A short sprint and snorkel
Xcaret Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
The downside to cruises is the limited amount of time for shore excursions. A 45 minute ferry ride from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen, a bumpy 10 min. cab ride to the park, and we had already wasted more than an hour of our shore time between getting off the boat and arriving at the park. Unlucky bastards that we are, we had to set up our own transportation to this wonderful park, as this excursion was fully booked.
Roughly $80 for entrance, snorkel gear, and a free buffet lunch. Not bad, considering that this isn't merely a water park. It is a tropical sanctuary for the likes of orchids and mushrooms, a fish hatchery, marine sanctuary with natural habitat, aquarium, an archeological site with mayan ruins, nightly mayan entertainment, a mayan cultural center with village and cemetery, a mine with various tunnels and ladders, an assortment of wonderful restaurants with ocean views, underground caves and rivers for snorkeling, a small zoo, a trip on a river barge to admire the park, and plenty of beach with little palapas or hamakas.
Xcaret means little inlet, and once upon a time Xcaret was a bustling maritime port. As seen in the photographs below, the Maya delivered goods like jade and gold from the port, via the inlet rivers, to their villages. Today, you can see a reproduction of what the village may have looked like, see the craftmanship of the canoe builders, weavers, and carvers that fashioned such beautiful objects.
Although it is December, the temperatures are warm and balmy. Here at the park the humidity hangs in the air. Nothing is stopping us now, however. It is after 11am, we have to be back on the ship by 6:15pm, which means we have to leave the park in 5 short hours. Our bellies rumble and grumble, and we are thinking of the oceanside buffet that awaits us, but we haven't come here for the food.
Walking into the park, there are many paths to take. To the right lies the Mayan village, straight ahead are the beaches and marine sanctuaries, and to the left is the path we decide to follow. Though the Mexican name escapes me, this path was a trip through much shrubbery, palms, and ferns, passing the orchid and mushroom farms, as well as the deer shelter, and end up at the dock to board the river barge. The small, manually operated barge carries visitors along on the Paradise River to enjoy the jungle, underground caverns, and mayan sculpture.
Following our little adventure, we were hungry and on a quest to find the buffet. We headed back to the entrance to the park, though we could have saved ourselves the walk if we had simply consulted a map.
So, giving up the idea of food and deciding instead to pursue more of what the park had to offer - we veered right from the entrance and made our way to the beautiful mayan village. We spied a mayan in full gear, hovering in a canoe to welcome snorkelers that wove their way through the village via the paradise river. I ducked in and out of the little cottages with thatched roofs, seeing the tools of the craft from wood carver to weaver. This is when I lost my aunt, who I believed to now be on the quest for food. Leaving the mayan village behind, I headed for the cemetery, eerily enchanting with its multicolored gravestones, and chapel within the hill upon which more gravestones and memorials laid in wait.
I walked back once more to the village, but auntie was gone. My only thought was that she was beelining for the buffet, which at this time was my only thought, as well. Had I less determination to get to the other end of the park, I would have stopped to adore the ruins, or kick back on one of the hammocks on the beach. I did see so much beauty, like the ivory beach with the inviting palapas, the turqouise waters, and the curious large sea turtles splaying in the calm waters.
The buffet palapa was located right on the beach, the very edge of the park. I was happy, because soon I would be sampling fresh caught seafood on the grill, fresh local fruit, and drinking a refreshing corona. but, my aunt wasn't there.
So, I decided to backtrack once again. Within minutes I came upon my aunt, hanging by the Mayan ruins. This is where she thought she would find me, and I snickered to myself thinking how unlike our minds really were...despite our many commonalities.
So, at this point, I am ravenous.
With getting the fins rented, personal belonging stowed away, and tiptoeing into the cool waters, it was probably 2:30 before we got in. The experience was wonderful! The gentle currents of the river just floated us along in our life jackets, there were tropical fish in the water, but I was above water more than under. All around us was jungle, and then caves. Hard to describe what we see, but I am hoping Michelle will surrender the photos from her underwater camera soon!
It was close to 3:30 when we finished our more than one mile journey along the river's course, and by this time we had no time for eating, either.
My shoes were stolen in the park, so I had to get a pair of flip flops in the gift shop. we arrived back in Playa del Carmen by 4:00pm, and then found to our dismay that the next ferry would not leave for another 45 min. so, we decided to get inebriated at Senor Frogs on yard long margeritas.
We arrived via ferry back in Cozumel at 5:30pm. Now we had to find a cab to take us to the cruise terminal. At 5:50 we were talking towards the mile long line of cruisers to get back to the ship. We cut in line halfway down, and therefore made it onto the last ferry going from the pier to the ship. Barely!
That concluded our high seas adventure in Cozumel.