TR - IRTRA part 1 - Xetulul
Last Saturday, my friend Carlos and I traveled to IRTRA – a resort with amusement and water parks near Retalhuleu, Guatemala. We spent Friday night in Retalhuleu, rode a chicken bus to Xetulul (the theme park), and stayed at the resort hotels Saturday night. We visited the water park, Xocomil on Sunday.
The town of Retalhuleu is about a 3.5 hour bus ride away from Guatemala City, and the resort is only about 15 minutes from there. Bus fare was only 75 Quetzales ($10).
First, let me sing my praises to the resort of IRTRA. The resort hosts 5 different styled hotels, a couple of first class restaurants, mini golf, spa, and other resort activities. The grounds are immaculate – trimmed lawns, a myriad of exotic tropical plants, and green trees soar into the air. Literally dozens of peacocks and peahens roam the grounds. Bright red macaws perch in trees. It is absolute paradise! The swimming pool has several waterfalls and a small water slide for the kids. The food is excellent! The service is super friendly and helpful. You can have a great day just hanging out at the resort. This place is a true gem of all of Central America. I highly recommend a visit!
This isn’t the cheapest excursion in Guatemala – the rooms are well over $100 per night. But park admittance is less than $30 for both parks and unlimited rides. Plus the food in the parks is WAY cheap compared to US standards.
Xetulul is a very small theme park, just a short train ride from the hotel. Let me first say that although it is a breath taking beautiful park, it was a bit of a let down. There just isn’t much to do. There are only a dozen rides, a few shows, a few game areas, and that’s it. Strangely there are 3 or 4 very nice sit-down restaurants, tons of snack food and drink vendors, and many, many shops all selling the same theme park stuff. It seems that most people go there just to eat at nice restaurants and enjoy the scenery. It’s not what I expected from the flagship park of Guatemala. A few hours is really all you need here.
BUT - the theming of Xetulul is absolutely amazing!!! It competes with BGW. The park is themed around European countries of Germany, Italy, Spain, and France. Interestingly, the buildings are replicas of actual sites in Europe. There are recreations of Calle de Arcos in Cádiz, Spain, Trevi fountain in Rome, among other famous sites. Also, there is a really cool replica of one of the temples of Tikal.
I have never seen a park put so much detail into its theming. The detail is unbelievable – every brick and window sill is perfectly designed. Even the backs of buildings used for storage that no one hardly ever sees are decorated. The cobble stones in the paths are great, too. The architecture at Xetulul is very impressive. Heck, even the street lights are cool.
The same can be said for the landscaping. Immaculately kept flower beds, decorative bushes and trees, fountains, it’s just overall pretty dang impressive. Strangely, the theming almost felt over done. The buildings weren’t just cheap façades - they are actual buildings. But many of the buildings are just empty shells. You can see into some of the windows and see just blank nothingness. It’s a weird way to utilize space, although it is very attractive.
OK, so the park is beautiful…onto the rides!
As I mentioned, there isn’t much here, but most of the rides are pretty good. I’ll start with details of the best ones and move on from there.
Avalancha – Intamin 8-looping coaster
Surprisingly this was my first Intamin looping coaster. It was very fun, but had some headbanging through the inversions. After several rides I could predict this, and put my chest and head forward through the OTSRs, but still the banging can really get you. Plus, crawling over and through the restraints to get into your seat is really tough on these Intamins!
The ride is not very tall or fast. After the perfectly quiet lift, the train drops into a decent left–hand turn, then into a nicely done vertical loop. A little vibrating in the loop, but not too bad.
Next is a little transition hill that doesn’t give any air, but makes a nice segue into the cobra roll. The cobra roll is a great one. Fast and forceful. Be careful here, you can really get some headbanging.
The subsequent double corkscrews are also fast and powerful, but for some reason second corkscrew has some jarring headbanging if you’re not careful.
Next comes THE MOST DISORIENTING, GIGGLE-FUN inversions I have ever been on – the triple heart line roll. Oh man these are fun! They make the entire ride worthwhile. You feel yourself falling out of your seat and into the OTSRs, praying those things don’t come unhitched! The visuals are amazing, too! I can’t explain what it’s like getting tossed around like a ragdoll in these rolls, but they are way fun. Surprisingly, these are not painful at all. Intamin really did a courageous thing experimenting with these elements. I can easily see that if they were too fast, too slow, or if the radii of the rolls weren’t perfect, they could be painful as heck. But Intamin pulled these off with perfection, and they should be copied on more coasters. Beware, you get very dizzy and a bit of a head rush, but it’s worth it!
The coaster ends with an uneventful helix, then back to the loading station that looks like an ice cavern. (I forgot to mention that the whole experience is themed after a snowy mountain, and done very nicely.
Avalancha is great. Great enough for 23 rides. The elements are done very well. The heart-lines are amazing. It does remind me of an old Arrow looper – lots of inversions with nothing much for transitions in between, plus a helix finale. The coaster can be rough – especially in the back. I rode all over the train, and anything behind 5.2 is painful. Interestingly, the right side gives a smoother ride than the left, and the front rows of each car are smoother than the elevated second row chairs.
Sillas Voladoras – wave swinger
Like I said, the park if fun, but not much too it. Fortunately, it was pretty dead, so we rode all rides at will. Ride ops were OK, but with such small crowds, they typically waited 4-5 minutes for a ride to fill up before starting it – not a big deal.
If you’re down in Guatemala, you have to check out IRTRA. It’s a wonderful resort. Just plan a half day at Xetulul, and you’ll have plenty to do at the resort. And the waterpark……….
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Thanks for reading!!