Xcaret was a bucket list item for me. Especially their Temazcal activity which is a Mayan Sweat Lodge ceremony. I had wanted to try it since I saw the Cancun episode of Bridget’s Sexiest Beaches when I was in high school. Unfortunately I found Xcaret to be an overrated, overpriced tourist trap.
But first for the positives: an Experiencas Xcaret tour bus picked us up at our hotel precisely on time. They introduced themselves, put on some fun music and drove us to the Xcaret bus terminal. Since Xcaret puts on about 8 different tours, they have a main bus terminal where they herd everyone on to the appropriate bus for their individual tour. It is a daily logistical nightmare for them and they do an amazing job of getting thousands of people organized, every morning.
Once we boarded our bus, it was about 1.5 hours to arrive to Xcaret itself since it is down almost to Playa del Carmen. The tour guide gave us a lot of helpful information in both English and Spanish and then put on an informational video explaining all of the activities for us. The video sold Yvette and I both on ocean snorkeling, where they take us out to a reef. As it turns out, it is the second largest reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef. He then personally walked all of us into the park, took us where we needed to go and then got us situated.
We had to wait in a super long line to purchase our optional tours, which detracted a bit from the time we had in the day. After getting our tours purchased, we found the Xcaret Plus section, got our stuff put into lockers and then got life vests, fins and security bags so that we could swim in the underground river. The river is 500 meters long with exits every 100 meters. We decided to exit at the first 100 meters because Yvette was feeling claustrophobic and we also had to figure out how to get to the location of our snorkeling trip on time.
After recovering our things from the security bag from the river staff, we located our snorkeling area. Upon arrival, they sent us back to the other side of the park to get our snorkeling gear. After getting that, we returned and then boarded our boat. They drove us about 20 minutes away and then let us in the water. One of the cool parts of this trip is that they allowed me to take off my life jacket so that I could do actual snorkeling. I don’t know if they were supposed to, but since I didn’t drown, it’s all good. Our guides brought a bunch of bait with them so that we had fish around us all the time. We even made friends with a sea turtle and a very large stingray.
The entire tour was 1:30 and the hour we were in the water literally felt like about 10 minutes. I absolutely flew by. This was the high part of the day.
Next, we returned to shore, turned in our gear and then met back up with my Mom. We went to this little restaurant on the lagoon because I was famished and got some drinks and an appetizer. I got this shrimp salsa with three mini tostadas along with a drink made in a whole pineapple. It looked amazing, tasted pretty good and I regretted it the rest of the week. But more on that later.
After finishing eating, we walked around a bit more and then went to actual lunch. Our ticket included one buffet lunch at any of their six restaurants. We ended up settling on the authentic Mexican restaurant. I was impressed with the variety of food, but not with the food itself. It was of mediocre quality, there were bees swimming in the dessert and many of the things just weren’t that good. My friend Yvette was thrilled with the buffet, so perhaps it was just me who didn’t like it.
I left midway through lunch to head to my next activity: Temazcal. Again, this had been a bucket list item for me for about 10 years. Upon arrival, a lady confirmed my reservations and then took all of my things to hold on to for me during the ceremony. About 10 minutes later, our shaman came and led us down to the sweat lodge. About 25 people went inside and sat around the perimeter of the room. One of the attendants began to bring in very hot lava rocks and place them in the center of the room. Things began to get hot and the ceremony hadn’t even begun yet. Next, the room was sealed and the ceremony began. We were in complete darkness. The shaman began to chant and then throw various medicinal herbs onto the fire. It got hotter. And hotter. He threw some water on the rocks. Now it started getting steamy and still hotter. When it was almost to the point where I couldn’t stand the heat, he then threw cold water on everyone. It was the most refreshing thing I’ve ever felt in my life. And then it still began to get hotter. The herbs made me cough. But I felt a huge release of emotion and tension in my body. And obviously a lot of sweat too. By the time I almost couldn’t stand the heat anymore, the shaman announced that the ceremony was over and we could all go outside. Once we were outside, he led us down some stairs to a deep pool of water. We all jumped into freezing water which helped to bring our core temperatures down to normal. Despite it being in the 90s outside, my teeth started chattering in the water. It was super refreshing.
I went to meet back up with my Mom and Yvette to get ready for the Xcaret evening show, feeling very refreshed. After about an hour, I finally managed to meet up with them and we toured the Mayan themed after of Xcaret for about an hour. It was pretty cool to see. Next, we walked up to the large stadium. There were Mayan performers in costume lining the path to the theatre which was really neat to see. We took our seats and the show began.
This will be an unpopular opinion, but I didn’t think the show was that great. The first half was great. They did some cool stuff to tell the story of the Mayans. Hockey with a ball that is on fire. The Mayan game similar to soccer that they play with their hips. And then they told the story of the Conquistadores coming to Christianize (and kill off) the Mayans. Finally it was intermission. The second half was the part that I didn’t enjoy. It showed the various regions of Mexico along with their traditional forms of dance and music. Which is great if you are into that kind of thing. Personally I can’t stand Mexican music and I’ve never had much interest in the dance since it is usually accompanied by Mexican music. I’ve disliked it since I can remember (2nd or 3rd grade). No offense to any of my Mexican friends. You guys have a rich culture. You like your dance and music. I don’t like it. I’m not saying it’s wrong, I just don’t enjoy it.
After this, we headed back to the bus and ultimately our hotel. I slept most of the way back.