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15 Amazing Cenotes for Cave Diving in Mexico in 2022 – The Ultimate Guide!

If you are interested in diving in a cenote in Mexico, you will love this post as I will share everything you need to know about cave diving in Mexico, including practical tips and a list of the best cenotes in the Mayan Riviera for diving.

As a diver, you may remember the first time you visited a coral reef, and the excitement of entering a new world of animals, colors, and textures.  The excitement of diving never wears off, but visiting the reef begins to feel like going to a familiar place. 

For divers looking to relive the excitement of entering a new world again, they can find that sensation by diving in a cenote in Mexico. 

Here I will take you through everything you need to know about cenote diving in Mexico, from what they are and how they were formed to who can dive in them and what gear you will need. 

Man Diving in a Cave -
Photo from Canva

I would like to start from the basics but you can jump directly to the next sections by clicking on the links below if you are in a hurry! 🙂

The best cenotes for cenote diving in Mexico
Who Can Dive in a Cenote
Cave Diving Vs. Cavern Diving:  What’s the Difference?
Things to Consider Before Taking a Cave Diving Course
What Cave Diving Equipment You Will Need
Dangers of Cenote Diving
Practicing Cenote Diving Safely
Underwater conditions during cenote diving in Mexico
When is the best season to dive in Cenotes? 
Cenote Diving Costs

What is a cenote? History and Morphology

CAVE DIVING IN MEXICO

The Best Cenotes for Cenote Diving in Mexico

1. Cenote Dos Ojos

Probably one of the famous cenotes in the area, Dos Ojos is located just outside of Tulum.  It has a large open pool with easy access for snorkeling and two different cavern areas. 

The first cavern is called Barbie and has beautiful stalactites and fossils and rays of sunlight shining down from openings. 

This section is shallow with huge rooms, has no current, and is ideal for all levels of certified divers. 

The other section is called Baticueva and is much darker, with plenty of areas of rock formations and stalactites. 

This area requires great buoyancy control because of the sediment on the bottom.  In addition to the cavern, there are sections of caves to explore here too. 

Cenote dos ojos
Cenote Dos Ojos

2. Cenote Calavera

Cenote Calavera is located just outside of Tulum on the road to Coba.  The word Calavera means skull in Spanish and this cenote gets its name because of the small openings that lead to huge room caverns. 

While diving into the cavern you can look up and see the light shining through these holes. 

This cenote is famous for rock formations as well as a halocline. 

This cenote is also a popular place with snorkelers among the cenotes near Tulum and visitors who want to “cliff jump”  from the openings into the freshwater below. 

Cenote Calavera

3. Cenote Angelita

Cenote Angelita is around 25 meters in diameter and appears to be a small pond in the middle of the jungle where you will find leaves and pollen floating on the surface. 

Due to the vegetation in this area, the water has a green color to it and as you descend you will find a hydrogen sulfate cloud around 30 meters. 

Cenote Angelita is also a very common spot for free divers.

Cenote Angelita
Cenote Angelita

4. Cenote El Pit

Appropriately named, Cenote El Pit is just that – a big, deep hole. 

Divers will descend down the pit and pass thousands of years old dead trees and eventually find a spooky cloud of hydrogen sulfate around 30 meters. 

Due to the maximum depth here, this is a great first dive and is often paired with Cenote Dos Ojos for a second dive. 

cenote pit
El PIt Cenote Photo from Canva

5. Cenote Tajma Ha

Tajma Ha is located just south of Puerto Aventuras.  Divers who enter the cavern here will work their way around rock structures with stalactites. 

The dive is in shallow water and at one point divers will surface inside a dome with a small opening to the surface where they can see trees overhead and listen to the birds. 

There are also caves connected to the cavern. 

Taj Ma cenote
Taj Ma Cenote diving Photo from Canva

6. Cenote Car Wash (Aktun Ha)

Cenote Car Wash is located on the road from Tulum to Coba.  

It has a large, beautiful, open area that often has lily pads floating on it. 

During the rainy season, the different plants release tannins that can give the water different color hues, including a red color. 

In addition to having a cavern, Car Wash is a popular cave with local divers who enter a cave called the Room of Tears. 

cenote car wash
Cenote Car Wash

7. Cenote Dreamgate

Dreamgate is located deep down a dirt road in the jungle and is a great cavern for rock formations. 

There are lots of incredible stalactites and rock formations and divers must have great buoyancy to navigate in tight spaces. 

Here divers can see the roots of trees working their way down between rocks to the water. 

8. Gran Cenote

Grand Cenote Platform tulum
Gran Cenote

Gran Cenote is part of the largest cave system in the area, called Sac Actun.  The cavern here is a great option for first-time cenote divers or snorkelers. 

It is shallow and has an enormous space with plenty of light coming in and divers can enjoy the rock formations. 

9. Cenote Chac Mool

Cenote Chaac mol
Cenote Chac Mool Photo from Canva

Chac Mool is just south of Puerto Aventuras and has two separate cavern areas that divers can visit. 

Cavern divers will visit a room that has a partially collapsed ceiling, creating an air dome, where they can surface. 

Here divers will see two levels of stalactites. 

The entrance here has lots of sunken branches and tree trunks. 

In addition to the two cavern areas, Chac Mool has a long cave system for cave-certified divers. 

10. Cenote Kukulkan

Cenote Kukulkan is a great option for first-time cenote cavern divers because there is plenty of light and the opening is completely visible the entire dive. 

The water here is so clear that the light shining down into the water creates the effect of a mirror in the water, reflecting the surrounding area. 

The walls of the cavern are made of white limestone and there is a halocline around 35 feet. 

11. Cenote El Jardin del Eden (Ponderosa)

Cenote Jardin del Eden
Cenote Jardin Del Eden Photo from Canva

Cenote El Jardin del Eden is south of Playa del Carmen and has a large, open pool that leads to the cavern. 

The pool is popular for snorkeling and swimming.  When you enter the cavern you will feel that you are swimming along a tunnel.  

This cenote is interesting because it has a variety of marine life, including Mayan Gobies. 

12. Casa Cenote

Scuba Diving in Casa Cenote
Photo from Canva

Located just north of Tulum, there are mangroves on either side of Casa Cenote.  

Unlike other cenotes, the bottom here is white sand, and the cavern is spacious with rock formations to swim around. 

Here you can find marine animals including schools of tarpon and there is a resident crocodile that lives here. 

Casa Cenote is very popular among first-timers who want to familiarize themselves with cenote diving as it’s one of the easiest and doesn’t require technical skills.

Casa Cenote Aerial view
Casa Cenote Aerial VIew

13. Cenote Taak-Bi Ha

This cenote is part of the Sac Actun system and is newly opened for cavern diving.  This dive is for advanced divers only because of the fragile stalactites and stalagmites in the area. 

Divers here will descend down a narrow staircase into a dry cenote, where the tanks will be lowered down. 

From here you can enter the water.  Throughout the dive, you will see countless rock formations. 

It’s also a great cenote for those who love photography or just swimming while enjoying the spectacular rock formations.

Read more about Cenote Taak Bi Ha

cenote-taak-bi-ha - unique places to see in Mexico
Cenote Taak Bi Ha
Taak bi- ha divers entering
Cenote Taak Bi Ha Divers entering

14. Cenote Nicte-Ha

Cenote Nict – Ha is located inside the ecopark Dos Ojos.  On the surface here you will find an open pool with a lily pad garden on the surface. 

The dive is shallow, with the maximum depth being around 8 meters, but this dive is only for divers with experience in cenotes because there is some current and tight maneuvering around formations. 

Nicte-Ha Diving rock formations
Photo from Canva
Nicte-Ha diving light
Photo from Canva
Nicte-Ha diving light from the surface
Photo from Canva

15. Cenote Chikin Ha

This is a popular area for snorkelers, cavern divers, and students working on their full cave certification. 

Here there are two separate cavern lines for divers, both start in an open area and then lead through rock formation to Cenote Arcoitis. 

There is an opening that allows light to shine down into the cavern and illuminate it.  This cenote also has a halocline that divers will pass through. 

CAVE DIVING IN MEXICO
Dark cenote for Cave diving in Mexico
Photo from Canva
CAVE DIVING IN MEXICO

Mexico Cave Diving: Who Can Dive in a Cenote

After learning what a cenote is,  experienced divers find the urge to dive in one irresistible, and the great news is, that anyone can dive in cenotes. 

All the cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula are different, ranging from large, open, and shallow water pools, to deep pits, to areas with partial overhang environments, to caves with total overhead environments. 

Depending on your certification, skill level, and desires, there are cenotes that are appropriate for you to dive in.

There are several cenotes that take the form of large, freshwater pools.  Often these cenotes are in the beautiful jungle or mangrove settings, with vegetation growing all around the water.  

These types of cenotes are ideal for popular places for new divers, students taking a dive course, or snorkelers because the water is crystal clear, there is no current, and the depth is shallow. 

In addition to these large, open cenotes, divers who are open water certified can dive in the cenote caverns. 

The caverns in this area are generally either shallow dives with a partial overhead environment or deep pits where divers go to a maximum depth of around 30 meters. 

Fully cave-certified local guides can take certified open water divers on tours of the caverns, and the certified divers require no additional gear or training – just a very detailed briefing.   

In some of the cavern dives, divers pass near delicate rock formations, and many different dive guides will want to see your buoyancy control and skill level before taking you into certain caverns. 

Other caverns are very spacious with easy access, making them easier for divers. 

Divers who have completed the full cave diver certification are able to explore further into the overhead environment areas of the cenotes, or the caves. 

Regardless of your dive skill level, there are cenotes you can visit and dive in! 

Cave diving in Mexico
Photo from Canva
CAVE DIVING IN MEXICO

Mexico Cave Diving Vs. Cavern Diving:  What’s the Difference? 

For open water divers who are interested in diving in the cavern of a cenote, it is important to understand the important differences between cavern and cave. 

Cavern Diving in Mexico

Cavern diving is diving that takes place in overhead environments but always staying within the zone of visible light – meaning that as a cavern diver, you always remain close enough to the entrance that you can see sunlight. 

In some of the caverns that have lots of rock formation this visible light may not always be directly overhead, but you should still be able to see it.

Divers who go into caverns will be in a small group, with a dedicated guide.  The local guide should follow permanent cavern lines, and all divers should be close enough to touch the line at all times. 

If at any time a diver needed to exit the cavern, it should be easy and safe to find the exit. 

Although cavern dives are always in the zone of visible light, divers will need to carry a dive light because the caverns range from well-lit to quite dark.    

Cenotes that are formed as deep pits may not have lines because the exit is directly overhead at all times. 

Cavern diving is still considered recreational diving, and no additional gear or training is necessary to participate in cavern dives. 

Open water divers who are wondering if they would enjoy a cavern dive should ask themselves the following questions: 

Do I have good buoyancy control? 
Do I have good fin skills, including frog kicks? 
Do I enjoy swim-throughs while diving on the coral reef?  
Do I feel comfortable diving in partial darkness and do I enjoy night dives? 

If the answer to these questions is yes, then a cavern dive is a great option for your next visit to the Riviera Maya. 

Even if the answer is no, many cenotes have open pools and a great place to visit until you feel comfortable entering the cavern.    

Cenote Diving In Mexico
Photo from Canva

Cave Diving in Mexico

Cave diving is when divers penetrate further into the cenote, past the zone of visible light. 

Cave diving is considered technical diving, and in order to participate in cave dives, divers must complete a full cave certification course. 

When entering caves, divers use the specialized gear including double tanks and powerful dive lights. 

Open cenote Cave diving in Mexico
Photo from Canva
CAVE DIVING IN MEXICO

Things to Consider Before Taking a Cave Diving Course

Divers who want to go beyond the cavern into the caves need to be full cave diver certified by completing the Intro to Caves and Full Cave Diver courses. 

Due to the increased risk of diving in caves, these courses are designed to be challenging to make sure that divers are ready to safely dive in caves upon their completion. 

If you have the itch to explore deeper into the caves, there are several things to consider before taking a cave diving course.

Divers who want to take cave diving courses need to first think about their diving skills. 

In order to successfully complete the cave course, divers need to have great buoyancy control and fin skills, including frog kicks. 

Beyond these skills, divers should ask themselves if they are comfortable completing tasks underwater, as this is a big part of the course. 

In addition to basic dive skills, divers need to consider if they are comfortable diving with two tanks. 

Cave diving requires the use of two tanks, this can either double on a back mount or side mount. 

Lastly, divers need to think about their air consumption.  It is recommended that divers who are interested in doing the cave course have good air management skills. 

When preparing to take the cave course it is important to look for a dive shop that has experienced instructors. 

Students should look for instructors who never cut corners and are very diligent about all safety measures. 

Instructors should also be experienced in the area where they will be giving their courses. 

Lastly, divers who are considering taking the full cave course should think about how often they will have a chance to practice their cave diving. 

Between the equipment and course, cave diving can cost thousands of dollars, but completing the course does not mean a diver does not need to continuously practice their cave skills. 

Divers who do not get the chance to regularly practice their cave skills should be prepared to continue to take courses with experienced instructors and local guides when they have not had the opportunity to dive in a cave in a long time. 

When done properly cave diving is safe, but it is critical that divers stay up to date on their knowledge and skills. 

Cave diving Mexico
Photo from Canva
CAVE DIVING IN MEXICO

What Cave Diving Equipment You Will Need

Cave diving requires special equipment.  First, divers will need a system to be able to dive with two tanks. 

This can either be in the form of a back mount, often referred to as doubles. 

These tanks can be individually closed in case of an o ring leak. 

Another option to carry two tanks is to use a side mount system, where instead of having two tanks on your back, they float next to your body at your side. 

Since cave diving does not have any natural light, cave divers need to carry dive lights

The general rule is that cave divers should carry at least three lights, to make sure that they will never be left in the dark if a light fails. 

Often divers carry one powerful primary dive light and two backups. 

The cenote water temperature can be in the 70s, so divers need to be prepared with the appropriate exposure protection they need to stay warm. 

All individuals are different, but divers will want to wear a warmer wetsuit in the cenotes than they typically do in the ocean. 

Cave diving Mexico
Photo from Canva
CAVE DIVING IN MEXICO

Dangers of Cenote Diving

People often wonder if diving in the cenotes is dangerous. Certified divers know that all forms of diving involve a bit of risk, but through training and following safe diving practices, we can minimize the risk. 

Diving in cenotes adds an extra element of risk because we are in an overhead environment. 

In open water diving, if a diver experiences gear failure, gets separated from their buddy or loses their way to a dive site, or even runs out of air, the surface is always directly above them. 

In both cavern and cave diving, a diver may experience overhead environments that make it impossible to directly surface.   

The most dangerous situation a diver could find themselves in while diving in an overhead environment would be to get separated from the fixed line that takes them to the exit. 

Divers who separate from the line do so at great risk to themselves because visibility conditions could change due to other divers kicking up silt, passing through a halocline, or general disorientation. 

The water is typically clear while diving in cenotes, but this does not make it acceptable to leave the guideline for any reason. 

Although diving in cenotes creates an added risk factor to dives, by practicing safe diving practices divers can minimize this risk. 

In any case, it’s ALWAYS advisable to get Dive Insurance in case your travel insurance doesn’t include diving in the package.

Mexico cenote dive ray of light -Cave diving in Mexico
Photo from Canva
CAVE DIVING IN MEXICO

Is Dive Insurance necessary?

The short answer is: yes! Although we all hope that nothing bad will ever happen to you, you never know.

I always prefer to be safe than sorry and a small investment today can save you tons of dollars tomorrow.

Hyperbaric chambers and hospitalization, in general, are outrageously expensive in Mexico

Dive Assure is one of the top insurance companies for diving and we cannot recommend them enough. I am sure you have heard of them as they are one of the most popular.

🔽 Get a free Dive Assure quote here 🔽

Dive Insurance Banner
CAVE DIVING IN MEXICO

Practicing Cave Diving Safely

Despite the risks associated with cave diving, when divers follow all the safety guidelines and standards, it can be done safely. 

An important rule to follow when cave diving is to make sure to stay within the limits of your dive training. 

Unfortunately, accidents happen in caverns and caves when people attempt to complete dives beyond their skill and knowledge level, or full cave certified divers pass beyond maximum depths. 

Experienced cave guides will give you a detailed briefing to keep you safe in the cenotes. 

The golden rule of diving in caverns or caves that your guide or instructor will teach you is to always follow a single line that leads to open water. 

As I mentioned above, the risk of diving in an overhead environment is that you cannot immediately surface in an emergency, but by following a line, you will always be able to find your way to the exit. 

Accidents happen when divers enter overhead environments without a line, or stray from the line, and become disoriented or lost. 

Never trust a guide or diver who offers to take you away from the guideline. 

Certified divers who enter a cavern will be in a small group and always with a certified cave guide, but you should still see the line. 

The second rule to safe cave diving is to conservatively manage your air supply.  Divers who enter caverns or caves should follow the rule of thirds, meaning that they always have 2/3 of their air supply to exit the cave. 

Cave diving Mexico
Photo from Canva

This means that you always return to the entrance when you have used 1/3 of your air supply, giving you ⅓ to return to the exit and ⅓  extra air as a safety precaution.   

Divers should plan to have an extra dive light when they enter overhead environments. 

Cave divers follow the rule of always having at least three working lights with them to account for any unexpected problems with their light. 

For recreational divers who want to take a day of their vacation to dive in a cenote, I have a few additional recommendations. 

First, make sure you check your dive shop and feel completely comfortable with their safety standards. 

Cenote diving is not a time to be shopping for the cheapest option, you want to go with an experienced guide who will not cut any corners on your safety. 

If you do not regularly dive at home, it can be really helpful to get a few days of ocean diving in before you plan your cenotes dives.  (See at the end of this post for some tips for diving in Mexico)

You will feel the most comfortable and have an amazing experience if you know that your gear is working and you have had a few dives to refresh your skills. 

A few days in the ocean also gives your dive shop a chance to evaluate your skills and recommend the best cenote for your skill level. 

Mexico cenote diving rays of light
Photo from Canva
CAVE DIVING IN MEXICO

Underwater conditions during cenote diving in Mexico

The cenotes generally have crystal clear water and amazing visibility, making for stunning views where light enters and illuminates the stalactites. 

The cenotes are freshwater; however, some cenotes that are very close to the ocean have a layer of salt water. 

The area where the freshwater and saltwater meet is called the halocline.  Saltwater is denser than freshwater so the freshwater sits on top of the salt water, and the area where they meet can appear blurry. 

Visibility in cenotes can also be disrupted by other divers kicking close to the bottom and lifting up sediment. 

This can temporarily impact visibility. 

Lastly, visibility can be impacted by rain. 

After heavy rain, there can be a bit of sediment runoff near the surface, but usually, once you go down a few feet the visibility improves. 

In general, the cenotes do have current; however, on occasion, you will feel a bit of water flow.  This flow is not strong enough to impact your dive. 

Cave diving
Photo from Canva
CAVE DIVING IN MEXICO

When is the best season to dive in Cenotes? 

The cenotes are great to dive all year round!  In the Riviera Maya, when the wind is too strong and it becomes unsafe for dive boats to go out on the ocean the harbor master will close the port to recreation activities and boats under 40 feet. 

The great thing about the cenotes is that even if the harbor is closed due to wind, you can still dive in a cenote. 

In fact, if you find yourself here and see that the harbor may be closed due to wind, those are great days to schedule your cenote diving. 

CAVE DIVING IN MEXICO

How much does Cenote diving cost?

The cost for two dives in cenotes varies a lot depending on the cenotes that you chose to dive. 

You can expect to pay between $120 to $200 dollars for an excursion that takes you on two dives at two separate cenotes. 

The cost will vary because cenotes are privately owned and have different entry fee costs. 

Check with your dive shop if your price includes transportation and entry fees. 

Cenote Chickin ha - cave cenote
Chikin Ha Cenote cave

What is a Cenote?

Technically speaking, cenotes are the open part of natural sinkholes or pools, connecting the surface to underground water systems. 

The majority of the water systems on the Yucatan Peninsula are underwater – if you look at a map of this area you will find there are hardly any above-ground rivers. 

The cenotes are the connection between these vast underground cave systems and the surface and can range from small, hardly noticeable openings, to large freshwater pools. 

The jungle of the Yucatan Peninsula has thousands of cenotes, and new cenotes are still being discovered. 

For divers, cenotes can be dove as cavern or cave dives and are a chance to get a change from diving in the ocean and go explore a new underwater world. 

Mexico Cenote - Cave diving in Mexico
Photo from Canva

How cenotes were formed

The explanation for how the cenotes were formed begins at the end of the last ice age. As the ice receded from the Yucatan Peninsula it pulled with it the layer of fertile topsoil, leaving a layer of a rocky shelf of limestone. 

When it rains, some of the rainwater filters into the underground river systems, while the rest of it pools on the limestone. 

The pooled water reacts to the limestone and becomes acidic, and after time this can cause the limestone to collapse, creating an opening, or cenote, and revealing the underground cave system. 

Depending on how the limestone collapsed, the resulting cenote can be a completely open pool or a small opening with an overhang. 

Underneath the Yucatan Peninsula, there are countless cave systems, including the Sac Actun cave system, which is the longest flooded cave system in the world and includes Cenote Dos Ojos Cenote. 

Technical divers, following complex navigation, are constantly exploring deeper inside the caves.  New cenotes are also constantly being discovered by property owners as they clear their land. 

Cenotes and the underwater river systems they connect to are made up of crystal clear freshwater. 

As it rains, the rainwater slowly filters through the rock into the underwater systems, leaving behind most of the sediment that would make the water cloudy. 

Cenote in Homun -
Cenote Hacienda Kampepen in Homun – Merida Cenotes

The cenotes for the Mayan civilization

For the ancient Maya, the cenotes were a critical part of their life, and they built their civilization around cenotes. 

Since the Yucatan Peninsula does not have above-ground rivers, the Maya needed to construct their towns near cenotes to have access to fresh water. 

In addition to the practical need to be near cenotes, the Maya also had a spiritual connection to the cenotes.  

The Maya believed that the god of rain lived in the cenotes and that they were a gateway to the underworld. 

Human remains believed to be part of sacrificial offerings as well as artifacts have been found in the cenotes.

CAVE DIVING IN MEXICO

Cave diving in Mexico: final thoughts

If you are interested in Cenote diving in Mexico, Quintana Roo is the best place to explore the cenotes and try cavern or cave diving. 

Home to the longest flooded cave system in the world, with new cenotes being discovered and caves being mapped all the time, diving through these underwater caverns is a unique diving experience in Mexico you do not want to miss. 

Read more about Diving in Mexico

The best diving Spots in Cancun
The best diving sites in Cozumel
The best dive shops in Cozumel

Meet the Author: Adrienne Banka

Adrienne in the water

Adrienne Banka is a Michigander and fell in love with diving at 16 years old. Now she is an island living dive instructor turned brewmaster, turned mom.  When she is not in the water she enjoys riding her bike and chasing after her dog an eight-month-old.