Xcaret Eco Park history
Once upon a time, about 25 years ago, there was no Riviera Maya and there were no "tourist attractions" south of Cancun, with the exception of Tulum archaeological zone. Then a group of Mexican entrepreneurs with a very clear vision of the future trajectory of tourism in the State of Quintana Roo, purchased the land surrounding Xcaret. In 1984, Architect Miguel Quintana Pali, captivated by the spot's natural beauty, purchased 5 hectares of this wonderful parcel from his associates, with the idea of building his dream home. When he began to clear the land he started uncovering cenotes formed by collapsed cave ceilings weakened by 3 million years of erosion from underground rivers running through them, then flowing into the sea. He felt that so much beauty should not be accessible to only a privileged few. So, Quintana began to formulate the idea of a Natural Park, open to the public. He soon joined forces with Oscar, Marcos and Carlos Constandse to turn this great dream into a reality, and Xcaret was born.
As you enter the Xcaret park you will be handed a map that shows where all the exhibits and attractions within the park are located. This is a tremendous help because Xcaret is a "green zone" with virtually all its features hidden down manicured paths through the green. The jungle ambiance is wonderful. Xcaret also maintains its own nursery where they raise native plant species to supplement the natural landscape.
Scarlet Macaws and Parrots welcome visitors on the entry path to Xcaret Eco Park
Parrots and scarlet macaws
It is unusual to see these magnificent tropical birds under any circumstances, but at Xcaret you can get up close and even interact with them because these birds are NOT in cages. Parrots and macaws mate for life and at Xcaret they have plenty of company. Parrots and macaws are naturally inquisitive and despite their powerful beaks, these birds were quite gentle. The most we got was a squeeze and a gentle pinch, just enough for a lasting memory of how special these rare birds are. For many visitors this is the closest they will ever get to these beautiful tropical birds. We recommend all visitors follow Xcaret's rules when interacting with the birds.
The orchid greenhouse
The orchid greenhouse has an amazing variety of orchids with 89 species endemic to the region and a variety of bromeliads and other beautiful flowering species. The greenhouse is right next to the mushroom farm and Xcaret's nursery of indigenous plants. A "nature walk" with plaques identifying a wide variety of plant species leads from the nursery area through the jungle, and back to the main park exhibits.
There are several small Maya temples within Xcaret's 80+ hectares (200 acres). Xcaret is a Mayan word meaning "small inlet". This location was at its peak from 1400 to 1517 A.D. when it was known as Polé. It is believed that the Mayas bathed in the inlet to purify their bodies before traveling to Cozumel by canoe to worship Ixchel, the Goddess of Fertility.
The beaches of Quintana Roo are an important nesting habitat for marine sea turtles, especially loggerhead turtles, green sea turtles and hawksbill turtles. At Xcaret you will have the opportunity to see these graceful swimmers up close, and learn about their nesting habits and ocean environment, and the challenges they face as they adapt and survive on planet earth.
The coral reef aquarium
This exhibit is located right next to the sea turtles area and is a fantastic opportunity to see colorful fish, hard and soft coral, anemones, sponges, star fish, crustaceans and many other reef dwellers that inhabit Quintana Roo's offshore reefs and marine estuaries. You will see creatures that live at various depths and learn how they contribute to the biologically diverse ecosystem of the ocean and the lagoon estuaries that can be visited along the Riviera Maya coastline.
Xcaret is a cultural experience night or day. Evening shows take place in Xcaret's amphitheater, the Grand Tlachco, which has a seating capacity of 6,000. Shows range from Maya ceremonies to internationally famous entertainment acts.
One of the most popular areas in the Xcaret Eco Park is its protected beach area. This is where many visitors enjoy a little sunbathing and dawn their bathing suits for a refreshing swim in calm water. Nearby are sea view restaurants and the popular swim-with-dolphins experience. Also available at the beach are sea excursions like the sea trek, snuba tour and snorkeling tour.
Swim with dolphins experience
This is your opportunity to spend some time with the dolphins, swim with them and pet them. Then, into the water you go, to join them in their interactive "mime" games. You will also learn how dolphins breathe, eat and sleep. The grand finale is the thrilling experience of dolphins leaping over your head!
Jaguars and pumas are among the most powerful cats in the world and are indigenous species to the Yucatan peninsula. The odds that you would see one of these cats in the wild, while on your Riviera Maya vacation, are about 1,000,000 to 1; however, at Xcaret you will be able to see both the black jaguar and the spotted jaguar from across the moat encircling jaguar island. Jaguars are the 3rd largest cat in the world after lions and tigers, and seeing them at at Xcaret is an unforgettable experience.
Visit Xcaret just south of Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico