What is a Cenote?
Before we even get into where the best cenotes in Mexico are... what exactly are they? Cenotes are a natural pit, or sinkhole, that occur when limestone collapses and groundwater rushes in. They are all over the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico and were even sometimes used by the ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings.
The water is fresh, instead of salt, making them fun to swim in even if they are sometimes a little cold. Travelers from all around the world love to snorkel and scuba dive them and they are something you can't miss while in Mexico.
Where are the best cenotes near Tulum?
There are hundreds of cenotes in the area, and over 5000 on the Yucatán Peninsula, but the most popular cenotes near Tulum are Gran Cenote and Dos Ojos. More information on these are below!
Going to the more remote and private cenotes offer a much better experience because the popular ones do get very very busy.
Other cenotes you should check out:
Cenote Yokdzonot, near Chichén Itzá
Cenote Azul, near Tulum and Playa Del Carmen
Cenote Samulá, near Valladolid and Chichén Itzá
Cenote Ponderosa, near Playa Del Carmen
Grutas de Loltún, near Chichén Itzá and Tulúm
What are the best cenote acitivites?
You can usually find scuba diving and snorkeling options at all of the cenotes. You can also just swim in them, dive off makeshift platforms and relax.
Cave diving through the cenotes is especially interesting and something you can only do in select parts of the world.
What to bring to the Cenotes
Entrance fees are around 100-200 pesos per person depending on which Cenote you visit
Leave valuables at your hotel!!
Tours to the Cenotes
There are of course tons of tours you can take to the cenotes around Tulum. If you don't have a car this is the perfect option. I would look for a tour that goes to the private cenotes instead of the super popular ones. This ensures you have a better experience and aren't visiting the cenotes at peak hours with the rest of the crowds.
While in Tulum I toured the cenotes with Edventure tours. I highly recommend this company.
You can read about my full tour (which included way more than just cenotes) here.
Other Tips for visiting the Cenotes:
Make sure you have cash if you plan to visit any of the cenotes. For example: Gran Cenote is 150 pesos per person.
Head to the more popular ones first since these get crowded during midday.
You won't have a problem getting a taxi back to town. There are usually 1-2 waiting outside to take people back.
How to visit Cenote Dos-Ojos
Translating to 'two eyes' the name refers to the two pools of water. One is crystal clear, like most cenotes, and the other is dark and black and gets the most attention. You can snorkel in the black eye with basically no light seeing very interesting creatures. There is diving gear for rent at the cenote which, of course, includes a flashlight so you have just enough light to navigate. Beware: It’s cramped and claustrophobic down there, and not for everyone.
An alternative to this cenote is included on the tour with Edventure Tours. They have access to a smaller, less crowded, cave cenote which is amazing to snorkel in.
How to visit Gran Cenote
When you enter Gran Cenote, you’re asked to shower to wash off any sunscreen or bug repellent- only biodegradable sunscreen is allowed in cenotes. This helps preserve the wildlife ecosystem - please think about investing in it. Once showered, head downstairs.
Grand Cenote is a half open and half closed cave. This gorgeous cenote has bright light streaming in and reflecting off the clear water. Swimming in the cool waters is the perfect way to cool down on the hot Mexican days. The cenote is broken up into multiple sections with different depths. There is also a cave, filled with bats, you can swim through.
Final Thoughts on Tulum
One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a guidebook along with you. Here are some books I recommend...
And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).