Xel-Ha, Eco Park Cancun

Xel-Ha (http://www.xel-ha.com) is a popular eco park and one of the most popular tourist destinations along the Riviera Maya. It offers some of the best snorkeling and diving in the region. It is only about eight miles south of Akumal and not far from the famous Aktun Chen cavern. The park's main attraction is the large clear water lagoon, ideal for snorkeling swimming, because of its calm waters. Fresh water from the river and sea water from the Caribbean mix to form a turquoise oasis in the jungle.

Snuba and sea trekking are also on offer. Snuba is a variation of scuba diving; divers breathe through long tubes connected to air tanks that float on the surface of the water. Sea trekking is a fun way to explore the bottom of the lagoon. Using a plastic helmet with breathing tubes, even non-swimmers can get close to the sea life without even getting their hair wet. Swimming with dolphins is also available and, at the right time of year, visitors can even assist in releasing hatchling sea turtles. The lagoon teems with exotic fish and so in order to keep the memories alive, underwater cameras can be hired with the snorkeling gear.

A shuttle service takes guests upriver where they then have the option of snorkeling, swimming or floating on a rubber tube down river and back into the lagoon. There are also jungle paths that lead to two sinkholes, naturally formed holes that connect to an underground passage filled with water from a subterranean river. Cave diving in these 'cenotes' is a popular activity for certified divers.

Xel-Ha is more of a theme park than an eco park. While it allows for close interaction with sea life the primary attractions are the water activities that and there are no archaeological ruins. Some effort is made to educate the public on the wild life that surrounds them but not much. It is a commercialized tourist attraction that can get quite busy during high season.

Xel-Ha is open daily from 8:30am to 5pm and parking is free.

Basic admission fees for adults are $29 during the week and $22 during the weekend. Admission for children between five and eleven is $18 during the week and $11 on weekends. Under five's go free. This fee includes life jackets, river shuttle and changing rooms. The all inclusive fee is considerably more but includes snorkeling equipment, locker rental, towels, food and drinks. The best time to go to avoid the masses is on weekends between 9am and 2pm.

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