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“A Giant Swimming Hole, in the best way possible”
Review of Xel-Ha

Xel-Ha
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USD 119.00*
and up
Xel-Ha All-Inclusive Day Trip from Cancun
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USD 89.00*
and up
Xel-Ha Park All-Inclusive Admission Ticket
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USD 119.00*
and up
Xel-Há All-Inclusive Day Trip from Playa del Carmen
Certificate of Excellence
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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 young children, Activities for older children
Reviewed 1 April 2012

This was my first visit to Xel-Ha and my spouse's second. I've been snorkeling and hiking at nature preserves in Hawai'i so I kind of was expecting something similar, but with Mexican wildlife. And that's pretty much what this water park is about.

Xel-Ha is at the interface between several freshwater rivers and the ocean. Therefore the water has a curious halocline (interface between waters of different salinities) that gives an interesting visual effect (called schlering) when you snorkel or dive in the waters. The local ecosystem is interesting as well. You have a large mangrove forest which is maintained and largely planted, but nonetheless what I would consider naturally active and a saltwater coral reef. There are nets to keep large predators such as sharks out, but that admit colorful fish and rays. This means it's safe for all ages to snorkel in the park without worrying about sharks. Most areas of the park require life vests as a safety precaution. You will find some areas that allow free diving but it's at your own risk. Masks, fins, and snorkels are available for free after paying a deposit. You can also bring and use your own equipment.

The reef, for the most part, is quite healthy and you'll see a large variety of fish and rays. We also saw a lot of starfish and conches. The managers of property encourage the use of biodegradable sunscreen but people obviously sneak in non-bio sunscreen. And it's nearly impossible to keep so many people completely off the reef. But, again, for the most part the reef is healthy.

There is a walking trail that completely circumnavigates the property. It's a nice walk and you'll get a good view of the canopy, the cenotes, caves, and the local wildlife. We saw numbers of iguanas, coati, all kinds of birds, and little guinea pig-like rodents. Signs along the path describe and explain the local flora and fauna.

Other activities in the park include a lovely ocean front sugar sand beach, zip-lines, a rope walk, tubing through the mangroves, dolphin and manatee encounters (which cost extra), horticulture exhibits, shopping, and a short cliff dive. It's pretty much a huge, enormous swimming hole. In the best way possible. There are lounge chairs and hammocks everywhere in the park, but I never used one as I was enjoying the aquatic fun too much.

Strangely enough I also saw the prettiest outdoor bathroom I've ever seen. It's located at the top of the tubing river. Walk, ride, or bike and check out the facilities. It's unexpected.

As others have noted food and drinks are included with the price of admission. The food isn't gourmet but is exactly what I want when I've spent all day in the water and sun. The ceviche was really good (surprisingly good). Avoid the beer if you're inclined to dehydration and stick to the gatorade-like drink at the soda fountain. Also avoid fried food and sausage if your stomach is sensitive, as mine is. Salads and ceviche are a good way to recover from this type of activity. The ice and water are filtered. Speaking Spanish is helpful but not 100% necessary.

Lockers are also free, but get one early as they all get used first thing in the morning. One was big enough to hold my gear (mask, snorkel, SCUBA fins and personal stuff) but not my spouse's stuff.

We'll be back. Admission is pricey at around $80 USD per person, but it's worth it for a full day of fun. I advise against combining a trip to Xel-Ha with a trip to Tulum. You need to spend all day at Xel-Ha to see/do everything.

Note to those with extreme sun-sensitivity: if you're like me, and cannot go out in direct sunlight, purchase a dive skin (a thin all-over swimsuit) at any SCUBA shop before your trip and wear it over your regular swimsuit while you're at Xel-Ha. There is plenty of shade for breaks from the sun. Biodegradable sunblock is available in the park (about $20 a bottle). Biodegradable sunblock does not last all day so reapply often. And drink plenty of cold, non-alcoholic drinks throughout the day.

9  Thank Shutter_Bug
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 31 March 2012

This trip was alot of FUN! Beautiful setting. The water is so clear. Wait to snorkel until you get to the reefs after the lazy river. Not many fish before that. This is a family park, so plan on alot of people being there, although the lines don't take up all that much time. If you rent the snorkel supplies, rest assured the breathing tube is new, clean and packaged in plastic. You get to keep it. The start of the lazy river is beatiful with the mangrove canopy. You can get a locker for most of your personal items, but keep your shoes on. There is another place to leave your shoes before you start the lazy river. You can put them in a locked bag, that will be moved to a convenient place for you to retreive, after the ride. Have FUN!

2  Thank Nanci222
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 March 2012

make sure when signing up for the dolphin experiance you get all the information what all the dolphins will do my grand kids only got to swim with the dolphins no interaction what so ever

Thank bruno k
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
ExperienciasXcaret, Coordinación at Xel-Ha, responded to this reviewResponded 9 April 2012

We like to thank you for your comments. Regarding the swimming with dolphins program, we would like to know which of the programs did your grandchild do, because at Xel Ha we have Delphinus Co. that has 3 different programs:
-Primax program that includes: foot push, kisses, hugs, jumps, signal, swirl, dolphin sing, free interaction time, signal dolphins.
-Interax, program that includes: kisses, free interaction time, signal platform, hugs, signaling dolphins, bar jump
-Dolphin Ride program that includes: free interaction time, platform, dancing, singing, tail splash, platform, hand shaking, bubbles, dolphin ride.

Also Xel Ha has the new activity called Dolphin Trek, where you interact with the dolphins while you walk under the water with a helmet. All the activities give you the opportunity to interact with the dolphins.

Thank you for your feet back it is very valuable for us.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 March 2012

Xel-ha is more than just a park. It's a nature preserve and activity center. Sitting at the interface between a cold, fresh-water underground river and the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico the environment and ecology of the lagoon contained within the resort is dense and diverse. Snorkeling is encouraged, and masks, fins, and snorkels are available for use at no cost as are life jackets. Many areas of the park require life jackets to swim, and vests are found on racks nearby all water entrances. Reef fish in the lagoon are plentiful and colorful, and there are signs in many areas to help swimmers identify the fish they have seen. Conch and rays can be encountered anywhere on the bottom, but you may have to look closely to find them. Have no fear of encountering a shark however. There's a shark fence at the entrance to the bay to keep them out. Disposable waterproof cameras are available for sale at kiosks throught the area if you would like to have a record of your under water experiences, but as could be expected the prices are marked-up considerably.

A hiking trail wends throughout the park through dense jungle and over cenotes (water-filled sink holes where the ground has collapsed into caves and subterrenian rivers). All manner of native wildlife can be observed including birds, iguana, and coati (house cat sized, red colored mammals related to racoons), and educational and informative signs are posted all along the trail. Other activities at Xel-ha include tubing down the river under a tunnel of mangroves, zip-lining into the water, and cliff diving as well of course as relaxing in the sun on a beach chair or hammock.

Food and drinks are included at no extra cost in the price of admission, and the food is unexpectedly good. Served sit-down buffet style the cuisine is mostly fast-food staples (burgers, hotdogs, pizza, ribs, salad, chips and salsa, etc.). The quality suffers from the same problems most buffets experience (some items are over-cooked, bread-based foods get stale quickly), but the food turns over frequently and is fresh at the time it's brought out.

For an additional price visitors can have the "Dolphin Experience" (swimming with and learning about dolphins), the "Manatee Experience" (same as the Dolphin Experience but with manatees), and the "Stingray Experience" (you get the idea), and adventerous visitors can try SNUBA or Sea Trek. Similar to SCUBA diving SNUBA allows swimmers to breathe and swim freely under water, but everyone in the group is tethered by their air hose to a floating bouy rather than having to wear tanks. This keeps everyone close where the guide can watch them and prevents anyone from going too deep. Sea Trek is a guided, underwater experience in which the swimmers wear an air-filled helmet and walk along the bottom of the lagoon. For visitors less inclined to adventure there are spa services available as well.

Given the opportunity to visit I encourage anyone to make an entire day of it and not to split time between Xel-ha and another attraction (Tulum for instance). The park is HUGE, and anything less than an entire day will leave you feeling that you missed something. I took the Dolphin Experience on my first visit and enjoyed it, but I recommend skipping the guided adventures on your first visit and just explore the area.

10  Thank Zircon73
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 30 March 2012

This is the 2nd time I've been to Xel-Ha and every time it gets better and better! You really need to spend the entire day at Xel-Ha to have the full experience. The Swim with the Dolphins was an awesome Experience, and we also did the Snuba Cenote in the caves....That was a great experience diving in the caves, and we got to swim next to a Barracuda :-)..........

The Lazy river was fun, however you do have to do some work to get down the river, there is no current. But there are lots of fun places to stop and do some activities, such as the cliff dive, zip line, and tight rope walking, which was a challenge but super fun!

My only complaint was the price of the pictures and dvd of dolphin swim, crazy prices, so make sure you have extra money for those things!

I'm very particular about the things I like to do, but Xel-Ha is an amazing experience for all ages and we will be back next year!

1  Thank Gabrielle J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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