Cancun, Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya are known for their beautiful white sand beaches, aqua blue Caribbean Sea, Mayan ruins and amazing nightlife, but the area is also quickly becoming a destination for more adventurous vacations as well. The nature beauty of the area, including the countless cenotes (natural sinkholes) and the tropical jungle make the Riviera Maya the ideal place to visit an ecopark.

The Riviera Maya boast some of the best ecoparks, a kind of natural amusement park, in the world. Zip lining, snorkeling, rappelling, swimming with dolphins and scuba diving and just a few of the many activities these ecoparks offer.

Here are 5 ecoparks to visit in the Riviera Maya:


With more than 50 attractions and activities, Xcaret is one of the most famous eco-archeological parks in the world. Here you will find among other things, ancient Mayan ruins, cenotes, an underground river, a butterfly pavilion, a coral reef aquarium, an underground Mexican wine cellar, a rotating scenic tower and a Mexican cemetery. You will be able to participate in activities such as temascal (Mexican sweat lodge), swimming with dolphins or sharks, and various different ways of snorkeling and diving. Xcaret is also known for its amazing Mexican folklore evening show and is located 46 miles south of Cancun and 4 miles south of Playa del Carmen. It is open 365 days a year from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.


Xel-Há calls itself the largest natural aquarium in the in the world. The impressive lagoon contains hundreds of colorful species of tropical fish. There are also 100 tropical bird species and 350 plant species on the park grounds. Spend the day snorkeling or floating on a tire in the lazy lagoon and surrounding rivers. There are also small cliffs from which you can leap into the aqua blue waters and caverns to explore. Xel-Há is also known for its quality all-inclusive plan with open bar. Xel-Há is located 76 miles south of Cancun and 34 miles south of Playa del Carmen. It is open 365 days a year from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.


Xplor is made up of different circuits where you can “explore” (Get it?) the tropical jungle and underground rivers and cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula. The park consists of almost 2.5 miles of zip lines, some of which end in a refreshing water landing, 1,600 yards of underground rivers, some of which are seen from rafts and others while swimming, and 6 miles of rough jungles roads that visitors navigate on their own in an amphibious vehicle. Xplor is located 46 miles south of Cancun and 4 miles south of Playa del Carmen and is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


"Selva" means jungle in Spanish, and true to its name, Selvatica is located in the heart of the Mayan jungle and you can explore it from top to bottom. Fly over and through the canopy, then navigate off-road on an ATV or a Polaris Ranger RZR and then dive into the cool waters of a cenote. There is also a complex that includes seven aerial challenges, including a daring leap from a tree house. Selvatica is located 34 miles from Cancun and 32 miles from Playa del Carmen and is open daily.


Unlike the previously mentioned eco parks, Garrafón is not located on the mainland, but on the island of Isla Mujeres, and is perched on a beautiful spot overlooking unbelievably aqua blue ocean waters. Activites include snorkeling, swimming (with or without dolphins), kayaking, zip lining, biking and even lounging on handmade silk hammocks. Complete tours leaving from Cancun are available. The park is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

When you visit these parks, remember to wear comfortable clothes and to bring your bathing suit and water shoes. Check if the park supplies towels, some do. You will also need biodegradable sunblock (most parks sell this) and money for extras. Leave valuables in the safe at your resort. Then, enjoy your vacation adventure!

Have you been to any of these parks?  Which is your favorite? Can you name any other ecoparks in the area?

Writter Bio


Is an American expat who has been living in Cancun, Mexico since 2001. A mother, singer, salsa dancer and now writer and community manager, she has worked in many different industries but is currently enjoying exploring the Yucatan Peninsula and sharing her expertise and experience with readers around the world. Follow Kristin on Twitter


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