Day trip to Xel-Ha water park from Cozumel, Mexico
Xel-Ha water park is regarded as one of the world’s greatest Natural Wonders. It provides one of the best experiences in the Riviera Maya. At Xel-Ha, you can practice snorkeling and see fish and lots of marine animals that live in its cove and cenotes.
There is so much to do at this All Inclusive Park. You can enjoy water activities, ecological attractions, restaurants and the best scenery in the Riviera Maya.
Getting to Xel-Ha water park from Cozumel is not for the weak or weary. It’s an all day adventure, but I promise you will sleep well that night!
Xel-Ha is open every day from 8:30 am to 6 pm. We left Iberostar Cozumel at 8 am and intended on taking the 9 am ferry to Playa del Carmen. We made it there in plenty of time for the ferry. The ferry is a good 45-minute ride.
The ferry is 300 pesos or about $17 round trip. People will tell you not to buy the round trip since there are several ferries; then if you miss one, you can grab another.
Here is my take on that. The round trip ticket saves you money (163 pesos one way vs 300 pesos round trip). All of the ferries leave at the same time, so if you miss one, you miss them all. They leave every hour on the hour.
We love Ultramar. I’m my opinion, it is the nicest and fastest ferry. I love saving both time and money, so they are my choice every time.
Playa del Carmen
Once you arrive in Playa del Carmen (PDC) you have several choices for your transportation to Xel-Ha water park.
You can pay an additional $20 per person for transportation back and forth from Xel-Ha. In my opinion, this is the smartest option. Did we do this? Of course not. I made things difficult.
These are buses that run all over the Riveria Maya. There are two bus stations near the PDC ferry dock. One is about a block away and is your best bet for getting to Xel-Ha. They say that tickets to Tulum (a little south of Xel-Ha) are $4. We were quoted $13 one way. It was also going to be 11:30 until the next bus left and it was only 10 am.
CARM stands for Cancun and Riveria Maya transportation and is a car service for hire to just about everywhere. We use them all the time getting to and from ferries and the airport but I never thought to use them for this. Lessened learned!
This is the most expensive, but the quickest option. Remember that money I saved on the ferry? Yeah, we spent it here.
The taxi ride one way was $75. Steep. Here is how Jim justified it. The ADO bus was going to cost us $65 one way for the bus, this was private and would be direct. Not a hard decision.
Arriving in Xel-Ha Water Park
We purchased our tickets online ahead of time. I highly recommend this since you (again) save money and won’t have to stand in line to buy tickets.
We skipped the lines, got our wristbands and we on our way. Your wristbands are also your way of taking pictures. You will see spots all over the park where you can scan your bracelet and snap a picture. There are several kiosks where you can scan your bracelet again and view your pictures. Of course, you have the option to buy any or all of them.
Navigating the park
This was our first trip here and it was a maze until we ended figured it out. There are different colored paths that you can take. Each path has its own set of lockers and snorkel equipment, gift shop, and bathrooms. It honestly doesn’t matter which color you choose, you will navigate the entire park.
Once you choose your color, head to a gift shop where they will give you a key for a locker (free). Stash everything but your shoes and a waterproof camera here. I recommend investing in some water shoes. You don’t want to carry flip flops and I like having something on my feet in the water. Also, you don’t want to have to worry about entering and exiting the water at the same place just to retrieve your stuff.
Snorkel equipment is also included in your ticket. Walk up to any snorkel station and grab some gear. The fins and masks are cleaned and the snorkel is yours to keep. Also, life jackets are mandatory any time you’re in the water at Xel-Ha water park.
There is a giant lagoon that holds most beautiful water. There are many entrances, jump in any of them. You will see fish signs all over the lagoon. This is where you want to swim to. They have some structure under the signs and all the fish hang out here.
If you swim all the way toward the back of the lagoon, you will find a small cave/cenote. I would categorize it as a cave and not a Cenote like you see in pictures. It was cool and there are two picture spots near there.
After we snorkeled for a while, the kids wanted to ride the water slide at the lighthouse. Follow the signs near the purple and brown stations. There are another set of lockers here. You have to put everything in here. Cameras, sunglasses, and all shoes except water shoes. They will give you another key.
It’s a long hike up the stairs but it’s worth it. Once you get up, the stairs split. They will separate you by group to a set of stairs. At the top, one line gets the blue slides and the other gets the white. There is no difference between the two. We had the white. Two people can go at a time. You have to lay on your back with your hands and ankles crossed.
The slide show fun. It goes fast enough without being too fast. You spill out into a saltwater pool at the bottom.
Heading over to the other side of the park you will see signs for the tram or bicycles to the start of the river. We saw no option to walk.
We opted for the tram. It was about a 7-minute ride to the start. There you will be given another life jacket. You can choose to snorkel or float the river. We chose to float. They have single and double rafts.
When you start down the river, you are surrounded by mangrove trees. It’s so beautiful. I have no pictures because our waterproof camera was dead by then. It took us about 15 minutes to float down the secluded river.
Cliff of Courage
After the river, it opens up into a large lagoon where you can stay on that raft or ditch it on the shore. We stayed on the rafts until we made it to the ‘Cliff of Courage’. All this is a 5-meter cliff jump. That’s 16.5 feet for us Americans.
We ditched our rafts here and went for the jump. I admit to being an adrenaline junkie, but this cliff was high. My oldest daughter went first. She has no fear and leaped off the cliff My youngest daughter went second. Now, she wants to be brave, but usually, chickens out or comes up with a plethora of excuses. Not today. She followed Madi off the cliff like it was no big thing. I couldn’t believe it.
When I jumped, it was a full 3 seconds before I hit the water. Exhilarating!!! We jumped twice and moved on.
Swim down a little further and there are both ropes courses and zip lines.
The ropes are not made for short people. I am 5′ 5″ and could barely reach the top rope. The little one and I bailed pretty early. The others made it through easily.
They have 4 zip lines. You have the option of sitting or hanging on a bar. We tried both and had a blast.
Exiting the water
You have to swim/ float a little further to get out of the water. I estimated that we swam about 2 miles that day. The exit points are located back in the main lagoon. Easy to find. We got out and found some towels (also included). We decided that it was time for some much-needed food
There are 3 restaurants that we found. Mexican, American, and Seafood. We ate at the Mexican for lunch and the American for dinner.
The Mexican restaurant is located over by the brown and purple stations. All food and drinks are included (even alcohol)! The food was amazing, authentic Mexican. I highly recommend it.
The American is located over by the kiddy area. It was good, but nothing to write home about. It was pizza, burgers and chicken tenders. Great for picky kids.
Biodegradable, eco-friendly sunscreen is mandatory here. We love Stream2Sea products. They are good you the reefs and feel great on your skin.
Slather yourself in eco-friendly bug spray. Find those bug repellant bracelets and put one on every limb. No joke. We were eaten alive. Here’s one I recommend, Skedattle.
They offer lots of extra things to do for an additional cost. You can swim with dolphins, have a sea lion encounter and snuba to name a few. We didn’t do any of these.
Click the link for a quick video.
It takes a good 20 min to exit the park. When you leave, there are designated lots for cars, buses, and taxis. We opted for the taxi again. It’s about a 45 min ride back to PDC.
Breakdown of costs
Taxi to and from between the resort and ferry: $60
Ferry for 5: $90
Round trip taxi: $175 ($150+tips)
Xel-Ha for 5: $340
It cost us more to get there than it did to get into the park. Next time I would definitely pay the extra $100 for Xel-Ha’s transportation.
Would we go back? Though we loved the park, we all felt like it was something we did and checked off our list. There are so many other things we want to try.
Aside from the man-eating mosquitoes, we had a blast at Xel-Ha water park. I highly recommend it!