A Musical History of México: Xcaret

Xcaret Mayan
Many actors dressed as Mayan natives greeted us as we made our way into Xcaret Park.

Kim and I recently attended TBEX, a conference for travel bloggers, which was graciously hosted by the Cancun CVB. A number of other organizations sponsored the event, including Moon Palace Resorts (Kim and I will put our review up of the resort soon) and an organization known as Xcaret (that’s sh-car-et), which hosted the opening night event for the conference.

Xcaret Park is actually only one attraction that operates under the banner of Experiencias Xcaret, an organization of various parks focused on promoting tourism that is conscious of Mexico’s rich history, starting all the way back with the Mayans. A brief look over each of their parks shows a wide variety of activities meant to appeal to everyone from adventurers to history and cultural aficionados. On opening night, we visited Xcaret Park to take in the “Xcaret México Espectacular.”

At first, I wasn’t really sure what to expect as we boarded the bus for the hour-long bus ride from the Moon Palace to Xcaret Park. When we arrived, we were herded towards… well, something. Having only done a cursory glance at Xcaret’s website, I wasn’t sure where we were headed. All I knew was that we were apparently walking through some trails that were in varying states of paved that passed some stables, galleries, gift shops and mock Mayan architecture. Overall, the evening started off a bit slow and a bit confusing. As part of a conference of people, we were part of an enormous group being led through some kind of park that was pretty populated. I would not call this a criticism because we were certainly experiencing the park in a fairly uncommon fashion. They were trying to get us to the main attraction and sat down for the dinner show we were about to experience. It was just a bit tough to keep track of where we were headed while taking in the sites of the park. Couple this with actors dressed in really fantastic Mayan garb as we approached the arena we’d be dining in posing for photo ops, it was a little frustrating to try and keep track of where we were being directed to while also trying to snap pictures and enjoy the park.

Until we were shown to our seats…

It’s like a Mayan Disney Land!

Finally we walked into an arena that was clearly built to be reminiscent of ancient Mayan temples. We were sat down front as a large group and food began rolling out almost immediately. Soon after everyone in the crowd was sat in this large arena, the lights went down and the fun began.

Those of you who have been to attractions in the US like Medieval Times may have a sort of frame of reference for what Xcaret Park puts on at night. Guests are sat all around a large central stage and fed while they take in a show. Here’s the thing though – I love medieval history and I’ve been to Medieval Times, but Xcaret’s Mayan/Mexican two hour extravaganza blows that out of the water. Featuring music, dancing, cultural pieces and a great show of athleticism, over 300 actors take the stage during the coarse of the show.

Highlights of the show include pok-ta-pok – an ancient Mayan sport where a ball must be hit through a stone hoop using only one’s hips (rules varied by Mayan subculture), pelota purépecha – a sport similar to field hockey, but with FIRE, invented by the Purépecha people, a scene depicting the conquistadors sweeping in on the precolonial peoples of Mexico and a dancing horse.

In addition to the spectacle taking place before you, Xcaret serves up some pretty good traditional food. My personal favorites included a beverage that I unfortunately cannot track a name down for, but it was basically water infused with some form of melon and possibly other flavors as well as a soup made from smoked oaxaca cheese. A variety of small starters were also passed out, none of which I can track down a name (or even ingredients) for at the top of the meal that were good, too. I never saw a menu, I was just given food and I tried everything. Don’t get me wrong – this is not a 5-star amazing food experience, but I enjoyed the meal and the real focus is the show.

I now wish that we had a bit of time to explore the park for ourselves. While these types of attractions can easily veer into the cheap and inauthentic, I found the “Xcaret México Espectacular” to be entertaining and culturally rich. If I had one complaint, it would be that the show does feel a bit too long. I don’t mean to sound culturally insensitive – it was clear to me that someone put a ton of effort into this show to make it a great experience as well as educational and they did so with great success. I also know that each scene has a purpose and is important to Mexican history and asking someone to cut even 15 minutes out of the show would be a huge task. It’s not so much that the show gets boring – I think the main problem is that the most engaging and immediately entertaining content of the show is front-loaded. The earliest parts of the show contain both the the hip ball sport (pok-ta-pok) and the field hockey with fire (pelota purépecha). While the regional Mexican music and dance at the end of the show is entertaining, there’s nothing as cool as watching guys whack a fireball up and down the arena. I touched on the importance of the structure of an experience in regards to tension or intensity overtime in my entry on my top 5 disney rides. The show at Xcaret suffers a little bit from this pacing issue.

That’s only a minor criticism though. If you are looking for something cool to do while in Cancun, I’d recommend the “Xcaret México Espectacular.” If Xcaret’s other attractions are as good as that show, then I am sure that their other parks would also be a lot of fun to check out.

Note: I apologize for the low quality pictures and video. We left our main cameras at the resort because we were not entirely sure what to expect. In the future, we will be taking those cameras with us!

What to know if you go

The “Xcaret México Espectacular” takes place in an open-air arena – you should probably bring bug spray as mosquitos are definitely in the area. The show is hosted in the Gran Tlachco Theater at Xcaret Park. If you just want to do the show, admission for dinner is $45 USD. You can also book online here to save 2 bucks.

Places

Xcaret Park

Ruta 101, Quintana Roo, Mexico
1-855-326-0681

Xcaret Park

Ruta 101, Quintana Roo, Mexico
1-855-326-0681
http://www.xcaret.com/

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