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My Xel Ha Story - A Day From Hell - But Stories for A Lifetime

Updated on October 4, 2011
Xel Ha - A Beautiful Ecological Park (photo courtesy of
Xel Ha - A Beautiful Ecological Park (photo courtesy of

A Cruise Excursion Gone Awry....

Back in 2010, my family went with my best friend's family on a Disney cruise which had an excursion package to Xel Ha (pronounced Shell-Ha), a 40,000 acre ecological water park, located just south of Playa del Carmen in Mexico.. This place sounded fantastic, and it truly is (and I highly recommend you going there to experience it), but our day was truly a day from hell there (which we actually nicknamed Hell-Ha, because of our experience there, much of it involving problems that we created.....)

Xel Ha - On Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula

Mexico Travel Guides on Amazon

A Little Background..

At the time, our children were 7, 6 and 3.... This, in itself, can explain alot.. Our friends have a daughter, who at the time was 7.. Oh, and it was incredibly hot and humid that day.......Oh, and the excursion schedule was running late...

The High Speed Water Taxi...

The cruise ship docked in Cozumel, where we took a high speed water taxi from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen.. About a 40 minute ride... Very choppy water that day.. My daughter (the 7 year old) got nauseous... A woman behind us was vomiting, and soon the whole water taxi had that familiar college dorm, early morning aroma. I have a very sensitive gag reflex, so the remainder of that taxi trip was dicey at best..

The Long March to the Bus...

Once in Playa del Carmen, we followed a tour group to our bus.. Now, I thought the buses were going to be right where we were going to be dropped off (no need to bring a stroller)..... Wrong... They were about a 40 minute walk away.. So..... hot, humid, 3 year old not wanting to walk... I had to lug a dead weight 35 lb child through the streets and alleys of Playa del Carmen to get to this bus, with the other kids (and adults) constantly wondering where this f*&$ing bus was... Oh, and remember we were in a hurry because the excursion was running late, so it was a brisk walk... (I'm mentally still in a very positive place thus far..)

Check Out Xel Ha

The Bus Ride... Hmmmmmm?

On the bus ride, we met our guide for the day, Hector.. Great guy, had a pretty good command of the English language, but would always end his sentences with "hmmmmm?". It was amusing for a time, then became a tad annoying after awhile.. The bus was nice, and even had a bathroom, which my 6 year old son preceded to go Number 2 in, and the toilet wouldn't flush, which made the bus smell like, you know, for the remaining 25 minutes or so of the bus ride to Xel Ha. Everybody on board was appreciative of that....

We were starting to figure out that we would only have about 4 to 4 1/2 hours total there at the park, given the long bus ride there.. You really need an entire day or even two full days at Xel Ha to experience what they have there..(check out the video, it really is an amazing place..)

The Lazy River - Everything Fell Apart...

Once in the park, we immediately started the trek up the trail to the start of the Xel Ha Lazy River, where you have either one or two man tubes, and you float down the river.. You rent snorkels and fins on the way, so you can snorkel at the end of the tube ride... On the way (again it's hot, the 3 year old is tired...), my wife and 3 year old encounter giant black ants crossing our trail in a giant foot wide swath (thousands of them crawling on top of each other).. My wife can't stand anything in mass, so she freaks out, which freaks out my 3 year old, who is already on the precipice... Screaming and ranting now (remember this is a quiet, ecological park, mostly with couples awaiting their turn to go down this relaxing, quiet river).. we're all uncomfortable waiting our turn to get into a tube.. My son is screaming, my friend Stu has about hit a wall with all the drama, and we finally all get in our tubes, and my 3 year old immediately calms down, and says "this is cozy and relaxing"......

Soon after, my friend's 7 year old daughter sees a fresh water crab sitting on a viny branch right near the tube, and she freaks out and starts screaming and crying.... We're now crying with laughter in disbelief as we get stared at by the rest of the poor folks destined to ride the river with us....

As we got to the bottom of the river, my friend's daughter lost her rental equipment in the river for snorkeling (which he later had to pay $50 for), which was the final straw for my friend, Stu.. He lost it, and yelled "I'm going to have to pay for that!" He pulled the tube out of the water, and we didn't see him until we were leaving the park a couple of hours later.. He was laying in a hammock, wasted, smoking a cigar...

Grateful for the Experience...

Now, even though it was a bad experience, I'm truly grateful to even be able to experience a place like Xel Ha.. Many folks don't have the opportunity or means to do so, but the stories we have from this place will last forever, and we will always be grateful for that... and, I HIGHLY recommend Xel Ha as a place to visit in your lifetime.. It is truly an incredible place...


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    • Austinstar profile image


      5 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

      Ah, how much fun it is to travel with small children! I just returned from a week in Cancun. My family (me and Bob) and RealHousewife's family (2 adults, 2 teens) were going there for the Mayan New Epoch (12/21/2012). The first night there was a nightmare of being so tired from traveling that I actually fell out of bed and landed on my knees. The next day was supposed to be the trip to Chichen Itza and I could not go! I could barely walk and thought I might end up in the hospital. Well, their family went and had a great time, so I suppose that was good. But the rest of the trip was ruined for me and Bob. We have vowed to never fly again. Coming home was the reverse nightmare of getting there.

      But I did so want to go to Xel-Ha. I have been there many years ago and remembered that it was a great place.

    • shanaya profile image


      7 years ago from Living in my Own Dreams:)

      Hey Brian! Nice Hub. Thanks for sharing your experience. You enjoyed your trip, that is what matters at the end. Keep Sharing.:)

      Voted up, Interesting, Awesome.

      With Respect

      from SHANAYA:)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Despite all the commotion it seems like you enjoyed yourself enough to give it a hearty recommendation. I will have to check it out myself - without children of course!!! Thanks - Voted up!

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 

      7 years ago

      THey should tell parents ahead of time, the pros and cons of these trips. We too had a horrible experience in the Grand Cayman Islands with a "Bike" trip...the same problems, with getting there, the bus, the guide...Live and Learn, except we were able to get our $75.00 a piece back when we got back to the ship and complained and they too said a 6 year old could go on this one. HA!

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Too bad about the mishaps Brian, par for the course when you have small children along with a friends kid. Your right about just experiencing a wonder like Xel Ha though. The Yucatan is a place I've been wanting to see and I'll certainly keep it in mind. Let me know if you ever want to see and enjoy some off the beaten path spots on the Carolinas coast!


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