Just five kilometers (three miles) south of Playa del Carmen, Xcaret (Hwy. 307 Km. 282, tel. 998/883-0470, www.xcaret.com.mx, 8:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m. daily, US$69/34.50 adult/child, US$99/49.50 adult/child including snorkeling equipment, buffet, and snack) is a mega-ecopark offering water activities like snorkeling in underground rivers and swimming with dolphins and sharks; up-close animal viewing areas including jaguar and puma islands, a butterfly pavilion, and an aquarium; a phenomenal folk art museum that’s brimming with artesanía from around Mexico; and spectacular shows, like a Maya ball game, regional dances, and music performances.
Beyond this, the park also is dedicated to protecting the region’s flora and fauna; there are breeding areas for scarlet macaws and turtles, a section dedicated to the endemic stingerless bee, and an orchid greenhouse—all with educational exhibits for visitors.
If you’re into organized activities or traveling with kids, this is definitely a worthwhile stop. Online discounts are often available.
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition