The Best Cenotes in Mexico and All You Need to Know to Visit
Updated: Aug 21, 2021
Where are my lovers of all things water? If you love the ocean, surfing, canyoning, you will love visiting Cenotes! I first visited a cenote in Valladolid in 2019 at Cenote Zaci. I fell in love with the natural phenomenon of a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater.
Before I traveled to Mexico, I researched various Cenotes via sources like ExpertVagabond, Anna Everywhere, Getting Stamped, and ThatBlondeBikiniGirl.
During my 3+ months in Mexico, I visited 10+ Cenotes!
I will be updating this post over the next 3 months with insights, visits, videos to Cenotes in Mexico in and near Tulum, Bacalar, and Valladolid.
Let's talk about The Best Cenotes in Mexico and All You Need to Know to Visit!
Taken on my iPhone 12 Mini by a friend I met, Julia at Gran Cenote in Tulum, Mexico
Know Before You Go: Visiting Cenotes
The most common types of Cenotes are cave, open and semi-open Cenotes. Cave Cenotes are the youngest and open Cenotes the oldest as the cave has fallen onto itself.
While you may find similar Cenotes, they all have different designs and locations, and may vary in price and rules. You may find some undiscovered, go on private tours, visit them on your own, and with groups. In addition, some may be exclusive to diving.
The emerald green and blue waters, natural landscaping, and caverns will have you fall in love with one if not many of the Cenotes in Mexico. I fell in love the moment I visited Cenote Zaci, my first Cenote in Mexico in Valladolid,
There is no shortage of Cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico with over 6,000 discovered. As a result, it is very likely you may stumble across some that you will not find on Instagram. While I will be visiting some I discovered on Instagram and Blogs, I am asking locals for input on those not as well known as well!
Generally speaking, Cenotes that are managed for visiting are open 8 ish to 5ish, require showering before entering, do not allow sunscreen that is not bio-degradable to protect the environment of the Cenotes, and charge fees ranging from a few dollars to $30+. In addition, some may include showers, restrooms, and shops while others strictly showers and the Cenotes environment.
It is important to know that some Cenotes are great for lounging, snorkeling, cave discovery, diving, and some Cenotes are great for all of the above.
Cenotes to Visit
I started researching Cenotes before I arrived in Tulum, Mexico. The first place I went in Mexico in 2021 during my four month stay was Tulum. At the same, I took Trip Advisor and the reviews of others with a grain of salt. I asked my Airbnb hosts and locals for guidance too! I adjust for my own preferences and reasons to visit a Cenote. I encourage you to do the same.
1 Cenote Cristal & Escondido - proximity to Airbnb
2 Gran Cenote - beauty & images, closeness to Tulum
3 Kaan Luum Lagoon & Cenote - beauty, proximity to Airbnb
4 Cenote Corazon - off the beaten path, uniqueness, Airbnb proximity
5 Choo-Ha - off the beaten path, uniqueness, fully underground*
6 Casa Cenote - off beaten path, kayaking, crocodile, and price
I modified the list of Cenotes several times during my three month stay in Tulum, Mexico
1 Cenote Cocalitos - beauty & uniqueness, pricing, easy to get to
2 Cenote Azul - beauty, depth, pricing, close to Cocalitos
1 Cenote Ikeken - recommendations, underground, pricing
2 Cenote Oxman - beauty, underground/open hole, and close to my Airbnb
3 Cenote Ilkil - beauty, close to Chichen Itza, pricing
Crystal clear waters at Cenote Escondido
Tulum is saturated with Cenotes in Tulum, on the way to Kaan Luum Lagoon, and on the way to Playa Carmen. There are many to choose from in this area. It is important to point out that many are priced higher due to saturation of tourists.
Cenote Cristal and Escondido
When exploring Airbnbs for my stay in Tulum, Mexico, I came across Mini Tulum Jungle Cabanas. One of many reasons I picked my Airbnb is that within 10-15 minutes walking distance are the Cenote Cristal and Escondido Cenotes.
Cenotes Cristal is an open Cenote and looks more like a lake with shimmering waters indicating it is an older Cenote. It is a great way to relax and snorkel. The first time I visited I did see some divers come by.
Although more tourists are beginning to discover the Cenotes, It is more of a local stop. It definitely felt like that when I visited. I went on a Tuesday afternoon around 3pm. As of April 2021. I paid 120 pesos / $6 to visit both Cenotes. During the time I visited, there were about 5 people at Cenote Cristal and about 30 people at Cenote Escondido.
Cenote Cristal does have showers and a bathroom. There is no restaurant or shop at either Cenote so bring water, juice, snacks etc if you plan on staying longer. Once you pay, go take a shower to rinse off to protect the Cenote environment. Within 30 meters of paying, you will walk right over to Cenote Cristal.
Afterwards, you will walk across the street to Cenote Escondido about a 10 minute walk. You will find the water sunk in with elevated cliffs around. For my fellow adventure lovers, there is a swing to jump in about 10 feet at Cenote Escondido.
Between Cenote Cristal and Escondido, two hours is enough time to visit. At the same time, you could go for the whole day.
Cenote Escondido Tulum, Mexico
Cenote Escondido in Tulum, Mexico
Cenote Escondido in Tulum, Mexico
When I saw the images of Gran Cenote years ago, I knew I wanted to visit. While some people may love to do tours, I am a big believer of getting uncomfortable and doing things off the beaten path and figuring it out on your own.
Getting to Gran Cenote:
While I saw Trip Advisor, Viator and Airbnb Cenotes tours, I decided to explore this one on my own. With my travel in Tulum, Mexico for 3+ months, my slow travel is increasing.
With help from locals, I figured out I could take a collectivo (small local vans that go every 30 minutes in multiple directions) for 20 pesos / $1 to get to Gran Cenote one way. Depending on the type of Cenote you take (local or regional), you may need to take 2 of them for $2 total each way.
Make sure you let the driver know which stop you are getting off on and keep an eye out.
In between waiting for one, I walk down the street with safe walkable and bikeable paths along the road. All you do is go in direction on road you want to catch collectivo and ask if they are going to your destination. If not, they are likely going to Tulum Centro e.g. Ado Bus Station and you may transfer there easily.
On my way to Gran Cenote, it took about 20 minutes total with catching collectivos and transferring. On my way back to my Mayan Jungle Cabana in Tulum with Airbnb, I walked about 20 minutes before I caught my first one and then waited about 10 minutes for my second one. As a result, my return trip was about 30-40 minutes.
Keep in mind, a collectivo will cost you $2 vs. a taxi currently about $10-$20 depending where you are coming from and going. I am currently being a wise steward, loving experiencing things like a local, focusing on humility, and a babe on a budget.
Gran Cenote Visit
As a result, I decided to focus my visit on Gran Cenote on a Friday afternoon. Even though I read reviews recommending to go early in the morning, I chanced going in the afternoon on a Friday in May 2021.
The check in process with Eduardo is super easy. The prices are now clearly marked 300 pesos / $15. Make sure you bring either dollars or pesos. They accept both. I paid in pesos.
This does not include a lifejacket or snorkel equipment. Keep in mind prices are subject to change.
You are instructed to shower right away to make sure you are clean and free of any lotions, sunscreen, perfumes before entering the Cenote so that the environment is protected. A team member checks to be sure you are completely wet before you go down the stairs.
Gran Cenote is incredibly beautiful with open, semi-open, and cavern closed portions. When you visit, make sure you go to both pool areas.
To the left, there is an open and partially open swimming and snorkeling areas under caverns. You will see a roped off area for turtles with signs clearly marked to help protect them.