If you’re visiting Tulum or anywhere in the Riviera Maya, you have likely heard about cenotes and how you must visit a cenote in Tulum, especially during sargassum season! But what is a cenote? And which of the hundreds of cenotes in Tulum is the best one to visit? In this post, I’ve asked some top bloggers to share with us their favorite cenotes in Tulum to help you choose the best one to visit on your next trip.
Disclaimer: There aren’t actually many cenotes in central Tulum, and the ones that are there aren’t all that great. Added to this is that many of the cenotes in the area are a bit off the beaten track I’ve tried to only share the Tulum cenotes that can be easily accessed by either car or collective.
Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that you need to be prepared for anything! Travel insurance has always been high my list of things to get before I travel but now more than ever its at the top of my list.
I’m pretty sure we have all had travel plans messed up because of COVID and not all insurers covered this. So when looking for travel insurance it’s important to check it covers travel disruption due to COVID-19, World Nomads, Safety Wing, or Travel Insurance Master all provide cover for this.
World Nomads is great for incidents that happen prior to your trip, so if you get sick or are unable to travel due to travel restrictions some of their policies will cover that as cancellation cover.
I also use Travel Insurance Master for some short vacation type trips as they are cheaper than World Nomads a lot of the time.
If you are doing shorter trips or a longer backpacking trip then WorldNomads or Travel Insurance Master are the best option. If you are a digital nomad or planning travel of at least 6 months then go for SafetyWing.
What is a Cenote?
A cenote is basically a big sinkhole that’s flooded with water. The entire Yucatan peninsular is made up of limestone (at one point it was a huge reef) and over time part of the limestone collapsed and flooded with water to create huge underground river systems.
In the Yucatan Peninsular there are over 7000 cenotes. With only a fraction of them open to the public, in fact, to date, there are only 2200 registered cenotes. Most cenotes are privately owned and many of them are connected.
In general, you will find 4 different types of cenotes in the Riviera Maya.
- Closed Cenotes – Where you have to enter through a hole and the entire cenote is enclosed inside a cave or cavern.
- Open Cenotes – where there is no roof and the cenote is completely open like a lake
- Half-open cenotes – where part of the cenote is closed and part is open. These are the most common ones open to the public.
- Dry Cenotes – Cenotes with no water. Normally in these types of cenotes, you will find incredible rock formations.
Why Visit a Cenote?
So many reasons. Number 1 is to cool off from the heat! They are great places to go swimming, snorkeling, and even scuba diving in. They are fresh water and many are very deep so you can practice your diving/ jumping skills.
If you go to one of the bigger cenote parks you can also do ziplining, ATV driving, canoeing, Rappelling, etc. The adventures are endless!
Need to book transportation in Mexico?
I highly recommend booking all of your Mexico transportation with GuateGo. You can search for buses, shuttles, ferries, and Flights on their website. What I love most about them is their customer service. I know these guys personally from my time living in Guatemala and they really do look after their customers. So if anything happens and you get delayed and miss your bus, you can just call them and they are always there to help.
If you book through them you will pay a little more than if you book in person at the bus station. But it’s worth it for the ease and security in my opinion. Click here to search for transportation in Mexico.
The water is always sargassum free, so it’s ideal if you want to swim without the seaweed!
And of course, Cenotes are incredibly beautiful.
The biggest issue you are going to find is choosing which Tulum cenote to go to. Many of the more popular ones can get super crowded. Some are hard to find, but empty of people. Others are very expensive. You really do need to do your homework in choosing the best cenote.
After living in Riviera Maya for three years, I had the chance to visit many cenotes and my best bit of advice would be, to avoid cenotes on Sundays as local residents get to enter for free, and if you want to go to a cenote for ziplining and ATV’s then book a tour with Turismo channel as they will get you to the best cenote depending on what you want to do there.
What Can You Do in a Cenote?
Here are some activities that you can do in a cenote:
- Scuba Diving
- ATV driving
- Diving/ jumping
- Mermaid experience
- Underwater photoshoot
- Get married (I did this haha)
What You Can’t Do in a Cenote?
On the top of my list is please SHOWER BEFORE YOU DIVE INTO A CENOTE. Cenotes are large bodies of fresh crystal clear water. However, overtourism has caused many cenotes to become contaminated and people using sunscreen is the biggest culprit. So please, make sure to shower first.
Please don’t leave trash behind.
In some cenotes freediving is a no no. and in many, if you pull out a big professional camera they may ask you to pay a fee for using it.
Looking for a reputable tour company in The Riviera Maya?
I’ve been working with Turismo Channel in Playa del Carmen for years and they are who I send all of my family and friends to when they visit the Riviera Maya. I really can recommend them enough for tours, private airport transfers, and rental cars. Vanessa and Oliver are personal friends of mine and I have 100% faith that you will have a wonderful time with them.
You can check out their tours by clicking here and using the following discount codes for the best prices clairecaroff (car rental), claire10off (for 10% off group tours), claireprivate (for a discount on private tours). You can also send her a WhatsApp message quoting the above codes to receive the discount.
What to Take to a Cenote
Going to a cenote is like going on a day trip adventure out in nature. The things you should take are pretty basic:
- Day pack with all your things
- Sneakers and sandals or wet shoes
- Natural-based sunblock and repellent
- Comfortable clothes to wander in nature for a bit
- Waterproof camera – you won’t want to miss the opportunity to show off your photography/video skills
- Fast-dry towel or sarong
Need to rent a car in Playa del Carmen?
Whenever I’m in Playa or Tulum I always rent a car through Turismo Channel as they include everything in the quoted price. Car rental companies in Mexico are notoriously tricky to deal with and 9 times out of 10 they will quote you a low price but then when you get there they add on all kinds of insurance and won’t give the car to you unless you pay up. It can also take weeks or even months to refund your deposit. I wrote a whole blog post you can read here for more information. If you rent with Turismo channel use the code clairecaroff for a discounted price. You can also send her a WhatsApp message quoting the above codes to receive the discount.
The Best Cenotes in Tulum
Cenote Corazon del Paraiso By Isabella from Letstraveltomexico.com
Located at only a 10-minute drive from Down Town Tulum, Cenote Corazon del Paraiso is one of the latest cenotes discovered in the area, and one of the prettiest.
Corazon means heart in Spanish and its name comes from the heart shape of the cenote, which has been created by adding a wooden platform in the center.
The crystal clear water allows you to see through to the rock formations and vegetation on the bottom of the sinkhole.
Different platforms along the cenote edge invite you to jump in the water or lay down on your towel and enjoy the peaceful surrounding nature.
Divers particularly appreciate cenote Corazon for its beautiful underwater landscape with caves and hooks.
Convenient wooden stairs make access to the water very easy for any kind of swimmer.
The cenote is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm and I suggest you should be there as early as you can since it gets crowded after 10.30/ 11.00 especially if there are groups.
The entrance fee is 150 MXN per person and it includes the use of showers (mandatory) and toilets. Snorkel equipment and life jackets are available for rent as well.
The best way to get to Cenote Corazon from Tulum is by Car Rental so that you will have the opportunity to explore other attractions nearby in total freedom and at your own pace.
Otherwise, you can hire a taxi or, if you are feeling adventurous you can rent a bike.
If you prefer to use the local transportation from Tulum, you must look for the minivans (colectivos) heading to Felipe Carrillo Puerto and ask the driver to drop you off by cenote Corazon. Then you will have to walk about a mile on a dirt road in the jungle before getting to the cenote. It’s advisable to bring a bottle of water with you as it gets really hot.
Laguna Kaan Luum By Isabella from Mexicocenotesandruins.com
Kaan Loom in the Mayan language means Tierra Amarilla, (yellow earth) probably due to the soil that surrounds the spectacular lagoon and the thick mangrove forest around it.
Kaan Luum Lagoon is a huge round lake that contains one of the deepest cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula and the best way to really capture its beauty with its multiple shades of greens and blues is by the aerial view.
The Cenote is 85 mt deep and for this reason, considered dangerous to swim in. It’s in fact accessible only to certified divers accompanied by an authorized guide from a local dive center.
Tourists can enjoy swimming in the shallow water by the edge of the lagoon, observing the spectacular landscape from the newly built lookout tower, or swinging in the hammocks immersed in the water.
You can also rent a kayak to explore further around the lagoon, but within the limits marked by a cord, for safety reasons.
There are showers and toilets available for the visitors to use, and lifejackets are available for rent.
The entry fee is 300 mxn (15 USD per person) and to fly a drone it is an extra 150 MXN (8 USD)
Kaan Luum Lagoon is open from 9 to 5 every day but it is advisable to get there at 9 am to enjoy it before it gets too crowded.
To get to Kaan Luum lagoon from Tulum, you can either take a taxi or rent a car or a bicycle but I would advise against the latter option because it would be riding for 11 km in the hot sun.
In case you decide to use the local transportation, you must look for the colectivos (minivans) to Felipe Carrillo Puerto and ask the driver to drop you off at Kaan Luum Lagoon. Keep in mind that from the main road you will have to walk about 1 km to reach the lagoon.
Cenote Dos Ojos By Chris Fry from The Aquarius Traveller
When searching around for the best cenotes in Tulum, then you need to visit The Dos Ojos Cenote. It’s located about 30 minutes (20 Kilometres) north of Tulum, just off the main highway between Cancun and Tulum. There are various options to get you there from Taxis, colectivo’s, hiring a driver, renting your own car, or purchasing a tour with transfers included.
Dos Ojos is actually Spanish for “Two Eyes Cenotes” and suited for all kinds of visitors. This includes swimming, diving in two different cave systems, and snorkelling in crystal clear waters. There is an entrance fee of 350MXN, and only cash is accepted as payment. This is during the hours of 8am and 5pm daily, and it’s best to come early morning or late afternoon to beat the crowds.
The waters are extremely translucent, and the temperature is around 24 to 25 degrees Celsius (about 75F). There is a large wooden platform, easy stair access and a wide open area for the swimmers. Conveniently, you can bring your own gear, or they have life vests for hire, along with a snorkel and mask. This allows you to see the rock formations and freshwater fish swimming beneath you. They also have bathrooms, change rooms, and lockers to store your personal items.
It’s one of the largest underwater cave systems, which features both stalactites and stalagmites. Therefore, if you’re diving into the Dos Ojos Cenote, you’ll see this firsthand. Although, this can only be done by organising a tour with a dive company in Tulum. Both the “Barbie Line” and the “Bat Cave” are classed as cavern diving and can be completed in half a day.
In the end, The Dos Ojos Cenote is a refreshing dip on a hot summer’s day and shouldn’t be missed.
Cenote Car Wash By Steph from A Nomad’s Passport
Cenote Car Wash, also known as Cenote Aktun-Ha, is located en route to Coba and 9 km west of Downtown Tulum. Thanks to its location, it is easy to reach this cenote without car rental. Just take the colectivo from Tulum to Coba and ask the driver to drop you off at the cenote. While close to Tulum, biking there is not recommended, as there is no bike lane.
This stunning cenote is full of water lilies, which makes it one of the most breathtaking cenotes near Tulum. Schools of fish swim in the open area of the cenote, and if you are lucky, you can spot a freshwater turtle swimming among the water lilies.
Thanks to the water lilies, it is the ideal cenote for swimming and snorkeling. However, it is also popular amongst scuba divers. After all, it has a cavern section that can be explored by certified divers as long as they are accompanied by a certified guide. There is a jumping platform.
In terms of facilities, there are toilets and changing rooms. There is also a booth where you can buy fresh lime juice. It is possible to store your valuables at the lockers on site.
It is open daily from 8 AM to 5 PM. The current entry fee is 150 pesos for Mexican citizens and 200 pesos for international visitors. There is a camera fee of 150 pesos per camera and drone including GoPros. Life jackets can be rented for 30 pesos.
Cenote Azul by Sally from Sally Sees
One of the prettiest cenotes in Tulum is Cenote Azul. Named for the blue color of the water, it has a spotted look as you can see right through the clear water to the white limestone rocks under the surface. Cenote Azul is an open-air cenote and is different to most other cenotes around Tulum. It is open and quite shallow, feeling more like a lake or lagoon than a cave-style cenote. There is one large main pool, and two smaller pools hidden down narrow, jungle-lined paths.
The main pool is 6 meters deep, and it’s possible to jump in from a few different heights. There is a smaller jump from a wooden platform around the cenote, or if you want an extra thrill, there is a 4-metre jump from a cliff above the edge of the pool.
Being shallow, Cenote Azul is not a good spot for diving or free diving, and flippers are prohibited. However, you can bring along a mask and snorkel to explore underwater. They are also available for rent at the cenote. Life jackets are not mandatory, but you can also rent them if required. There are toilets and change rooms on-site, lockers, and a small stall selling snacks and drinks.
Cenote Azul is 30 minutes away from Tulum on the main highway heading towards Playa del Carmen. It easily reached via rental car, taxi, or any colectivo heading towards Playa del Carmen will drop you off at the entrance. While you’re in the area, you can walk next door to Cenote Cristalino too!
The entry fee to Cenote Azul is 150 pesos for foreign adults. If you want to use a camera (anything besides a phone) there is an additional fee.
Need Somewhere to Stay In Tulum?
I wrote a whole post to help you decide the best area in Tulum to stay with my recommendations depending on your budget. I also wrote a guide to the top boutique hotels in Tulum, Where to stay in Tulum, and The Best Hostels in Tulum Mexico.