What are the best cenotes in Mexico? The Yucatan Peninsula is known to have the world’s most widespread range of underwater sinkholes and caves called cenotes. Some of these cenotes are open like a lake, others completely closed with only a small opening. There are more than 6000 of them in the Yucatan, so you have plenty of options to choose from. Each cenote is inhabited by colorful fish, some have cliffs to jump from or you can even find a zipline. Whether you’re staying in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum or near Merida you can easily find a few cenotes around. Here is my list of best cenotes in Mexico – enjoy! At the cenotes in Mexico, you’ll be asked to swim without any lotions or creams on your skin at all, as can poison fish, sea plants, and other delicate marine life. However, you can get a biodegradable sunscreen. The best biodegradable, reef safe sunscreen is TotLogic Natural Sunscreen SPF 30. To learn more about this area, read our Yucatan Peninsula Mexico post.
What To Take With You To A Cenote
Bring swimwear, biodegradable reef safe sunscreen, water, sandals/flip flops and a towel, and leave your valuables at home. Entrance fees are usually around $8 per person. Due to their popularity, a lot of cenotes have changing facilities, plus flashlights, life vests and snorkeling equipment to rent.
Here are the best cenotes in Mexico:
Cenote Dos Ojos
Located just 15 minutes north of Tulum off Highway 307, or a one hour drive from Cancun Airport, Cenote Dos Ojos is a flooded cave system first discovered in 1986. Although it continues to be explored today, the cave system is known to extend at least 61km, and is one of the deepest known cave passages with a depth of 118 metres. Dos Ojos, meaning ‘two eyes’, refers to the two cenotes connected by a large cavern zone. One of these cenotes is clear blue water, giving snorkelers and divers high visibility. The other, named the ‘black eye’, is virtually light-free and visitors will need a flashlight to dive here. The area is very cramped however, and isn’t for everyone. There are also dry caves which divers can surface at, including the famous bat cave. Remember to bring food with you to this cenote, as there are no restaurants on site. Stay in Tulum at the exceptional La Valise Tulum.
Just off the highway between Chichen Itza and Valladolid is the beautiful secluded Cenote Azul, situated in an ecological and archaeological park. The cenote is 26 metres deep, surrounded by vegetation, and has crystal clear water perfect for swimming in. The beautiful turquoise water and marine life also make this a divers dream. If you aren’t a diver, there are still plenty of things to do here, such as jumping off the mini cliff into the water, wading through the shallow pools, or simply having a picnic in the beautiful area. From the nearby Playa Del Carmen or Tulum, visitors can take an inexpensive minivan or taxi to reach Cenote Azul. Stay in Playa del Carmen at the awesome Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort.
Located in Dzitnup, this underground cenote is one of the most photographed cenotes in the Yucatan. The massive hole in the ceiling allows a huge system of roots to reach towards the water nearly 8 meters below. To access the cenote, visitors must go down a stone staircase, followed by a wooden staircase that leads to a viewing platform. From here, you can swim through the crystal clear water. A series of ropes have been set up to make it easier to cross the water, and snorkeling equipment is available to rent. Stay in Valladolid at the exceptional Casa Marlene.
For those who want to mix a little history into their holiday, Cenote Ponderosa is perfect for discovering some Mayan rituals. Also known as the Garden of Eden, this cenote was once the location of human sacrifices and the offerings of jade and gold, which were thrown into the water. The cenote is 15 meters deep, and visitors will see shimmering fish flitting in and out of underwater caves. The area is covered partly by a rocky ceiling, as if chiseled from the side of the rainforest. Visitors can jump from the rocky ledge and swim out to the sunny freshwater pond for snorkeling, or experience cavern and cave diving. Diving equipment is available to rent on site. Stay in Xpu Ha at the wonderful Hotel Esencia.
Cenote Grutas de Loltun
The largest and most interesting cavern on the Yucatan Peninsula, Grutas de Loltun is a treasure trove of data for archaeologists. Carbon dating has been used at this site, revealing that humans used these caves 2,200 years ago. Murals of hands, faces, and animals have been found here, but sadly not many of these remain due to people touching them. Even if you don’t like swimming or diving, Grutas de Loltun allows visitors to view the area without having to get wet. Guides lead you through a network of caverns featuring tree roots bursting through the ceiling. These intricate caves create adventure and mystery, and an unforgettable experience. You’ll need to pack some food for this cenote, as there isn’t anywhere to purchase food. You can rent snorkeling equipment and flashlights on site. Stay in Oxkutzcab at the Hotel Puuc.
Amidst the Maya Jungle and just a 15 minute drive from the Mayan pyramids at Chichen Itza is the town of Yokdzonot. Follow the signs to the Ecological Park and you’ll find the beautiful freshwater cenote. The cenote is run by 18 local Mayan females, so ensure you take care when visiting this delicate area. The site itself is enchanting and the women who run it have set up several facilities including a restaurant, kitchen, and public bathrooms. Stay in Mérida at the exceptional Villa Tievoli Bed & Breakfast.
Gran Cenote is just like a remote tropical beach in an underground cave! Wander down the path to the white, sandy shoreline at the bottom before descending through gardens of tropical foliage. Snorkeling is the main attraction here, along with the fish, turtles, and stalagmites. Stay in Tulum at the exceptional La Valise Tulum.