Last Updated on November 26, 2022 by Janine
Planning a cenote excursion during your trip to Mexico? In this guide, you’ll discover how to get to some of the best cenotes in Riviera Maya & Yucatán!
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If you’re planning a trip to Mexico’s Riviera Maya or Yucatán peninsula, you’ve surely heard mention of cenotes.
Cenotes are natural sinkholes that form when the porous limestone bedrock gives way to reveal underground rivers.
Cenotes are full of freshwater and, because it is filtered through rock it tends to be very clear. Some cenotes are part of large cave systems and some stand alone. Usually, they have picturesque rock formations hidden beneath the surface.
There are thousands of cenotes throughout the Yucatán peninsula. Some are major tourist attractions with full amenities ranging from changing rooms to restaurants, while others are left in their natural state. And of course, there are surely many more cenotes that are yet to be discovered.
With their refreshing water and scenic settings, it’s no wonder that cenote swimming is such a popular activity for visitors to Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula.
For this article, I’ve teamed up with fellow travel bloggers to present you with a collection of the best cenotes in Riviera Maya and the Yucatán peninsula. Some of these can be easily reached from Playa del Carmen or Tulum, while others are closer to Merida or Chichén Itza.
There are tons of cenote tours available in Riviera Maya, but each of these spots can be visited independently as well.
I’ve plotted each cenote on the map below for your reference:
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What to Know Before Visiting A Cenote:
Cenote swimming is an awesome thing to do in the Riviera Maya and you should definitely include it on your itinerary. Here are a few tips to make sure you’re prepared:
- Wear biodegradable sunscreen – Because you’re swimming in natural pools it’s important to be conscious of the delicate ecosystem. Some cenotes may not permit you to wear any creams or lotions, but for those that do, be sure you opt for an eco-friendly brand. For more reccos for reef-safe sunscreens, check out this post.
- Pack a towel – Naturally, a towel will come in handy if you’re getting in and out of the water all day. I suggest a microfiber travel towel as they’re compact and they dry quickly. A sarong is another solid option, as they can double as a dress if you’re not quite ready to put your street clothes back on.
- Bring plenty of water – While many cenotes have food and drinks available for purchase, it’s still wise to bring your own water. Make sure to carry a bottle with you in your daypack.
- Bring cash – Most cenotes have entrance fees. Some, like Dos Ojos, are equipped to accept credit card payments, but many aren’t. Be sure to pack cash, preferably small bills to pay for entrance fees. You’ll likely want a bit of cash to pick up snacks and beverages along the way as well.
- Pack snacks – Lots of cenotes have food vendors or even restaurants, but it’s still smart to bring a few of your favorite snacks. Swimming burns a lot of energy and you don’t want a bout of hanger to ruin your fun. Be sure to stock up on snacks at an Oxxo before you head out of the day.
Best Cenotes in Riviera Maya & Yucatán
1. Cenote Dos Ojos
The Dos Ojos cenote is so named because it is actually two side-by-side cenotes, which resemble eyes (ojos). This cenote is a popular destination for visitors because it offers the opportunity to either swim or dive in a cave system.
The two main cenotes (Dos Ojos) are both partially covered, creating the sensation of swimming in the mouth of a cave. Because the cenotes are not fully exposed to the sun, the water is quite fresh. But don’t worry, there are plenty of sunny spots to warm up after your swim.
The water is clear and blue and the rock formations below the surface are fascinating to look at. Be sure to bring a snorkel (or rent one on-site) so you can dive down and check out the rock formations.
If you’re really curious about the rocks, consider joining a dive tour of Dos Ojos. The dive will take you through a cave that connects the two cenotes together!
Cenote Dos Ojos is situated in a park called Parque Dos Ojos, about 30 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. The park has different admission tiers depending on which amenities you wish to utilize. The base admission fee is $350 MXN (~ $16 USD). You can rent life jackets, snorkels, or join a dive tour on-site for additional fees.
The Dos Ojos cenote offers facilities including bathrooms, picnic tables, equipment rentals, and food and drinks for purchase. This makes it easy to spend hours enjoying the gorgeous cenotes.
It is easy to reach the park by colectivo, just choose one of the vans headed for Tulum and tell the driver you’re going to Parque Dos Ojos. Keep in mind, the cenotes within the park are spread along a 5km stretch of dirt road. There are bikes you can rent on-site to get between the cenotes, but the easiest and most comfortable way is to rent a car.
Related Reading: How to Plan the Perfect Day Trip to Cenote Dos Ojos
2. Cenote Calavera
By Hannah of The Adventurer Blog
Just 3km north of Tulum is the beautiful Cenote Calavera (so-called because the three holes of the cenote look like the eyes and mouth of a skull!) which makes it unique and one of the best things to do in Tulum.
Of the cenotes near Tulum, this one is less built up and it’ll feel much like you’re walking into someone’s back garden. However, it does still get busy so try and get there for opening time, or just before it closes, to enjoy the cenote when it’s quieter.
You can jump into any of the three holes making up the ‘skull’ but be careful with the two smaller ones as there isn’t a huge amount of room for error. Alternatively, you can climb down the ladder into the water too. The water is incredibly clear and the perfect temperature for swimming.
There are some fish that will swim over to you and have a little nibble, as well as some bats that fly around the cenote.
You can get to cenote Cavalera by bicycle from Tulum, by car or in a taxi. Just head north on highway 109. This cenote is open from 9 am to 4 pm and costs 100 pesos.
3. Gran Cenote
By Daniel of Layer Culture
When looking for the best cenotes in Riviera Maya you must check out Gran cenote. It is not called ‘Gran’ which means ‘big’ in Spanish for no reason.
One of the well-known facts about Mexico is that it is home to some of the best cenotes in the world. This particular cenote with its deep tunnels is popular with people who want to dive, swim, or just float in the crystal clear waters.
Would you like to try your hand at snorkeling? The water is filled with mini fish waiting to be discovered. My highlight was arriving at the attraction and locating a staircase with not many people around. I managed to find an area of the cenote where no one else was and got some awesome video footage.
I paid around $10USD to get in the attraction, which was reasonable. A few other people I spoke with had arrived with an organized tour.
Depending on where you’re staying you can arrive here by yourself, some people were arriving from Tulum via rented bicycles. Just make sure you carry your own towel and some extra change to pay for a locker so you don’t have to leave your belongings lying around.
It is also worth noting that this cenote is one of the most visited so it can get very busy. I recommend you visit in the morning, preferably before 10 am to get some of the best photo opportunities you can.
4. Cenote Suytun
By Hannah and Adam of Getting Stamped
With only one thin stone walkway stretching out into the turquoise water, Cenote Suytun is one of the most incredible yet mysterious cenotes we’ve ever witnessed. This cenote is often overlooked by the famous Kil Cenote located nearby, but we’re so glad we decided to check Suytun out.
As you enter, there is a paved staircase with handles and ropes that lead you down the water. The walls of the cenote are very tall, but the water is shallow. You’ll notice one small hole in the ceiling where trees and vegetation have started to break, creating a natural spotlight.
The best way to get to the cenote is to rent a car and drive. If you don’t feel comfortable, there are also a few tours that visit the Cenote Suytun as a part of a day trip to nearby Chichen Itza.
Cenote Suytun is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and has an admission fee of 120 pesos ($6.50 USD). If you plan on swimming in the cenote, life jackets are mandatory. Those you can rent for 30 pesos (less than $2 USD).
5. Cenote Caracol
By Nate of Travel Lemming
If you’re someone who likes hidden gems, skip the more popular cenotes and head to Cenote Caracol – an underground cenote complex near Tulum that feels like you’re swimming in a cave. I’ve been to dozens of cenotes all over the Yucatan peninsula, and this one remains one of the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen!
There’s plenty to do on your visit to the cenote as well. You can swim, dive if you have a certification, or simply enjoy the spectacular views inside the cenote.
Getting to the cenote is a bit of a challenge, but that difficulty also helps keep away the crowds. Cenote Caracol is located off the main road between Tulum and Playa del Carmen on private land a few kilometers into the jungle, so you’ll need to either rent a car or hire a taxi to get there. Note that there is also a fee to access the cenote.
Sure it’s harder to visit, but make the extra effort to visit Cenote Caracol and you’ll be rewarded by one of the best cenote experiences in the Yucatan!
Planning a visit to Tulum? Check out this Tulum itinerary to help you plan your trip!
6. Cenote El Pit
By Campbell and Alya of Stingy Nomads
Cenote El Pit is an unreal cavern and cave dive site in Mexico and on the bucket list of many Scuba divers. Driving with a jeep into the jungle and taking little wooden steps into a spectacular dive site with crystal clear water is a unique experience.
A hole with a diameter of only 10 meters opens up into the deepest cenote in the State of Quintana Roo (110m), you need an advanced qualification to dive here.
The Pit is located in Dos Ojos Park, 22km north of Tulum and about 54km south of Playa del Carmen.
Rainwater filters through the jungle floor to fill cenotes with crystal clear water and Cenote El Pit is known for excellent visibility sometimes exceeding 40 meters. The bright beams of sunlight penetrating the mouth of the cave and reaching deep towards the bottom of this cenote are some of the highlights of diving here.
As you descend during your dive you reach an overhung cavern with some beautiful stalactites and stalagmites and even deeper you descend through a halocline, this is an interesting experience and is visible because of the refraction of light passing through the water layers with different densities. At about 27m you dive into a cloud of hydrogen sulfate swimming around some eerie tree branches before starting your ascent.
The price of entering the park is $25 USD and dive centers charge $150 and more for a two-tank dive in the cenote from Tulum.
7. Cuzama Cenotes
By Oksana & Max of Drink Tea & Travel
The Cuzama cenote system may not be the most accessible cenote in the Mayan Riviera but it is definitely one of the most impressive! It is located about a 3-hour drive from Tulum and a 1-hour drive from Progresso in the middle of the Yucatan Peninsula. Progreso is one of many Gulf of Mexico beaches near Merida.
The three cenotes of the Cuzama system are located deep within the jungle. Visitors are not permitted to drive to the cenotes. Instead, once they arrive at the parking lot, visitors can pay their 400 pesos to enter then walk or take a horse-drawn “train carriage” to the cenotes. The train tracks are the remnants of the agave rope industry which used to operate in this area.
The three cenotes are Chelentun, Chansinic Che, and Bolon-Chohol. The smallest and shallowest is Chelentun. However, the latter two are progressively bigger and require you to descend a ladder into the sinkhole to reach them. Each cave opens up onto stunning turquoise pools. Bring a mask and snorkel! There are little fish skirting around the interesting rock formations.
Due to its seclusion, doing a Progreso excursion to the Cuzama cenotes on your own can be quite difficult, so we highly recommend booking a guided tour.
8. Cenote Ik Kil
By Jenn & Ed of Coleman Concierge
Ik Kil is one of the most popular cenotes in the Yucatan because it’s right off Highway 180, just south of the Chichen Itza Ruins. Many times you’ll find tour packages that include a stop at Ik Kil along with visiting Chichen Itza. If you’re planning your own Riviera Maya excursions, make a point to arrive at Ik Kil early to beat the crowds.
Cenote Ik Kil opens to the sky with a 200′ diameter pit. You climb down carved stairways to the water level, which is about 85′ below the surface. From there, you can swim in the cenote, jump off the diving platform, or simply enjoy the view of the picturesque vines and waterfalls that come down into the water. Ik Kil is the perfect open cenote with just the right mixture of pit, light, and water.
Logistics of Ik Kil: Ik Kil is open from 8:00 to 5:00 daily. The entrance fee is 80 pesos. There is also an attached restaurant and hotel on the property.
9. Casa Cenote
By Jo of Lost Wanders
A cenote visit is a must-do activity anywhere within Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.
Just a 10-minute taxi from Tulum, Casa Cenote is a fantastic way to spend a quiet afternoon away from the crowds. Unlike some of the other more famous cenotes in the area, Casa Cenote isn’t closed in but is instead an open mangrove with abundant sea life.
There are no longer manatees here but you can meet the “friendly” crocodile, Panchito, as well as huge fish and maybe even a few Coatis. The water is crystal clear and seeing the light shine through the mangrove roots to the deep bottom is totally breathtaking.
Take a taxi from Tulum for 200 pesos. The entrance fee is 120 pesos, you can rent snorkel gear or a kayak (100 pesos) or go with a dive shop. Just be careful not to wear any sun creams or body lotion as it is a sensitive environment so it is banned. There is also a restaurant, a shop, and a small beach nearby for snacks and relaxing.
10. Cenote Azul
By Kate of Our Escape Clause
Located roughly 15 minutes by car from the center of Playa del Carmen, Cenote Azul is an absolutely stunning hacienda cenote near the Riviera Maya in Mexico.
The main cenote is made up of an open-top pool, complete with deep, crystal-clear water that it is incredibly fun to jump into from one of the ledges overlooking the pool. While the cenote is popular, the pool is large enough that there’s plenty of room for everyone.
In addition to the main, largest pool, there are several smaller pools in the Cenote Azul complex, and while more shallow and less engaging to swim in, they are also beautiful and a great place to get away for a quiet moment when the crowds of Cenote Azul get a bit overwhelming.
The environment at Cenote Azul is laid-back, family-friendly, and lots of fun, with a great mix of Mexican and international visitors.
Cenote Azul costs 120 pesos to enter (bring cash!) and showering before entering the cenote is mandatory. Like all cenotes, sunscreen and lotion are forbidden inside the pool, as the chemicals can damage the fragile environment.
Parking is available at Cenote Azul, but if you would rather not drive yourself, colectivos and tours are also available.
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