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“Two years in a row!”
Review of Xel-Ha

More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Xel-Ha Natural wonder awaits you! Xel-Ha is simply unique! Xel-Ha is one of the world's most beautiful, natural aquariums. And it's all inclusive too!!! Swim and snorkel surrounded by rainbow colored fish who have made the river and inlet their home, take long walks in the middle of the jungle, ride a bike, take the train or just relax while enjoying the lazy river! All these activities are included too!
Useful Information: Activities for older children, Activities for young children
Reviewed September 2, 2013

So the first year we went we did Tulum and Xel Ha in the same day... DON'T DO IT! you don't get enough time and Xel ha if you do!!

Anyways, the first year we went we also did the Snuba in the Cenote and the Dolphin experience.

So snuba was awesome! If you don't scuba dive but you want to be able to dive you should try it out, it was really fun and easy. The cenote was beautiful and the staff was really patient and made sure everyone had a fantastic experience.

The dolphin encounter was.... Well, I am terrified of dolphins so.... I went because.. who is scared of flipper!? So, i reluctantly got in the water and it was fine. I was nervous, but I felt very safe and the dolphins are beautiful. The one thing that sucked was that out of my group, I was the only one who was American so the whole experience was in Spanish, so I couldn't even explain to the people in my group that I am terrified so they just thought I was crazy.... And I didn't know what was happening because the trainers kept forgetting that i didn't speak spanish... While I am glad I did it, I probably wouldn't do it again....

So after we did the dolphin encounter and the Snuba we didn't really have any time to do the main attraction our first year.

The second year however we made it a point to do what we came and payed for.
OMG it was unbelievably beautiful! The man groves were amazing alone, but then the snorkeling!! We saw tons of stingrays and fish, the water was the perfect turquoise... it was so fun, a great place to explore in the water and on the land!


1  Thank Molly K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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7,194 - 7,198 of 16,848 reviews

Reviewed September 2, 2013

We visited this past July and were blown away by Xel-ha! Out of the 8 different places I have snorkeled in the Riviera Maya, Xel-ha beats 7 of them. We (wife, daughters 14 and 8, and myself) snorkeled from the restaurant area up to the zip lines and saw angelfish, blue tang, butterfly fish, sargeant majors, large (rainbow) parrot fish, and a few others. Of course, fish stayed close to rock outcroppings. We even saw some crabs on the rocks by the zip lines.

Zip lines were great. We attached our snorkel gear to our life vests and went down each of them. We wished we had more time to spend over there. We had to rush over to the dolphin swim, which took approximately 25 minutes walking very fast. I could not believe how big this place was. I should have listened to the other reviews.

After the zip lines, we had lunch. The food was great. Selection was good and we enjoyed the drinks. Views from the second story of the restaurant were beautiful. They were even playing live music on the second floor.

After lunch, we snorkeled across the front of the inlet spending most of our time around the rocks in the middle of the inlet and on the far side of the inlet. We saw two sting rays by the rock island in the middle of the inlet. One was HUGE easily 4 feet across. We saw the same fish I listed above plus a huge school of jacks, needlefish, spotted trunkfish, a conch making a trail through the sand, and several others. We saw a third ray on the far side of the inlet.

After snorkeling, we got out and walked back across the floating bridge. By then it was closing time. I couldn't believe that we had already been there for 8 hours. I felt like we hadn't even visited half of the park. When I return to the Riviera Maya, I will be sure to get there when it opens to take advantage of all there is to see and do there.

Advice: We purchased neoprene shoe/socks that were great for Xel-ha. We could slip them into our fins to snorkel and then walk around the trails with them. It made everything much easier! Also, buy underwater cameras online before you go.

Snorkeling was EXCELLENT. Food was GREAT. Scenery was undescribable. We cannot wait to return.

1  Thank bbradshaw_26
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 2, 2013

Xel-ha (pronounced shell ha) is great aquatic park with all kinds of activities, food and drink, all included with the price of admission ($70 per person). There are additional activities that can be added like swimming with dolphins. We enjoyed walking through the park, tubing down the river (seeing monkeys in the trees above), snorkeling, and just lounging in a hammock. The food and drink was good, though we ate and drank too much.Great fun for a day. Easy (cheap) bus ride from Playa del Carmen.

2  Thank ParrotLadyMexico
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 1, 2013

My husband and I arrived on a Thursday at the precise time that roughly four tour busses of people walked to the entrance. Swell.

The place was instantly packed - the line to go tubing wasn't long, but the "river" was so jam packed with people, it was tough to get around them. Other than the crowds in the afternoon hours (11:00 - 4:00), Xel-Ha was lovely.

My suggestions: find a stray tube along the walking path and just jump in. When you start at the beginning, you have to navigate through a tight space for about 50 meters, often only a single tube wide (makes it tough when the person in front of you isn't doing anything). And when you do tube, wear your flippers (that you must put a 150 peso deposit on). It's not really a flowing river so you need to propel yourself to get through it.

Go snorkeling in the late afternoon - most people have left at this point and there are fewer people in the lagoon. It makes your snorkel experience feel more personal.

Be sure to go cliff jumping and zip lining; both are exhilarating!

Wear shoes or sandals. Walking around on the uneven walkways is awkward and slippery and you get a bag to put your things in if you do want to get in the water at some point.

The buffet was tasty (especially the chicken legs and the burritos in the furthest back station), but the desserts left something to be desired. Opt for ice cream instead of attempting their cheesecake. There are a few self-serve Corona stations - find one and get your $80 worth! :)

Last, plan an entire day for Xel-Ha. We were there for five hours and only saw half of the park!

3  Thank danimsartori
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed September 1, 2013

We visited both Xel-Ha and Xcaret parks on our stay last week in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We have now been to both parks twice (previous visit about 3 years ago); both times I had a great time at both, but I enjoyed Xel-Ha more. (I'm also planning to write a separate review of Xcaret, so see that if you're interested.) We are a family with 2 kids, ages 8 and 3, and there were activities that all of us loved.

We arrived at Xel-Ha around 10am. We drove there from Playa del Carmen (we always rent a car to give us autonomy), about 35 minutes away. We had received discount tickets from having attended a timeshare presentation, but even if we had paid full price it would have been worth the visit! The park is all-inclusive, which is very convenient. Your entry fee gets you all day food and drinks, plus snorkel equipment (mask/fins/snorkel), life jackets, and towels (great so you don't have to lug your own!). There are a few activities that cost extra, but we didn't do any of these - there was enough to do with the included activities that we were busy until the park closed at 6pm.

First we got our snorkel equipment and snorkeled in the main lagoon area. They have nice sets of stairs built in many areas for easy entry to/exit from the water, and lots of chairs under umbrellas (we put our stuff on some chairs, but did not sit in them one bit - there's too much to do!). The moment we got into the water we were in the middle of a school of beautiful yellow and black fish, fantastic to look at. We swam around the rock formations in the middle of the lagoon and saw lots and lots of beautiful fish, including some lovely blue ones. The water was calm and it was easy to find things to look at. Even our 3 year old enjoyed this part immensely - we had practiced with her in our hotel pool the evening before we went so she would be used to wearing the mask and looking down. (We did bring our own life jacket and mask for her because we weren't sure if they would have ones small enough, and because she was used to them. She doesn't use a snorkel or fins yet, but just holds her breath, floats, and looks down! She saw just as much amazing stuff as we did.)

After snorkeling we decided to have lunch. We went to the Mexican buffet, which had a marimba band playing Mexican music, very nice accompaniment to lunch. The food in the park as a whole is just ok - it's about what you would expect for an all-inclusive buffet, fine for the occasion and very convenient.

After lunch we went to do the lazy river by inner tube. It's a long walk from the food area to the top of the river, but they provide a tram that will drive you to the top (which is great because it was very hot and we have little kids). (You can also walk or bike to the top - I think they provided bikes - but we preferred the convenience of the tram. Had no problem taking the stroller on it either.) When you get to the top of the river you check your belongings into locked bags, and they transport it down to the end of the river where it is waiting for you to pick up when you get there. Very convenient - they even took the stroller. You get a key to the lock on your bag, which is on a string so you can wear it around your neck until you pick it up.

Now at the top of the river you have a choice - you can either get an inner tube and float down, or you can enter as a snorkeler and swim/float down snorkeling. We chose the inner tubes. Our kids thought this part was a bit boring, but I found it relaxing - you don't move very fast, just float downstream, first through a mangrove forest and then the river opens up.

After a while of floating (and our 3 year old saying she wanted to get out), we came to the lower parts of the river where there are other activities you can pull over and do. First, my husband and older daughter went cliff jumping - there are stairs leading from the water up to the top of the cliff, and a life guard overseeing the whole thing. They did this twice. Then we floated further downstream and found some zip lines, which I did with my older daughter (these were definitely not activities for a 3 year old) - for me this was the highlight of the day. There are a few different ones and they all end up with you in the water, so it's a ton of fun. We got back into our tubes and headed even further downstream, where we found a rope obstacle - you had to try to hold onto a single overhead rope while walking along a rope suspended over the water. My older daughter was too short, but my husband attempted this a couple of times with each of the kids hanging onto his back. They all ended up in the water after not too long, but it was fun anway (looks hard - most people did not make it all the way across).

Then back into the tubes we went and floated further downstream to the main lagoon, where we got out, picked up our belongings, and had a snack and some drinks (this time at a more American-style food buffet, which had hot dogs and french fries and the like, along with some Mexican food as well plus ice cream - it's right next to the Mexican buffet where we had lunch).

Last item of the day was the playground. Our 3 year old had been so patient while we cliff jumped and zip lined that we really wanted to do an activity just for her. The playground was very big and had lots of stuff that both of our kids enjoyed, including an elevated "net" course you could climb through that had a long path through the forest. (Note: Also bring bug spray because towards the end of the day, walking through the forested paths, we were getting bitten by mosquitoes.) Also at the playground there is a small water slide that ends up in the lagoon, but with a life guard posted at the end. Kids can either get out via steps, or walk through an obstacle of floating foam "leaves" (fun for the 8 year old, too hard for the 3 year old). We stayed here until the park closed at 6pm.

At the end you have the option to buy photos that park photographers take of you during the day. (There are photographers stationed at most of the activities so you get your photo taken a bunch of times.) They have the photos already printed out and on display as you leave the park, no pressure to buy them, you just have to look around a bit to find yours (they have them grouped by activity). Actually the prices for the photos were not bad compared to, say, Disney World - photos were $14 each, and you can get the digital version for an extra $4, which we did (but you can only get the digital version if you buy the print version). The quality of the photos was actually really good, so we bought a few for the kids to remember the experience by. (Side note: There are a few photographers with parrots and macaws stationed around the park - they will take your photo holding the birds if you want. Again, no pressure to buy the photo, but even to get to hold the birds was fun for our kids!)

Overall we loved Xel-Ha, and would definitely go back. We do highly recommend this park if you're visiting the area.

5  Thank cea68
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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