I love me a good roller coaster. Water slides are pretty awesome as well. Growing up Mom and Dad took us on great trips to places like Disneyworld, Epcot Center and Universal Studios. There was also a great amusement park and water park back home in Kansas City that many a summer day was spent at.

All of those parks are great for the local economy, help draw tourists to their area and are a lot of fun. Here in the Riviera Maya things are no different. As the tourism industry continues to grow here, so do the events and attractions to keep visitors entertained. Stretching from Cancun all the way to Tulum are all kinds of parks with exotic sounding names like Xel-Ha, Aktun Chen and Rio Secreto. These are obviously not the same kind of amusement parks I’m used to, which do exist in other parts of Mexico, but I’ve been anxious to see what kind of experience they hold. So what better time to visit one of these places than when Mom and Dad came to visit us recently?

We did a little research to decide which park to visit. Some promise adventure (we’ll get to you eventually….), some promise relaxation (you too) but one I thought Mom and Dad would enjoy was one that is focused on the culture and history of Mexico. Xcaret is just a few kilometers south of Playa del Carmen, we’ve driven by it many times, and had come highly recommended by some friends in the area.

Because it has been oh so hot here we have been trying to avoid spending the blazing hot middle part of the day outside and decided to go with just the evening pass. Turns out that didn’t even come close to the amount of time we needed to fully explore and experience the park and am now wishing we had done things a bit differently.

As with many adventure parks it was quite crowded (I really cannot imagine going during the ‘high’ season) but not unbearably so.

Xcaret River
There’s a floating river that winds through the park that looks great to cool off in. Now we know.

After wandering through an underground cave we stopped and visited a replica of a Mayan village cemetery. The fascination with death and the after-life here in Mexico is intriguing and I really cannot wait to see what happens around “Day of the Dead.”

Xcaret Cemetery
This is one of the tombstones in the cemetery and one of my favorites. The dog is guarding the “occupant” in the after-life.
Xcaret Ceremony
We stopped to watch this ceremony. I think it was about rebirth? Or maybe to make the corn grow? I don’t know. But any dance that involves fire and people painted like jaguars is cool to watch.

But the highlight of the evening and by far the most impressive was the big evening performance called “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular.” People started filling up the giant arena more than an hour in advance of the show’s start time. The huge crowd couldn’t wait for the show to start – at one point the wave spontaneously started and went on for about 10 minutes (this makes us even more excited to get to a soccer game).

Once the show started it was hugely entertaining. There was a recreation of  a pre-hispanic ball game called “Pok ta’ pok” that was followed up by a game involving a ball lit on fire and some sticks – think hockey with a flaming basketball and no safety equipment.  The games are meant to represent the battle between good and evil, or the gods of heaven and the lords of the underworld. I have no idea who won.

Xcaret Mayan Baseball
These guys couldn’t use their hands, head or feet to hit the four kilogram rubber ball leaving pretty much just their hips. So awesome.

There was a part acknowledging the arrival of and conflict with the Spaniards.

Xcaret Meeting of the Worlds
The Mayans and the Spaniards meeting. I will avoid any editorializing here (although the one guy in the audience who yelled “no” really loudly didn’t) and just say “pretty!”

And then they moved on to singing and dancing to represent the different regions of Mexico, by far my favorite part of the show. Each time a different area was announced like Oaxaca or Jalisco people in the audience from that area would cheer and start chanting. It was like pulling for your hometown sports team but the outfits were a bit more colorful.

Xcaret Carnivale
Apparently we need to get to Veracruz during Carnaval.
Xcaret Cowboys
These guys from North of Mexico killed it with their singing and dancing. Plus Jason really wants one of their suits.

Was the show factually accurate? Sort of. Did it gloss over some major conflicts and historical controversies? Um, yes. Was it impressive and entertaining? Absolutely. Like I said, we did not even scratch the surface of what was to offer at Xcaret. I’m not sure that even going for the full day would have been enough, but it would have been more worth the price of admission. I didn’t find Space Mountain at Xcaret but I did have an entertaining time seeing some historical recreations of Mayan and Mexican culture.

Xcaret Beer
Okay, not necessarily part of Mexican culture, but I mean it was pretty warm.

Next up? We’re thinking adventure. Supposedly Mexico’s highest zipline is here. We’re just waiting for our next visitors to take them there. Who’s it going to be?