How to Xcaret: A guide to plan your day of activities at Xcaret

xcaret finale espectacular show

Before we went to Xcaret, we had a hard time finding information about how to plan the order of our day’s activities. So, here is the information that we wish we had that will help you get a plan together for your perfect day at Xcaret! This article will help you order your activities, discover the shows and workshops available, learn how to get cheap tickets and also to decide whether you want to get food or transport included.

What is Xcaret?

I’d describe it as equal parts animal park, water park and Mexican cultural celebration/demonstration. Some people say it’s like Disneyland. It’s really not. It’s a beautiful park with an emphasis on conservation and preservation of the local culture, flora and fauna. The park is suitable and interesting for all ages.

If you only have one day in this area of Mexico, Xcaret is a fantastic place to get a taste of the region’s delights. You can go snorkelling, swim in underground rivers, see animals from the region, learn about Mayan traditions, see ruins and watch an authentic Mexican show.

Xcaret ticket options
Xcaret combo tickets
how to visit xcaret cemetery
The Mexican Cemetery, part of the Mayan white route

How to plan your day at Xcaret

What is each route all about?

  • Black route – has the three rivers and a random selection of animals and ruins.
  • Blue route – has all the sea animal enclosures.
  • Green route – snorkelling and the beach.
  • Red route – natural pools and paid beach activities.
  • White route – Mayan cultural structures and butterflies, birds and jaguar enclosures.
  • Brown route – the grand theatre, the scenic tower and Mexican art.
xcaret underground river entrance
Underground River entrance

What are the must-do activities at Xcaret?

  • Evening show from 7pm to 9pm.
  • Underground rivers. We did the Mayan river, as recommended by our guide as the river that are displayed in Xcaret’s promotional pictures. There are three rivers, and each one takes 45 minutes. The first half of the Mayan route is uneventful, but the second half goes through the stained-glass plaza, a bat cave, photo opportunities and a Mayan statue.
  • Ceremony of the Voladores and Flying with Eagles. Arrive there just before 11am, the Flying with Eagles show immediately follows the Voladores. Both shows are super interesting.
  • Pre-Hispanic Dances in the Mayan village.
  • Admire the turtles, manatees, sharks and dolphins. Xcaret offer interactive activities with the dolphins and sharks, if you’re interested in them.
prehispanic dance at xcaret
Part of the Pre-Hispanic Dances at 5:00 pm in the Mayan Village
Buy your tickets directly from Xcaret’s site here.

Is one day enough at Xcaret?

It depends, you may prefer to get the two-day pass (second day half price) if you have plenty of time. If you stay at their hotel, you can access the park whenever you like for free, so this could be a relaxing way to explore Xcaret without having to cram it all into one day. For example, the beach area looked really lovely, but with limited time, we didn’t stop to enjoy it.

I left feeling like there was still more to enjoy at Xcaret, but we were still satisfied with what we had seen. We arrived at 10am and I would recommend getting there earlier to get more done.

To get the most from one day:

  • Do only one river. The river ends at the beach, so you’ll then explore the red, green or blue route, or return back down the black route to get changed if you do the rivers at the end of the day.
  • Skip beach and snorkel activities if you’re going to spend time on the beach in Mexico or go snorkelling at Akumal. This means you can entirely ignore the red and green routes.
  • Do a maximum of one paid activity.
  • Plan which shows or workshops you want to attend, then plan your day around them.
  • Skip the scenic tower. You don’t get much of a view because (and this is a good thing) the park is almost entirely covered by trees. The tower ride takes about ten minutes and you have to walk down to the end of the park to where the evening show takes place, so there’s a time-suck there.
view of xcaret from tower
View of the park from the scenic tower

What’s the best order of activities?

The Xcaret representative we met when we arrived recommended to start with the rivers, then explore the blue, black, red and green routes doing what interests you, then spend the last two hours of the day in the white and brown routes. She recommended arriving at 6:30pm for the 7pm show.

Xcaret Itinerary (what we did)

  • 10:30 am Scenic tower to get the lay of the land (suggest skipping this)
  • 10:45 am Check into Plus lockers, put clothes and shoes away and get changed into swimwear and swim shoes
  • 11:00 am Watch Voladores and Flying Eagles
  • 11:45 am Choose a river to swim along (definitely have your towel sent to the end of the rivers)
  • 1:00 pm Have a snack and relax in the natural pools
  • 1:30 pm Walk along the black route to see bats and manatees
  • 2:00 pm Start the blue route and see the turtles and other sea life
  • 3:00 pm Get changed into clothing
  • 3:15 pm Late lunch at Mexican buffet (wouldn’t really recommend this restaurant)
  • 4:15 pm Explore the white route and catch the 5:00 pm Pre-Hispanic dances
  • 6:15 pm Walk along to the theatre for the evening show

Overall, I wish we came earlier to have more time for the white (Mayan) route as it was extremely interesting, and also to feel less rushed to see everything we wanted to see.

how to plan day baby turtles xcaret
Baby turtles growing before Xcaret releases into the wild

Day Plan at Xcaret with an early start

  • Arrive as early as you can and start with the blue, green and red routes. Allow two hours or more if you do an activity.
  • 11:00 am Voladores and Flying with Eagles. You do see a simplified version of the Voladores in the evening show, so skip this if there’s other things you’d rather do.
  • 12:00 pm Do the rivers
  • 1:00 pm Chill on the beach and have lunch or walk back down the black route then have lunch
  • 3:30 pm Start the white route. Do a 45-minute workshop, like the Chocolate workshop, which is held every hour on the hour. Don’t miss the Pre-Hispanic dances at 5:00 pm, they are incredible, and you won’t see this in the evening show.
  • 6:15 pm Grab a snack or drink and head down the brown route to the show
relaxing photo spot
There are lots of spots to take a photo to remember your time at Xcaret!

Day Plan at Xcaret with a Paid Activity

  • Arrive as early as you can
  • 9:00 am Start with a river
  • 10:00 am Do a paid activity
  • 12:00 pm Lunch on the beach
  • 1:00 pm Explore the blue and black routes
  • 3:00 pm Start the white route. Do one or two 45-minute workshops and watch the Pre-Hispanic dances.
  • 6:00 pm Watch the Horse Exhibition
  • 6:20 pm Grab a snack or drink and head down the brown route to the show

Think about the three elements of the park: animals, water and Mexican culture. If one of them doesn’t interest you, don’t allocate your time to it. You’ve visited cenotes already? You could skip the river, or save it as a back up if you have time. If you haven’t gone snorkelling but have been to an aquarium before, skip the blue route and do the green route!

ritual ceremony of voladores xcaret
The Ritual Ceremony of the Voladores at Xcaret

What are the performances?

There are several shows during the day. Pick the ones that interest you, then plan your day around them. I highly recommend the shows we saw; the Ritual Ceremony of the Voladores, Flying with Eagles, Pre-Hispanic Dances and the evening show.

Harp Recital (45 mins)
  • 9:00 am and 10:00 am every day except Tuesday.
  • La Ordíquea Restaurant, in the park’s entrance.
Ritual Ceremony of the Voladores (20 mins)
  • 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, 3:00 pm every day.
  • Near the Plus lockers, on the black route, five minutes’ walk from the entrance.
Flying with Eagles (20 mins)
  • 11:15 am every day.
  • Near the Plus lockers, on the black route, five minutes’ walk from the entrance.
Dance of the Owl (5 mins)
  • 4:45 pm every day, depending on the season.
  • At the white route caves entrance.
Pre-Hispanic Dances (25 mins)
  • 5:00 pm every day.
  • In the heart of the Mayan village, on the white route.
Water Bottle Chimes (45 mins)
  • 5:00 pm every day.
  • In the museum on the brown route.
Folkloric Exhibition (20 mins)
  • 5:30 pm every day.
  • In the open-air theatre, on the blue route, where it meets the black route.
Horse Exhibition (20 mins)
  • 6:00 pm every day.
  • Near the park entrance, where the black, brown and white routes converge.
Pre-Hispanic Welcome (50 mins)
  • Not a show, but along the route to the theatre for the evening show, the performers from the Pre-Hispanic Dances earlier in the day pose for photos and selfies. There is live traditional music.
  • 6:00 pm every day.
Xcaret México Espectacular (2 hours)
  • 7:00 pm every day (arrive at 6:30 pm)
ancient ball game show
A demonstration of the ancient Mayan ball game during the Mexico Espectacular evening show

What are the workshops?

They’re held in the Mayan village, in the white route, and they all last 45 minutes. The workshops are on different subjects on each theme. For example, the coconut workshops could be on braiding coconut leaves, or using the coconut milk. Check that the time slot is going to happen on the day you are there. We noticed a listed workshop that didn’t seem to be running.

  • Chocolate Workshop – hourly from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm
  • Coconut Workshop – 10:00 am, 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm
  • Wool Workshop – 10:00 am, 12:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 5:00 pm
  • Ceramics Painting Workshop – 11:00 am, 12:00 pm, 1:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 5:00 pm
  • Clay Workshop – 11:00 am, 12:00 pm, 3:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 5:00 pm
  • Bead Workshop – 1:00 pm, 3:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 5:00 pm

Tips for your day at Xcaret Park

Do you need water shoes to visit Xcaret?

No. Flip flops or sneakers are fine. Make sure you put them in the bag to meet you at the end of the river. If you don’t enjoy swimming with fins (provided for free), then wear water shoes to protect your feet from the rivers.

dance at xcaret show
Part of the Mariachi medley at the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular evening show

Is it worth staying for the Xcaret evening show?

Yes! The first half showcases two ancient games, the Mayan ball game and hockey with a flaming ball. Then it tells the story of the Spanish conquest. There is a ten-minute intermission, and then the second half begins. The second half includes the ceremony of the Voladores and a collection of songs and dances from all around Mexico. The show finishes with a grand Mariachi medley. It’s a fantastic and high-quality show that will excite every age.

Only want to go for the evening show?

This is an option, with the discounted evening ticket to Xcaret. You can enter the park from 4:00 pm. This will give you enough time to explore one route, like floating along one of the rivers or exploring the white Mayan route before heading on to the evening show.

Can you take food and drink into Xcaret?

water refill stations
One of the water bottle refill stations

No one checked our bags and there isn’t a specific area set up for bag checking. We took in avocado sandwiches, protein bars and water bottles.

There are water fountains for drink bottles around the park, so you can refill your drink bottle during the day.

There are drinks and snacks available in the park, and they aren’t priced extortionately. The big Stax chips cans (like Pringles but also gluten free) are 80 pesos and soft drinks (‘refrescos’) are around 45-60 pesos. These are easy, albeit unhealthy, options to sustain you through the evening show.

Is the Plus package worth it?

We felt it was average value for money. Since we didn’t do snorkelling, we didn’t get to take advantage of the value of the free snorkel hire (you only get snorkels at the beach, there is no snorkelling in the rivers). If you’re set on a buffet lunch, it may be worth it for you. They’re about 650 pesos per person if you just go on the day.

You can choose from lots of buffet restaurants. We ate our buffet lunch at La Cocina, the Mexican buffet. The quality of the food extremely disappointed us. The meat was good, but it was the worst Mexican food we had eaten all trip. We were expecting to try a variety of Mexican food, but we felt there was a limited variety. The guacamole for example, was awful. It was the kind that is manufactured and sold in supermarkets, with that fake texture and flavour. This surprised us given that avocados are only 60 pesos per kilogram in the supermarket, and we’ve had amazing guacs all around the Yucatan peninsula.

Verdict: If you will eat good Mexican food during your stay, go to a different buffet. If you’re staying in Playa, some good Mexican restaurants we ate at are Axiote, Micaela’s, Porfirio’s, El Fogon and Zitla’s. They can all cater to celiac/coeliac disease.

How do you get to Xcaret?

I’d recommend taking a taxi. But here’s your summary of options:

  • Take a colectivo there for 25 pesos pp. There’s a shuttle to take you from the highway to the entrance. You must catch a taxi back, however, if you’re going home after the evening show.
  • Take a taxi. Just flag one down on the street. 250 pesos is the standard 1-4-person taxi cost between Xcaret and Playa del Carmen. The Cabify app can be helpful to get a taxi from your accommodation if you’re not staying somewhere where taxis are accessible. The Cabify price is between 250 and 300 pesos from Playa del Carmen to Xcaret.
  • Self-drive. Keep in mind it’s not recommended to drive in the dark in Mexico, so do this at your own risk.
  • Take the Xcaret transportation. This is an expensive option (500 pesos pp for return to Playa del Carmen) and not as convenient as a taxi.

Are there discounts for tickets to Xcaret?

You are always eligible for up to 15% off at Xcaret’s website.

Yes, check their promotions page.

Otherwise, don’t pre-book and just go haggle on Fifth Ave with the ticket sellers. Despite our best planning, we ended up unable to access a printer so ended up buying tickets from a street seller. We got our Xcaret Plus tickets with return transport included for 2,350 pesos per person (that’s 25% off the Xcaret website price). Didn’t need any promotional code or special credit card. The only catch was that they needed us to pay in cash, so we had to make a quick trip to the ATM on 10th before purchasing and it made for a later start in the day than we had originally planned.

Free your second day at Xcaret with HSBC

Do I have to print my ticket?

If you buy online, you have to present a printed ticket but try downloading the app and buying your tickets on the app, because this is the only way they will accept your phone ticket at the park.

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