Fancy a cool, freshwater dip in the middle of the Mexican jungle? Why not visit a cenote. Take a look at our top picks for the 5 best cenotes in the Riviera Maya.
What is a Cenote?
Although the Riviera Maya is famed for its white sandy beaches and the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, the ocean isn’t the only place you can head to for a refreshing swim!
Cenotes (pronounced sey-no-tays) are freshwater sinkholes that are found in this wondrous part of the world. They are formed when the underground rivers which flow beneath the Yucatan Peninsula collapse, leaving a pool of cool fresh water and cavernous structures behind.
The Ancient Mayans believed that cenotes led the way to Xibalba, the underworld, and traditionally would make sacrifices in many of them.
Nowadays, you don’t need to worry about being an offering to the Gods! Cenotes are a cool place to explore for a day of snorkeling and relaxing. They’re surrounded by lush jungle and amazing wildlife.
Here are our top 5 cenotes in the Riviera Maya!
Cenote El Jardin del Eden
We’ve all heard of Eden being the original garden from the Bible, and this cenote is thusly named due to its heavenly beauty.
It’s a large open cenote, with deeper areas to snorkel around and see the fallen rock formations. If you aren’t a confident swimmer, you can hire a life jacket to swim in
You’ll also find lots of smaller fish that will nibble at your toes to give you a free pedicure! It’s a bit ticklish for some people.
If you’re a bit of a thrill seeker, this cenote has a platform to jump from into the cool water below.
Eden is popular for a day trip as it also has good basic facilities, such as restrooms, lockers, and places to hire life vests and snorkel equipment.
It’s also easily accessible from Playa del Carmen either by taking a taxi or a colectivo.
As the name suggests, Cenote Azul will wow you with its mesmerizing turquoise waters. This one is picturesque, and great for families as there are a combination of deeper and shallower areas to explore.
In the main cenote there is a jumping platform, for the thrill seekers, or you can just enjoy watching people building up the courage to take the leap! If that doesn’t sound like your kind of thing, there are boardwalks and stairways that lead you to the water more safely!
There are restrooms, life vest hire, and a small shop on site. It’s a great place to take a picnic and enjoy swimming and nature spotting.
For a smaller cenote, take a trip to Cristalino. As you can probably tell by the name, the crystal-clear waters here make it perfect for spotting fish and snorkeling around.
It’s a great place to take a go pro and shoot the little nibbling fish that live there and like to bite at your toes!
This cenote has lots of shallower areas, which is great for families to swim around, but it is much smaller than the likes of Eden, or Casa Cenote.
There are good facilities here, including sunbeds and locker hire, plus you can get a life vest included in the entrance price.
Close to Tulum, you’ll find Casa Cenote, another open cenote surrounded by dense mangroves. This cenote is special as it is home to a resident crocodile, Pancho, who can often be seen swimming around, or sunbathing on the banks.
This cenote is close to the ocean, so the water can be brackish here and there’s often a little more in the way of fish to spot in this cenote, compared with others. The lovely clear water is great for you to snorkel around.
There are some facilities on site, such as restrooms and a place to hire snorkeling equipment/life vests.
Cenote Dos Ojos
Situated closer to Tulum, Dos Ojos is one of the more well-known cenotes. Unlike the other cenotes on our list, this one is in a huge cave and gives you the opportunity to snorkel inside and see the amazing stalactites and stalagmites that have formed over the hundreds and thousands of years.
There are a couple of routes to follow, and there is usually a guided option to show you around. Inside one route you can visit the bat cave.
As well as being popular with snorkelers, Dos Ojos is also a favorite cenote of scuba divers. You might see them swimming beneath you as you explore the cave system.
There are well established facilities at the Dos Ojos Park, with restrooms, life vests, hammocks, and restaurants on site.
For all cenotes here are some great tips to enjoy your day more!
· Do not wear sunscreen, the chemicals damage the ecosystem, and it is not allowed to be worn at most cenotes. Use a long-sleeved rash guard to protect yourself from the sun.
· Take a water bottle and snacks. Cenotes are holes in the middle of the jungle! There often isn’t a lot of infrastructure around to buy things, so take whatever you will need.
· Water shoes can be good for walking between the rocks and on the jungle floor.
· Most cenotes cost between 100-300 pesos to enter, have small bills in case the attendant doesn’t have a lot of change.
· Take your own towel with you.
· Cenotes get busiest in the early afternoon, so to enjoy at their most peaceful time, try to get there early or after the crowds in the later afternoon.
· If you have your own snorkeling equipment, its recommended to take your own. The quality of the rental gear can vary.
Support The Local Community
As you enjoy the Riviera Maya on your vacation, can you take a moment to consider how you can help the students that live here.
Many children struggle to be able to continue their education, as unlike in other places, high school education here is not free. Often families can struggle with the admission fees, along with the resources, uniforms and other costs needed to continue an education.
The good news is it costs less than $2 USD per day to keep a student in high school. KKIS is a non-profit charity that works to keep students in school.
As well as splashing in a cenote, why not give a little something back, volunteer or donate to help the Playa community on your next trip.
Take action, start a recurring donation now!