9 Best Cenotes to Visit in Riviera Maya

Best cenotes to visit

9 Best Cenotes to Visit in Riviera Maya

One of the unique things to do in Mexico is visit the underwater sinkholes known as cenotes.There are thousands of these natural phenomena - large and small, well-known or tucked away, crowded or peaceful – take your pick. We’ve chosen 9 of the best cenotes in Riviera Maya for you to consider visiting independently or on a private tour.

Cenotes between Tulum and Playa del Carmen

There are 3 significant cenotes located north of Tulum in an area known as Dos Ojos Park. Choose one or visit them all!

Dos Ojos

Dos Ojos is the best-known cenote. It translates as “two eyes” which refers to the twin sinkholes that are connected together. You can snorkel in both cenotes but you’ll need to join a guided snorkeling tour to visit the Bat Cave.

Cenote Taak Bi Ha

This small cenote is known for its crystal clear water and many stalagmites and stalactites. Less well-known than other cenotes, it offers an uncrowded, peaceful experience.

Sac Actun

Tucked away in the jungle, Sac Actun is an incredibly beautiful cenote. Snorkeling can only be undertaken with an official guide who will escort you through the circuit of interconnecting tunnels filled with limestone formations. It’s amazing!

Cenotes near Playa del Carmen

3 best cenotes to visit near Playa del Carmen: It’s best to avoid visiting on Sundays as they are teeming with locals. Chikin Ha and Jardin del Eden are closed Saturdays.

Chikin Ha

Chikin Ha offers three different cenotes – a cave, an open cenote and a dry cenote, which is still used for Mayan ceremonies.

Jardin Del Eden

This huge cenote pool has lots of fish and is famous for daring cliff-divers!

Azul Cenote

Azul is a small shallow cenote perfect for a cooling dip amidst lush ferns and vegetation.

Best Cenotes to Visit near Tulum

Gran Cenote

Famous but very crowded! Read our detailed article before considering visiting Gran Cenote.

Casa Cenote

Surrounded by mangroves, Visit early in the day and spot blue crabs, fish and birds that love this natural location. Casa Cenote is amazing in good weather but after rain it has strong currents and poor visibility.

Laguna Kaan Luum

Swim and photograph the surreal turquoise waters at Laguna Kaan Luum but avoid the jam-packed weekends.

So, which cenote in Riviera Maya will you visit?

Is visiting Gran Cenote during your stay in Tulum a good idea?

gran-cenote

Is Gran Cenote Worth the Visit?

No. At Absolute Adventure, we have decided not to include this cenote in our cenote tours. Check out the facts about Gran Cenote tours and decide for yourself!

Vacationers staying near Tulum may plan to visit the famous Gran Cenote, but will it be a highlight of your vacation, or will you be disappointed?

Pros and Cons of Gran Cenote

On the plus side:

  • Gran Cenote is one of the most famous cenotes near Riviera Maya as many people went there with big tour companies, it made the place known and got a coverage online and in tourist guides.
  • It is easy to combine with a trip to Tulum, just 3miles (5km) away, and easy to go by car or bike.
  • Gran Cenote has many facilities (bathroom, changing room...)

However, Gran Cenote has many disadvantages, compared to other cenotes:

  • Gran Cenote is a crowded cenote with hundreds of tourists every day
  • It is packed with tour vans, rental cars, taxis and bikes
  • It can be a long wait for the entrance and changing rooms
  • With so many bathers, it is not the peaceful, pristine experience visitors expect
  • It’s difficult to take beautiful photos with so many people around
  • Swimmers who lack confidence may find the deep, crowded waters intimidating

 

gran-cenote-tulum
The reality of Gran Cenote
gran cenote worth it
Gran Cenote: crowded place

The Best Cenote Experience in Tulum!

Check out for a private cenote tour, it will allow you to go in some beautiful cenotes less frequented, less known but as beautiful.

A private cenote tour will provide you an unforgettable natural experience and swimming in the clear transparent waters, it will definitely be a highlight of your holiday!

Reasons to visit a cenote

  • Mexico’s Yucatan is one of the few places in the world where you can find natural cenotes.
  • These beautiful geological formations were once a sacred place to the Mayans.
  • Cenotes (sinkholes) form only in limestone karst regions and are filled with crystal clear spring water.
  • The cenote is surrounded by jungle trees making a beautiful picture of unspoiled nature.
  • Swimming in the clear sparkling water of a cenote is a unique and exhilarating experience.
  • It’s something everyone should have on their bucket list!

Is Cenote Ik Kil Worth the Visit?

ik-kil-cenote

Is Cenote Ik-Kil Worth the Visit?

Cenote Ik Kil is one of the most visited cenotes in the Yucatan, and it was undoubtedly very beautiful before mass tourism. Before you book a tour to Ik Kil Cenote, here’s what you really need to know…

Reality vs Expectation!

One of the reasons that Ik Kil is so well visited is its location. It is less than 3,7 miles from Chichen Itza on the busy road to Valladolid. Every tour bus passes by and generally includes a stop. This means:

  • Cenote Ik Kil is very crowded with hundreds of visitors every hour
  • You’re unlikely to get photographs without lots of people in them
  • With so many bathers, it is not the peaceful, pristine experience visitors expect
  • It is highly commercialized and has lost some of its natural serenity
  • There are lines for everything – tickets, restrooms, changing rooms, drinks etc.
  • You’ll be swimming in 132 feet-deep water with many other bodies – a frightening experience for less confident bathers
  • For most visitors, tours to Ik Kil Cenote are disappointing due to the commercialism and crowds. It is not at all what they expected.

But there’s a better way…

 

cenote ik kil worth it
cenote ik kil

© Travis Wise

cenote ik kil crowded

Discover Unspoiled Cenotes

If you want to experience the peaceful atmosphere and breathtaking natural beauty of a cenote, there are thousand cenotes to choose from in the Yucatan alone. These natural limestone sinkholes are fed by clear underwater springs and were once a sacred place for Mayan rituals, gifts and sacrifices.

Private Chichen Itza Tours

Take the time to find an agency that offers a totally different tour experience for visitors to Riviera Maya who want to visit, photograph and swim in a cenote.

Forget the Express tours that offer Ik-Kil Cenote as a brief add-on to a Chichen Itza tour. Experience a tour with a private guide, your guide will take you off-the-beaten-path to some of the most beautiful and peaceful cenotes in the Yucatan, far from mass tourism.

Another advantage with a private tour, you will have plenty of time to swim in the crystal clear water, learn how they are formed, and take beautiful pictures to share on Instagram.

Isn’t that what at tour is really all about?

Cenote Tour: Self-guided vs. Private Tour

cenote-tour

Cenote Tour: Self-guided vs. Private Tour

If you want to visit one of the amazing natural cenotes during your Riviera Maya vacation, there are different ways you can choose. Check out the facts and decide whether a self-guided cenote tour or a private guided tour from Playa del Carmen is the best option for you.

Renting a car and visiting a cenote by yourself

If you like independent travel and are keen to save money, you can visit a cenote independently. However, there are some important things to consider:

  • You will need to rent a car as the best cenotes are off-the-beaten-path in scenic but remote areas. Check first about all requirements to rent a car in Mexico and difficulties you might be facing driving in a foreign country.
  • You’ll need a local map to navigate along roads that may be poorly paved and lacking signs. It can be frustrating if you get lost and drive miles out of your way. Jungle no network to check google map.
  • On arrival, you might not be able to communicate in spanish or mayan with the owners of the cenote.not all of them speak fluently English.
  • You will need to provide your own wetsuit and snorkel equipment which is included in guided cenote tours.
  • Some parts of cenotes are only accessible with a guide for safety reasons and or to preserve the place, and these areas are usually the most beautiful ones.
  • You will miss the interesting explanations about what cenotes are and how they were formed.
  • You’ll be visiting with many other people...

Guided cenote snorkeling tour benefits

Book our guided cenote tour from Playa del Carmen and enjoy:

  • Hotel pick-up from your hotel or rental
  • A relaxed stress-free journey in an air-conditioned vehicle.
  • We know the best, quietest and most beautiful cenotes to visit.
  • The chance to ask questions and learn about cenotes from your English-speaking guide.
  • Personal assistance for non-confident swimmers.
  • Wetsuits, flashlights and masks that fit properly, included in our private cenote tours.
  • All fees included in the tour price.
  • No waiting in line at the entrance.
  • No need to rent lockers: leave your personal belongings safely in the vehicle with the driver.

Now you now the facts you can make an informed choice. Will you choose a self-guided cenote visit or a private guided tour from Playa del Carmen?

Cenote Chikin-Ha

Cenote Chikin-Ha

CENOTE CHIKIN-HA

Explore 3 different cenotes in one location!

Cenote Chikin Ha

The main cenote is Chikin-Ha that in Mayan Language means, “water from the east”. The cenote Chikin-Ha has two entrances, underneath the water you would find an underground world. Cave divers from all around the globe come to explore this flooded caves, you would have the opportunity of see them going into the deeps. The sunlight touches different parts of the cenote, so the colors of the cenote changes every time.

Cenote X'tabay

Cenote X'tabay is a beautiful open cenote, which display several plants and animals. Here you could find fishes, turtles, water lily, Ceiba trees and more.
This cenote is perfect for kids where they can swim and snorkel in relative shallow water and they still can explore a cave. If you are not a water person you could put your toes in the water and enjoy the display of plants, birds and water from the cenote side.

Cenote Ta'ak Bil-Ha

Cenote Ta'ak Bil-Ha (hidden water in maya) is a ceremonial cenote where mayan priest still doing some rituals. You cannot swim here but this cenote offers a several trees that reach the water with their roots and you can hear and see one of the most beautiful birds in the peninsula of Yucatan, the Bird Toh. This bird has the blue color of the Caribbean in their tails. Is a magical cenote and you would love take some photos of this mystical place

Visiting Cenote Chikin-Ha complex is all in one experience! If you are in Cancun and you want to have a full experience of cenotes without expending a lot of time in transportation, this is the best option.

Every cenote is different; we resume the special features of Cenote Chikin-Ha:

  • Activities: Swimming / Snorkeling
  • Special for: Stalactites and stalagmites, spectacular views, nature
  • Type of Cenote: Cave Cenote, Open cenote, Ceremonial Cenote
  • Depth: 3-50 ft
  • Access: two different platforms / several steps
  • Facilities: bathroom/ parking/ rest zone /
  • Location: in between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum

Cenote You could combine Chikin-Ha with other activities during your private tour, like:

Swimming in cenotes is a really peaceful experience, you can relax and enjoy from the nature and your siblings. Contact us and book a private tour with us!

Cenotes in Coba: Choo-Ha and Tankach-Ha

coba cenote

CENOTES IN COBA: CHOO-HA AND TANKACH-HA

Discover two cenotes in a day, both of them are caves cenotes, but each one offer different features that would complete you experience at fullest.
The two cenotes are close each other, therefore is really easy to explore both of them.
Enjoy the surreal sensation of swimming in a Cenote!

Cenote Choo-Ha

Choo-ha in the Mayan language means “dripping water”, after going down slowly in narrow stairs, the cenote will opens widely, and you would found stalactites dripping water everywhere! The show is amazing. When you are in the platform, you could swimming around the cenote and admire the pristine water and ceiling above you.

Cenote Tankach-Ha.

Tankach-ha, means in Mayan language “deep water”. The cenote deeps goes from 14ft to 114ft, If you have diving skills or you are a daredevil this is the perfect place for jump to the water from two platforms. There is no better way to cool of, than jumping in this clear water cave cenote.

If you are not an adventures person, you don’t have to jump to the water, there are two wood platforms where you could go to swim around the cenote and relax and enjoy this big cave cenote.

Swimming in Cenote Choo-Ha and Tankach-Ha is a relaxing and refreshing moment, especially appreciated after visiting the mayan ruins of Coba.

Every cenote is different; we resume the special features of Cenote Choo-Ha and Tankach-Ha:

  • Activities: Swimming / Snorkeling / Jumping
  • Special for: Stalactites and stalagmites, spectacular views
  • Type of Cenote: Cave Cenote
  • Depth: 6-114 ft
  • Mandatory: lifejacket (for non experienced swimmers)
  • Access: two different platforms to jump / several steps
  • Facilities: bathroom / parking
  • Location: close from Coba

You could combine this cenote with other activities during your private tour, like:

  • Visit Coba Mayan ruins
  • Custom Tours (We can custom tours)

Swimming in cenotes is a really peaceful experience, you can relax and enjoy from the nature and your siblings. Contact us and book a private tour with us!

What is a Cenote?

mexico cenotes

MEXICO CENOTES: WHAT IS A CENOTE?

Learn more about cenotes

You've heard about Mexico Cenotes... but what is a Cenote?

Mexico cenotes are found in the Yucatan peninsula, which is relatively low and flat and virtually has no surface streams and rivers.

Mexico Cenotes: The Biggest Streams in the World!

The Yucatan has two of the largest streams in the world that run through the entire Yucatan peninsula. They include the Ox Bal Ha, which spans an incredible 159.5 miles (256.7 km), the Sac Aktun 143.4 miles (230.8 km). Dos Ojos cenotes underwater system is very famous as well with 54.6 miles (88km).

What is even more incredible is the fact that these two huge natural underwater systems have paved the way for human settlement and distribution in the entire peninsula for over 10,000 years! The Yucatan hosts the world’s most breathtaking cenotes and rivers that flow underground.

The Majesty of Cenotes

Pronounced as (say-no-tay), cenotes are basically Mother Nature’s sinkholes, which are formed when the ceiling of any cave collapses underwater – providing a mesmerizing window to a completely different world. Moreover, cenotes were the Mayan civilization’s only source of water that flowed through the jungles of Maya.

The Significance of Cenotes for Mayas

Cenotes were also held as being sacred to the Mayan people. They believed that the sinkholes represented a passage to the underworld – or ‘Xibalba’ in Mayan language. The Mayans believed that Xibalba was the place where the spirits of their gods lived and roamed free.

A majority of underwater caverns gradually collapsed when the Ice Age ended some 18,000 years ago. And when that happened there was an eventual increase in climatic temperatures, which melted the glaciers and caves began to flood as the sea levels increased.

The Mayans called these sinkholes D’zonot, from which the word cenote is derived. D’zonot refers to underwater chamber where there is a permanent flow of water. There are many cenotes that are vertical in shape - shafts that contain water, while other cenotes are more expansive and consist of different passageways and pools.

Experts and scientists have different theories and perspective on how quickly sea levels began to rise, but almost all believe that the current level of the water in the Yucatan peninsula reached its existing level 1,000 years ago.

Archeologists have also uncovered massive finding in cenotes. There were fossils of mammoths and massive jaguars and sloths found in the underwater cave systems. More astonishingly, artifacts found in the cenotes suggested that the caves were visited by humans some 9,000 years ago!

Diving and Snorkeling

Mexico cenotes are famous for snorkeling and diving and you will be amazed to know that divers from all across the globe come to the peninsula to test the waters. Almost all cenotes in the coastal area of Playa del Carmen and Tulum are the prime go-to spots for swimming, snorkeling and scuba-diving.

The sight of the underwater landscape is enough to leave you awe-struck, never wishing to come out of the water.

So, join us in these adventures and open your eyes to a more mystifying world.

Cenote Nicte-Ha

Cenote Nicte Ha

CENOTE NICTE-HA

Swim in a magical world

If you want to swim in cenote where you could feel in a magical and beautiful world, Nicte-Ha cenote is the right for you!

Nicte-Ha (flower of water in maya) is the name of one of Mayan’s legend. The legend described a secret love history between Nicte-Ha (She was the guard of the sacred cenote) and the Prince of Palenque (ChakTzitzib in maya). The prince had to married with another princess from distant lands but he tried to married secretly with Nicte-Ha. An Evil priest found about his plans and killed Nicte-Ha in the arms of the prince. He cried so much that the lord of the water transform Nicte-Ha in a beautiful water lily and him in a gallant red cardinal who can visit her for the eternity.

Cenote Nicte Ha
Cenote Nicte Ha
Cenote Nicte Ha
Cenote Nicte Ha
Cenote Nicte Ha
Cenote Nicte Ha

Every cenote is different; we resume the special features of Cenote Nicte-Ha:

  • Activities: Swimming / Snorkeling
  • Special for: Beautiful water lilies, sometimes little turtles in the water!, small fishes and really quiet environment, perfect for families and for less experiments swimmers
  • Type of Cenote: Open Cenote
  • Depth: 3-9 ft
  • Access: One-platform/few steps
  • Facilities: Small bathroom
  • Location: close from Tulum

You could combine this cenote with other activities during your private tour, like:

Swimming in cenotes is a really peaceful experience, you can relax and enjoy from the nature and your siblings. Contact us and book a private tour with us!

Cenote Pet Cemetery

Cenote Pet Cemetery

CENOTE PET CEMETERY - SAC ACTUN

Sac Actun, also known as cenote Pet Cemetery

Cenote Pet Cemetery! The name is scary... but snorkeling in this cenote is astonishing and nothing to be afraid of!

Known locally as Cenote Pet Cemetery, its real Mayan name is Sac Actun (White cave). This cenote is part one of the largest streams in the world that runs through the entire Yucatan peninsula. The Sac Actun system is 143.4 miles! (230.8 km). People around the world seek this stream for scuba diving in the magnificent caves, but snorkeling there is not to be missed as well!

Explorers are still discovering more parts of this amazing system. In some of the discoveries they have found bones of animals and even some fossils of mammoths! That is why this cenote is called Pet Cemetery, the divers have found some bones and fossils during their expeditions.

Snorkeling in Pet cemetery can transport you to a different world! You would be snorkeling around 40/50 minutes in different chambers.

Cenote Pet cemetery
Pet Cemetery Sac Actun Cenote
Pet Cemetery

Every cenote is different; we resume the special features of Cenote Pet Cemetery:

  • Activities: Swimming / Snorkeling
  • Special for: Stalactites and stalagmites, bats, trees, fossils, birds, orchids (season of blooming), perfect for adventurous persons and good swimmers
  • Type of Cenote: Cave Cenote
  • Depth: till 25 feet
  • Mandatory: Guide, lifejacket
  • Access: two different platforms / several steps
  • Facilities: bathroom
  • Location: close to Tulum

You could combine this cenote with other activities during your private tour, like:

Snorkeling in cenote Pet Cemetery is a unique experience where you can feel that you enter in other world, our team would be guiding you all the time show you all the wonders of the underworld. All time in a safe environment.

Cenote Jaguar

Cenote Jaguar

CENOTE JAGUAR

Show your courage like a Jaguar!

Jumping from several platforms would be a good way to get cooler in the Riviera Maya. If you never tried a zip line, Cenote Jaguar is the right place to try it!

Why this name? The Jaguar is one of the most emblematic animals for the mayan culture. The Jaguar is related with the underworld, the night and the caves, which are the entrance of the underworld. They consider a powerful animal with deep knowledge with sacred energies. Protector of light and darkness (perhaps because jaguars like to hunt in the first hours of moonlight or on the sunrise), jaguars are close to being an endangered species with only 2,000 specimens in the area. So you have to be strong and courageous like a Jaguar to jump into and zipline over the cenote!

Cenote Jaguar is beautiful, full of vegetation, mangrove and with some small fishes in the water.

Cenote Jaguar
Cenote Jaguar
Cenote Jaguar

Every cenote is different; we resume the special features of Cenote Jaguar:

  • Activities: Swimming / Snorkeling / Jumping / Ziplining
  • Special for: jumping, zip-line (but no jump from the zipline into the water), mangroves and full vegetation, quiet environment, perfect for families, group of friends and adventurous persons
  • Type of Cenote: Open Cenote
  • Depth: 30 feet
  • Access: one platform with few steps
  • Facilities: none
  • Location: close to Tulum

You could combine this cenote with other activities during your private tour, like:

Swimming in this cenote is perfect to have fun and spend an unforgettable day with your siblings in the Riviera Maya.