Xel-Ha: the Largest Natural Aquarium in the World

Without a doubt Mexico’s Riviera Maya is home to one of the most beautiful beach areas in the Caribbean, and in it lies Xel-Ha, the largest natural aquarium in the world. Part of the Xcaret Experiences project the aquarium is now a park that offers several attractions to visitors including snorkeling, zip lining, swim with dolphins encounters, stingray encounters, manatee encounters and more.


Xel-Ha park in Riviera Maya, Mexico

Xel-Ha is a 40 minute van ride West of Playa del Carmen, a splendid beach town itself about an hour West of Cancun that offers similar activities minus the hotel only area. Playa del Carmen is walkable and enjoyable if staying in 5th Avenue or nearby, with accommodation and dining opportunities that cater to all budgets.

While Xcaret is the park you visit to be active and participate in as many activities as possible, Xel-Ha is the park where you go to relax and enjoy nature at your own pace.

people-snorkeling Xel Ha

People snorkeling in Xel-Ha

I recommend you get there early-ish, sometime before 10 am, as breakfast is included with your ticket. There are two restaurants that offer splendid buffets with excellent food that includes local and international cuisines, as well as fruit and goodies for those with a sweet tooth like me (gosh was that Nutella fountain unreal!).


People enjoying the stingray experience.

After breakfast you might want to walk around the park, stopping at the glass bottom catamaran right at the beginning to check out the fish. The stingray experience is just a two minute walk away, and from there you can follow the paths to several points in the park to check out the ocean, jump off the 4.5 meter Xel Ha cliff jump or participate in the newest activity, pedaling over the jungle with the Zip-Bike.

jumping rock xel-ha

Woohoo! Who’s jumping after me?

Shortly after passing the Xel Ha cliff jump  grab your snorkeling gear and slowly swim back to the main area. Look around, enjoy the three activities you’ll find along the way and make it all the way to where the glass bottom catamaran is as it is here you will see most fish…which you can actually feed!


This was the first time I ever saw a manatee. They really are big yet gentle!

After all this exercise a good, healthy lunch is probably the best call, and once done you can chill out or enjoy more activities until the park closes at 6 pm.


Unlike Xcaret , Xel-Ha is the park you visit to relax and chill out and the fees here include food at any of the buffets and stands during the day. If possible I recommend you participate in one of the extra activities (not included in the entrance fee) and if not at least check out the stingrays and manatees. If there is one thing I would have liked to see more of is fish; there are many in a few small spots, but generally speaking the sandy bottom of the small bay doesn’t provide much food and hence fish stick to where there is. Other than this the food, activities and beautiful surroundings will keep you smiling all day!

I was a guest at Xel Ha park, however the opinions in this article are entirely my own. I’d like to thank Leo for showing us around, and if you want to learn more about the park make sure you visit their official website www.xelha.com or contact them via Twitter @XelHaPark.

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