I travel to Mexico a great deal; in fact, I like to think of myself as self-appointed and unofficial ‘mayor’ of all things Mexican. I love the country’s rich history and vibrant culture, so each time I visit I endeavor to find something new and exciting to add to an already long list of fond memories. Therefore, my last visit was no different. What surprises me the most about this incredible country is the fact that I am constantly amazed at the “fun factor” beyond the stereotypical beaches and make no mistake, I find my way to it!

First, I have a secret to share – I love a good theme park. I’ve been to far more than I would like to admit and enjoyed each minute of wizardry, fantasy, and coaster-centric moments. But it often feels as if there is something missing, and I believe I finally figured it out on my last sojourn to the land of the majestic Mayans. I have always loved Mexico for her beautiful weather, incredible beaches, and glorious history, but I never fully embraced her fun and irreverent side until I decided to focus on her themed parks. What I found was the ultimate combination of culture and adventure providing grown-up fun that satisfied the kid inside of me. I also found myself learning about Mexico without even realizing it, and having an amazing week filled with surprises the entire time.

So, with my secret obsession no longer a secret, here are some highlights from my last foray into theme park fun, along with a few of my “mayoral” insights to help you plan your next journey.

 

XCARET PARK – The Heart of Mexican Culture

Located in the sultry Riviera Maya, about 47 miles south of Cancun on Mexico’s Caribbean coastline, Xcaret is billed as an eco-archaeological park. Situated on about 200 acres, it opened in December 1990. The name comes from the nearby archaeological site, Xcaret. This area was inhabited by Pre-Columbian Mayans, and the park proudly shelters some of their original structures within its borders. These archeological artifacts serve as the foundation for a park that explores the rich Mexican history and honors the Mayan respect for the land

xcaret-park-aerial

XCARET PARK – The Heart of Mexican Culture

 

The park boasts forty fun-filled, nature-based attractions to amaze, engage and amuse, such as a river that flows right through a Mayan village and a subterranean area for swimming and snorkeling. While strolling the grounds and enjoying genuine Mexican food, you can also watch artisans at work in a replica of a Mayan village, and marvel at the chemistry between rider and horse at an equestrian show. A fun way to get to the village is by walking through the underground caves and caverns. I may have gotten a bit lost, and run into a raccoon or two, but that all seemed to add to the adventure!

I also visited a Mexican cemetery where the dead are remembered and celebrated with a touch of humor, and learned about Mexican history at the Hacienda Henequenera. From there, you have easy access to other attractions such as taking in a Mesoamerican ball game and watching Mexican folklore dances at the Gran Tlachco Theater, or visiting the Folk Art Museum. Entertainment options include the astonishing acrobatics of the Papantla Flyers and a traditional Fiesta Charra. A true must-see is the “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular,” a celebration of light and color with 300 artists that takes the audience on a musical journey through the history of Mexico.

My nature-loving side was overwhelmed with a visit to Jaguar Island, the colorful Butterfly Pavilion, wild bird aviary, turtle pool, manatee lagoon, and a greenhouse full of aromatic orchids. I loved relaxing on the white sand beaches, and even had an opportunity to swim with dolphins. When I got hungry, there was a nice array of restaurants offering authentic Mexican and international cuisines to suit my hunger hankerings.

 

 

xcaret-noche1

XCARET PARK – The Heart of Mexican Culture Even After Dark

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE “MAYOR’S” INSIGHTS FOR XCARET

  • Take advantage of online pricing discounts – only $89.10 U.S. for the first day and $45.00 for an additional day (well worth it because there is so much to see and do). Use MasterCard to purchase your tickets by December 2, 2015 and the second day is free! Children ages 5-11 are half-price, while four and under are free. Book early and additional discounts apply.
  • Admission includes all shows, exhibitions, cultural tours, and water activities in the underground river as well as access to their bays, beaches, and natural pools. Another $27.00 gets you a buffet lunch which includes a beer and unlimited beverages including soft drinks, fresh water and coffee.
  • Day of the Dead: October 30 through November 2. Nobody respects the dead and celebrates life quite the way the Mexicans do!
  • Sacred Mayan Journey: Late May through early June. Recreation of the annual rite when Mayans crossed the sea to Cozumel to pay homage to the lunar goddess Ixchel.

XPLOR – Extreme Fun for the Adventurer in You

 

Xplor_20

Xplor is definitely all about the fun

Xplor is definitely all about the fun

Xplor is definitely all about the fun

Xplor is definitely all about the fun

Xplor is definitely all about the fun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While Xcaret focuses on culture and history, Xplor is definitely all about the fun. Have you got a list of adrenalin-pumping activities you’ve always wanted to try, but didn’t want to have to travel all over to find them? They’re all at Xplor.

Xplor opened in July 2009 next door to Xcaret. It offers an incredible combination of underground, on ground, and above ground adventures to satisfy the most energetic of thrill seekers. Here I got to participate in four activities which took place in their natural setting. First up was soaring over the jungle on 14 of the highest zip lines in Riviera Maya. Back on earth I became the Mexican Mario Andretti, expertly steering an amphibious vehicle through miles of Mayan jungle paths and underground caverns. I channeled Huck Finn, piloting a raft through crystal clear water. And then I made like Michael Phelps swimming through a trail of ancient caves and amazing rock formations.

Best of all, it’s an all-inclusive park. Online prices start at $125.10 U.S., but there are additional discounts for purchasing in advance or combining experiences with other parks. Children between 5 and 11 are half-price; children under five are not allowed. You get all the necessary equipment to safely enjoy two river circuits on the rafts, two circuits on the zip lines, a 6.2 mile amphibious vehicle adventure, and swimming in the Stalactite River, as well as an unlimited buffet and unlimited snacks and beverages.

THE “MAYOR’S” INSIGHTS FOR XPLOR

  • If you think this is heart-palpitating during the day, wait until you try it at night with Xplor Fuego! It’s a whole new experience after sunset with added touches such as torches, fireflies, the moon and stars lighting up the paths, bridges and caves.
  • Purchase the Photo Pass, which includes all photographs taken at photo spots by professional photographers and most optional activities photos. You’ll receive express delivery of a USB jam-packed with photo memories.
  • Show your Xcaret wristband for free admission to the Cancun Scenic Tower and enjoy breath-taking panoramic views of the Caribbean.

XOXIMILCO – Party Time, Mexican Style

 

What is a trip to Mexico without a fiesta?

What is a trip to Mexico without a fiesta?

What is a trip to Mexico without a fiesta?

What is a trip to Mexico without a fiesta?

What is a trip to Mexico without a fiesta?

What is a trip to Mexico without a fiesta?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is a trip to Mexico without a fiesta? I traveled to Xoximilco to experience the magic of Mexican folklore, indulge myself with a true Mexican fiesta, enjoy maybe just a little bit of tequila, and dance the night away to some genuine mariachi music. Every day is a party here.

Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 1987, Xoximilco provides a true picture of Mexican history and is also its most enjoyable cultural experience. Xoximilco means field of flowers, so the sights are particularly stunning. I enjoyed the pre-Hispanic legends as we traveled through Mexico’s history, and appreciated watching typical Mexican games, but what really blew me away was the abundance of authentic Mexican cuisine.

More than just theme park burgers and fries, my palate was overcome with delicious, fresh and vibrant taste sensations such as the “salsa picosita,” dips made with squash blossoms, their world-famous “guacamolito,” a succulent chicken in mole sauce, and pork with achiote sauce. I thought I couldn’t possibly eat any more, until they brought out the desserts, and I suddenly found I had plenty of room left to enjoy traditional Mexican candies accompanied by a Mexican sweet coffee. The night was capped off by gliding along the canals on a colorfully decorated party trajinera (boat), while being serenaded by musicians and marimba players.

THE MAYOR’S INSIGHTS FOR XOXIMILCO

  • This experience lasts about three hours, for an online cost of $80.10 U.S. Children 5-11 are half-price, but I would really recommend finding a sitter and enjoying an adults-only evening!
  • Dinner tasting includes a free bar of beer, tequila, sodas and fresh flavored water to refresh and cleanse the palate. A gourmet meal is available for vegetarians.
  • Combine your visit to Xcaret with a fiesta at Xoximilco for a true Mexican cultural experience.
  • The parties get even bigger and better on New Year’s Day and Mexican Independence Day. I also thought this would be the picture-perfect spot for a romantic destination wedding.

All the parks are the brain-child of the Xcaret Group, a leader in socially responsible and sustainable tourist recreation. They have invigorated tourism in Riviera Maya and Cancun, offering adult as well as family friendly fun. The parks are creative and ever-evolving, so you’ll want to come back again and again. Rediscover the joy of “theme parking”, and let t these Mexican marvels show you how.