The 10 most interesting cenotes in the Riviera Maya in Mexico
The Riviera Maya is the center of tourism on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. It has great beaches and resorts for a variety of travelers. Archaeological areas, nature reserves, theme parks and endless entertainment – all conditions are created here to make the tourist satisfied and want to return to Mexico more than once.
But in the Mayan Riviera is something that you will not find anywhere else in the world. They are cenotes, amazing natural cavities and caves in karst rocks, hidden from the outside world, filled with living crystal clear water, decorated with stalactites and full of mysterious legends of the ancient Mayan people. The water in the cenotes is always cool and it is the perfect place to relax after a hot sunny day. In the cenotes can just swim, jump into the water from the shore or from the tower, you can snorkel, watching the fish under water, or you can dive and explore the mysterious underwater kingdom, which is famous for many cenotes. Some cenotes are entire complexes of underground rivers and caves that stretch for many kilometers and have not been fully explored. The Mekikan Seasons are the pristine nature as it was thousands of years ago.
Here are just a few of the cenotes that you must visit if you come to vacation in the Riviera Maya.
Chac Mool Cenote
This cenote is more for divers than fans of swimming in the cool water. Chac Mool is located on the cenote route (Cenote Ruta) and is close to the Puerto Aventuras hotel area. Its name means “claw of the jaguar” in Mayan. It is famous for its two main chambers. One is large and open, ideal for beginner divers. Abundant light penetrates under the water from the holes above. The other is for those who want to explore the underwater world, as the depths are filled with stalagmites in two rows. The beam of light coming through the hole in the dome makes the underwater landscape almost perfect. Along the open surface of the main entrance, tree trunks and branches go underwater.
Aktun Chen Cenote
The park where the cenote is located is in the heart of a tropical rainforest. The cenote is full of beautiful natural formations and is not too deep. The cenote has a stunning pattern of stalactites and beautiful stone arches, as well as a mystical lake of ancient Maya, which opens up into the heart of a pristine rainforest. You can swim and snorkel in the cenote, exploring the underwater tunnels and caves that are home to some incredible creatures.
The park surrounding the cenote is a completely tourist spot. In addition to the cenote, forest tours, ziplining with magnificent views, and a journey through an underground cave nearly 700 meters long are worthy of attention. The depths of the ancient karst cave are dotted with amazing stalactites. Everything is reminiscent of the Mayans, who prayed to their gods here. It is one of the oldest underground karst complexes in Mexico. The cave ends with a cenote of fabulous beauty.
Sacred Cenote (Cenote Sagrado)
This cenote is an archaeological site known as the “Well of Sacrifices”. It is located in the archaeological area of Chichen Itza. The Maya once made offerings and even human sacrifices here, worshipping the rain god Chaak. Scepters, various weapons and jewelry have been found in its depths. Some of them were broken and perhaps even deliberately before being thrown into the water. The Maya also sacrificed their enemies, and human skeletons have been found at the bottom of the cenote.
You cannot swim in this cenote or even go down to its water, but it is a fantastic place to experience local history and culture. Although the Sacred Cenote of Chichen Itza may seem like a very dark place, it is one of the most beautiful attractions of the region.
This cenote is called “crystal clear” because of its pristine clear water, through which you can see the fish that live in it. It is surrounded by dense tropical vegetation and mangroves. It is an open cenote, not a cave, which makes it a great place for swimming, snorkeling, and snorkeling. You can jump in the water. The water in the cenote is quite cool but very refreshing. Just dip your feet into the water. There will gather around small fishes, which will make you a free exfoliation.
The area of the cenote is large enough, so pandemonium here does not happen. There is a restaurant nearby and plenty of services to spend a good day here with the family. You can just wander along the landscaped paths in the shade of tropical vegetation.
Tak Be Ha Cenote
This beautiful cave is a cave created by nature thousands of years ago. Stalactites and tree roots of incredible shapes hang from the ceiling, and clear water covers the bottom. The name of the cenote means “hidden path”. This is a great place to visit during a tour or on your own, especially if you are an experienced diver. You can see every pebble underwater, in the reflected rays come to life stalactites and stalagmites of the underwater cave. The water is cool, but the body quickly gets used to it. You are completely free to navigate the mysterious fairy tale labyrinths of the underground river.
The cenote is located 15 minutes from Tulum and 30 minutes from Playa del Carmen.
Taj Mahal Cenote
This cenote, named after the famous temple in India, consists of 4 connected cenotes. A great place for beginner divers, and a visit to the cenote is offered as part of many tours. However, to fully experience the beauty of the underwater world, you must be an experienced diver to traverse the five-meter underwater wall that separates the main room and the adjacent chambers. The cenote has beautiful vaults, with bright sunlight penetrating in places. There is also a beautiful hall with a huge air space and three holes in the dome through which the sun’s rays pass.
In the caves, you can see hundreds of stalactites lying in the sediment. Continuing your dive, you will get to the “sugar bowl”, a second small cenote, where on sunny days you can watch an amazing light show. The Taj Mahal is decorated with stalactites, stalagmites, and hidden fossils.
Suytun is a beautiful cenote 8 km from Valladolid. It is located in a beautiful jungle countryside and there is a museum that displays the archaeological finds made in this cenote.
Saitoon is the star of Instagram. Stone stairs lead inside. Suitun means “stone center,” and it is the central stone platform that gives the cenote its special romanticism. The colossal size of the dome, the crystal clear water, the shapes created by its stones, and the reflections of the sun capture at the very first sight. Ancient stalactites decorate the ceiling, and a ray of sunlight streams from the center of the dome. When the sun illuminates its interior, it further enhances the beauty of the blue color of the water. You can swim in this cenote. The shallow, crystal-clear waters allow you to see the many freshwater fish that inhabit it.
The best time to take a photo is when the light is just crossing the cenote, around noon to 2:00 pm. The cenote is also equipped with an artificial lighting system that emphasizes its beauty and pristine nature. The cenote offers many services such as lodging, restaurants, lounges and even the possibility to rent the cenote for an event.
Dos Ojos Cenote
This cenote is named “Two Eyes” because of the two cenotes that are connected to each other and resemble a pair of eyes. This is a fantastic site for divers with an average depth of 17 meters and miles of caves with underwater cameras.
The sun’s rays streaming through the crystal clear water create a unique underwater play of light and color that can be enjoyed endlessly. The rainwater passes through the lime rocks and is purified and fills the cenote. As you dive deeper, you can see the remains of fossil fish, snails, coral and seashells, which tells you that this place was once completely
underwater. It’s another world – a world of peace and quiet. The beautiful azure colored water makes you feel like you are in a fairy tale underwater kingdom, where ancient stalactites have formed unique avenues.
The cenote is great for relaxing, it is equipped with comfortable platforms for descending into the water. Walking from one cenote to another, you can admire the beauty of the tropical nature surrounding the place.
Siete Bocas cenote
Actually this is a cenote system that has 7 entrances. Some of them have stairs, in others you have to jump in and then climb the rope ladder. You can swim underground from entrance to entrance. The entrances and the surrounding area, by the way, are unremarkable. This cenote is for those looking for solitude, a deep connection to nature, because it is not overly visited. Perhaps it does not offer as many tourist services as other cenotes. But it is great for those who expect solitude. Don’t forget to bring your diving gear beforehand, or even just a mask and snorkel. Swimming in the karst caves and watching underwater stalactites leave an unforgettable impression.
Zazil Ha Cenote
This small cenote was discovered relatively recently, about 30 years ago, but it has become a very popular tourist destination due to its beauty, natural surroundings and easy accessibility. Located not far from Tulum, with crystal clear water and depths of no more than 4 meters it is a great place for those who prefer to swim or just relax on the beach.
The cenote is equipped with toilets, changing rooms, tables and gazebos. If you want you can take a ride on a small bungee cord or jump from a 3-meter platform into the water. Masks and vests are available for rent.
The cenotes in the Mayan Riviera are truly magical places. Swimming or diving in the cenotes is one of the most memorable activities during a tour in Mexico. You can’t come to the Riviera Maya and not visit the cenotes. The cenotes are only on the Yucatan, and nowhere else in the world.
Hello! Please advise me a cenote to swim with kids up to 5 years old, not too difficult to get to and safe. Not far from Cancun. Preferably a cave-like cenote.
Hello Irina! Here are 4 cenotes suitable for children: Kin Ha, Siete Bocas, Boca del Puma and Cenotes Zapote. Google the name and see the location. They are all located near one another and not far from Puerto Morelos. Boca del Puma is an open cenote, next to Siete Bocas, but it is well organized and you will like it there. There is also an open space in Sapote, and there are areas under the rock.
You can ask your question in the comments of this publication.
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The cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula are some of the most spectacular cave diving sites in the world. Once upon a time, the ocean waters splashed here and the peninsula itself was a huge reef on the ocean floor, which is why there are so many unique caves and grottoes of the Yucatan.
Sacred wells of the Maya
Cenotes are vertical karst cavities formed by collapsing the upper vaults of caves, which are peculiar natural wells filled with underground water. On the Mexican territory of the Yucatan there are more than 6 thousand of them.
The Maya called these places “dzonot”, which meant something deep and terrible. The cavities in the ground seemed to them to be the mouths of great gods. It was also believed that the underground wells served as an entrance to the world of the dead.
The Maya used water from the cenotes only to perform ritual ceremonies dedicated to underground deities, and rarely without human sacrifices. Explorers have found human bones at the bottom of many Mexican cenotes, and it is not surprising that all these places are covered with a halo of mysticism.
Here is just the latter not so much scare, as on the contrary, attracts the curious extreme, and in particular the connoisseurs of Cave and cliff-diving from around the world. The popularity of these places in Mexico is second only to the Mayan pyramids and the stunning beaches of the Caribbean Sea.
Chichen Itza Cenotes
Located in the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza is one of the most famous cenotes in the Yucatan, the “Well of Victims” or Sacred Cenote. The giant sinkhole of this natural well reaches up to 60 meters.
The frightening name of the cenote is related to the blood sacrifices made by the Maya here to their gods. The water here is muddy and greenish in color and few dare to swim here, but the mystical aura invariably attracts tourists wishing to admire this natural well.
If you want to see the most picturesque cenote with conditions suitable for exciting diving, you should go to Ik Quil, which is also located near the Mayan archaeological site of Chichen Itza. This cenote is home to one of Mexico’s largest, deepest, and at the same time most picturesque underground lakes, with impressive turquoise waters and numerous fish swimming right next to the tourists swimming.
The tree roots dangling in thin strands over the cenote complete the picture of the fairy-tale world. So it’s no surprise that picturesque views of Iquil tend to dominate the tourist brochures of Mexico’s most popular attractions. As local lore has it, a swimmer in the waters of this cenote will find peace of mind.
Since there are a lot of tourists in the area of Chitzen Itza, near the Ik Quil cenote is simply overwhelming – so many want to combine a fascinating tour of Mayan history with a pleasant water fun – jumping into the cenote and bathing in its underground lake. For fans of cliff-diving here even equipped with special platforms, providing for jumping into the well Ik-Kil from different heights.
Cenotes near Valladolid
Among the three cenotes located in the vicinity of Valladolid, the most notable is the Dzitnup (otherwise known as Keken). Unlike most similar karst wells in the Yucatan, this cenote is closed and the sunlight enters it only through a single small hole in its vault.
Even with artificial lighting, much of Dzitnup Cave is in semi-darkness, creating a mysterious atmosphere, and flocks of bats add to the halo of magical mystery. It is allowed to swim in the cenote, but it is not recommended to dive, as there is a very high chance of hitting your head on the underwater rocks.
Another beautiful cenote in the Yucatan is Samula. The high content of minerals gives the water of the underground lake of the cenote unreal impressive colors. There are as many bats and fish in this place as in Dzitnupa. But diving and swimming are forbidden here, so one only has to admire the subterranean beauty.
On the way to these two remarkable underground cenotes, the least accessible is the open Saamal Cenote. This vast open space with emerald waters and a small waterfall is also worth a visit. Among the available activities are romantic boat rides and jumping off the bridge above the cenote.
Cenotes near Tulum
The Grand Cenote is a complex of caves with excellent diving opportunities, where you can admire impressive columns of stalactites and meet freshwater turtles.
Not far from this cave just 3 km from Tulum is the Skull Cenote, so named for the three holes in the cave through which the sunlight enters. Beautiful clear waters of an emerald hue are a great place to swim.
There are very few fish, but bats and birds flying into the cave often scurry overhead. For fans of cliff diving a specially built wooden ladder from which you can jump into the water. Available diving depth here – up to 16 m.
North of Tulum is one of the most popular among the key-divers cenotes of Yucatan – Dos Ojos, whose name means “Two Eyes”. This place was discovered in the late 80’s of the 20th century and has since managed to acquire worldwide popularity.
Experienced divers in these areas can visit the underwater gorge, called the Skeleton Cave, located near the town of Coba. This is one of the most challenging cave diving sites in Mexico, so proper training is required to explore it. The reward will be a unique microsystem of the underwater world, where various species of exotic fish, including panfish and roosterfish, are found.
Visiting the cenotes
It is worth knowing that most of the Mexican cenotes are privately owned and almost all of them are accessible to visitors only for a certain fee, which is set by their owners.
It is best to visit the most popular cenotes in the morning hours, when the number of those wishing to swim in the lakes of these wells is not yet analogous to a sprat in a tin can.
In most cases, all the cenotes offer rentals of all the necessary snorkeling and diving equipment. So if finances allow, and there is no desire to bring your own equipment, you can always use the rented equipment.