8 Adventure Activities To Do in Mexico’s Mysterious Cenotes
Sacred cenotes are limestone sinkholes that collect rainfall and groundwater.
Cenotes supplied natural, clean water to the ancient Maya who settled in what is today the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. They built the Mayan city of Chichén Itzá around a cluster of cenotes, including one known as “the cenote of sacrifice.”
Cenotes in Mexico are amazing natural wonders that make for a unique and mystical swimming experience. Due to the natural conditions and the geological history of the Yucatan, thousands of these marvelous underground pools exist there.
Keep reading to discover 8 mysterious cenotes in Mexico to visit!
What is a Cenote?
What makes cenotes such a unique destination for travelers? According to geologists, a cenote is a naturally occurring geological sinkhole. The four most common shapes of these sinkholes are jug-shaped, vertical-walled, needle-like, and cave-like.
They’re typically full of clear, fresh water and connected to large underground water reservoirs. The soft limestone of the Yucatan enabled cenotes to form after the collapse of the ground above a water reserve.
However, a cenote is more than a mere hole full of water. The word cenote comes from the Mayan word “ts’onot”—a location with accessible groundwater.
Most of the cenotes in Mexico played a key role in Mayan history. For Mayans, these cenotes were a way to connect to the underworld, so they frequently served as burial pits or places of ritual sacrifice.
8 Brilliant Cenotes to Visit in Mexico
Today, cenotes are important tourist attractions: swimming holes, natural adventure playgrounds, and cave diving sites. Let’s explore 8 of the most sacred cenotes in Mexico!
1. Cenote Ik Kil
Chichen Itza is a popular Mayan archaeological site in the Yucatan region. One of the peninsula’s top cenotes is a 20-minute walk or short shuttle ride from the entrance to the site.
This giant, circular cenote has steep walls that frame its deep blue water. It’s in the jungle, so long vines hang from the canopy of trees, creating a special natural wonder. This former sacred Mayan site is a place of legend, ritual, and tradition.
Cenote Ik Kil is a spectacular place to cool off after a long day in the heat of the Chichen Itza ruins.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Entrance Fee: $4 (80 MXN)
2. Cenote Dos Ojos
Situated between Tulum and Playa del Carmen, Cenote Dos Ojos (Two Eyes Cenote) is one of the most famous on the Yucatan Peninsula. Its clear turquoise water is ideal for swimming, snorkeling through caverns, or scuba diving to explore the network of underground tunnels.
This is an extravagant diving site due to its sprawling underwater cave systems. Its name comes from the two 75-yard (70-meter) diameter sinkholes connected by a passageway.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Entrance Fee: $10 (200 MXN)
3. Gran Cenote
Located near Tulum on the way to Coba, Gran Cenote is one of the top diving spots in Riviera Maya. It’s actually several cenotes that cut through the jungle, connected by wooden bridges.
The crystal clear water makes it a super popular site for snorkeling. A wide, rocky overhang above the water creates a natural entranceway into this extensive cave system.
Dive, snorkel, or simply swim and enjoy the natural beauty of Gran Cenote.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Entrance Fee: $9 (180 MXN)
4. Cenote Chaak Tun
Amazing underground adventure awaits you at Cenote Chaak Tun. Explore cool caves while snorkeling among stalactites and stalagmites and touring underground rivers in the Riviera Maya.
Chaak Tun’s largest cave has only one light source (a narrow hole in the limestone ceiling), creating an enchanting underground atmosphere.
A two-hour guided tour takes you to visit three underground caves through which the ancient Maya entered their underworld, Xibalba. Safety equipment on this rugged tour includes a life jacket and hard hat.
Check out this hidden gem if you like going off the beaten path.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Entrance Fee: $25 (500 MXN—includes equipment and tour guide)
5. Cenote Suytun
A stone walkway surrounded by deep blue water leads into the middle of a deep cave. Take a quick dip in the chilly water of Cenote Suytun.
This “highly Instagrammable” cenote is inside a modern tourist complex at a cattle ranch. The owners are innovators in the field of ecotourism and rural tourism. Stay overnight in a cabin designed in harmony with nature.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Entrance Fee: $9 (120 MXN)
6. Cenote Hubiku
Sunlight streams in through an opening in the cave ceiling, illuminating Cenote Hubiku. This is the crown jewel of a commercial center not far from Ek Balam Archaeological Site. The complex includes a buffet restaurant and shopping center.
This giant blue cenote has lifeguards on staff and life jackets available. It’s a wonderful place to swim, snorkel, and shop.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Entrance Fee: $5 (100 MXN)
7. Cenote X’batun
Cenote X’batun is a little-known cenote in the Yucatan an hour south of Merida. At just $2.50, the entrance fee is a bargain. The secluded site is not at all touristy and features two cenotes for swimming. Both are super deep and surrounded by picturesque cliffs and jungle.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Entrance Fee: $2.50 (50 MXN)
8. Cenote Xlacah
Whereas most cenotes are underground, a handful are at ground level—including Cenote Xlacah. It’s a rare swimming hole where you can go for a dip while gazing upon Mayan ruins.
This unique cenote is in the Dzibilchaltún archaeological zone. The pool is part of a vast water system with underground tunnels and a maximum depth of close to 150 feet.
Explore a fascinating ancient Mayan city, then take a refreshing dip in Cenote Xlacah.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Entrance Fee: $6 (120 MXN—includes access to the archeological site)
Learn the Language of Mexico
Visualize diving into the azure waters at any of these mysterious sacred cenotes, soaking in the majestic views, and taking a memorable and mystical swim.
Being fluent in Spanish makes travel to Mexico and its sacred cenotes simpler and more meaningful. And did you know that being bilingual also improves your cognition and decision-making abilities? Sign up for a free 1-to-1 class to practice your conversational skills in preparation for your journey to the Yucatan! Here at Homeschool Spanish Academy, our friendly, certified, native Spanish teachers are ready to help you improve your Spanish today!
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