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The Mexican cenotes are a wonder of nature worth seeing. There are more than 6,000 cenotes all around the Yucatan Peninsula and the majority of them are scattered around the Mexican states of Yucatan and Quintana Roo, a few also in Campeche.
In this post, I’ll cover everything you need to know about cenotes, how they are formed, and the origin of the name, but most of all I will tell you where to find the most beautiful cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula.
One of the Mexican natural wonders and main attractions for travelers and scientists as well, the history of cenotes goes back to the ice eras while they have been a blessing for the first inhabitant of these areas.
That is why before moving forward with the list of the best Mexican cenotes in each area of the Yucatan Peninsula, I would like to spend a couple of words on their origin.
- The best cenotes in Tulum and nearby
- Cancun cenotes — The best cenotes near Cancun
- Yucatan cenotes — The best cenotes in Yucatan
- Riviera Maya cenotes — The best of the best
- Coba cenotes — The hidden treasure of cenotes
- Visiting the Mexico cenotes — Practical tips
- Common sense rules to keep in mind when visiting a cenote
- What to bring along when you visit a cenote
- Diving in a Mexican cenote
- What are the Mexican cenotes?
- How were the cenotes in Mexico formed?
- The cenotes of the Mayan times
- Isabella, author, editor, and founder
The best cenotes in Tulum and nearby
1. Cenotes Cristal and Escondido
Entry fee: 300 MXN (150 MXN each)
Hours open: 10 AM — 5 PM
Cenote Cristal and Cenote Escondido are a pair of cenotes located opposite each other and very easily reachable from Tulum.
You can get there either by taxi (just make sure to agree on the fare before hopping on), a bike rental or a car rental (which is preferable to explore the entire region) and you will be here in no time.
A cheaper alternative would be catching a colectivo, the local public bus.
Cristal Cenote is an open cenote nestled in a lush jungle near Tulum. Its crystal blue waters are 12 feet in depth, which is what makes the spot so popular for platform jumping.
Other than the platform, it has plenty of facilities, so you can swim, snorkel, go diving (with the help of a diving center), or simply relax by the cenote.
Similarly, Escondido also offers a very rich immersion with nature along with a wonderful swimming experience. There’s a tree with some ropes hanging from it into the cenote, so you can jump in Tarzan-style if that’s your thing.
The entrance fee is paid at Cenote Cristal and includes access to the hidden cenote (hence the name Escondido) on the other side of the road as well.
2. Grand Cenote
Entry fee: 180 MXN ($8 USD)
Hours open: 8 AM — 5 PM
Differently from what the name may entail, Grand Cenote is definitely not huge. However, it’s a nice semi-open cenote with incredible intense green water and lots of greenery around it, besides a spectacular landscape of rock formations, tunnels, and caves.
Gran Cenote is one of the most popular cenotes of Tulum, so you can expect a higher price and lots of crowds on some days. But it’s totally worth the money, and you can avoid the crowds if you visit the cenote early in the morning.
The cenote is located just 5 kilometers from Tulum on the road to Coba Ruins. Since it’s popular and one of the top diving spots here, you won’t have trouble finding the place.
3. Cenote Calavera
Entry fee: 250 MXN ($12 USD)
Hours open: 8 AM — 5 PM
The cenote is very popular among divers, because the small entrance is perfect for exploring the cave system that lies underneath it, and that’s exactly what divers come here for.
However, if you just want to swim, it’s not a very good option, unless you are fond of insta-worthy pictures and you want to get the popular shot on the swim inside the cenote.
Farther down the same road you took from Tulum to get to Grand Cenote is Cenote Calavera. Unlike Gran Cenote, this one is fairly smaller in size. But if you’re looking for a great diving experience, I’d highly recommend Cenote Calavera.
4. Cenote Corazon
Entry fee: 150 MXN ($12 USD) – 100 MXN for permanent residents
Hours open: 9 AM — 5 PM
Among the Mexican Cenotes near Tulum, Cenote Corazon is the cutest, not only because of it’s heart shape (hence “corazon’ heart in Spanish) but also because of its peaceful environment and spectacular landscape both around and in the water.
Scattered around the cenote there are wooden platforms where you can lay or sit with your feet dangling in the transparent water while enjoying the beautiful views and the peace and tranquillity of the place.
Divers also love to explore the underwater world of the depth of the Cenote Corazon, through caves and caverns.
5. Laguna Kaan Luum
Entry Fee – 300 MXN (15 USD) / 200 MXN (10 USD) for residents
Opening hours – 9 am to 5 pm every day.
Laguna Kaan Luum is a spectacular giant lagoon with a cenote inside. You must see it from an aerial view to see the spectacular landscape and that’s why I bought a drone, to show you how magic it is.
It has recently become one of the most popular spots to visit and the owners have extended the platform where you can rest and enjoy the transparent refreshing waters of the lagoon.
They have also added facilities such as kayaks, swings, and hammocks, which Instagrammers love so much!
To get to the cenote, however, you must be an experienced diver and be accompanied by a divemaster or instructor. It is quite a challenging dive as the cenote is 84 mt deep (276 feet) and that is why is dangerous for swimmers.
You can enjoy the spectacular view and the shallow water of the surrounding lagoon though. It makes a great day trip from Tulum.
If you want to know about all the other amazing cenotes near Tulum I have got you covered as well. Click on the link to read the dedicated article.
Cancun cenotes — The best cenotes near Cancun
Cancun itself doesn’t have any cenotes, but if you’re staying there, you can visit some of the cenotes nearby. The nearest place with great cenote options would be Puerto Morelos.
Plenty of tour operators arrange trips to these cenotes from Cancun, but I recommend that you visit them on your own.
The road that takes you there is conveniently called La Ruta de la Cenotes, so you can simply drive there. I recommend using Discover Cars to book your car, because you can compare prices among different international and local companies. They also offer a full coverage insurance for your convenience. (make sure you read the fine print, though)
Browse through international and local car rentals and find the best deal.
You can also take a cab if you don’t feel like driving on your own. The obvious perk of visiting them by yourself is having your own itinerary to follow and getting enough time to enjoy the cenotes.
The fare would be pretty much the same as an organized tour for two people. Again, agree on the fare beforehand. If you don’t know much about the cenotes on Ruta de la Cenotes to plan your own trip, I have a separate post on Cancun cenotes that you can check out for detailed suggestions and directions.
However here below I am going to share my 3 favorite cenotes.
6. Verde Lucero
Opening hours 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Entrance fee 300 MXN per head (half of it if you’re a native or with permanent residency)
Verde Lucero is a beautiful wide-open cenote nestled among a lush jungle. This cenote is perfect for adventurers who love to challenge themselves with high jumps and ziplines. Or you can just swim and relax by the water.
It’s around 17 kilometers (12.7 miles) from Puerto Morelos.
7. Cenote Kin-Ha
Entrance fees 400 MXN
Kin-Ha is a cave cenote and it’s managed by a nice family that also organizes tours to another cenote (an open one) in Quod.
Although it has become too popular and therefore, crowded, this cenote is one of my favorites in the area because it takes you into the underworld and If you’re not one for directly jumping into it (though it can be quite fun), you can use the man-made stairs. (that’s what I do)
Once you’re done swimming, you can sit in the chairs/hammocks placed in the beautiful surroundings of this cenote and enjoy a cold drink.
8. Cenote La Noria
Entrance fees 200 MXN
Not far away from the Cenote kin-ha, the deep cave cenote of La Noria is a lesser-known site where you can swim and enjoy the mystery of the Yucatan cenotes.
Follow the sign on a dirt road and you will find it.
You can read about more Cenotes near Cancun in my dedicated post.
Yucatan has countless breathtaking cenotes, and many of them haven’t been discovered yet, or they are so hidden that make it difficult to find them.
When I travel around Yucatan I love to check out a new one. I have seen so many that I can’t even remember the number of Mexican cenotes I have visited in Yucatan
Valladolid is definitely the top Yucatan destination for me when it comes to cenotes because that’s where some of my favorite cenotes are.
But also it’s a pretty colonial town with cute boutique hotels where to stay and lovely restaurants.
I’ll include a couple of my top selections of the cenotes near Valladolid here, but I am going to write an entire post dedicated to all the cenotes near Valladolid. So stay tuned :).
9. Cenote Choj-ha
Entry fee: 100 MXN ($4.75 USD)
Hours open: 9 AM — 4:30 PM
Cenote Choo-Ja is so spectacular as to earn the title of “Catedral de las Maravillas” from the locals, which means the Cathedral of Wonders.
Choo-Ja is definitely among the top cenotes of Mexico, and the most beautiful among the cenote near Valladolid, but it hadn’t been on the tourist attractions list until very recently, so it’s a hidden gem as well.
The man-made stairs will lead you down into a stunning cenote filled with magical stalagmites and stalactites creating a natural sight worth seeing. They’re reflected in the green water of the cenote, giving the atmosphere a unique touch.
Since Choo-Ja is under the administration of the local Mayan community, its natural charm is very well-preserved. The fees aren’t very expensive, so I highly recommend including it on your itinerary if it wasn’t already on it.
There are plenty of facilities like showers, bathrooms, and changing rooms. The cenote is located on the highway going from Cancun to Valladolid, just half an hour before you reach the city. There’s a big sign on the road that indicates the detour to Cenote Choo-Ja, you won’t miss it.
Pro tip: Visit on a Wednesday or Friday to avoid weekend crowds. Chances are that you will be the only one visiting Choo-Ja, which is a different kind of experience entirely. That’s how I got to experience it and it was definitely a magical feeling.
10. Cenote Suytun
Entry fee: 150 MXN ($9 USD)
Hours open: 9 AM — 5 PM
The cenote with the most Instagram appearances is another Valladolid pick on my list. You may not know it by its name, but I’m sure you will recognize it by the looks.
With its photogenic platform highlighted with beams of sunlight coming from the ceiling, Cenote Suytun is breathtaking to say the least.
The center stone is why Suytun is called Centro de Piedra, the Mayan translation of its meaning. And because the cenote is so popular, it’s become very hard to spend a lot of time enjoying it.
Each tourist gets an hour inside it, and there’s a queue for the platform to get your photo taken.
Don’t worry, though; you can still have it all to yourself if you know the right tricks (which I’ll make sure you do know).
The official opening time for the cenote is 9 in the morning, but you can go around the restaurant on your bike, make your way to the cabanas, and use the entrance there to get in a bit earlier, which means you get to be the only one in the cenote!
11. Cenotes X’ka’ken & Samula
The cenotes of X’ka’ken & Samula have been included in an adventure park with many other activities.
The best way to visit these cenotes if you are staying in Valladolid is by bike.
It’s very easy and cheap to rent it in the city (around 100 MXN) and it’s only 30 minutes ride to the cenotes biking through picturesque colorful roads and then on a beautiful bicycle lane through blooming flamboyant trees.
These two spectacular cave cenotes are managed by a park which receives busses of tourists every day.
So if you wish to avoid the crowd you should visit them early morning.
They in fact open from 8 am to 5 pm.
- Entrance to one cenote is 80 MXN for adults and 50 MXN for children.
- Entrance to both Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Samula 125 MXN for adults and 80 pesos for children.
- 2 cenotes + horse ride is 225 pesos.
- 4 wheeler + visit 2 cenotes is 275 pesos.
Riviera Maya cenotes — The best of the best
The Riviera Maya is that stretch of beach that goes from Puerto Morelos all the way to Punta Allen in the Sian Ka’an biosphere and it is mainly famous for its spectacular beaches.
12. Cenote Azul Riviera Maya
Entry fee: 100 MXN ($4.75 USD)
Hours open: 8:30 AM — 5 PM
Cenote Azul is a picturesque cenote filled with blue waters and nestled in the greenery right next to the Garden of Eden (another spectacular cenote).
But the greenery isn’t the only aspect of nature that gives this cenote its charm, there are little fish in its waters that you can swim with, the shaded spaces to hangout and sit on the benches are great as well, and there is a jungle path that you can take a walk on!
Cenote Azul has facilities common with a large number of cenotes, and apart from the wooden boardwalk, there is also a small cliff rock right by the water, which you can use for jumping. If you don’t feel adventurous enough to jump in the water from that height, you can also opt for a relaxing time by the cenote with your feet in the water.
Just a couple of things to keep in mind about it. Cenote Azul in Riviera Maya is not to be confused with Cenote Azul in Bacalar, a different one and farther south, and you should generally avoid visiting it on weekends because it gets overcrowded on those days.
13. Cenote Cristalino
Entry fee: 200 MXN ($9.5 USD)
Hours open: 8 AM — 6 PM
Among the many gorgeous cenotes of Riviera Maya, Cenote Cristanlino is a favorite for many people looking for a unique swimming experience.
It’s closer to Cenote Azul, so you can expect the same amount of tropical beauty surrounding the cenote, and the water here is also crystal clear.
It’s an open cenote, so the swimming-pool shape and blue water of the cenote make it look truly spectacular. Just like Azul, there are little fish in the water, so you can enjoy a natural spa by dangling your feet in the water.
The gorgeous water of the cenote lends it the name, its water is 15 feet deep, and the cenote features a 12-foot jumping platform as well. With rocks forming a kind of cave on one side of the cenote, the aesthetics of Cristalino make for amazing pictures.
Similar to Cenote Azul, Cristalino is located quite close to Playa del Carmen, so a lot of the tourists show up here on weekends and even during the week.
As I said for Cenote Azul, picking an early hour on days other than Saturday and Sunday is the wise thing to do.
14. Cenote Taak Bi-Ha
Entry fee: 450 MXN ($24 USD)
Hours open: 9 AM — 5 PM
One of the cenotes that I fell in love with at first sight is definitely Cenote Taak Bi-Ha. It’s as pretty as a picture, and stunning enough to top the list of the most beautiful cave cenotes in the Riviera Maya, if not the whole Yucatan Peninsula.
The cenote attracts thousands of visitors because of its picture-postcard looks, and it’s also quite famous for the diving experience.
You can explore the cenote on your own if you want to swim and take pictures, but if you want to go diving in it, bring a diving guide along with you.
Taak Bi-Ha is on the halfway point between Tulum and Akumal (just a 30-minute drive from either town), and it’s quite easy to reach.
You can either drive to the Cenote, or you can take a Colectivo and get a separate ride from the entrance to the cenote.
15. Cenote Multum ha – 16. Cenote Tancach- ha – 17. Cenote Choo ha
Most travelers only know Coba for the spectacular Coba Ruins, and rightly so. But you should know that there are 3 amazing cenotes in Coba just a little distance from the Archeological Site.
These cenotes aren’t like the huge open cenotes of Riviera Maya, but they’re still worth seeing. The trip to these cenotes is a special kind of experience in itself, and once you get there, you can simply admire the beauty if you’re too claustrophobic to get in. For more detailed info on these cenotes, take a look at my Coba cenotes post.
Visiting the Mexico cenotes — Practical tips
With the Mexican cenotes in Yucatan having been made so accessible and famous, it’s no surprise that thousands of people show up here for a vacation filled with lots of cenotes on their itinerary.
Such being the case, it’s always a good idea to know a thing or two prior to your trip.
First, let’s cover a few ground rules for a pleasant cenote visit. They’re basically about preserving the nature of the cenotes.
- Don’t litter in, or near, the cenotes, actually never litter!
- Don’t put on sunscreen or mosquito repellent before getting into the cenotes (neither when you’re in them)
- Try not to hang on trees, stalagmites and stalactites, and any other natural things around you.
- Always shower before entering in the water (when a shower is available)
- As a rule of thumb, be responsible and refrain from doing anything that might harm the natural surroundings of the cenote.
Now that the basic rules are out of the way, it’s time for some additional tips to make your visit extra pleasant. Here are the essentials that you should have with you for a guaranteed fun time.
- A swimsuit and a towel
- Snorkeling gear
- Dress light, it’s hot!
- wear closed-toe shoes to protect your feet from harmless yet annoying insects.
An environment-friendly repellent and sunscreen. But you can wear them only after you swim in the cenote
Diving in a Mexican cenote
I have never been diving into cenotes, but I can imagine it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience everybody I talk to who has done it say so! However, if you’re looking to try it for the first time, make sure you do it right.
Things you will need to dive into a cenote
➣ Diving certification – Except for a few difficult dives, at least a Level 1 diving certificate is required for all the cenotes. So make sure you have yours before proceeding.
➣ Buoyancy is important for cenote diving, so factor your level of buoyancy in before you make the final decision.
➣ A full wetsuit, because the water gets cold (24° C/75° F).
➣ A dive light strong enough to illuminate your surroundings in the cenote
➣ A backlit dive computer to make reading the dive information easier.
➣ A go pro to capture all the amazing moments of your dive
➣ Diving equipment. (You can rent it from a dive shop, but make sure you get the latest gear and in good condition. Hint: Read lots of reviews before deciding on a shop.)
➣ You must arrange your cenote diving with a dive shop before getting to a cenote. Usually, diving in a cenote has an extra cost besides the entry fee, plus the diving center cost.
What are the Mexican cenotes?
The cenotes (read: si-noh-tays) are basically natural underground sinkholes of limestone filled with water accumulated over a course of time. The water can either be rainwater or, in some cases, from the sea (if the cenotes are near to it).
I know that this is a very simplistic definition but I hope it can clarify. If you want to learn more in detail about the origin of the cenote, I’ve got you covered as well.
FUN FACT – although you can find many similar sinkholes around the world, only in the Yucatan peninsula they are called cenotes.
That is because Cenote comes from a distortion of the Yucatan Mayan word ts’ono’ot (dzonot) which means “well with water”. That is basically how the Spanish conquerors misunderstood the Mayan word and translated it into the word Cenote.
Since the Yucatan Peninsula has so many of these, it’s no surprise that many locals stumbled upon one in their backyard and took advantage of the natural resource to transform it into a tourist attraction.
Naturally, these cenotes have a very important place in the region’s history and culture both as a source of water back in the day, and a source of tourism nowadays.
The entire region is rich with these awe-inspiring phenomena of nature, but some are more touristy and easier to access, while the others need a bit more venturing inland to experience.
Riviera Maya cenotes are a good example of the touristy ones, and the ones scattered around Yucatan and are less-visited and preserve more of their natural charm.
The history of Yucatan Cenotes is pretty curious. Apart from the cultural aspects of it, the geological study of the region is a marvel as well.
Since the entire region of the Yucatan is made up of limestone and has a very low and flat land (except for the Puuc Hills of the Yucatan), it’s natural that the bedrock has lots of caves and sinkholes which we now know as cenotes.
The formation process of these cenotes is fairly simple. The cracks in this limestone soil let rainwater filter and soak through for centuries until eventually the ceiling of the cave collapses to reveal the cenote itself.
However, the history of the Yucatan cenotes hasn’t been entirely discovered. The one thing we know is that they formed mostly when a huge asteroid hit Earth some 65 million years back. You might be more familiar with its possible relation to the extinction of dinosaurs from the earth, which is why scientists are researching it more and more.
The area where the asteroid hit is north of Merida, in the town of Chicxulub. Known by the name of Anillo de Los cenotes, the area has the most cenotes and runs along with the towns of Cuzama and Homún, called “cenote ring” (Anillo de Los cenotes). Moreover, there are amazing cenotes all across the Yucatan.
Types of cenotes
This is not the official categorization of the cenote that you can find here. Instead, I wanted to give you a more popular classification of the Mexican Cenotes for a better understanding of the type of landscape you will find when you go visit.
In the following cenote list, I will tell you what kind of cenote it is, so that you go prepared.
Open cenotes resemble gorgeous natural lakes because they’re the ones with no ceiling at all. Regardless of how deep an open cenote is, you can see the sky from it and the water reserve of the cenote is visible as well.
As you might be able to guess from the name by now, semi-open cenotes are only partially open, because some of the ceilings remained while the other part collapsed.
So, one side of these cenotes offers views of the sky, while the other other side has a roof studded with stalagmites and stalactites.
Usually, semi-open cenotes aren’t very deep. For example, the Cenote Dos Ojos of Riviera Maya is a semi-open cenote. It’s gorgeous and I definitely recommend it if you want to visit a semi-open cenote.
Cave cenotes are the most mystical and sublime. Their ceilings are mostly intact, so you get to descend into the cenote through a narrow entrance. The ones I’ll recommend have stairs to make it easier, so don’t worry about climbing rocks.
These types of cenotes are my favorite because the water is crystal clear and sparkling, the natural charm is unharmed, and they have an other-worldly vibe to them.
Think of being surrounded by staggering rock formations in the belly of the earth! Climbing down the stairs into mother earth’s womb is a very mystical experience, especially if you are alone in absolute silence.
The cenotes of the Mayan times
As I mentioned earlier, the Mexican cenotes aren’t only a fascinating occurrence because of their geological importance, they hold just as much value as a cultural part of the Yucatan.
The Mayan Civilization that existed here in the pre-Columbian times thrived solely because of these cenotes.
Since the Yucatan is completely devoid of any rivers, the Mexican cenotes in Yucatan served as the primary source of water (hence, life) for the Mayans.
That’s probably why the Mayans held these cenotes in high regard and even considered them divine to some extent.
The Mayans called these cenotes holes in the earth, the word for which is ts’ onot, making it easy to see the root of the name we commonly use for them. They weren’t only a source of water for the Mayans, but also sacred places for religious ceremonies.
Archeologists have found jewelry, artifacts, ceramics, and even human bones in these cenotes. In fact, you can still see remnants of Mayan rituals in some of these cenotes, including drawings on the limestone rocks.
Now, these cenotes are owned by locals, and sometimes by groups of families called Ejido. This usually means having more facilities on the cenote and easier entrance into them for a small fee that goes into the maintenance costs of these facilities.
Now that we got the history and geology out of the way, let’s dive into what are the most beautiful Mexican cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula in each region.