So, the hillbilly and I spent two days in the past two weeks doing the “parque” thing. My youngest son, Kenny, and his girlfriend, Julie, were here for 18 days through Christmas, New Year’s and beyond. It just seemed appropriate that we do something fun and touristy.
First up was Xel-ha. Its activities center on a lagoon fed by an underground river that eventually opens out into the Caribbean. It is, of course, a beautiful setting, and the lagoon has a couple of small lava rock islands which lend themselves beautifully to great snorkeling. There are platforms all around the lagoon that provide easy entre to the water. Each platform has racks of life jackets and plenty of room to don your snorkel equipment (which is provided as part of the fee). Then, you simply go down the steps and splash into the realm of los pescados.
Having two young people with us meant that the day was an adventure. The kids and I jumped off the “The Stone of Courage” into the lagoon. It’s purported to be five meters high (about 16 feet), but on the way down, I know I counted a good 20 feet. My son remarked to me, “Good jump, Mom. I don’t know any other 67 year old women who would do it.” My first thought was, “It never occurred to me not to do it,” followed immediately by, “OMG, I’m suffering from serious age denial!!”
By this point, the hillbilly (not really an adventurous soul by nature) had consigned himself to being the “pack horse,” and had ambled away with the snorkeling equipment and towels to locate a “smoking” venue. The kids and I swam from the Courage Stone Leap to the “Trepachanga” to give that a try.
The Trepachanga is a method of crossing the lagoon that involves a two parallel ropes running from one side of the lagoon to the other. You hold onto the rope just above your head, and walk on the rope under your feet. Julie went first, followed by Kenny, and then me (as official trip photographer, I just naturally brought up the rear). However, behind us was a group of young men who thought it the height of hilarity to hold the top rope up as high as they could manage, so that the girls in their group couldn’t reach it, causing them to fall off into the water. Unfortunately, Julie is a bit lightweight in her vertical dimension. In fact, the Mexican word for her is baja (meaning “low” – I’m not talking about her attitude, morals, or outlook, only her height), so she went into the drink pretty quick. I personally made it just past the middle – but the weight of all the jolly jokesters behind me pushed the bottom rope so far down that the distance between ropes became too much of a stretch for me, too, and in I went. Kenny made it all the way across (mostly owing to his 6’1” height and youthful balancing skills), and Julie and I swam over to meet him at the winner’s circle.
From there, we walked a few meters to the “Zip Line.” What a lovely idea!! You plant your bottom in a sling, grab the rope lines in front of your face and gravity takes care of the rest. There is a nice soft landing in the water on the opposite the side of the lagoon. If someone had had the presence of mind and fortitude to carry me back to the starting platform, I could have ridden the zip line all afternoon.
Xel-Ha has many more things to do, but we ran out of day and steam (or maybe, steam and day). The kids did do the “Floating Bridge.” Anchored on either side of the ocean inlet, is a rope bridge with wooden planks that are subject to the whims of tide, current and the mood of the ocean. This is not for the faint-hearted, or if you’re prone to balance problems. But, if you’re not averse to looking like a clumsy dork, go for it.
We didn’t have time to take in the cenotes, or the grotto. But, the local flora and fauna surrounded us the whole time, and I did make the acquaintance of the biggest iguana I’ve ever seen. I named him “Max” (as in “maximum”).
An all-you-can-eat breakfast and lunch buffet is included in the price of admission at Xel-ha. You select from a huge buffet set-up with several cuisine themes (Mexican, Italian, Oriental, American fast food, etc). The house drinks (alcoholic and “non”) were “on the house,” too. If you ordered something “off the menu,” then you had to pay.
I got the tickets online for $71 USD each, which may sound like a lot, but it is far cheaper than any of the other Riviera Maya parks. And, when you factor in all the drinks and food you consume, it begins to look like the real bargain it is.
It is well worth the price of admission. And, if you’ve got more energy than a couple of old fogeys past 65, then you can fill a day, or three, with a lot of really fun things to do while helping Mexico preserve its ecosystem.