I’m not the most ambitious traveler when I hit a resort. Particularly if it’s a high-end luxury all-inclusive, which has become ‘my thing’ for the past few years. I find that usually the resort activities and amenities satisfy my cravings for the week. I will always do an excursion or two, that’s just because I like adventure. So I’ll go swim with dolphins, or zipline, or any number of fun things that get the adrenaline pumping. But just heading out to explore or see the town or visit sites etc, that’s not my thing.
So recently when we were staying at the Dreams All-Inclusive in Tulum, the idea of leaving to go spend the day at Xel-Ha was not high on my list. The Dreams Tulum is a spectacular resort with beautiful beaches and amazing service and endless fun and activities, so why would I want to go to Xel-Ha? This wasn’t going to be a small excursion; this was a full day away from the resort. I was on the fence about spending an entire day of my vacation at a place which was, in my mind, just a 'day resort.' I’m glad my family and the guest services at the Dreams convinced me otherwise.
Xel-Ha is large aquatic theme park about 70 miles south of Cancun. It is effectively a day resort, it’s just the best version of one you could find, perhaps anywhere in the world. The idea for visitors is pretty simple: find a spot to park for the day and then go explore all the activities in the park.
The first thing I noticed is the incredible beauty. It’s built around a lagoon that is just stunning and there are rock formations and cenotes everywhere.
So we found a beautiful spot in a rock outcropping with comfy lounge chairs that was postcard beautiful. So now 30 minutes into our journey, I’m in one of the most beautiful locations thinking 'I’d be happy just spending the entire day here' – and we kind of did just that.
For the next 8 hours we bounced from adventure to activity. We snorkeled the lagoon, we rode the lazy river with tubes, we played in the zipline obstacle course, we hiked to the cenotes, we rode the water slide, we swam with the manatees. I mean it was like the best part of any resort vacation all wrapped into one. After we had lunch at the restaurant, I was thinking, 'I’d actually come here and do it all again tomorrow.'
I was surprised that the touristy feel of the place didn’t get to me. I think it was because of the sheer size of the park. It was a very busy day, but there were so many places to go and things to do that you never really felt the crowd.
Normally that idea of spending money to go do the same kind of thing I could be doing at the resort I already paid for would not sit well with me, but this was different. The entire experience was geared to having a really fun experience. It’s a little like Disneyland for exotic vacation adventures. That works for me.
Considering it’s basically all-inclusive activities and the cost to get in the park is not expensive, the real cost comes down to the question: Do I want to spend one of my precious vacation days at Xel-Ha?
If you are in the Tulum, Playa De Carmen, Cancun area, the answer is a resounding yes. Color me as surprised as anyone.