It's getting harder and harder to find new credits during the cold winter months, so Cheryl and I headed to Central America, specifically, Guatemala and Costa Rica. We had a great time in both places, but Guatemala really is a third-world country, with extensive poverty, terrible roads, and fearsome looking soldiers on patrol. Fortunately, I didn't read the State Department warnings (gang rape, murders, narco-terrorism, highest violent crime rate in Latin America, etc.) until after our trip. Guatemala just elected a new law and order president, so we hope that things improve. Despite all of this, our experiences at the premiere Guatemalan parks, Xetulul and Xocomil, were extremely positive. The IRTRA resort in Retalhuleu is a gem, especially considering its location. We also visited the IRTRA park in Guatemala City, Mundo Petapa. We liked that less, but it's still an impressive facility.
We then flew to Costa Rica, which is a somewhat wealthier nation (it helps that military spending = 0), with better tourism infrastructure. After part of a day in the very nice Parque Diversiones in San Jose, we did some very cool adventuring and nature-spotting.
First up, Xetulul!
It's about a 3 hour drive from Guatemala City Airport to the resort town of Retalhuleu. And it's a bad, bone-jarring road, almost all two-lane. We hired a driver because there are bandidos. Seriously.
IRTRA stands for the Institute for the Recreation of Workers in the Private Sector, and they own the Xetulul-Xocomil theme and water-park resort, as well as other resorts and parks.
The entrance to the resort hotels is gated and the guard is armed.
Not what you usually see at theme park resort hotels! The security guard had to call in to make sure we had a reservation, and he took down our license plate info.
This was our hotel, one of three buildings in a hotel complex called Palajunoj, which is just one of several hotel complexes. It's not Disney, but it's still impressive. The grounds and the theming of the resort are gorgeous.
This sign advertises the seating assignments for the IRTRA 50th Anniversary New Year's Eve Gala. IRTRA was founded in 1962, and this resort was built in 2002.
Really nice theming at the pool near our building.
A mariachi band plays at the tram station before our Dinner/ERT session.
Our first look at Xetulul.
Tables set up for dinner. We had a package for the days leading up to NYE, and it included nice events like this one.
Cheryl's liking the food. The staff at this resort were incredibly friendly and gracious. When you say thank you, they respond "Para servirle", or "in order to serve you."
This is Avalancha, the 8-inversion Intamin. I'm proud to have this credit, but those old OTS restraints caused skull fractures with every lateral movement.
Here's a daytime look at Avalancha. Nice looking, with some nice theming.
Xetulul, Efteling, and Europa-Park are the only non-US parks that have won the Applause Award.
Friends greet you at the gates of Xetulul.
Park entrance, yay!
They're setting up for the NYE Gala.
El Choconoy is the other credit.
Cheryl likes this large Zierer Tivoli.
There's a Disk-O...
A pirate ship...sorry Larry, I know I'm a shitty park index source.
Here's the park's money shot.
And at night.
Beautiful touches everywhere. I loved the Mayan theming in the Guatemala section.
Here's the Mayan pyramid without the people, but I chopped the top off.
They have two jaguars. Native to Guatemala, jaguars are the biggest cats in the Western Hemisphere, and only lions and tigers are larger.
We did the train ride at Xetulul and it was awesome, like a half hour long. The property was just enormous.
We saw the IRTRA chopper on the train ride.
Other themed areas included France...
...Italy, and Germany, but I seem not have any pics of Germany. That's where Avalancha is.
There was a big party for New Years Eve and it was gorgeous.
The place was beautifully lit up. Now, I had mentioned that I was an IAAPA member when I tried to make our hotel reservation (that's a whole other story), and we were told that someone from IRTRA would be sitting near us. We waited for a while, eating at an empty table, feeling a bit awkward.
Enter Jorge Mario Chajón, Marketing Manager for IRTRA. He and his beautiful family (L-R wife, sister, daughter, and two sons) made us feel most welcome. Wait, I just realized, that's Mario in the rear, dancing with his mom. They were all very very nice to us.
Awesome New Years fireworks!
Happy 50th IRTRA!!!
Mario also treated us to some of El Mejor Rum Del Mundo!
Thanks for checking out this report. Next up, the best-themed non-Disney waterpark I've every seen, Xocomil!
Last edited by milst1 on Sat Feb 04, 2012 12:59 am.
Xetulul is lovely. I have to say that I didn't find Guatemala even remotely scary when I was there, though perhaps things have changed since 2010. You're right that the road from the capital to the park is fairly bouncy though
I always enjoy your reports from exotic locales, Martin. This parks look much nicer than I expected.
One of my coworkers is originally from Guatemala and usually goes back a few times each year to visit her family, who live in a "sheltered enclave" of the country. She mentioned to me that it was a lot like Mexico--just "haves" and "have nots."
Glad you did the water park. So many of our members aren't into them, but they are such an important, HUGE part of the industry. I always find it interesting how, on many of our TPR tours, we'll get people who say they aren't interested in the waterpark ERT, but out of peer pressure end up doing it, and it becomes a highlight of the trip!
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