Xel Ha Park in Riviera Maya, Mexico

We knew we wanted to go on a tour while we were in Cancun because there are so many interesting things to see and do in the Yucatan region. I began searching before we left Brazil and came across hundreds of tour operators with tours before I found a name I recognized – Viator Travel. I had spoken with their folks a few times before on Twitter and always heard good things about the company.

We decided to go with a day trip to Xel Ha park, which is a huge lagoon in the Yucatan jungle with all sorts of fun activities. It was really simple to book through Viator’s site and we even got a note sent to our hotel room confirming our pick up the night before.

We were picked up early in the morning and rode down to Xel Ha (about two hours south of Cancun) in a very comfortable bus with our guide. On the way, the guide explained lots of details about the natural environment at Xel Ha and answered any questions we had. He also gave us lots of tips on how to get the most out of our day there, explaining the layout of the park, where the crowds tend to gather and some tips on off-the-beaten-path areas of the park to enjoy. He was very helpful and knowledgeable about the history of the park and the natural environment of the region.

The first thing we noticed entering the park was the huge lagoon set aside for dolphin swims. We didn’t partake but I was impressed by the animals swimming around a natural lagoon rather than a man-made pool. It was also nice that we could view the animals easily since it was all out in the open.

dolphin swim

We made our way through the jungle paths and caught our first glimpse of the main lagoon. It was so beautiful and I can’t describe the colors – so many shades of blue offset by the bright green vegetation of the surrounding jungle.

xelha

We had a quick breakfast at one of the park’s three restaurants. Admission to the park is all-inclusive: all activities, food and drinks (even alcohol) are included! Then we took the guide’s advice and made our way to the mangrove river by taking a bicycle ride through the jungle. Soon we had the whole place to ourselves and even saw some wildlife: lots of iguanas and birds and a family of coatis.

The next part went by very smoothly. We gave all of our dry stuff and valuables to the staff in exchange for our snorkel gear. This was another tip from our guide. Normally the gear rental requires a credit card deposit but this way the staff hangs on to your valuables, which you lock yourselves and hang on to the key, and the staff even brings your bags to the front of the park. Then we picked up some inner tubes and made our way down the “lazy river,” the river that feeds into the lagoon through an enchanting mangrove jungles. Floating beneath the mangrove branches in the cool clear water was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

We got to the end of the river where it spills into the open lagoon and got into the water for some snorkeling. I’ve never snorkeled in fresh water before and it was a blast!

We swam around for awhile and played on some of the activities they had, including rope bridges, zip lines into the water and a cliff jump that I just couldn’t bring myself to step off! We made our way back to the main lagoon for some lunch, which was great. There was a huge buffet with a nice variety of food, live music and lots of fun tropical mixed drinks!

dining room

I was very impressed with the eco-consciousness of the staff at the park. Despite the thousands of visitors each day, the lagoon was completely free of trash and the water was clean and clear. Paths and installations were created to have as little environmental impact as possible, and composting and recycling were encouraged throughout the park.

trash

After lunch we explored the park some more. There are tons of different places to discover, and we were often surprised by all the unique and interesting things to see and do throughout the grounds. Throughout the park there were beautiful places to sit and relax, and jump into the lagoon when the mood strikes.

chair

We wandered further into the jungle to find beautiful freshwater cenotes and caves to explore. Some caves you could swim through, some were for SCUBA diving only and there were lots of interesting rock formations in different pools we could swim around in.

iguana trail

I loved the wildlife around Xel Ha. Above water we saw lots of coatis, ducks and other birds, tons of iguanas and even a small family of wild pigs! Underwater the lagoon was filled with fish. It was so interesting to see the different species of fish depending on whether we were snorkeling in the fresh water or the salt water. We even snorkeled with a stingray in one part!

ducks

We spent nearly the entire day in the water swimming, snorkeling and floating on inner tubes. We had a great time exploring the jungle and never once felt like the park was over crowded. It was so amazing to explore this place that was so full of natural beauty, yet set up so we could enjoy it safely.

lagoon

Xel Ha is just a beautiful place which we both highly recommend in the Cancun area. There really is something for everyone, but for nature and water lovers like us it was a paradise. We could have spent another whole day there and still discovered new places and things to do. Booking through Viator was easy and painless and I would not hesitate to look them up again in any city worldwide.

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Our visit to Xel Ha was hosted by Viator but our opinions are our own.

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