It may be a destination known for its beaches but Tulum also has some of the best cenotes in Mexico. Found throughout Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, cenotes are freshwater sinkholes formed by the sinking of the limestone underneath to reveal the groundwater. They ideal for swimming and cooling off from the tropical heat. While there are thousands located all over the area, some of the best cenotes are in the Riviera Maya and in and around Tulum. Not far from the beach and town itself, they make an excellent addition to any Yucatan itinerary.
To visit any of the cenotes mentioned in this post you’ll need to organise your own transportation as they are simply too far to walk.
Bicycle – bikes can be rented in many places in Tulum, both in town, along the beach strip or from your resort. They are a really good and safe way to get around Tulum- there are bike paths along all the main highways and not to mention, they make for great exercise too. Note however that the only two cenotes near enough for cycling are Gran Cenote and Cenote Calavera.
Scooter – Scooter can be rented from a few places along the Tulum highway. You can use a scooter to get to the closer cenotes too as well as to too and from the beach and the Tulum ruins. You’ll need your passport to leave as a deposit and note that the highways outside Tulum going north aren’t suitable for scooters- they are simply too dangerous.
Car– The best way to get around the whole area is to rent a car. Car rental is relatively cheap in Mexico and it gives you the ability to cover a larger area in little time. With a car, you could essentially visit all the cenotes in this post in one day. You can rent a car in Tulum, Playa del Carmen or Cancun. I always recommend City Car Rental for their great deals and service. Click here to get a quote for your trip.
Colectivo– Colectivos are shared minivans which take passengers to a variety of different locations up and down the coast. For between 30-40 pesos you can take a colectivo to the cenotes near Playa del Carmen such as Cenote Azul and Cenote Cristalino. Collectivo leave from the main junction in Tulum town.
For the location of all the best cenotes in Tulum see the map below:
BEST CENOTES IN TULUM
As probably the most popular cenote near Tulum, Gran Cenote Tulum is definitely worth a visit. It’s a medium-sized cenote composed of two openings joined by a cave. You can swim from one size to the other through the cave. The water is every shade of blue imaginable and a dip in these cool waters is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. By the water’s edge, there is a decking area on which you can relax between dips and lockers and lifejackets are also available here. This cenote does get really busy so I highly recommend you getting there as it opens. I did and there will still a small queue. I headed straight past the first staircase to the back one where, as I descended down I could see countless terrapins swimming in the water- I was so lucky as they hide when people arrive.
Scuba diving is also possible at Gran Cenote but unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to do it. You can find more information on diving in Gran Cenote here.
Cost: 180 pesos ( $9.5/£7)
Opening Hours: 8 am – 4.45 pm.
Cenote Calavera is located just a kilometre or so from Gran Cenote so these two can easily be visited together. Calavera in Spanish means ‘skull’ and while the Mayans did use cenotes for sacrifices to their gods, there are no skulls at the bottom of this pool. The name comes from the shape of the cenote. It has a larger opening and then two smaller ones above, which sort of resemble the eyes and mouth of a skull. It’s difficult to say how big this cenote actually is underground, but the dark, mysterious opening to it is relatively small and the water looks deep. It’s a great one for jumping straight into the abyss below. Small, black catfish live in this and many other cenotes for that matter, so don’t be alarmed if one brushes against your leg, they are harmless. Cenote Calavera is also a great cenote for diving. Gear and a guide can be organised at the entrance.
Price: 100 pesos ($5/£4)
Opening Hours: 9 am – 4 pm
Halfway between Tulum and Playa del Carmen you’ll find a cluster of cenotes just off the main highway. Cenote Azul is a large open-air cenote with cool, refreshing water beckoning to be dived into. It’s surrounded by jagged rocky sides onto which vegetation clings giving it a wonderfully wild air. The only place to comfortably relax right by the water is the decking area that runs right into the cenote. You can sit on the edge and enjoy the cool water on your feet below. Due to the openness of this cenote is feel as a lot less claustrophobic than some of the others. This cenote is extremely popular with other tourists and locals at the weekends. I highly recommend getting there early in the morning, as it opens or right before it closes.
Price: 120 pesos ($6/£4)
Opening hours: 8.30 pm -5.30 pm
Planning on visiting the Tulum Ruins? Check out the short Travel Guide here
CENOTE DOS OJOS
Cenote Dos Ojos is actually a complex of several different cenotes. Upon arrival, a member of staff will approach you and tell you about all the ticket options. Essentially you can just buy a single (for Dos Ojos only) or combined entrance ticket and explore alone or go with a tour. The benefits of the tour, in this case, is that you can see more. There are some cenotes here that can only be entered via a tour group.
In my opinion, this is the best cenote in Tulum and definitely the one with the bluest water. Cenote Dos Ojos has two parts to it. It’s actually quite a large cenote but most of it is located underground. Follow the signs around the complex and you’ll get to the pools suitable for swimming; crystal clear turquoise water of the perfect temperature that doesn’t get bluer. Jump straight in and revel how spectacular our natural environment really is. Right at the back, there is another part to the cenote which is essentially an open-air cave, one part cenote, one part picnic area. It’s a wonderful place to base yourself for a few hours so if you’re able to bring a picnic, do so. Cenote Dos Ojos is also one of the best cenotes for scuba diving. If you’re a qualified diver and you’re interested in some cenote/cave diving, inquire at the diving centre in Tulum or at the cenote entrance.
Price: 350 pesos ($18/£14)
Opening Hours: 8 am-5 pm.
Another cenote located close to Playa del Carmen. Strikingly similar to Cenote Azul in terms of size and shape, Cristalino is a great alternative to Cenote Azul- I probably wouldn’t recommend you see them both. Named Cristalino due to its crystalline waters, the water here is so clear you’ll want to dive straight in- and you can do. There are multiple decks and platforms made especially for diving and the crystal-clear water makes for some great snorkelling. It’s surrounded by gorgeous jagged rock, lush green vegetation and you really feel like you’re in the middle of the jungle. This cenote isn’t quite as commercialised as some of the others so it does indeed feel like a wild, natural swimming pool. A great idea is to bring a picnic and spend the afternoon here.
Price: 150 pesos
Opening hours: 8 am – 5 pm.
TIPS FOR VISITING CENOTES
↠ Compared to cenotes elsewhere on the Yucatan Peninsula, the ones near Tulum and Playa del Carmen are more expensive and tend to be busier. You might need to prioritise some over others if you have a smaller budget.
↠ I would advise getting there as soon as they open. Fewer people visit early in the morning meaning that you can enjoy the serenity and peace of the magical area.
↠ Many cenotes have restaurants and places to eat so you don’t need to worry about bringing food, although if you want to its not a problem. There is often a picnic area on the grounds to enjoy some food post-swim.
↠ Bug repellent and sunscreen are 100% not allowed. You are required to take a shower before entering the water to make sure your skin is free from any creams, oils or repellents. This is because the chemicals found in these products destroy life in the cenotes and give the water in the cenote a coat of oil at the top-yuk!
↠ Bring a towel and change of clothes – all of these cenotes have a bathroom and changing rooms for you to dry off and change before and after your visit so if you don’t have your swimsuit on underneath your clothing as you enter, don’t worry.
↠ While none of the above are completely closed cave cenotes, if you visit some, make sure to bring a tripod if you want to take good, clear photos as they tend to be very dark.
Do you have any questions about visiting cenotes? Which were your favourites? Let me know in the comments below.
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