Xplor is a waterpark with a zipline problem.
It had a chance to be super campy. Xplor. Even the name seemed a bit over the top.
Yet Xplor turns out to be a lot of fun. The park is a newer addition to the Riviera Maya coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. While a lot of the area is growing up to cater to foreign tourists, including their own local airport much closer than Cancun, Xplor is a great spot for guests and locals alike to forget the worries of daily life and just play.
One of the things I liked about Xplor was what was missing. It wasn’t an attempt to be a super Mayan theme park or ‘authentic’ Mexico or anything other than a place to slide high across some of the most level jungle in the world while suspended from two inch-wide straps. It’s also a place to escape the dripping heat of the Riviera Maya with constant dips in the numerous pools; both on ziplines and through a fun river swim. And I have to admit I like any park that requires you to wear a helmet.
Sabrina and I started our day in the park sweating. Take a look, this is Sabrina just barely holding it together for the picture, in between bouts of complaining about the heat.
Neither she nor I are big fans of sweltering heat. But it’s Mexico on the Caribbean, live with it. Yeah, I know, it works well with kids, doesn’t it?
Our first adventure was the ziplines. Sabrina had never been on them before and was excited to try, but like a lot of kids, a bit afraid of actually doing it. After suiting up in fine Petzl safety harnesses with two checks by attentive staff, offering instruction in both Spanish and English with plenty of smiles, we’re off to our first tower. The park is dotted with these tours and there are two circuits to be traveled. We are only allowed to travel each circuit once and Sabrina chooses A.
Lined up at the top of the tower (“How much further IS it?”) waiting our turn, Sabrina is a bit fidgety. We were told kids can go together with their parent and Sabrina is bouncing back and forth between wanting the security of Dada on the zipline and wanting to be by herself. A scene I’m sure I’ll see a number of times in the coming years on a variety of subjects. In the end, she decides to start with me and, as there are over 15 ziplines total, thinks she might branch out if she’s not too freaked out.
The attendants at the top of each tour are bilingual and attentive to safety. Not only that, they seemed to care if you are having fun. Clip this, clip that, check everything and “Adios!”. A quick swing by the attendant and our feet are suddenly dangling 90′ in the air over native Yucatan canopy.
It doesn’t take long before I hear, “This is awesome!” And thus the tone is set for the rest of the day (until she starts to run out of energy, for which there is a well stocked buffet inside the park). On the next tower we again share a ride, but this time with more hesitation and an obvious desire to strike out on her own. Tower Three sees Sabrina not only wanting to go by herself, but demanding she goes first. Confidence only took two trips for a girl who admits to a fear of heights. Of course, these heights have the added feel of flying through the sky.
Our two circuits go entirely too fast. The park isn’t very crowded when we start and this helps keep us going from tower to tower, including a monolithic 150′ beast with an 80 second glide time from start to finish, covering 2300′ of jungle. Speeds approach 20MPH as the dual overhead pulleys let out a high pitched whine up until the last moment of semi-soft deceleration at the end of each trip.
In addition to the normal tower-to-tower ziplines, there are two which provide immediate relief from the heat. These end in pools of water, under a waterfall and, if judged wrong, can provide a heck of a wedgy. When they tell you to keep your knees together, do it.
The park has two other main attractions including in the price of admission: an underground river walk and a self drive through the jungle on fun fourwheel buggies.
The river walk, or float for those of you less than 5’9″, follows what used to be a natural underground water way. This area of the peninsula is dotted with all kinds of cenotes, or underground pools, often connected through the limestone walls. In this case, Xplor took an existing patchwork of caverns and pools and connected them. Part of me felt bad for man just shaping nature in this manner. And another part enjoyed getting out of the heat and being able to explore the underground world.
This is not a Disneyland ride. And it’s COLD when you first get in, especially compared to the heat above. We are required to don lifevests and our helmets never leave our heads. Sabrina is again hesitant to start. Even though the entire way is lit from above and often from below, she has some trepidation as it has a bit of spookiness to it, I’ll admit. But cool spookiness and with a bit more super-patient coaxing, we are off with a mix of floating and swimming. I liked that it was actual rock, sharp in places and not watered down. There were emergency exits available and I felt perfectly safe, yet still experiencing a bit of the earth many don’t see….while still inside an amusement park. It was an odd mix and it worked.
The path is a mix of carved stone and original stalactite formations on the ceiling. The width of the path is no more than 6′ across most of the time so it is best to time departure when not in a large group. Camera traps along the way capture photos and Sabrina loves swimming back to these over and over once I show her where the triggers are hidden in the rock.
Last on our day’s agenda are the buggies. These are a blast for those that like to zip around. Most of the time is spent above ground, but sometimes the path dips under the surface for tunnel action.
Our day came to an end all too soon. Warn and happy, we headed back to our resort before another day of exploring.
While Xplor is not the type of activity I go on vacation to experience, I am very glad we went. We both had a fun time and it was no less ‘authentic’ Mexico than water parks in the USA are any less ‘authentic’. The majority of the visitors were local Mexicans enjoying the family fun and it was nice to have a break from all the ‘have-to-see’ attractions of Tulum and Coba and snorkeling.
An excellent way to spend a day having fun on vacation.
Tips for visiting Xplor
- Arrive early and get the full park pass if you have the energy for it
- Make sure kids know what they are up for
- Leave the expensive camera behind and grab a waterproof model or disposable
- Credit cards accepted
- There is a large heart as a rallying point for those that get a bit lost. Signs all around the park point back to this spot
- Near the heart are lockers for gear and bathrooms
- The buffet is decent with a number of vegetarian options
- Cameras abound in the park to capture the fun. If you don’t bring your own, you can buy shots of yourself all through the park thanks to the numbers on helmets
- You don’t need to know how to swim to have fun as the river walk employs lifevests and the ziplines into water always have attendants
- You can go careening off into the jungle with the buggies. This would be bad, but makes it more fun than Disneyland. Danger is fun for boys. 🙂
- Wear sunscreen!
- Wear watershoes if you have them, otherwise you need to stash your flipflops on each zipline run so they don’t fall off
- Bring a bathing suit or wear one there. Shorts are also handy for ladies with bikinis as it makes the harnesses less chafing
- There is a juice bar with cookies for a quick pick me up. It’s real fruit smoothie types of drinks and yummy cookies
- Have fun!!
Our admission to Xplor was covered by the Riviera Maya Tourist Board.
What a great post! Reminds me alot of a trip my daughter and I took to Playa del Carmen last June. I experienced the same trepidation from her when we went snorkeling – being afraid at first but then before long, insisting on going it alone – a really cool experience as a parent to see the confidence build. We didn’t go to Xplor, but went to Xcaret and had a great time. It wasn’t a place I would normally think of visiting if I were on my own, but was happy I did. We’ll have to do Xplor next trip back for sure! Thanks for sharing and for the tips, very helpful.
hi me and my partner are very keen to go to explor. iam a little worried though as iam a non swimmer will i still be able to do the activities?
Kit, you can certainly enjoy the park without knowing how to swim. For the river swim you have a life jacket and are kept up the whole time. There are emergency exits if you feel like getting out. The zip lines in the water have an attendant at the end (sometimes two) and the water is not too deep that you can’t stand up.
My daughter couldn’t swim well when we attended and, while trepidatious at first, really enjoyed it. If you trust the life jacket, you’ll be fine.