Xetulul is a medium sized amusement park located near the west coast of Guatemala, a few miles away from the Mexican border, or about three hours drive from the capital city (and airport!). Though I’d seen photographs of the park prior to my visit I was completely unprepared for how spectacular it actually is, with beautiful theming and attention to detail that is at least as good as all the usual award winners, such as Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Europa Park.
At the time of writing the park web site doesn't list opening hours or ticket prices, which seems a little bizarre to this tourist. Be that as it may, the staff are very responsive to e-mailed requests for information, as well as queries left on their official Facebook page. It seems that the park is normally open Thursday to Sunday, and admission costs Q.100, or about US $8. This price does not include the rides, tickets for which must be bought inside the park at the bank, a rather imposing looking building located on the left hand side after passing under the railway bridge. Shareable twelve-ride tickets and flat rate individual wristbands are both available for Q.50.
Our first stop was at Choconoy (#1599), one of twenty-five known installations of the large Zierer Tivoli, and my twenty-fourth; the only one I’ve yet to hit is in Argentina, which I hope to get to some day. This version is painted a brilliant yellow colour, which looks fantastic above the neatly manicured lawn that lies underneath its track. There were only two passengers sharing the forty-seat train on what was probably the first dispatch of the morning, and the resulting slow speed made me wonder whether we were going to get a rollback on the final turn prior to the station; the train made it, but only just! Later on in the day with more people on board the train was cresting with no problems, though that might also have been to do with having had several hours to warm up. Next to this ride is Jurakan, a Zamperla Disk-O that is apparently a new addition. This model was easily the best looking example of the genre I’ve seen.
The main area of the park is accessed via a bridge that leads towards a giant pyramid, a structure which looks like it has a secondary purpose as an engineering workshop; a fluorescent tube lamp was just about visible inside the doors at its rear. This area features a small animal exhibit, comprising two jaguars in separate cages, and a small selection of children’s rides; a flying carpet, a mini drop tower, and a small flying elephant ride.
Turning left leads towards the star attraction, an eight inversion roller coaster from Intamin named Avalancha (#1600). Those familiar with Colossus will recognise the basic layout, though this version swaps out two of the barrel rolls for a helix (a definite improvement in my view). This installation also tracks far more smoothly than its English cousin, with no vibration and only the occasional jolt. The station building has themed icicles hanging from the ceiling, and though they don’t look realistic they do nevertheless manage to set the tone for the attraction as a whole.
In addition to the coasters, the park has a wave swinger, a carousel, a top spin, a pirate ship, dodgems, a lengthy train ride, and a fabulously themed giant splash. The latter appears to have been calibrated so as to not get riders too wet; we watched a number of boats hit the water and observed the passengers getting off mostly dry. The outside temperature today peaked at 30C, so this enthusiast cannot see any obvious reason for the de-rating (especially when compared with a certain ride at Oakwood which runs as normal in single digit temperatures!) but whatever the case the punters appeared to be enjoying themselves.
Those who are only interested in roller coasters will likely complete Xetulul in an hour or two. However, anyone with more than a passing interest in architecture or theme park design is likely to spend considerably longer walking around the park with camera in hand. I was surprised to discover that I’d taken over two hundred pictures in my visit, the first time I’ve done that in a while, which says it all really. Though it's a long way from the regular tourist haunts, any enthusiast visiting Guatemala should definitely make the effort.