The best Cenotes in Mexico – What lies beneath

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The Best Cenotes in Mexico

Cenote? Never heard of him!

Travelling for fun, visit Mexico, Cenote: A diver with a lamp emerging from the tunnels back to the bright surface pool full of swimmersWell, everybody knows what a cave is, right, and has been in one at some stage or another. Some are small, damp and smell bad, others can be a bit bigger with the echo’s of water dripping ringing off the walls as you make your way through the tight spaces. Cenotes are caves Mexican style that don’t exist anywhere else in the world and are a must if you are visiting Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula. Today they are just swimming holes to have fun and cool off but a century ago the Mayans thought they were sacred and often carried out rituals at them as they were the first step to the underworld

They come in lots of shapes and sizes from being more like a lake open to the air to being spectacular enclosed caverns with gigantic stalagmites and stalactites.  Most of the entrances to the underground cenotes are tight with just enough room to walk in. All cenotes vary but bear the same similar characteristics.  Then when you visit this new underground world, the view of this gigantic space is spectacular. The best way I can describe it is like arriving at the steeple of a cathedral and seeing the whole building below you without the roof. Some of the cenotes are actually this big underground with no indication of it above! Huge mites grow from the ceilings and floor with the bottom covered in crystal clear fresh water.

Travelling for fun, visit Mexico, Yucatan, Cenote: The beautiful open cavern cenote outside Vallidolid. Tree roots and rays of light creep in from aboveSometimes there are cracks in the ceiling to the heavens above which cast rays of sunlight down on the clear water and allow bats to occupy the cavern. The water is always cool which makes these attractions very pleasant for swimming in away from the temperatures outside.

The best Cenotes in Mexico – Scuba Diving: Many of the cenotes are connected to each other via underwater tunnels and passages. The Yucatan Peninsula is like Swiss cheese and has some of the longest caves in the world. There are no normal rivers in the Yucatan as all the water seeps through gaps in the limestone underground. The underwater tunnels are not for swimming in but it is possible in several locations to do scuba diving between the ‘eyes’ at the surface. These are spectacular dives and anybody who has scuba dived before should definitely try it. Only a PADI certificate is required as the popular one’s are caverns and don’t require a cave diving license. Despite the Mayans often carrying out human sacrifice as a gift to the Gods at the cenotes, you will be safe enough from seeing any remaining skulls.

Near the bigger towns a lot of the bigger cenotes have dressing rooms and facilities but usually have plenty of people and tour buses. By far the best one I was in was one in the middle of nowhere when it was really hot and we fancied a dip. There was a big handwritten sign on the side of the road which we obeyed and drove down a very dirty dirt track. We had to walk the last 300mtrs in case the car got stuck. We arrived to a few locals sitting Travelling for fun, visit Mexico, Yucatan, Cenote: A spectacular cenote with thousands of stalactites on the ceiling. This cenote was in the middle of nowhere west of Vallidolidaround in the jungle and the sound of a generator. Wondering if we were in the right place they directed us to a black hole in the ground. Down a few slippery steps and opened up the unbelievable cavern, bigger than a cathedral! There were huge stalagmites and stalactites rising up and rising down, some like the Sistine Chapel were almost touching fingers. The rest of the ceiling was full of thousands of smaller stalactites that peppered the air. We jumped into the water and swam around these structures that were formed thousands of years ago. This cenote was family run and it was they who put up all the lights that lit up this very impressive hole. They also were very careful not to dirty the pristine water and had buckets of clean water to wash our hands and feet before we got in.

When heading out I asked if I could wash my sandals (sandalia) in the bucket before we left but what I actually said was “could I wash my watermelons” (sandia)! Lucky I’m not a woman!

Need to Know, About the best Centotes

Cenotes are sprinkled all over the Yucatan Peninsula and are open to anybody and are one of the great things to do in the area. There is a charge into nearly all of them from $50Mxn for the most popular to $20 into some of the family run ones.

  • Currency – €1 = $17Mexican Pesos, US$1 = $12 Mxn
  • Location – Dotted all over the Yucatan Peninsula in eastern Mexico. This includes the states of Quintana Roo (Cancun, Tulum, ), Yucatan (Merida, Vallidolid) and Campeche.
  • Bring – When visiting cenotes, bring normal gear for swimming and some flip flops/ runners are handy for the rough ground
  • Language – Spanish. Moderate English is spoken by the general public and spoken better by anybody involved with the tourist industry. ie. hotels, tour operators, restaurants etc.
  • Scuba Diving – There are many cenotes that are diveable and popular with tourists with the small pool of water on the surface masking a huge labyrinth of tunnels and caves underneath. There are many that you can pop from one opening to another by spending 10minutes underwater. They are really spectacular and an attraction that everybody should try and visit when in the vicinity. There are many companies that do this, located generally on the east coast near the Mayan Riviera (Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum) and prices are approx US$100-120 for 2 dives in the same location and US$120-150 for 3 dives (or 2 dives in 2 different cenotes). A certain level of competency is usually expected such as for ‘Dos Ojos’ they want divers to have done at least 50 dives beforehand as some of the passages can be slightly narrow and don’t want any damage caused to these ancient rocks.,,,
    • Best Cenotes in Yucatan: There are thousands of cenotes but I would recommend any of the following
      •  Dos Ojos, Tulum: Several ‘eyes��� for snorkelers on the surface and all connect by underground tunnels and so popular with divers. 15km north of Tulum on Cancun road. From there it is 1.5km west of the main road down dirt track. Playa Collectivo can drop you at the main road. No guide is necessary despite what they may tell you at the gate.
      • Gran Cenote , Tulum: One of the more open popular cenotes which is big (hence the name) and airy. 4km west of Tulum out Highway 109
      • Samula and X’Keken Cenotes, Valladolid: Both in the same complex with roots hanging from the ceiling and completely underground. Little fish nibble at the dead skin on your feet. Also has very funky lighting which can add or take away from your enjoyment. About 7km from Valladolid square, easy with a taxi or on a bike out the Merida road
      • Ch’oo Jaaj: This cenote in the middle of nowhere is spectacular and was ‘developed’ by a family. I only went in as I was hot and saw the big handwritten sign on the road. The family installed the lights and the stairs in this huge cavern. A truly spectacular wonder. Located at approximately Km220 on the Valladolid to Cancun road (libre) and located just before the border in Yucatan state before you enter Quintana Roo state. Located down a long dirt track.
  • Accommodation , For 3 Star hotels –  Prices are US$50 in Cancun city centre, min US$100 Cancun hotel district (on the beach),  Playa del Carmen US$70-100, Tulum US$70-100
  • Beer – 1 bottle of beer costs about US$3
  • Population of the Yucatan Peninsula:  Over 2 million

My Photos from the best Cenotes in Yucatan, Mexico

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Ross Travellingforfun

About Ross Travellingforfun

I have ducked, dived, bungeed, burned, skydived, surfed, volunteered, volcanoed, crossed continents, conquered mountains, got robbed, got sick and got drunk and I hope this website will inspire you to do the same.