You will probably get to this cenotes guide of Tulum, because of the doubt of knowing where the great majority are located, and that is that only in the Yucatan peninsula there is the amazing amount of 10,000 cenotes, but that will be an issue for another day, now we will focus on the region of Tulum, which houses the most famous Cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula, and for its proximity to many other destinations within the Riviera Maya has gradually become a reference for tourists visiting Mexico and seeking to know some of the Cenotes Tulum.
Before starting, it is always good to know a little more about the subject and know specifically where to find the best Cenotes.
What are Cenotes?
Cenotes are natural lagoons that have been formed in very special circumstances: the bed is made of limestone and the lake is fed by groundwater. Although the most famous are those mentioned in Mexico, there are other places.
Cenotes have been formed over millions of years. Little by little, the rain was wearing away the limestone and an enormous system of underground caves and caverns was formed, which were filled with the water of the precipitations that filtered. If the roof collapses, a cenote forms. In the Yucatan peninsula, there are an estimated seven thousand cenotes.
The term “cenote” comes from the Mayan word “dzonot” or “ts’onot”, which means sacred well or abyss. For this culture, they represented the main source of freshwater in a region that has no lakes and suffers long periods of drought. Thus, almost all the Mayan villages settled near a cenote, so that they had assured the supply of drinking water.
From religious rites to tourist destinations
In addition, cenotes were important for religious reasons. The Maya believed that cenotes could be portals to the underworld and thus a way of communicating with the gods. Archaeologists have found remains of religious ceremonies that took place in or around the cenotes, including human sacrifices.
Now they are tourist destinations where travelers enjoy a bath in their crystal clear waters. The most famous are like large open water pools that measure tens of meters in diameter, like those of Chichén Itzá, a place with protected cenotes.
The water of the cenote is often very clear, as the water comes from filtered earth that makes rainwater. There are almost no particles in suspension. This attracts swimmers and divers from all over the world who explore the caves, some of which measure a hundred kilometers or more.
Visiting Tulum’s best cenotes
The Yucatan Peninsula and the state of Quintana Roo have been favored by nature with many cenotes of indescribable beauty and above all, there are many cenotes in Tulum, which as we discussed in a previous post has one of the most beautiful archaeological sites. See our post, Tulum Ruins.
To save you a lot of time searching the web and spending more time choosing the cenotes of Tulum you will visit. I have made a selection according to my personal experience, remember that it is a recommendation, they are not ordered in which is better, simply the best judge will be you. The following is a selection of the best Tulum cenotes, chosen for their beauty, possibilities of aquatic entertainment and availability of tourist services.
1.- Gran Cenote
It is located about 3.5 kilometers from Tulum, on the road to the Mayan ruins of Coba, this majestic cenote is the most famous in the area. This cenote of Tulum is perfect for the lovers of the diving, you will be able to snorkel in it, it has circular form in its interior you will be able to admire the stalactites and stalagmites, its depth is 10 meters and it is illuminated by the natural light which makes see the spectacular of the crystalline water, do not worry if it does not take equipment of snorkel there they rent it, it also counts on service of parking and bathrooms. Discover the tranquility of the underwater world and the experience of a floating dive in the caverns full of freshwater.
2.- Carwash Cenote
This cenote in Tulum, Mayan name Aktun Ha, earned its best-known name of Carwash because it was a taxi washer before Quintana Roo realized that it could be used much better as a tourist attraction.
Now it attracts visitors from all over the world who will enjoy its clear and fresh waters, shallow in the open part, making it perfect for children’s snorkeling.
It is a semi-open cenote and in the cavern part, visited by divers accompanied by authorized guides, the depth reaches 15 meters.
The underground waters of this cenote join those of Zacil Ha. The Carwash Cenote is 8 km from Tulum on the road to Coba and is easily accessible.
It has a platform for jumping into the water. During the summer, the bottom of the cenote becomes green when covered with algae.
In the cenote, there are aquatic plants and a large stalactite, which can be admired “snorkeling”.
3.- Cenote Crystal
Among the cenotes, Tulum to visit can not miss this one. Also known as Cenote Naharon, whose access is on the Riviera Maya highway, a few kilometers from the archaeological site.
It is a true haven of peace, with blue waters that form a natural pool and are surrounded by a multitude of palm trees and other species of tropical flora of Quintana Roo.
Its depth is 5 meters and has a palapa, so it is excellent for a fun family excursion.
Children and adults are entertained swimming and diving in the shaded cenote on its shores by the exuberant vegetation, while the small fish circulate through the water.
The entrance ticket to the Cristal Cenote also gives access to the Escondido Cenote, as both are very close by.
4.- Escondido Cenote
It forms a pair of cenotes together with the Cristal cenote, with entrances on both sides of Federal Highway 307, 3 km from Tulum.
To get to Escondido Cenote you have to travel about 2 km from the access on the road, in a jungle and mangrove path that announces the proximity of the sea.
Nearby is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve (“Gateway to Heaven” in Mayan), a Protected Natural Area decreed in January 1986 and recognized as a World Heritage Site in 1987.
The geological nature of this reserve, with basically limestone soils, favors the formation of cenotes, such as Escondido and Cristal.
The transparent and fresh waters of the cenote ensure that bathing is as easy as it gets in front of the calm gazes of the iguanas. In the place, there are changing rooms, toilets, and tables.
5.- Cenote Zacil-Ha
In this cenote – discovered in the 80s – and ecotourism center was installed that also has cabins, swimming pools, restaurant-bar, equipment rental for amusement, dressing rooms, bathrooms, and parking.
It is located 10 km from Tulum, with access on the road to the Mayan site of Coba, and its main sector has a depth of 2.5-3 meters, so it is ideal for swimming and snorkeling.
Its indigenous name means “clear water”. The pleasant temperature, transparency, and beauty of the jade-green waters cause you to be permanently bathing and swimming.
It has a wooden lining around the perimeter to make it easier to enter the water and avoid slips.
Deep-sea divers can enter a cavern in which there is a natural room called Las Lágrimas since it has curious stalactites in the shape of drops.
The depth of this sector varies between 8 and 35 meters and its waters cover several hundred meters, communicating with those of other karstic bodies, such as the cenote Calavera and the cenote Carwash.
6.- Calavera Cenote
It is a cenote frequently used by diving enthusiasts to obtain their accreditations in cavern diving, which is located 3 km from the city of Tulum and 4 km from the archaeological site, on the road to Coba.
It is semi-open and the descent is through wooden stairs placed inside the body of water or jumping directly. The waters are refreshing and inhabited by several species of fish.
It receives its name because at the bottom of the rocky roof a skull-like figure is formed, with some holes resembling empty basins and the mouth of a skull.
In the area of deep diving, three layers of haloclines are visible, interesting phenomena in which the freshwater floats on the saltwater because it is less dense. Through the water, it is possible to admire stalagmites and stalactites.
It is open every day of the week between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and has life jackets and snorkel equipment rental.
7.- Cenote Tak Be Ha
This impressive cenote for diving and snorkeling is located about 15 minutes from Tulum and half an hour from Playa del Carmen. It is of great beauty and is found in a cave that is entered through a hole.
The first thing the visitor sees when entering through the hole is the impressive body of crystal clear water.
In the cavern that was formed thousands of years ago, there are stalagmites, stalactites, and columns. These rocky structures are formed by the slow accumulation of mineral salts contained in the waters.
It has little natural light but is artificially illuminated. The regular price is 10 USD, which rises to 20 with a guide. It is approximately 3 km from the access to Cenote Dos Ojos.
How to get to the Cenotes Tulum?
This is a good question, and it is that there are really many different ways to get to the Cenotes in Tulum. Here are a few:
This is perhaps the most expensive option in the long run, as it becomes quite uncomfortable and paying a taxi to take you and bring you back is an extremely expensive option, especially if they notice that you are a distracted tourist.
By bus or public transport van:
This option is the cheapest, but it can be very uncomfortable, and even you may become desperate for the large number of stops they usually make, it is not highly recommended, as it can become unsafe because drivers are often very reckless when driving.
Private transportation or Tours:
Private transportation services are very effective, they can be expensive, but if you choose a company that offers you the round trip service, and especially if you make the reservation online, you will no longer have surprises when paying.
In the case of the Tours, it would be the most advisable thing, since there are packages where they take you to more than one Cenote and with a guide that gives you important information about each destination that you cross.
Renting a car in Cancun city:
If you arrive and decide to rent a car in Cancun it will be the most comfortable and economical option, as you have your time and the price of a rental can travel many places to your liking. The bad thing is that you can get lost and that you still pay the amount of gasoline.