Cenotes in the Yucatan 101
Updated: Aug 4, 2019
Mexico is not just about the beaches, the best part is diving in an underground sinkhole "cenote"and swimming in cool water after a hot day exploring ruins and hiking pyramids. In fact, we loved the experience so much we visited over 10 cenotes during our stay in the Yucatan and found each one to offer something different. In this post I'll share my top 10.
Cenotes became our favorite activity in the Yucatan. These nature-made sinkholes are great for swimming, snorkeling, diving, relaxing and even having "fish therapy" aka fish pedicure.
So, what's a cenote? A cenote ia a natural pit or sinkhole , resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes ground water underneath. Cenotes were a significant part of Mayan culture and it is believed that sacrifices of gold, jade and humans were made here to honor the god of the under world. There are four different types of cenotes-- those that are completely underground, those that are semi- underground, those that are at land level like a lake or a pound and those that are open wells. The Yucatan has over 6,000 cenotes and more continue to be discovered through the years. I've made a list of my fav cenotes from all the ones we visited and classified them by what's best to do at each.
1. IK KILL
This cenote is very popular due to its proximity to Chichen Itza so its best to visit before 9am for a crowd free experience.
Ik Kill has a paradise / jungle feel and is best for families and travelers with limited time as its only a 15 min drive from Chichen Itza, making it a convenient "on the way" stop. It's also ideal for cooling off on a hot day as this cenote has a ledge midway to jump from that's very fun! Ik Kill is a great intro to the world of cenotes and if you're traveling to Chichen Itza, I highly recommend adding it to your stop.
2. Sacred Cenote
This cenote is actually inside of Chichen Itza -- one of the seven wonders of the world. The reason this cenote made my list of top cenotes in the Yucatan to visit is that despite it not being open for swimming this cenote in my opinion was the creepiest of them all. Staring at this open well pit, also known as a sacred well or well of sacrifice, I couldn't help going back in time ( mentally ofcouse ) to an era where human, gold and jade sacrifices were made to honor the gods of the under world. If such sacrifices took place, I with no doubt believe that was the spot where it all happened... spooky! This cenote is best for looking at while brushing up on some Mayan History.
3. Cenote Samula
Never thought that swimming in a sink hole surrounded by bats would be this magical .
This cenote is located in Valladolid and is part of a two cenote park. We opted to visit just one "samula" and it did not disappoint! with its ice cold water, perfect on a hot day and its beautiful shades of blue, swimming here was a total adventure! plus this cenote is less touristy so no matter the time of arrival it won't be as crowded as the rest. This cenote is best for couples, photography and swimmers as I found it to be very romantic, mysterious and adventurous with deep and shallow waters. * There are life jackets in almost all the cenotes so if you can't swim, no worries!
4. Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman
Our next Cenote has something for everyone. Inside an hacienda you'll find this little gem with a pool and drinks next to it for those wanting to take a little more sun in. The highlight of this Cenote is it's awesome rope where you can swing from and jump into the Cenote!!! This Cenote located in Valladolid is very local. Best for families, groups and fun adventure seekers who can choose from chilling by the pool or jumping in a sinkhole.
5. Cenote Suytun
This place is surreal , magical and actually real... although we felt we were on a movie set from it's abnormal beauty . Hands down the most dramatic, spectacular and photogenic cenote in the Yucatan!
This cenote is on the way from Valladolid to Tulum. If planning a visit, arrive early when it opens to avoid bus tours that start arriving after 10am. This cenote is best for couples, photographers and nature lovers.
6. Gran Cenote
This cenote is near Tulum on the way to Coba and is one of the most famous cenotes in Mexico therefor very popular and touristy so arrive early for a not so crowded experience and to avoid the tour buses that start arriving after noon. This cenote is best for families, snorkeling, swimming , diving and turtle watching. El Gran Cenote made the fav list due to its clear water, you can see the fish and turtles swimming even without snorkeling gear!
7. Laguna Kaan Luum
Tulum's best kept secret... Kaan Luum Lagoon! This was our favorite fresh water "beach" in Mexico. Only 30 min south of Tulum you'll find this local fresh water lagoon. It's great for swimming, having a picnic and using it's sand as a natural body exfoliant. What makes this lagoon so special is that in the center there's a Cenote ( the darkest shade of blue in this pic ). This Cenote is an under water one and you need a divers permit in order to get in as it's very deep. Any divers out there up for the challenge???
8. Cenote Cristalino
Between Tulum and Playa del Carmen you can find 3 sister cenotes right next to each other. Cenote Cristalino, Cenote Jardin del Eden and Cenote Azul are less than a 1 minute drive away from one another. Did we go to all 3? Of course we did! Up next I'll be sharing the highlights of each one so you can choose the one that works for you. In my opinion all three are very similar ( being open) so there's no need to visit all if you only have one day in the area.
Let's start with Cenote Cristalino: This Cenote is an open Cenote and has a secret garden feel as is less tourity than other cenotes near by with beautiful nooks where you find yourself surrounded by nature and secluded from the rest. It's perfect for couples and groups as there's a fun cliff to jump from and near by fruit snacks for purchase. Out of all 3 this was my favorite one. This Cenote is also very calm so it's perfect for having fish therapy, just sit by a rock and stay still and they'll all come swimming your way.
9. Cenote Jardin del Eden
The second Cenote is Jardin del Eden: This Cenote is an open Cenote and has an adventurous feel, it's also less tourity than other cenotes near by with amazing spots to dive and cliffs to jump off from. It's perfect for divers and groups as there's a grill with burgers and hot dogs being grilled daily available for purchase.
10. Cenote Azul
Last we have cenote Azul. This cenote is open and offers stunning views with an "oasis" kinda feel. The perfect spot to cool off on a hot day! Best for families and individuals seeking a more chill vibe. The waters here can be shallow and deep depending on the area with near by rocks to soak the sun in and cliffs to jump in.
Thanks for reading my personal list of my favorite cenotes in the Yucatan. I had so much fun putting this list together, mostly because I fell madly in love with the natural beauty of these sink holes. There are so many cenotes in the Yucatan! Did I miss your favorite one? leave a comment below. Would love to check it out one day... 'till next time!