The 3 Best Cenotes to Visit in the Mexican Caribbean

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A cenote is a natural phenomenon, a sinkhole in the Earth’s surface. The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico has an estimated 7,000 cenotes because it is primarily made up of porous limestone. For millions of years, rainfall slowly ate away at the limestone and a huge system of underground caves and caverns was formed. Many filled with water from rain or from the underground water table. When the roof of a water filled cave collapses, a cenote is born. The water found in a cenote may be fresh water, salt water, or both. Structurally it may be completely open, like a lake, almost completely closed with just a small opening at the top, or somewhere in between.

The Mayan Connection

Cenote comes from the Mayan word “dzonot” or “ts’onot” which means sacred well. Cenotes were the main source of fresh water for the ancient Mayan civilization. Mayans believed the cenotes contained curative elements and considered many of them to be sacred. They also believed cenotes to be portals to the underworld and a way to communicate with the gods. The Sacred Cenote (Cenote Sagrado) at Chichen Itza was used to perform human sacrifices!

Some of these beautiful natural sinkholes are open to the public. Here are the best cenotes to visit in the Yucatan Peninsula state of Quintana Roo. They are all located relatively close to Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

1. Ik-Kil

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Called the “Sacred Blue Cenote”, Ik-Kil is a crystal clear, round, well-type cenote. Located on the highway between Chichen Itza (it’s only a couple of miles away from the archeological site) and Valladolid, this cenote is about 130 feet deep! It is about 85 feet from the surface so you will need to walk down a wooden stairway to reach it. Ik-Kil is more popular with swimmers and snorkelers than divers. There is a restaurant and small palapa homes for overnight stays. Look for the waterfalls and the lush green vegetation hanging all the way down to the water!

Cenote Ik Kil is located 3 km from the archaeological site of Chichen Itza.

2. Dos Ojos

Cenotes-Dos-Ojos-mexico-yucatan

Cenote Dos Ojos or “two eyes” is located a little over 9 miles south of Tulum on highway 307 on the right. This cenote was named Dos Ojos because it is actually two circular cenotes. There are areas for swimmers, snorkelers and scuba divers. This is a world famous cenote and there is a large cave system below where divers can explore almost 500 meters of the underwater world in the immediate area. IMAX filmed part of their film “Journey into Amazing Caves” here. There are bathroom facilities and snacks available. Look for the “Bat Cave”!

Cenote Dos Ojos is located about 15 minutes north of Tulum off Highway 307.

3. Gran Cenote (Sac Aktun)

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This cenote lives up to its name (gran = grand or large) and is a must see. Located just outside of Tulum, it is easy to find. Take a right off of highway 307 at the second stop light in Tulum. After traveling almost 2 miles you will see a sign for the cenote on your right. There are changing and bathroom facilities and a restaurant. There are areas for swimmers, snorkelers and scuba divers. Look for the fish and turtles and be careful not to hit your head on the impressive stalactites! Many people say this is their very favorite cenote.

Gran Cenote is located 3.5 km from downtown Tulum on the road to Coba.

Mexicans, expats and tourists all love to visit the beautiful cenotes of the Mexican Caribbean. They may spend the day swimming, snorkeling, diving, sunbathing or simply relaxing. Visit a cenote and you may even connect with the ancient Mayan civilization.

Book our Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins Tour.

Book our Cancun All-Inclusive + Chichen Itza Tour.

Have you been to a cenote? Which one was your favorite? Any tips? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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About the Author

kristin Kristin Busse is currently a travel writer but has worked in many different industries. She lives in Cancun, Mexico and plans to use her diverse experiences to write about the Yucatan Peninsula from her unique perspective.

Comments

  1. Lana Feix says:

    The one outside Tulum is AWESOME

  2. Caitlin Perkinson says:

    I have NEVER been to a cenote but I would love to go!!

  3. Tracy Robbins says:

    I’ve never been, but hoping to on our trip to Cancun.

  4. Laura says:

    I have always wanted to snorkel in a cenote!

  5. Jd drenchek-scavo says:

    would lovew to go see the waterfalls

  6. Cailin says:

    I have never been to a Cenote but I would love to go!
    Facebook Name: Cailin O’Neil

  7. Shari Lou says:

    I love how dark and eerie it is, the one I visited on my trip to Chichen Itza.

  8. Patricia Hammermueller says:

    I have never seen a cenote.

  9. Tracy Robbins says:

    My wife loves photography, so this would be a great place for her to take photos of the family.

  10. Jd drenchek-scavo says:

    as a side no I have never been.,,only been outside the us to canada

  11. Cailin says:

    I have never been to a Cenote but I would love to go!
    Facebook Name: Cailin O’Neil

    I also should of said I’m pasty white and need a pretty tan and I love to explore cool things like Cenotes which I had never even heard of before this! They look gorgeous :)

  12. Shari Lou says:

    I visited one on the way to chichen Itza last year and it was amazing. Have great pictures too !

  13. aashlee says:

    I would love to see the cenotes!!

  14. Shannon Edris says:

    I have never been to a cenote, but I would love to go. Such a beautiful serene area of nature, unlike anything we have in Washington!

  15. Tony Ortega says:

    I’ve been to one, but I’d love to! hopefully soon

  16. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Cailin O'Neil, Jill Hunziker. Jill Hunziker said: Best cenotes to visit while you are visiting the Yucatan peninsula! Thanks to our friends at Yucatan Holidays!… http://fb.me/LlYG06ln [...]

  17. Shari Lou says:

    I posted 2 pictures on Yucatan Holidays facebook Wall.

  18. Wow, these pictures are gorgeous! I would love to see some of these.

    1. Hello guys! You can take a look to some more great photos of cenotes in our Facebook album: Cenotes: The ancient Mayan pools

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  20. Kristin Busse says:

    Thanks everyone! Winners, enjoy your prize…and these beautiful cenotes!

  21. [...] City :: Good Food in Mexico City Visiting Chipilo for a Traditional Charreada :: All About Puebla The 3 Best Cenotes to Visit in the Mexican Caribbean :: Yucatán [...]

  22. Pawel says:

    Would also add the cenote at Ek’ Balam to the list. Rope swings + spectacular Mayan ruins + giant fresh water hole = Mucho fun.

    1. Thanks Pawel! Will definitely look for it for an upcoming post!

  23. MaryM says:

    Snorkeling in a denote is on my bucket list. This post has helped me with planning a future trip to Riviera Maya.

  24. John Olivo says:

    Hi, nice article.Here you have the ranking of the cenotes.
    http://www.cenotesnorkel.com

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