Have you ever swam in a crystal-clear sinkhole amidst a lush jungle? Swimming in a cenote is a unique experience, only found in Mexico and one of the things you should definitely try out during your trip.

Cenotes are mostly found on the Yucatan peninsula in the southern part of Mexico. The great Mayans knew about the cenotes long before they became a bucket-list attraction, and they used them as a source of water as well as in their spiritual ceremonies.

Top Cenotes in Mexico

Top Cenotes in Mexico

If you want to visit some of the most amazing cenotes choose Valladolid cenotes or cenotes near Tulum and Playa del Carmen. Most cenotes in Mexico are open to the public, and many offer activities like swimming, snorkelling, kayaking and scuba diving. You can either join one of the cenote tours from Tulum or other cities of Riviera Maya if you enjoy a hassle-free excursion or rent a car and visit independently.

The choice is really vast, as there are hundreds of cenotes in Yucatan, but after reading this post, you will discover which cenotes in Mexico are truly unmissable.

What are cenotes in Mexico?

Best Cenotes in Mexico What Are They

If you haven’t been to Mexico yet, you’re probably wondering, what is a cenote?

Cenotes are pools of water that form when porous limestone bedrock collapses, and since there is plenty of limestone in Yucatan, there are many cenotes there. Some cenotes are part of large underground river systems, and others are connected to the sea.

Cavern cenotes are the youngest cenotes where the limestone roof hasn’t eroded yet. These sinkholes are closed and resemble a cave. They receive minimal natural light and are dark and mysterious, so swimming in one of the close cenotes is a truly unique experience. An example of a cave cenote is Cenote Suytun.

Open cenotes are much older, with their roof eroded away over the years. They are open to the external world, lit with natural light, and normally covered with lush vegetation. Most cenotes in Yucatan are open cenotes, they are fun to visit and great for swimming. Examples of open cenotes include Gran Cenote and Cenote Ik Kil.

Best Mexico Cenotes Dos Ojos

We also have ancient cenotes that are the oldest in Yucatan. An example of an ancient cenote is Cenote Azul or Cenote Cocalitos in Bacalar, which resemble a lagoon or a lake with both roofs and walls eroded away.

In the Mayan culture, cenotes played an important role. They were seen as the bridge between the earthly and the divine worlds. They were considered sacred places and were used for religious rituals, including human offerings in some cases.

Today, visiting a Mexican cenote is not only a fun activity but also one of the many ways you can explore and understand the ancient Mayan civilisation.

1. Gran Cenote

Best Cenotes in Mexico Gran Cenote

Just a few kilometres away from Tulum, you will find one of the most popular cenotes in Mexico – the Gran Cenote.

Gran Cenote is an open cenote with crystal clear emerald water, two pools, and a cave. If you’re interested in diving, this is a great place to do it. If you want to snorkel, which I recommend doing, snorkelling gear is included in the ticket price. Just make sure you bring an ID, which is required as a deposit.

The waters of Gran Cenote are teeming with tropical fish, and you can even spot here adorable tinny turtles. A few-meters long cave connects the two pools of the cenote, and as you swim through it, look up to admire ancient stalactites. And if you’re lucky, you might even spot some bats soaring through the intricate formations.

Getting to Gran Cenote is easy; you can drive a car, or since it’s only a 5 km trip, you can also ride a bicycle, which is a common mode of transport in Tulum. Since the cenote is one of the most popular cenotes near Tulum, the best time to visit it is in the morning, right after it opens at 8 am.

If you would prefer to jump on a tour this private Cenote Tour takes you to 3 different cenotes in a day including the Gran Cenote. It is the perfect day trip.

Opening times: 8:00 am to 4:15 pm

Entrance ticket: 500 pesos ($28)

2. Cenote Suytun

Best Cenotes in Mexico Suytun Cenote

Cenote Suytun is a cave cenote which features a circular platform right in the middle of its cave. At around midday, the platform gets illuminated by a light beam coming through a small opening in the cave ceiling, creating an extraordinary sight! 

This picturesque cave cenote has captured the hearts of Instagrammers worldwide, and it’s not hard to see why. If you want to take a photo of the platform, prepare yourself to wait in a queue.

Apart from taking the Insta famous photo, make sure you explore the cave and its striking stalactites and stalagmites that formed over thousands of years. If you want to swim, you will be required to take a shower and wear a life jacket.

Cenote Suytun is located 8 km from the centre of Valladolid. If your itinerary doesn’t allow you to stay a couple of days in this area of Yucatan, you can book a tour starting from your hotel in Cancun or any other Riviera Maya town.  Combine a visit to Suytun with Chichen Itza and the town of Valladolid for a day packed with interesting sights. 

This is a perfect cenote tour that includes Valladolid and Chichen Itza as well. Check Availability here.

Opening times: 9 am to 5 pm

Entrance ticket: 150 pesos ($8.40)

3. Cenote Azul, Bacalar

Best Cenotes in Mexico Cenote Azul Balacar

Being one of the top attractions of Bacalar Lagoon, Cenote Azul is one of the top cenotes to visit in Mexico. It boasts a perfectly circular shape, and as it is an ancient cenote, it more resembles a lagoon or a lake than a cenote.

Cenote Azul has a dark blue colour thanks to its depth, which reaches an incredible 295 feet. Swimming in this cenote is an extraordinary experience, and it’s very refreshing. If you’re not a strong swimmer, make sure to rent a life jacket and enjoy floating in its waters carefree. Alternatively, you can also explore this large cenote on a kayak.

Bacalar lies in Quintana Roo, a 4-hour drive south of Cancun. You can find Cenote Azul 4 km south of Bacalar downtown, and the best way to get there is by rental car. It is also possible to get to Cenote Azul by taxi, or if you’re up for some cardio, you can also walk or cycle. A Cenote tour is also an easy way to explore these amazing natural wonders. This private tour takes you to Bacalar Lagoon.

Opening times: 10 am to 6 pm

Entrance ticket: 25 pesos ($1.40)

4. Cenote Oxman

Best Cenotes in Mexico Oxman Cenote

If you’re looking for a cenote where you can spend a fun day, Oxman is perfect. It is an open cenote with lush vegetation growing on its walls. 

Cenote Oxman is known for its Tarzan robe swing. Grab onto the handles and swing to the middle of the pool to jump into the cenote. The first jump is a little scary, but trust me, you will want to do it again and again!

Also, bring your snorkelling mask (or rent it out) to explore the underwater world of the cenote, which is inhabited by colourful fish.

Cenote Oxman boasts fantastic facilities. In addition to the cenote entrance, you can also enjoy their sun loungers and pool. There is also a restaurant, and if you’re wanting to stay here for lunch, make sure to choose a ticket that includes their buffet lunch.

Hacienda Oxman is located a 6-km drive from downtown Valladolid. You can drive here or take a taxi. It is also popular to cycle here and visit two other nearby cenotes along the way- Cenote Dzitnup and Saamal.

Opening times: 8 am to 5 am

Entrance ticket: 150 pesos ($8.40)

5. Laguna de Kaan Luum Cenote 

Best Cenotes in Mexico Laguna de Kaan Luum Cenote

Laguna de Kaan Luum is one of the unique places to visit near Tulum and an excellent destination for nature lovers.

There are many animals living in this area, including agoutis, jaguars, and badgers. Additionally, you can see parrots, woodpeckers, and iguanas that are colourful. 

In the middle of the lagoon, there is an 80-metre-deep cenote, which you can spot from a raised viewing platform. The water in the cenote has an intense blue colour due to its profound depth, and unfortunately, swimming inside it is not allowed.

The lagoon itself offers fantastic swimming conditions in its warm, shallow waters. Don’t forget to bring your snorkelling mask and a rush guard to protect your body from sun exposure, as wearing sun cream is strictly forbidden.

The best way to get to Laguna de Kaan Luum is to rent a car or scooter and make your way independently. The lagoon is located a short drive away from downtown Tulum, but since it is tucked away from the main road, deep in the jungle, it is best to avoid taking taxis or public buses, which will drop you off on the main road.

Opening times: 9 am to 4 pm

Entrance ticket: 300 pesos ($16.75)

6. Cenote Ik Kil

Best Cenotes in Mexico Cenote Ik Kil

Situated near the New World Wonder Chichen Itza, Cenote Ik Kil is a popular tourist stop but also one of the most picturesque swimming holes in Mexico. It is an open cenote with lush vegetation and lianas growing on its walls and cave ceilings entirely eroded away.

Taking a refreshing dip in the cenote’s cool water is a real treat after touring Chichen Itza under the blazing Mexican sun. The cenote has a maximum depth of 150 feet, and life jackets are compulsory if you want to swim. And if you dare, there is also a 5-meter high jumping platform, which is sure to give you an exhilarating adrenaline rush.

Since Ik Kil is located near the Chichen Itza Archaeological Site, most tours stop at the cenote after a visit to the Mayan ruins. This means that the cenote is a little busy most of the time, but still, totally worth it. If you wish to enjoy it without the crowds, choose to visit in the early morning or late afternoon.

Opening times: 9 am to 5 pm

Entrance ticket: 150 pesos ($8.40)

7. Cenote Zaci (Zacil-Ha)

Best Cenotes in Mexico Cenote Zaci

If you’re looking for the best family-friendly cenotes in Mexico, Cenote Zaci, located near Tulum, is perfect. It is a small, open cenote, and what makes it a great cenote for kids is that it is only 3 meters deep. The cenote Zaci also boasts a fun zipline, which you let go of when you’re in the middle of the water for a thrilling jump, and also a 3-meter high jumping platform.

The cenote facilities include sun loungers, a pool and a restaurant where you can grab a light lunch and a cold drink.

If you have a space in your itinerary, combine a visit to Cenote Zaci with Gran Cenote, cenote Calavera or Car Wash Cenote, all of which are located close by.

You can drive to this cenote independently or, since it’s only 8 km away, get here by taxi. Get the number of the taxi driver so that you can call them to pick you out when you’re ready to go back.

Opening times: 9 am to 5 pm

Entrance ticket: 200 pesos ($11.20)

8. Cenote Cristalino

Best Cenotes in Mexico Cristalino Cenote

Cenote Cristalino, as the name suggests, is known for its crystal clear water, perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving. The cenote pool is like a giant aquarium, full of tropical fish of different species and colours. There is also a cave-like tunnel which is fun to swim through and a jumping platform for thrill-seekers.

The lush jungle surrounds the cenote, so make sure you explore the whole site because there are two more hidden pools with shallow turquoise water to be discovered.

Avoid visiting the cenote during the weekend, when the cenote gets really busy with the local families flocking here to spend their free time. Also, make sure to check out the neighbouring Cenote Azul, which is equally stunning.

Cenote Cristalino is tucked between Tulum and Playa del Carmen and can be easily visited from both cities. The best to way get to the cenote is with a rental car, but it is also possible to take a local bus known as a “colectivo”. Make sure you tell the driver where you want to get off, as stops are on demand.

Opening times: 8 am to 6 pm

Entrance ticket: 200 pesos ($11.20)

9. Cenote Calavera

Best Cenotes in Mexico Cenote Calavera

Cenote Calavera is one of the most unique cenotes in Mexico. Unlike other cenotes that often feature a large swimming hole, Calavera consists of a few smaller holes and does not have a staircase to access its cave. Instead, you will either need to jump into the cenote or climb down a huge wooden ladder, which is a thrill in its own right!

The cenote hole with its ladder is one of the most photographed places in Tulum, and when you see it, you will understand why. Inside the main pool, there is also a swing, which also is a cool photo spot.

The cenote is surrounded by greenery and colourful sun loungers where you can dry off and catch some sun. There is also a snack shop, and as at most cenotes – showers, toilets and changing rooms.

Cenote Calavera is situated just outside Tulum downtown, off the main road to Coba Mayan ruins, and you can easily cycle to its entrance or grab a taxi.

Opening times: 8:30 am to 5 pm

Entrance ticket: 250 pesos ($14)

10. Cenote Car Wah

Best Cenotes in Mexico Car Wash

Located also near Tulum (in the Mayan language – Cenote Aktun-Ha), also known as Cenote Car Wash, is a picturesque open cenote totally worth adding to your itinerary.

Cenote Car Wash looks like a tranquil lake and boasts exceptionally crystal clear water, which is perfect for swimming, snorkelling and also diving. In the water, you can spot lots of colourful fish and small, adorable turtles. For the best snorkelling experience, arrive in the morning when the turtles are the most active.

There is also a 3-meter high jumping platform, which is not too scary hight but high enough to give you a little thrill. The cenote also has some seating and picnic spaces, which are great if you want to spend some more time here.

Cenote Car Wash is located on the main road to Coba, a 9-km drive from downtown Tulum. You can get here either by taxi, rental car, scooter or bicycle. Make sure to also check out other fantastic cenotes in this area, such as Gran Cenote and Cenote Calavera.

Opening times: 8 am to 5 pm

Entrance ticket: 300 pesos ($16.80)

11. Cenote Cocalitos

Best Cenotes in Mexico Cocalitos Cenote

Famous for its large stromatolites colony, Cenote Cocalitos is a must-visit cenote when travelling to Bacalar Lagoon. Stromatolites are billions-year-old fossils which are considered to be the oldest life forms on Earth and the first organisms that produced oxygen.

At Cocalitos, you will have a unique opportunity to get to these fascinating organisms close, but make sure you follow the rules and never step on them.

Upon arrival, you will find a large swimming hole with lukewarm milky-blue water and an incredible view of gorgeous jungle greenery. The cenote also features colourful hammocks and swings in the water. The cenote is shallow, and it is possible to walk around to explore all its corners.

Cenote Cocalitos lies 4 km away from Bacalar city centre, and you can easily get here by taxi, rental car or scooter, or you can just simply walk or cycle. Make sure you also check out Cenote Azul, which is situated in the same area of Bacalar.

Opening times: 10 am to 5 pm

Entrance ticket: 50 pesos ($2.80)

12. Cenote Azul, Playa del Carmen

Best Cenotes in Mexico Cenote Azul

Another fantastic cenote situated between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Cenote Azul, offers one of the most delightful swimming experiences in Yucatan.

The cenote itself is a beautiful pool of turquoise, crystal-clear water surrounded by lush greenery. In addition to the main pool, there are also several smaller swimming holes, so make sure you take time to explore the site fully.

Inside the water, you can find dozens of colourful fish, making it an ideal spot for snorkelling and admiring nature in its purest form.

This is also a great spot for cliff-jumping – there are several platforms of different heights, and the highest one is 5 meters high. Jumping into the refreshing crystal water is a fantastic experience if you dare to try it!

Cenote Azul is located right by Cenote Crsiatlino, so you can visit both of them in one day. Make sure you bring cash with you, as only cash payment (in MEX pesos) is accepted at the entrance. You can rent a car or take a local Colectivo bus either from Playa del Carmen or Tulum.

Opening times: 9 am to 5 pm

Entrance ticket: 200 pesos ($11.20)

Tips for visiting cenotes in Mexico

Best Cenotes in Mexico Tips for Visiting

Visiting Mexican cenotes is once in a lifetime experience, and if you want to make the most out of your visit, here are some things to keep in mind.

Bring cash – You will need Mexican pesos to pay for entrance at the cenotes you visit. Most cenotes are located remotely, with no nearby ATMs, so make sure you carry enough cash to pay for the entrance and any extras you may want to purchase, such as snorkelling equipment or lunch.

Suncream is not allowed – Most cenotes forbid visitors to use suncream and other products that may contaminate the water. If you need to protect your skin, opt for a long-sleeved rash guard. Before entering the cenote pool, you will be required to take a shower to wash off deodorant, body moisturiser and other products you may be wearing.

Wear a life jacket – The use of life jackets at some cenotes in Mexico is obligatory, while at others, it’s recommended but not mandatory. If you’re not a confident swimmer, you should get one, even if it’s not required. Floating in a life jacket is actually a super fun experience!

Be respectful – Cenotes in Mexico are sacred places, so behave accordingly, show respect and follow the rules. 

Don’t do anything that will impact the environment, such as bringing plastic to the cenote or leaving any litter behind. Also, bring with you a fast-drying towel made of microfibre material, a pair of flip-flops, a comfortable swimsuit and plenty of water.

Cenotes in Mexico: FAQ 

Best Mexico Cenotes FAQ

Is it safe to swim in Cave Cenotes in Mexico?

Yes, it is safe to swim in the cenotes of Mexico. Cenotes generally have very clean water that has been filtered naturally through layers of rocks and limestone. But, if you’re not a strong swimmer, you should wear a life jacket.

What is the most famous cenote in Mexico?

One of the most famous cenotes is Cenote Suytun, with its iconic circular platform illuminated by a light beam coming through its ceiling. The photos of Cenote Suytun have gone viral on social media, and taking a photo in its cave is a bucket-list experience for many avid Instagrammers.

What is so special about cenotes?

Swimming in cenotes is a very unique experience as you can only find them in the Yucatan Peninsula. They are beautiful natural pools with crystal clear water, surrounded by lush vegetation. In addition, many cenotes are home to unique wildlife, such as bats, colourful fish and even turtles.

Visiting Cenotes in Mexico: Wrap-up

Coolest Cenotes in Mexico

I hope you found this guide to the most epic cenotes in Mexico inspiring and useful. Swimming in a cenote is an unforgettable experience that you should definitely add to your Mexico itinerary. From Cenote Suytun’s iconic circular platform to the unique wildlife found at Laguna Kaan Luum and Gran Cenote, each Mexican cenote has something special to offer. If you are really into exploring Tulum cenotes in Mexico make sure to also check out other Cenotes like Cenote Dos Ojos or Cenote Manatí just to name a few.

Enjoy your adventure!

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