Swimming in the Yucatan’s magnificent cenotes is one of my favourite things to do in Mexico. Here are some pointers on how to have a safe and enjoyable time in a cenote in Mexico.
Visiting Mexico’s cenotes is a fantastic experience! Ceremonial offerings to their gods were performed in cenotes as a source of freshwater for Mayan cities like Chichen Itza.
Many places have yielded ancient artefacts and even human remains.
It was common practice to make sacrifices to the Mayan god of rain, Chaac when a dry spell threatened. Similarly, the Maya believed these wells were portals to the underworld.
Cenotes in Mexico, despite their spooky background, are now popular with tourists and locals alike for their refreshing jungle swimming holes and cave diving hotspots. Swimming in a cenote is an essential part of any trip to Mexico!
Cenotes in Tulum, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Valladolid may all be found on this page.
As a digital nomad who has lived in Mexico for several years, I was compelled to compile a list of my favourite cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula.
Restrictions on Mexican travel in 2022
Mexico has eliminated all admission requirements for COVID-19. As of January 2022, there will be no need for immunization records, health forms, or tests. However, before travelling back to the United States, American citizens must be tested in Mexico.
There are new health and safety regulations at most hotels, attractions, and private excursions, and you may be required to observe particular rules (such as wearing masks) depending on where you are going.
Best Mexican Cenotes
What Is a Cenote, and What Makes One?
The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is well-known for its spectacular cenotes, which are freshwater ponds formed within limestone caverns. The largest underground river system in the world connects all of these ponds.
Through the limestone, rainwater seeps into the earth and collects.
As a result of a cave opening caused by the collapse of the limestone surface, cenotes exist. Although the roof has collapsed in some cenotes, others, known as “cave cenotes,” may still have a substantial portion of their roof.
A wide variety of fish and plants can be found in Mexican cenotes, and some even include turtles!
Over 6000 distinct cenotes are said to be found throughout Mexico. In some cases, they’ve been transformed into tourist attractions, while in others, they’re utilized for advanced scuba diving in the Mexican jungle.
Tulum’s best cenotes, in my opinion
Casa, an open-air cenote that resembles more of a river than a regular cenote, is one of my favourite places to snorkel in Tulum. It’s a great site for snorkelling, with jungle vegetation growing right up to the edge. If you’re not a confident swimmer, you’ll want to wear a life jacket because it’s small but quite long.
“Cenote Manati” is the name given to the site by the locals since it was once home to a population of Manatees. “Panchito” the friendly crocodile makes appearances occasionally to swim with tourists even though it is no longer there. Other than not petting it, there’s nothing to be concerned about!
Located near Tulum, Dos Ojos Cenote is among the best cenotes in the area. The “two eyes” (sinkholes) are separated by a 400-meter underwater tunnel, making it a famous scuba diving spot. While snorkelling is fun, there are many caves just above the surface of the sea that can be explored.
To avoid overcrowding, it’s best to avoid visiting Dos Ojos at peak times. For those who want to explore the area’s many cenotes, this one is just the beginning.
Tulum’s Grand Cenote
One of the nearest cenotes to Tulum is Gran Cenote (also known as Great Cenote). It is, in fact, possible to ride a bicycle in this area. It’s not a huge cave, but it does have a nice cave passage that separates two interesting rooms. A turtle refuge is also part of the attraction.
Showers and facilities are available on-site at this lovely cenote, which is great for swimming and snorkelling. It’s become increasingly popular over the years and attracts large crowds on occasion.
The Taak Bi-Ha Cenote
This cenote tucked away in Tulum’s jungle, is one of a kind. Led lights illuminate the cave cenote, yet the overall effect is one of natural beauty, and that’s exactly what I like about it. Snorkelling here is like diving into a crystal-clear cavern because the water is so crystal-clear. Scuba divers, by the way, aren’t the only ones who will fall into the deep end.
It’s one of Tulum’s less-visited cenotes, in part because admission is so expensive.
Car Wash at the Cenote (Aktun Ha)
One of Tulum’s most popular attractions is a cenote that used to be used by locals to wash their automobiles! The cenote has been transformed into a true swimming hole in Tulum, complete with a plethora of tropical fish, water lily, and iguana species, as well as the occasional turtle sighting.
Several wooden jumping platforms, a rope swing, and a cave diving place may be found at the Car Wash. Even the ocean floor is littered with tree stumps, creating a fascinating underwater landscape to explore when snorkelling.
Cavern of the Dead in Cenote Calavera (Temple Of Doom)
As the name implies, the formation resembles a skull with three entrances, hence the name Cenote Calavera. Tulum’s deepest cenote is a favourite among cave divers. A great place to jump from the sides (you can even drop into a little aperture).
Professional scuba divers sometimes refer to it as the “Temple of Doom.” A climbing rope and a swing are both present. Lounge chairs for sunbathing are also available.
Choo Ha Cenote
Near the ruins of Coba, there is a cenote with shallow water (about 45-minutes from Tulum). Clear blue water and several stalagmites dangle from the ceiling in this cave. One of my favourite cenotes near Tulum is this dramatic-looking one.
If you’re travelling with a family or children, this is an excellent cenote to see, despite the high and treacherous stairs. So, proceed with caution! There are three cenotes in the area near Coba, and visitors can purchase a single ticket to visit them all.
The tiny, crystal-clear Laguna de Kaan Luum surrounds a deep cenote (sinkhole). The water in this cenote, which purportedly reaches a depth of 262 feet, is said to have mystical abilities.
The deeper portion of Kaan Luum has been fenced off to prevent swimmers from entering, making it ideal for scuba diving or freediving. A modest tower with a magnificent perspective of the entire region can be climbed, as can water hammocks and swings.
The La Noria Cenote
Ruta De Cenotes (Cenote Route) just outside Puerto Morelos is where you’ll find the nicest cenotes in the area. My personal favourite amongst these cenotes was La Noria. In addition to the stalactites hanging from the ceiling, the cave has milky blue water, rope swings, and even a leaping platform for thrill-seekers.
Lucero, a bright green
A zipline is also available at Cenote Verde Lucero, making it a great place for thrill-seekers. A well-known and frequently visited cenote. Kayaks can be rented on-site as well. These are some of the most convenient cenotes to visit if you’re staying in a Cancun hotel.
Cenotes Sol and Luna.
The first cenote you’ll come across on the Ruta de Cenotes is Cenote Sol y Luna. In addition to the cenote, the facility also has a swimming pool, a temazcal sauna, an ATV ride, and more. A fantastic zipline and a few jumping platforms may be found in this lush cenote. Here, lifejackets are available for free (and must be worn).
The Puma Cenote
Boca del Puma is a great place to come near Cancun if you’re looking for a good time (Mouth of the Puma). There are two types of cenotes here: one is enclosed in a cave, while the other is open to the elements. Some rescued spider monkeys who live in the bush but aren’t terrified of people may also be found here, as well as a zipline course. They wouldn’t let one of them leave her side!
The Water Eye Cenote
Ojo de Agua, is a beautiful cenote in the Dominican Republic, with numerous apertures (eyes) into the water below. Jumping from 20-foot-high platforms and swimming through the caves below are two of the more enjoyable activities. Showers are required before entering, but there is also an on-site cafe where you may obtain your lunch.
This is the Cenote of Eden.
Cenote It’s not far from Playa del Carmen to find the vast open-air cenote known as Jardin del Eden (Garden of Eden). Several decks for jumping or sunbathing, a shady canopy of trees, and an abundance of small fish make it a popular spot for locals and foreigners alike. Snorkelling is fantastic here!
It’s possible that this place will be packed at certain times of the year and day. Large in size, it usually has lots of room for spreading out.
The Azul Cenote
Cenote Azul, which sits directly adjacent to the Garden of Eden, has beautiful blue water. The “blue” cenote has a little cliff from which you can jump, a wooden walkway, and a few shady spaces where you can lounge around.
Small fish may be found in this cenote, and they’ll eat your dead skin if you put your feet in the water! A spa using only natural Mexican fish products! Check out the forest path that encircles the cenote as well; it’s a great way to see the area.
A great Mexican cenote for families and children is Cenote Yax Kin. Most cenotes lack the big shallow areas that account for this. There are also lounge chairs and pathways leading to additional cenotes within the compound.
Renting a barbecue or a campground is also an option. Observe the large iguana lizards that congregate around the cavern! They’ve been known to chase one another up trees on occasion. It’s a lot of fun.
The Cenote of Ik-Kil
Cenote Ik-Kil, near the Chichen Itza ruins, is a very popular cenote that is frequently included in guided bus trips. As a result, it’s frequently crowded. Massive vines descend to the water’s edge, creating an impressive visual effect. It’s cool, but it’s not my favourite cenote in the neighbourhood because of the crowds.
The Zaci-Ha Cenote
Cenote Zaci is located in the heart of Valladolid, Mexico, and is just a short bike ride away from the city’s many attractions. It’s not as well-known as some others, but it does have a few different cliff jumps, some giant blackfish swimming around, and occasionally a small waterfall.
Suytun is a cenote
Suytun Cenote, one of Yucatan’s most Instagrammable cenotes, is a Yucatan must-see. A large hole in the ceiling lets in a plenty of natural light, creating an evocative atmosphere. As a result of its popularity, the circular path can become rather congested.
Before blowing a whistle to let the next person in line receive their chance, each participant has about a minute to pose for photos on the pathway. It’s a beautiful picture, but it’s not quite as magical as some other cenotes. In some ways, it’s turned into a tourist trap.
There is a nearby X’canche cenote that is part of the Ek Balam archaeological complex. It has a unique shape, resembling a crater with steep edges. The Mayan ruins are roughly a mile (1.5 km) away, but bicycles are available for rent.
Two very steep wooden staircases must be walked down in order to reach the lake. Snorkeling gear isn’t necessary because the water isn’t as clear as in other cenotes. All of these activities can be done for an additional fee: a free rope swing, ziplines, and a rappel.
The Palomitas Cenote
It’s a little off the main road in Mexico, about 30 minutes from Valladolid, but it’s worth the trip. Tourists aren’t flocking to this location like they are to others. Three cenotes make up the complex. At the top of the cenote is a solitary opening, which allows sunlight to flood the cavern. Climbers will appreciate the knotted rope that dangles below.
Sac-Aua is a cenote on the Yucatan Peninsula
Sac-Aua, one of Mexico’s most distinctive cenotes, with a doughnut-shaped island in the centre. Kayaks are available for rent on the island, so you may explore at your own pace. Several iguanas are also there, as are several jumping platforms. Visit the cavern (cave) on-site, and they’ll even prepare a typical Mayan feast for lunch.
Mayan Secret Cenote
This cenote near Valladolid has a lot to offer visitors. There’s a 22-meter jumping platform, a 10-meter rope swing, caverns to explore, and a ceremonial Mayan blessing awaits you when you enter. A swimming pool, hammocks and a beautiful mural await you when you’ve finished exploring the cenote. This was a great read for me! Even so, it wasn’t too packed.
The Best Ways to See Cenotes
Rent a vehicle
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Renting a car is the best way to get throughout the Yucatan Peninsula and explore some of the most distant cenotes. It’s my preferred mode of transportation! Using my Mexico cenote map at the top of this post, you can locate every one of them.
Take a Cenote Tour with a Guide
From Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum, there are a variety of choices for viewing cenotes. Itineraries that include a visit to a cenote can include ziplining, ATV rides or a variety of other adventure activities. The Xenote Experience, which departs from Cancun, is a popular choice.
Using Your Own Two Wheels Or Taking A Taxi
It’s possible to get to several of the Tulum cenotes and the Valladolid ones by bicycle. A local cab will be your best option for most people unless they have their own rental car. When you’ve finished exploring the cenote, ask the taxi driver for their business card so you may call them for a trip back to town.
Traveling to Mexico’s Cenotes? Here Are Some Pointers.
Most cenotes require you to shower before entering in order to prevent pollution of the water. Sunscreen should also be avoided because it may harm wildlife.
In Mexico, many cenotes have life jackets available for those who cannot swim well. The majority of cenotes do not have a shallow section; some of them can be hundreds of feet below sea level.
Cenotes with rope swings, leaping platforms, zip lines, and snorkeling gear can be found at several locations.
Some cenotes are frequented by cave divers, so be mindful of their presence and watch where you leap!
Depending on the season and the time of day, some cenotes might become overcrowded. In order to avoid the crowds, it’s probably best to move on to another cenote if you arrive and notice a slew of tour buses.
Because they receive their water from deep beneath, cenotes tend to have cold water.
Cave Diving vs. Cavern Diving
The sport of cave exploration was split into two categories in order to attract more SCUBA divers.
The term “cave diving” describes the practice of navigating through submerged passageways with no direct route to the surface because of a rock roof over their heads. Under the correct definition of cave diving, the diver cannot see any natural light. A spool of penetration line and multiple air tanks are often used to help people get out of caves that are hundreds of meters away from the entrance.
Cavern Diving is quite similar to cave diving, with the exception that you will always be able to see a little bit of light. To put it another way, cavern divers aren’t able to explore as far as cave divers can. There is no requirement that the cave’s opening be visible; all that is required is that some natural light emanate from it. In cave diving, the maximum depth allowed is 200 feet (60 meters) from the cave’s entry. The only difference between cave divers and scuba divers is that the guideline used by cave divers is already fixed to the cave floor or wall.
Dive flashlights are required for cave and cavern diving since the interior of a tunnel can grow fairly dark. Even if you can see some light in the distance behind you, the direction in which you’re swimming may be pitch black!
The typical recreational diver does not have the time or money to obtain the additional certifications needed by cave divers.
What a fantastic experience scuba diving in a freshwater cave will be after experiencing ocean reef SCUBA diving. It’s both eerie and fascinating at the same time.
On this particular day, we completed two 45-minute dives, following a pre-dive check and safety discussion. The first one brought us down to a depth of 30 feet (10 meters) as it made its way from one aperture of a cenote to another.
In the veins of earth, the light from the opening of the cenote gradually goes away.
Using my dive light, I scoured the area for weird fish, cave fossils, and other anomalies as we made our way into the rock.
Cavern diving in a cenote necessitates excellent buoyancy control in order to safely navigate the cave’s formations.
For divers, the ceiling of the cavern is a fascinating feature. They resemble puddles of mercury in every way!
Crystal stalactites and stalagmites can look like candles when illuminated by a flashlight.
The Bat Cave was the destination of our second dive. There are limestone pillars that rise like cathedrals along this path. This area of the tunnel was so dark that it resembled a real cave diving experience.
As soon as you emerge from the cavern, you are greeted by a little skylight above your head.
Bats have taken up the entire chamber.
Dos Ojos Cenote scuba diving was an unusual (though fascinating) trip experience.