
We took the "tram" to the top of the "lazy river" to maximize our time. There are two options when you get to the top. You can tube the river or snorkle it. We snorkled it, and I'm glad we did it that way. There are a few fish on this part, but I enjoyed just getting used to the snorkle and checkign out the unique layout of the river. As other reviewers stated, you do have to watch out where you're going or you might get kicked by another swimmer. Everyone is looking down through their masks, so they can't always see where they (or you) are.
The lazy river comes out into the huge lagoon that you see on many of the photos. There are several things to do along the lagoon such as zip lines, jumping off cliffs, walking a rope, etc. There were some clowns on the rope walk purposely swinging the rope to knock everyone else off, and I could tell this annoyed some of the other folks who really wanted to give it a try. I did the zip lines, and that was pretty fun. Then came more snorkeling. You can see some fish if you look in the right places.
We grabbed lunch (no time really for some of those potentially yummy all-inclusive bar drinks) and walked over a floating bridge to a "cave" and a rope swing and cenote. You could not swim in the cenote, but it was some pretty cool viewing. We then walked to a point with a lighthouse and a beach. It would have been nice to swim at the beach a bit, but the park closes pretty early (I think 6pm) and it was time to get back to our bus for the ride back to Cancun.
I had researched both Xel Ha and Xcaret. I'm glad I chose Xel Ha because I think the kids really enjoyed the snorkeling and the activities. I spoke to some people who had kids and had been to both, and they told me that, while Xcaret was nice, the kids liked Xel Ha better. Xcaret does have a cool show at the end of the day, but keep in mind that it is all in Spanish.
I would definitely suggest this park to anyone, regardless of swimming ability. They require life jackets in the lagoon, so you are protected even if swimming isn't your thing. The showers and changing rooms were clean and adequate. Just don't forget the spf shirt and the biodegradable sunscreen!
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