Cancun is a wonderful place to explore nature. With so many tourist attractions and tons of things to do there, you will never run out of things to explore. But, if you find yourself wanting even more while visiting Cancun, I have a little something for you – Cancun cenotes.
Mexico is famous for its cenotes and many people visit every year to explore them. Though Cancun doesn’t have any of its own cenotes, it’s not an issue if you want to visit cenotes while you’re vacationing in Cancun. There are many cenotes just a little drive away and among all the things to do in Cancun you should include a visit to a cenote. Today, I’ll tell you all about those cenotes, and where and how to find them. But before that, if you don’t already know, let me tell you what cenotes are, how they form, and their significance in Mayan history.
What is a cenote?
Cenotes are simply underwater lakes filled with freshwater, either from rain or from the sea. The water they contain is filtered from their limestone bedrock that collapses to form a cenote. Since most of the Mexican land comprises of limestone bedrock, accumulation of fresh rainwater or filtered sea water inside them is a common occurrence. When a part of the limestone collapses, the water underneath it gets exposed, creating a cenote.
Cenotes come in many shapes, sizes, and types. Their name has origins in Mayan history, the inhabitants of this land in the pre-Hispanic times. The Mayan civilization used to acquire their freshwater from cenotes and also perform religious rituals in them. If you want to know more about the geology of Mexican cenotes, head on to my detailed article about them in which I have covered everything you need to know about cenotes.
Cancun Cenotes Map
Here is a map of the cenotes near Cancun. If you’re not an expert map-reader, don’t worry. We’ll have a thorough breakdown of all the cenotes’ locations near Cancun, along with their distance from Cancun and the best way to get there.
Cancun Cenotes: La Ruta de los Cenotes Puerto Morelos
Let us begin with the road that takes you to most of the cenotes near Cancun along its route. The road begins 30 minutes away from Cancun, starting at Puerto Morelos (a pleasant beach resort), all the way to Leona Vicario. Along the way, it takes you to so many wonderful cenotes, some of which are out in the open, and others are cave cenotes. Depending upon your mood, you can find ones filled with many other people, or the ones that are relatively less crowded and quiet. I’m going to give you a brief overview of all my favorite cenotes on this route, along with their distance from Cancun.
Cenote Las Mojarras 52 km/32.3 mi
This massive cenote measuring 65 meters is located at the 12.6-kilometer mark of La Ruta de los Cenotes. It’s surrounded by an abundant tropical forest. But, despite being surrounded by a forest, you will find all the facilities, like bathrooms, changing rooms, and campsites, available there. It’s a great place to relax and unwind, or jump into the water from the 6-meter plank.
Cenote 7 Bocas 53.9 km/33.49 mi
I regret not to have seen this cenote. The cenote is made up of an enormous tunnel with 7 different entrances (known as 7 Bocas in Spanish, which means 7 months). It’s a great cenote if you like diving. Divers are facilitated with a certified guide there. A small staircase leads to the deepest cenote inside 7 Bocas. I must warn you, though: It’s a really deep cenote, if not challenging to dive in. This cenote is located at 16 kilometers (12 miles) of La Ruta de los Cenotes.
Verde Lucero 55 km/34.1 mi
Verde Lucero is an open cenote where you can zipline, jump, or cannonball into the beautiful emerald green water. The trees that surround this cenote are gigantically tall. If you’re into wildlife, there is a good chance you will see spider monkeys on the trees while you’re swimming or relaxing by the water. The timing to visit this cenote is between 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the cost is 300 MXN per head (half of it if you’re a native). It’s around 17 kilometers (12.7 miles) from Puerto Morelos.
Kin-Ha 63.4 km/39.39 mi
Kin-Ha is a cave cenote run by a nice family that also organizes tours to another cenote in Quod. This cenote is one of my favorites, and the go-to cenote for me if I have people to take to a cenote. If you’re not one for directly jumping into it (though it can be quite fun), you can use the artificial stairs. Once you’re done swimming, or want to take a break, you can sit in the chairs/hammocks placed in the beautiful surroundings of this cenote and enjoy a chilled beverage.
Cenote La Noria 60.7 km/37.7 mi
A little distance away from Kin-Ha, the deep cave cenote of La Noria offers another place to swim in the fresh water. Though it’s a bit deep and you would need to climb down into it using the wooden staircase there, it’s a wonderful cenote to visit.
Cenotes Zapote 65.2 km/40.5 mi
Cenotes Zapote is a prehistoric ark with four cenotes, two of which are open cenotes, and two cave cenotes. The location is set up like an amusement park, where you can choose from a variety of activities or participate in them all. You can select and purchase your preferred package on the Cenotes Zapote website. The complete tour of this park takes around 4 hours.
Why is it called a prehistoric park?
The tour of this park includes historic knowledge regarding Xicalbanoyx Oviceps, which is a now-extinct species of sloths that lived during the ice age (between 10647 and 305 BC).
Further information about the tour
The tour includes an expert guide to take you through all the activities and answer any of your questions. Afterward, you can also choose to have a regional buffet that consists of handmade tortillas along with Yucatecan tacos and freshwater. Added measures for the safety of tourists are taken in this park, like railings on every cenote, ramps and flat dirt roads to accommodate the elderly, and safety equipment for people of all ages (even babies). There are separate bathrooms for men and women, as well as a living area.
Cenote Boca del Puma 53.2 km/33 mi
Cenote Boca del Puma isn’t only a cenote but a whole park. It’s a thrilling place to visit, with 7 different ziplines to make the most of the cenote and amazing guided tours into the lush jungle that surrounds it. You can find out more about it on their website.
Cenotes near Cancun in Yucatan
Our next location filled with rich cenotes is called Yucatan. Apart from the amazing cenotes like Cenotes of Homun and Cuzama that are great if you’re planning a road trip there, and all the cenotes while you’re staying in one of the Yucatan haciendas, you can also find cenotes that are near enough for a one-day trip from Cancun and back.
Cenote Choj-ha 114 km/70.83 mi
Just half an hour before Valladolid, on the freeway to it from Cancun, this stunning cenote is a place you definitely need to visit. It’s called Catedral de las Maravillas by the locals, which means cathedral of wonders. As such, your experience there wouldn’t be anything less than wonderful.
Although it’s open every day between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., make sure to visit on a day other than the weekends and cruise days (Friday/Wednesday) to avoid crowds. The cost was 100 MXN at the time of my visit. Luckily for me, there were just a few people around and I also took a nice picture of it.
Cenote Zaci 156 km/96.93 mi
Located a couple of blocks away from the main plaza in the middle of Valladolid, Cenote Zaci is a pleasantly cool cenote surrounded by greenery and rock formations, ideal for a relaxing swim in Valladolid’s summer heat. You can visit it anytime between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. with an entry fee of only 30 MXN.
Cenote Suytun 162 km/100 mi
There is a good chance you might have seen this cenote circulating the internet, as it is one of the most photographed cenotes in this area. It’s at a distance of around 6 kilometers from Valladolid. The visiting time starts from 9 a.m. for 120MXN, but if you want to take a picture of it to flare up your Insta profile, you can visit between 8-8:30 a.m. and go to the cabañas reception. They will gladly open it up early for you.
Cenotes near Cancun on the Riviera Maya
Cenote Azul 95.8 km/59.52 mi
Don’t confuse Cenote Azul on Riviera Maya with the one in Bacalar (I have a separate guide for that one). Cenote Azul is inside a tropical garden made up of several pools. It’s great for swimming, jumping, and sunbathing on the benches/platforms around it. You can easily avoid the crowds if you don’t like them by visiting on days other than the weekends.
Cenote Cristalino 95.8 km/59.52 mi
Exactly in the same location, another open cenote called Cristalino is an excellent place to visit. Though it’s a bit smaller as compared to Cenote Azul, it’s just as spectacular with its emerald green waters, and lush trees around it. Since it’s close to the city and within easy reach, it’s often quite crowded so make sure to avoid going on weekends. The fee per person is 150 pesos.
Cenote Eden 95.9 km/59.58 mi
As the name suggests, Cenote Eden is one of the most exquisite cenotes you can visit. The water is so clear that you can see the underwater rock formations standing on the platforms. But if you want to take a closer look, you can even go snorkeling in it. This cenote is very frequently visited by divers because of how wide it is. Even I found the courage to try jumping in it.
Cenote dos Ojos 121 km/75.1 mi
Another popular cenote, the name of which translates to Two Eyes, which is excellent for swimming and snorkeling. You can also go diving in it but that would require proper safety measures, a certified guide, and the right equipment.
Cenote Taak Bi Ha 121 km/75.18 mi
I have been to this cenote twice. The first time I visited it, I took a lot of pictures but they somehow disappeared from my camera (☹). But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I visited it again, took a lot of pictures, and got to have double the fun.
You can check out my collection of pictures on my guide dedicated to this cenote. Also, it’s a bit tricky to find it, but I have covered in detail the way to get there. The fee for this cenote is 300 MXN.
Cenote Caleta Yal-ku
Caleta Yalku is a cenote hidden within a bay in Akumal, making it difficult to see if you don’t know where to look. The lagoon is surrounded by mangroves, which are home to a variety of birds and fish, making it ideal for snorkeling and swimming.
Though it’s recommended to visit cenotes on clear, sunny days, my visit to Caleta Yal-ku on an overcast day was pleasurable nonetheless. I highly suggest you take the snorkeling tour available there with local guides. You can explore a lot of things underwater. To know more about the activities you can find there, head on to my article on Cenote Caleta Yal-Ku.
Cenotes near Cancun in Tulum area
Cenote Aktun Ha (also called Cenote Car Wash) 137 km/85.1 mi
Not very many people know about this cenote. In turn, it’s one of the cenotes near Cancun that are relatively less crowded and offer a more natural feel. There is a path in the jungle that you use to walk all across its perimeter.
Aktun Ha is a natural pool of crystal-clear water located near Tulum, which is quite substantive in size. It only costs 50 MXN per person, with an additional 20 MXN for a life vest. If you choose the diving option, the entry fee for that is 250 MXN (diving costs not included). If you’re newly into diving, I recommend this cenote. It’s a famous spot for new divers. You can visit from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Don’t worry about changing rooms and bathrooms, you will find it all there.
Grand Cenote 133 km/82.64 mi
Grand Cenote’s popularity brings in throngs of people to it on a daily basis, despite its being quite expensive. I personally liked the cenote, but their fees are a little unreasonable. They also charge extra for using the tripod (unless you’re lucky like me and get a few free shots before getting caught).
The cenote is gorgeous with its natural surroundings, underwater tunnels, jumping platforms and an overall atmospheric ambience. But the crowds sometimes ruin the mood, so I advise visiting in the early morning hours to get the best out of your visit.
Cenote Calavera 133 km/82.6 mi
Cenote Calavera is a very small cenote in Tulum, but it’s quite famed on Instagram. Both divers and photographers are attracted to this cute little place alike. Since it’s a bit small in size, there’s not much space for swimming. But it’s still great for jumping and quite worth it for 50 pesos.
Getting to this cenote is simple. All you need to do is, once you’re in Tulum, grab a taxi or a bicycle and head on to the main road for Coba. You will see it on the right side just a little distance away.
Cenote Corazon 137 km/85.1 mi
This cenote derives its name from the heart-like shape that it has (all it takes is a little stretch of your imagination to see it). I only recently discovered this cenote and would recommend checking it out if you’re near Tulum. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and only costs 100 MXN per individual. You’ll find wooden platforms all around it to relax by the side of this cenote. And, as I have advised earlier, if you want to avoid crowds, go in the early hours which are way more peaceful.
Laguna Kaan – Loom 141 km/ 87.6 mi
Wondering where the cenote is in that name? It’s actually a lake just 10 minutes of drive from Tulum, with a cenote in it. Even though it’s a popularity among the locals, you will still find this amazing place relatively less crowded. To read more about it, you can check out my post on Laguna Kaan Loom.
Cenotes in Coba
There are three cenotes in Coba. All of them remain open from 9 in the morning to 6 in the evening, every day. Let me tell you briefly about their features and location.
Cenote Tankach – Ha
This cenote is 20-meter deep and has jumping platforms at 5 and 8 meters high. Jumping is quite safe in Cenote Tankach – Ha and you wouldn’t get enough of it once you make the leap (unfortunately, I didn’t so let me know about your jumping experience so I can feel the joy vicariously at least).
Cenote Choo – Ha
If you’re not one for too-deep cenotes, Cenote Choo – Ha might interest you. It’s only 10 meters deep. Unfortunately, the low cave ceiling makes it unsuitable for jumping. But you can admire the amazing stalactite and stalagmite formation in the middle of the cenote while you’re swimming in it.
Cenote Multum – Ha
The deepest cenote in Coba is Cenote Multum – Ha, with its terrifying depth of 32 meters. Despite the deep waters, there is no jumping scene in this cenote because of the low ceiling.
Finding this cenote isn’t much of a challenge, it’s a pretty straightforward road. But you might think you’re lost and would want to turn back. Don’t do that, your chances of getting lost are very little, just keep going ahead and you will be there.
The entrance to this cenote looks like a very deep well, and it can be a bit scary to go down in it. But, once you have descended to the waters using the long stairways, you will get used to the serene surroundings and feel more relaxed. Make sure to leave your stuff on the platform there, get into the freshwaters, and enjoy the mesmerizing serenity of the place.
Cenote Azul in Bacalar
Honorary mention, since I talked about this one while telling you about its namesake in the Riviera Maya cenotes section. This one is quite larger in size (and scarier if you’re anything like me), with its 200-meter width and 90-meter depth.
Don’t let the massive size of this cenote discourage you, though. There is a safety rope running all across its width and length, and you can wear safety vests for additional safety. The entry fee for this cenote is barely a dollar (25 pesos).
It’s located just a little distance away from Bacalar. Make sure not to confuse the cenote for a lake and pass by while you’re looking for it.
What to bring when you visit a cenote
Now that you know all the cool cenotes to check out, here is a list of things that you need to bring along to make your visit a fun one.
- Swimsuit (bring an extra as well to change afterwards)
- Eco-friendly repellent
- Eco-friendly sunscreen (only to be worn after you’re done swimming/diving in the cenote)
- Camera (to capture the memories you make)
- Snorkeling gear (if you’re planning to explore the undersea life)
Cenote rules: how to respect the environment when you visit a cenote
I’m always happy to suggest some simple and convenient practices that respect the environment and aid in its preservation. Even the acts that seem trivial can make a lot of difference. Below is a list of rules that you can follow to help keep the environment clean and thriving.
- Do not use sunscreen/repellent before bathing in the cenotes.
- You can use them afterwards, but if you do, make sure they’re eco-friendly.
- Refrain from littering. Always leave the cenotes the way you found them, leaving nothing behind that doesn’t belong there.
- You shouldn’t hang onto stalactites, stalagmites, or tree roots while you’re visiting the cenotes.
- All in all, use your better judgement and avoid doing anything that might be harmful to the environment.
How to get to the cenotes from Cancun
Alright, now you’re all set to visit the amazing cenotes near Cancun. Here’s how you can get there conveniently.
As I have mentioned in many of my posts, the best way to visit the Yucatan Peninsula is by renting a car. And if you’re visiting the cenotes there, it is the mode of transportation for it.
Renting a car saves you all the trouble of going with other people, following along someone else’s schedules, and any other hassle that comes with group tours. Except for the roadside cenotes at Riviera Maya main road, which you can visit on colectivos (minivans), the cenotes near Cancun are quite hard to reach using public transportation.
If you don’t feel comfortable driving in Mexico, you can always hire a taxi for the day or only the hours you need. If you want to do that, check with your hotel reception or go for a taxi driver that you personally trust. In that part of Mexico, taxi drivers are usually very abusive and charge you higher rates. However, it won’t be a problem if you negotiate the prices beforehand.
That’s it for today. I hope you found my post helpful in your cenotes’ pursuit. Let me know if you have any questions or confusions, I’d be very glad to answer them. If you found my post useful, do consider sharing it. Happy vacations!