What's A Cenote?
Cenotes are essentially large sinkholes or caves, usually found in sedimentary limestone rock, that have filled with cool, clear groundwater and rainwater over time. Typically created when a cave collapses on itself, Cenotes can be open-air cenotes (the roof has completely collapsed) or a cave cenote (most or all of the roof remains). Many cenotes are home to various fish, plant life and even turtles! Throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, thousands of Cenotes have become popular places for locals and travelers to cool off from the jungle heat.
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Less Crowded Cenotes
Cenote Manatí (aka Casa Cenote)
This river-like open-air cenote is one of the most unique and beautiful in the Tulum area. Named after the manatees that used to frequent the site, Cenote Manati is an excellent place to swim on a clear day.
Easily reached by an unpaved road around 9km north of Tulum, the entrance is $150 pesos, which includes a life jacket. Lockers are available for 50 pesos. Popular scuba diving location as well.
Basically, a hole in the ground with a ladder down to an underground pool, Cenote Calavera is small but unique and wildly picturesque centote near Tulum. A more adventurous cave cenote for sure, jumping off the rock surrounds into the “Pit” is a bizarre experience.
This one is more popular for scuba divers, but is well worth a check out for anyone if you have the time. Sometimes there is a rope you can swing on as well! The entrance fee is $100 pesos.
Cenote Cristalino and Escondido Cenote
Two beautiful open-air cenotes just minutes from Tulum, Cristalino and Escondido are across the road from each other and both worth exploring.
Great swimming and platform jumping, $120 pesos gets you access to both large cenotes—a couple of minutes south of Tulum.
Adjacent to the Jungle Maya Park, the Yaxmuul Cenotes are considered some of the most beautiful in the area and are less crowded than many other cenotes near Tulum.
Reaching them requires a few miles drive down a dirt road, so typically people hire a tour guide to take them. Packages often include driving ATVs through the jungle to get there, which adds to the “adventure” vibe. There are a few zip lines and rappelling opportunities in the area as well. Very highly reviewed.
Until only the past few decades, Aktun-Ha (translated as car wash) was a little-used cenote where taxi drivers would stop to gather water to wash their cars!
A beautiful, shallow open-air cenote (with a cave portion filled with stalactites!), Aktun-Ha is a wonderful place to swim and snorkel. Rock formations, fish and turtles can be seen through the clear water, but it’s even more fun to explore with goggles on. A deck along the edge is excellent for sunbathing and jumping off into the water.
Aktun-Ha is Just off the road between Tulum and Coba. There is a $250 pesos entrance fee.
A series of three cave cenotes near the Mayan ruins of Coba, Choo-Ha is a refreshing place to take a dip and explore the beautiful rock structures. Its name translates as “water that drips” because of the extensive stalactites in the cenote cave.
The long wooden stairway down to this underground cenote is an adventure unto itself. The entrance fee is $100 pesos.
Cenote Zaci-Ha is a massive open-air cenote near Valladolid. With a towering arching half cave over a portion of the large pool, the location is rather breathtaking in its grandeur. The water is 100 meters deep too! Better for swimming than snorkeling, Zaci-Ha is not nearly as busy as some of the other cenotes in the area. It’s just $30 pesos to enter as well, so well worth a stop if you’re in the area.
June 2022: TEMPORARILY CLOSED to all swimming. You can still visit and take photos though.
Cenote X’Canche is a large open-air cenote that also includes a small recreational area adjacent to the Ek Balam Archaeological Site. There are decks for sunbathing and jumping off into the large pool. There’s also a short zipline!
Near Valladolid, the entrance fee is $150 pesos.
One of the most picturesque cenotes in the Yucatan, Cenote Oxman’s blue waters are encircled by hanging vines and steep cave walls. Wow. Near Valladolid, Cenote Oxman is in the Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman, which has a pool and a restaurant as well. Great way to spend an afternoon. There are three options to enjoy the Hacienda.
Option 1 – $70 pesos. This includes access to the Oxman cenote only. Visitors can use the pool for free but can only use the palapas and loungers if they purchase food or drinks.
Option 2 – $100 pesos. This includes access to the cenote and pool area with a $50 pesos food/drink credit.
Option 3 – $150 pesos. This option includes access to the cenote with a $150 peso food and drinks credit for the bar and restaurant with full use of the pool area.
More Crowded Cenotes
... but worth a visit
One of the most famous and popular cenotes in Mexico, Gran Cenote is actually a string of cenotes connected by walking paths. The primary cenote is a winding river-like open-air cenote that meanders around and is delightful for swimming and snorkeling. There are several cave sections as well for exploring, and the surrounding rock formations and jungle add to the beauty of the area. Between Tulum and Coba, this is a popular tour stop as well. The entrance fee is 500 pesos or $25 USD which includes snorkeling equiment.
Cenote Dos Ojos
Meaning “two eyes,” Cenote Dos Ojos is a large ring-shaped cenote that provides lots of space to explore. Primarily a cave cenote, the sun can hit the water in the afternoon and really light up the waters.
Great for snorkeling, there are fish, turtles, and an abundance of incredible stalactites and stalagmites. Large areas for drying off and relaxing in hammocks are perched by the waterside. Between Playa del Carmen and Tulum and coming in at $200 pesos per person, Dos Ojos is one of the region’s pricier options.
Cenote Ponderosa (Jardin del Eden)
The “Garden of Eden” of cenotes, Cenote Ponderosa (also called Jardin del Eden) is a sprawling open-air cenote of vibrant turquoise water surrounded by a verdant jungle and rocky outcroppings. With shallow and deep areas, the large cenote is popular for swimming, snorkeling, and especially scuba diving.
Entrance to Ponderosa is $200 pesos for adults, $100 pesos for children, and it’s located between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. Ponderosa can be quite busy in the afternoons and on the weekends, so mornings on weekdays are best for escaping crowds.
One of the most Instagrammed cenotes in Mexico, Cenote Suytun has a stone path to a circular platform in the middle of its large round pool. Near Valladolid, Suytun is a popular stop on tours and for a good reason. This giant cave cenote is one of the more picturesque of the lot. With towering stalactites, the cave walls are a creamy grey against the bright blue waters. Excellent for a swim and a pic, but a bit crowded most of the time. Try the early morning for alone time, though you won’t get the sunbeams through the hole in its roof until midday. The entrance fee is $70 pesos.
A sprawling complex of turquoise blue cenotes, Cenote Azul (meaning blue in Spanish) is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.
Very busy on weekends, the combination of beautiful shallow and deep pools, a sprawling surrounds of restaurants and picnic areas, cliff jumping, snorkeling and more make this an appealing spot for families and those who don’t mind crowds. Between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Cenote Azul is $70 pesos to enter.