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Let me start off by saying I am very thankful for each and every experience I have in life. I had planned my South America trip back in March. In July I was at the Anderson’s house helping organize and pack a few things as they were getting ready for their big move to New York. It just so happened to be time to organize the family vacation. The family vacay would be only a few short days after I returned from Brazil. At first, I wasn’t sure if that was a great idea or not but I knew spending time with this family would be worth it, so I said yes. That is a theme of mine in case you haven’t noticed :)

What a great idea it was to say yes. I honestly didn’t know what I was saying yes to, which is what made it even more special. We stated at Hotel Xcaret which is an all-inclusive resort, but it is not your typical all inclusive. I’m going to give you a little back story on Xcaret. Xcaret is an ecological park that Miguel Quintana Pali built when he was clearing out the land he had purchased to build a residence for he and his family. He discovered cenotes, natural sinkholes that often lead to underground rivers, as well as part of an ancient Mayan city all over his property. He saw the potential this land had and decided to get with the Constandse brothers and develop the Xcaret parks. The first park opened in 1991. About 18 months ago Hotel Xcaret was opened as an all-inclusive resort that gives options to the guests to visit these parks. There are several different parks (Xel-Ha, Xplor, Xplor Fuego, Xenses, Xavage, Xcaret, Xoximilico, Xenotes) as well as a few excursions offered (Xichen, Cobra and Tulum) which take you to tour different areas of the ancient Mayan civilizations. We didn’t get to do everything, but we did a lot!

Our first day we relaxed and spent time at the pool. After traveling to the beautiful Riviera Maya that is all one really wants to do any way. The next day we were ready to explore! First up on the list was Xplor. This park offered ziplining, an all-terrain vehicle track, a hammock zipline into the water, a stalactite swim in the underwater river and a paddle raft in another underwater river. A little bit of adrenaline rush with some water and fun mixed in. The zipline was a little rough on my back when stopping, but the views were worth it. Xplor Fuego is the same park, only at night and is lit by torches and light.

Next up was the original Xcaret park. This day wasn’t as successful. We didn’t make it until about 1230 and within 20 minutes of us arriving the daily thunderstorm blew in. This storm lasted a little longer than the others. After the rain let up, we decided to make our way to the beach area since we were waiting on others to show up and do the lazy river float all together. Along the walk to the beach we passed the shark tanks, where they do educational sessions on sharks and allow you to sit in the water with them. The same is done with sting rays. Every time I see a sting ray, I can’t help but think of Steve Irwin. The park also has a sea turtle breeding area. There were so many adorable baby turtles along with some huge gigantic turtles that only made me question 2 things. How old were they and were they ever able to surf the current? (Finding Nemo anyone?) Once we made it to the beach area, we had about 10 minutes before another storm blew in. We waited this one out and decided to make our way back to the lockers to meet up with our entire group. As we walked back, we came across the end of the papantyla flyers. It is interesting to watch and difficult to describe. One man sits on top of a very high pole while playing an ancient flute and drum. As he is doing this, 4 other men are attached to a rope and flying around the pole while doing various tricks. These men represent the sun and the other four elements. As we waited for our other group, we collectively decided it was best to head back to the hotel. You know how you have one of those days where things just aren’t working as you had planned or hoped for them to? This was one of those. Still all good because hey, we were on vacation!

The next park to explore was Xenses. This park is intended to get you to use all of your senses in a variety of ways. I made a mistake by going through the town first. This town is meant to play with your perception, balance and mind. And it did that for me. I don’t handle motion or imbalance very well and the town messed with all of mine. I had a headache before we made it halfway through the town which was about a football field length. Once we made it to the top, it led you to a fast and steep water slide. The part you also didn’t realize was that it gets pitch black halfway down. There may or may not have been a few screams let out by a few of us. Next up was another zip line type flight. I decided to sit this one out because my back wasn’t happy with me and the abrupt stops the zip line had the other day. We also had 2 lazy rivers which were meant for relaxation by floating down, without any flotation device, but that isn’t exactly what happened. We were not a great group of floaters. The saltwater section was warm and felt good on the body but was hard for us to actually float. There was a mud river which was a similar situation. We tried J There is second part of the park that has a variety of optical illusions, but I decided I was heading back to the hotel. Luckily there is a hotel shuttle that runs every 20 minutes to and from 3 of the parks. The headache wasn’t going to get any better and I just wanted to lay down, so I left the group to enjoy the other side and I took a nap on the hammock on our patio.

Our last park to venture to was Xavage. This was my personal favorite!! Each adventure is named after an animal. First up was the ­­­­­Dragonfly. Since this was a speed boat adventure with several 360° turns at 50 mph, I opted not to start with an activity that would give me a headache the rest of the day. The group went without me and all came back with smiles on their face from having a great time. Barracuda was up next. This is a whitewater rafting course that they built in the park and also happens to be the only white water rapids in Cancun and Riviera Maya. We split in two groups for this one. We apparently opted for the add on of a thunderstorm because the biggest storm of the week hit just as we began which made it a bit more challenging to see. Our group managed to almost stay in the rafts. This course wasn’t too rough but still gave you a great adrenaline rush with a few 3-5 foot falls and plenty of difficult currents. We headed to Puma next. These vehicles were monster sized off road vehicles. The course was set to test your skill for driving and not speed. There were tight curves, rocky terrain, uneven hydraulic bridges and 45° hills up and down into muddy waters. Somehow, I managed to shut my vehicle off twice because I was turning the wheel too much. On the very next obstacle I tried NOT to turn it too tight and ended up on the wall barrier. Oops. In other words, a GREAT rush of adrenaline and smiles. Lunch was included so we hit up the buffet for some crocodile, ostrich and buffalo burgers. There were more exotic things to try such as rabbit and wild boar. Some days they have insects to try but it just wasn’t our day. Last up for us was the Howler Monkey. This was an EXTREME ropes course. There were 4 levels, spider monkey, monkey, orangutan and gorilla. Three of us stuck to the spider monkey which was still a good 30 feet above the ground. 3 others went for the monkey route which was much higher. I am not scared of heights, but they definitely make me nervous. And if you know me, my balance isn’t the best. The course was a variety of hanging obstacles you had to walk across, while being harnessed in of course. This tested your balance, flexibility, strength and nerves. My group got to a strip of about 20 suspended tires which were just far enough apart you couldn’t step so you had to reach for them and pull the tire to you. It was a big stretch for me and proved to be too big of a stretch for one of the kids in our group, so we opted to turn around. After it was all said and done, we wore ourselves out! The other group who was on the higher level made it through and we sat in the kid’s water park for a few minutes before we hit up the Crocodile, or kayaking. A smooth easy route led us through another river. After a full day of activities, we were all tired and ready to go.

Sunrise on the last morning at Hotel Xcaret

This trip was more than I thought it would be. This is definitely a place I could go back to and not feel bad for visiting twice or even more. The food at Hotel Xcaret was great as was the service. Each park had its own unique experience and we didn’t even get to go to all they had to offer. The company as a whole cares about the earth and the impact these parks may have. So much so that they even trade out your sunscreen for bio-friendly sunscreen. There are trash cans and recycling bins all over the park and the staff works nonstop to keep the place clean. This is at the parks and the hotel. We all got to experience a little bit of Mayan history, whether we realized it or not. Like many of my trips, I learned more after the trip and it only makes me appreciate the experience even more. I am also very appreciative for the Anderson family for including me in on this great adventure. Until the next time, keep exploring the world!

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