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Kayaking in the cenote during my Xenotes Tour felt like a journey to prehistoric times. Kayaking in the cenote during my Xenotes Tour felt like a journey to prehistoric times.
2022 Dec

Adventures in Paradise

From families to couples, this stylish resort offers vacations to meet everyone’s desire.

I’m flying through the air on a zip line surrounded by a Mayan jungle, and too soon I skid into the cool water of the cenote with a splash. I feel like a kid again, as I bob in the water, breathless from the thrilling ride. I’m on a Xenote tour, just one of many adventures guests can enjoy when staying at Hotel Xcaret Mexico, a stylish all-inclusive property that caters to both families and couples in Riviera Maya.

The Yucatan Peninsula is dotted with thousands of cenotes, and swimming in a cenote has long been on my bucket list. Formed when limestone collapses, the beautiful underground pools of rainwater are perfect for swimming, kayaking, and jumping into from a cliff or zip line. Some cenotes are open to the sky, like the one we’re zip lining over (and into).

The tour continues in another open cenote, where we kayak past limestone walls dripping with lush tropical foliage. It feels primordial here, and I half expect to see an Apatosaurus, his long neck bending over to peer at the strange creatures floating on the water.

Ever since arriving at Hotel Xcaret, I’ve enjoyed one adventure after another. In fact, there’s so much to see and do that it’s hard to choose how to spend my time here. Join me for a few days of fun in the sun at this stunning resort, which offers vacations to meet everyone’s desire.

Five-Diamond Property in Playa del Carmen

All-Fun Inclusive Means Unlimited Access To Fun
Xcarat Hotel in Mexico
If you love palm trees, pools, and views, you’ll love Hotel Xcaret Mexico! (Photo by Peggy Sijswerda)

Since 2017, Hotel Xcaret Mexico, a Five-Diamond property adjacent to the Caribbean Sea, has welcomed families and couples seeking a tropical paradise. The hotel’s 900 spacious suites in five separate casas overlook serene views of gardens, pools, and the sea. One of the five casas, Fuego, is adults only and has a rooftop pool and exclusive restaurant. Families love the kids’ club with daily activities for ages 4 to 12.

What makes Xcaret unique is the property’s All-Fun Inclusive program, which means guests have unlimited access to Grupo Xcaret’s seven renowned eco-adventure parks, its Xenotes and Xichén Tours (see sidebar), as well as meals, drinks, and more.

I’m staying in Casa Espiral, conveniently located in the center of the resort. My spacious room features contemporary Mexican décor, including a colorfully embroidered wall hanging. After getting settled, I head out to explore the sprawling property with map in hand. I discover a peaceful cove with a sandy beach, perfect for relaxing with a good book.

I grab a late-afternoon snack of tasty ceviche and guacamole at Las Playas, a casual restaurant nearby, where you can dine with your feet in the sand. It’s one of 12 restaurants on the property, ranging from Xin-Gao with its Asian-Caribbean fusion cuisine to Bio, a 100 percent vegan restaurant featuring lively, nutritious Mexican dishes. I don’t have time to sample them all, but I look forward to enjoying a variety of food while I’m here.

The sun is sinking on my first day at Xcaret, so I visit one of Xcaret’s azure pools. Lined with swaying palm trees and comfy lounge chairs, the pool features views of the Caribbean Sea and, as I discover, silky warm water that feels delicious. After my swim, attentive staff make sure I have a fresh towel and—why not?—a gin and tonic. I watch the sky change colors as sunset falls and wish I could stop the clock and relax here forever.

But it’s time to eat (again) and tonight I’m dining in Cantina Los Faroles, a colorfully decorated restaurant specializing in Oaxacan cuisine. Antonio, my server, tries to persuade me to order the steak (“Everyone loves it!”), but I prefer to graze on lighter dishes. First, a Mezcal cocktail with cucumber and lime, then more guacamole served with Oaxacan sauces, one spicy, one with amazing umami.

Next I sample sweet potato spheres stuffed with beef cheeks in a mole sauce—a flavorful combination—and a beef cheek taco served with salsa verde, which is outstanding. Feeling tired from my flight, I opt not to stay and hear the mariachi troupe that will start playing at 10 p.m. Back to my luxurious suite, I lie on the hammock on my balcony and listen to the jungle sounds before crawling into bed and falling into dreamland.

Transcendent Spa Experiences at Muluk Spa

Don’t Miss the Mexico Spectacular Dinner Show
Muluk Spa
Muluk Spa is one of the most beautiful, relaxing spas I’ve ever visited. (Photo courtesy Hotel Xcaret Mexico)

The next morning I get completely lost trying to find Bio, where I hoped to have breakfast. By the time I find my way there, there are no tables available. No worries. I enjoy a poolside breakfast buffet at La Trajinera and tuck into a tasty cornucopia of Mexican fruits, pastries, and even some spicy fare.

My next adventure is a transcendent one: a visit to Muluk Spa, a relaxing oasis at Hotel Xcaret, where I will spend a couple hours unwinding and relaxing. I enter through a stone tunnel and emerge in a serene space full of windows overlooking palm trees, cascading vines, and beautiful limestone walls rising up from natural pools. The sound of water is everywhere.

My spa valet, Isela, hands me a glass of delicious strawberry juice and accompanies me to the hydrotherapy circuit. The water experiences are designed to stimulate and rejuvenate guests inside and out and include a sauna, steam room, cold and hot splash pools, and a dynamic pool, with waterfalls and soothing underwater jets.

My massage therapist, Candelaria, greets me and then performs a Mayan cleansing, using an herb bunch, fan, and burning sage leaves. Afterward it’s as if an enchanting spell takes hold, and I surrender to the moment and to Candelaria’s skillful hands. When it ends, I slowly come to my senses, feeling as if I am awakening from a deep slumber.

The rest of the afternoon I spend relaxing by my favorite pool and kayaking in the resort’s protected coves beside La Playa. Before long, it’s time to get ready for my next adventure: the Mexico Spectacular Dinner Show at Xcaret Mexico, the original eco-park that jumpstarted the Xcaret brand.

I’ve visited the park before and love its many offerings, but the Mexico Spectacular Dinner Show is a favorite. I join two journalists from New York for a ringside seat, complete with a gourmet tasting menu, and we watch in awe as the story of Mexico’s history is acted out on a center stage by hundreds of performers, sometimes wearing masks, sometimes riding horses, always entertaining.

The highlight is the Dance of the Flyers, a fertility ritual originating in the state of Veracruz that dates back 600 years. From a pole 90 feet high four men unfurl along ropes and swing around the pole as the ropes lengthen. Meanwhile, a fifth man plays the flute from atop the pole. It’s a moving performance to watch, and we are enthralled.

Seven-Course Culinary Adventure at Ha’ Restaurant

Carlos Gaytán Is The First Mexican Chef To Receive A Michelin Star
Ha' Restaurant
The menu at Ha’ Restaurant is a symphony of flavors, an overture to creativity and talent. (Photo courtesy Hotel Xcaret Mexico)

It’s my last full day at Xcaret, and I never want to leave. In the morning I join the Xenotes tour and spend the day splashing in beautiful cenotes, zip lining, kayaking, and, scariest of all, jumping from stone ledges 20 feet down into a cenote. I’m sad I don’t have time for some of the other parks and tours that are included in my stay, but I’m thrilled I get to enjoy cenotes for the first time—and hopefully not the last.

My final night is going to be another adventure, this time, a culinary one at a restaurant called Ha’, the Mayan word for water. This gourmet tasting experience has a surcharge, but it’s a flavorful journey I will never forget. Carlos Gaytán, the first Mexican chef to receive a Michelin Star, is the genius behind Ha’. In a bold architectural setting with water features everywhere you look, Chef Carlos uses flavors, textures, and temperatures to tell a surprising story and, at the same time, teach us about his love for his homeland.

I meet my New York friends in Ha’, where we ooh and ahh while indulging in the seven-course tasting menu paired with exquisite wines and spirits. The remarkable presentation of each dish in unique vessels and artistic bowls lends flair to cuisine that is already some of the most delicious and imaginative I have ever tasted. The menu is a symphony of flavors, an overture to how creativity and patience can transform ordinary ingredients into masterpieces.

One dish features a langostino, or shrimp, nestled in what looks like a king crab shell topped with vanilla buerre blanc, saffron béarnaise, curried egg yolk, and Pernod. As we admire the presentation, our server pours a dramatic cloud of ginger smoke over the dish. Another memorable course is a gorgeous marbled disc of foie gras with pickled baby beetroot, pink mole, red berry gel, and pine nut puree. Every single moment, every flavor of this meal is extraordinary—and the service is equally superlative, This has been one of my top five dining experiences, for sure.

In a few short days, Xcaret has captured my heart. As a memento, I receive a book about the owner of Grupo Xcaret and his passion for creating top-quality destinations for his guests. Xuenos tells the story of Miguel Quintana Pali, an architect who started his empire with twelve acres and has since dedicated his life to perfecting the visitor experience at his hotels, parks, and tours. Promoting sustainable tourism and following a philosophy of happiness that extends both to guests and employees have been key to his company’s success.

You can feel the love at Xcaret, and when you leave, the happy feeling stays with you.

All-Fun Inclusive Adds Value to Your Vacation

Check Out the Xcaret Parks & Tours Included in Your Stay
Mexico Spectacular Dinner Show
See the story of Mexico’s history acted out by a cast of hundreds at the Mexico Spectacular Dinner Show at Xcaret Mexico (Photo courtesy Hotel Xcaret Mexico)

Here’s a rundown of Xcaret parks, where you’ll discover unlimited fun and it’s all included!

  • Xcaret - The original park combines a variety of family-friendly activities + Xcaret México Espectacular. For all ages.
  • Xel-Ha - If you love the water, this natural water park is for you. For all ages.
  • Xplor - This park appeals to thrill-seekers who love gliding through the treetops and splashing in the water. For all ages.
  • Xplor Fuego - This nighttime adventure is ideal for adrenalin junkies. For ages 5 and up.
  • Xavage - Experience action-packed challenges at this adventure park with the only white-water rafting experience in the Riviera Maya. For ages 5 and up.
  • Xenses - This park welcomes you to a half-day of sensory fun, where you navigate fantastic scenarios that challenge your senses. For ages 5 and up.
  • Xoximilco - Experience a colorful Mexican fiesta at Xoximilco, where you’ll meet new friends and dance the night away. Sombreros optional! For ages 5 and up.
  • Xenotes Tour - Join a guided tour of some of Mexico’s best cenotes and discover amazing swimming amid lush tropical foliage in sinkholes below the ground. For ages 6 and up.
  • Xichen Tour - Visit Chichén Itzá, one of the Yucatan’s most-visited archaeological sites, on this all-day, all-inclusive tour. For all ages.

For more information, contact your travel agent or visit www.hotelxcaret.com.

Peggy Sijswerda

Peggy Sijswerda is the editor and publisher of Tidewater Family Plus magazine. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Old Dominion University and is the author of Still Life with Sierra, a travel memoir. Peggy also freelances for a variety of regional, national, and international magazines.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com

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