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About a dozen people gathered in a semicircle around an outdoor fire listening to the wisdom of a “master teacher,” who is leading a temazcal ceremony in Xcaret Park in Riviera Maya, Mexico. When the teacher closed his eyes and chanted in Spanish, they raised the tiny cups in their hands to their mouths and drank the honey-colored beverage inside. Next, they entered the small dark structure, called a temazcal, and let the heat and steam from hot stones purify and heal them. It’s a sweat lodge ceremony that ancient Mayas believed could help to balance mind, body and spirit and is just one of the many experiences to be enjoyed at this unique eco-archaeological park.
Built on a 200-acre ancient Maya archaeological site, Xcaret (pronounced “Sh-ka-ret”) Park has a number of attractions designed to showcase the ecological and cultural diversity of Mexico while providing visitors with an entertaining experience. Key daytime activities include swimming in underground rivers, viewing native animals, exploring a butterfly pavilion, enjoying a coral reef aquarium, relaxing at a beach area, visiting a Mexican cemetery, exploring archaeological ruins and swimming with dolphins. In the evening, more than 300 performers take part in several spectacular live shows that showcase Maya traditions and Mexican culture.
Xcaret is an excellent place to learn about the culture and history of the Yucatan area of Mexico, but the sheer size of the park makes it virtually impossible to see everything in a single day. Most visitors rush through so quickly that they never make it to the corner of the park where the temazcal ceremonies are held. Some completely miss the real archaeological ruins and the traditional Mexican cemetery located inside the park.
The Occidental Grand Xcaret Resort, located next to the Xcaret Park, has a solution for those who want to experience everything Xcaret Park has to offer. For the first time ever, the resort is offering guests unlimited access to Xcaret Park when staying three nights or more. Highlights of the Unlimited Xcaret Xperience package include all-day unlimited access to the Xcaret Park, a private guided tour of the park, reserved seating during the “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular” night show, free access to the kids’ Xcaret Explorer for a Day activity, discounted meals and beverages in the park and a resort credit that can be used for services at the resort and in the park. On a recent visit to Occidental Grand Xcaret, I experienced the Unlimited Xcaret Package and discovered unique experiences such as the temazcal ceremony. Though I didn’t manage to see everything the park has to offer during my five-day stay, I found a side of Xcaret that many visitors never see and one that I was glad I didn’t miss.
Occidental Grand Xcaret Resortwww.occidentalhotels.com
The one-week Unlimited Xcaret Xperience Package, purchased through a tour operator, costs about $170 above the regular cost of a resort stay.