Tulum is a beautiful small town in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula that is known for its beautiful beaches, ancient Mayan ruins, and the majestic Cenotes (natural sinkholes filled with water).
The Town (Pueblo) is located on the Caribbean coast and is a popular destination for tourists who want to relax on the beach, explore the surrounding jungle, and learn about the region’s rich history and culture.
Tulum is also known for its, wellness and spirituality scene, with many yoga retreats, and holistic health centers located in the area. In recent years, Tulum has become a trendy vacation spot for people from around the world, attracted by its laid-back atmosphere, luxury hotels, lively nightlife, and natural beauty.
The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is home to thousands of cenotes, and the town of Tulum is a popular destination for tourists who want to visit these natural sinkholes.
Maybe you have seen some of those impressive sinkholes on Instagram or Social Media and always wanted to visit. We have created for you a guide to our top 9 must-see Cenotes for amazing Instagram photos and an unforgettable experience! We’re certain you’ll fall in love with these sites just as much as we have.
What is a Cenote?
The word “Cenote” is derived from the Mayan word “d’zonot,” which means “well.” In Spanish, the word “cenote” – pronounced seh-NO-tay – is used to refer to a natural sinkhole filled with water.
Cenotes are natural sinkholes that are filled with water and are found in certain parts of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. They are often associated with the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, where they were used by the Mayan people as a source of water and as a place for rituals and sacrifices.
Cenotes are formed when the roof of a cave collapses, creating a hole that allows water to collect. They can range in size from small ponds to large, deep pools and are often surrounded by lush vegetation.
Many cenotes are now popular tourist attractions and are used for activities such as swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
Different Types of Cenotes
There are several different types of cenotes, depending on their size and the way they are formed. Here are a few common types of cenotes:
Pit cenotes: These are the largest and deepest type of cenote, and they are formed when the roof of a cave collapses, creating a deep, circular hole.
Cavern cenotes (Cave cenotes): These cenotes are formed when an underground river erodes a cave and creates an opening to the surface. Cave cenotes often have a large, open area for swimming and may have stalactites and stalagmites.
Semi-open cenotes: These cenotes have a partially open top. They are formed when the roof of a cave collapses, creating a hole that is partially covered by rock and vegetation.
Open cenotes: These cenotes have a fully open top. They are formed when the roof of a cave collapses, creating a hole that is completely exposed to the surface
Underground cenotes: These cenotes are completely underground. They can only be accessed through a cave or tunnel. They are often smaller in size and may have underground rivers or streams
10 Best Cenotes near Tulum Mexico
1. El Gran Cenote
– Ideal for: swimming, snorkeling, and diving
If you’re in Tulum, the Gran Cenote is a must-see. This large cenote has crystal-clear water and stunning landscapes that will take your breath away. Its caves, caverns, as well as its open-air cenote are connected by wooden boardwalks running through the lush greenery of this natural wonderland.
Whether you’re visiting for an afternoon or passing through on your way to explore the amazing Coba ruins, this Cenote is sure to reward you. Swimmers, scuba divers, and snorkelers come here from near and far to experience the breathtaking beauty of the Gran Cenote!
Gran Cenote also boasts a river-like open-air cenote where you can see turtles swimming in the cenote’s tranquil waters.
How to get to Gran Cenote: Taxi or rental car. It’s a short trip
Halfway between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum, you can find the Cenote Dos Ojos.
With its two eyes-shaped sinkholes connected by an underwater boardwalk and deep cave system, Cenote Cenote Dos Ojos Yucatan Peninsula diving cenote welcomes visitors to explore it through snorkeling and diving tours.
Whether you are a professional or amateur diver, there is no denying that Dos Ojos cenote offers some of the most captivating views beneath the surface!
How to get to Dos Ojos: Taxi or rental car. It’s a short trip
Entrance Fee:450 pesos ($22 USD) for all Cenotes in this park or 350 pesos ($18 USD) for just the DOs Ojos Cenote
Cenote Ak Tun Ha, also known as the Carwash Cenote as it was once used to wash cars, is a must-visit open-air cenote.
The swimming area in Carwash cenote is very accessible, located adjacent to the car park and waters that can reach up to 50 feet in depth. Prepare for an unforgettable experience as you get immersed Carwash Cenote and an underwater world filled with rock formations and aquatic species like fish and turtles.
Bring your snorkeling or diving gear to explore the cave’s underwater section.
How to get to Cenote Carwash: Taxi or rental car. It’s a short trip
– Ideal for: families with kids, swimming pool style cenote
Zacil Ha Cenote is very conveniently located very close to the breathtaking Cenote Carwash and is a beautiful open-air cenote with water so brilliantly transparent that it rivals any regular swimming pool you have ever been to.
There is nothing short of unique about this place, and we were in awe the whole time! You can jump off the edge into the clear waters or even zip line across the cenote and plunge in from above!
For those looking for a more relaxed experience, hammocks are available for rent…just book one at the entrance!
How to get to Cenote Zacil Ha: Taxi or rental car. It’s a short trip
Entrance Fee for Cenote Zacil-Ha :200 pesos ($10 USD) and 10 pesos ($0.5c USD) for the zipline
Cenote Calavera is a cenote of unparall beauty. It is often referred to as the ‘Skull’ Cenote due to its three sinkholes that look like two eyes and a mouth.
The edge of this natural wonder sinkhole boasts a 4-meter drop into the water. To enter the cenote, you can use the ladder provided…or just make your own grand entrance by jumping off and into the cenote pool!
Despite its proximity to bustling Tulum, Cenote Calavera maintains relative peace and tranquility – making it one of Tulum’s best-kept secrets.
How to get to Cenote Calavera: Taxi or rental car. It’s a short trip
Entrance Fee:250 pesos ($13 USD) for entrance and another $200 pesos ($10 USD) for photos
6. Cenote Azul
– Ideal for: families with kids, swimming, relaxing in the blue water, and fun jumps
Thrill seekers and families alike will love Cenote Azul‘s sprawling open-air atmosphere. Cenote Azul has two distinct swimming areas divided by a wooden boardwalk. Kids can safely splash about in the shallow waters on one side, while divers can take a plunge with their equipment from the cliff on the other side!
Bring your snorkeling or diving gear to explore what lies beneath the surface…trust us…you won’t regret it. With so much to do at Cenote Azul, it is no wonder why this beloved site north of Tulum is popular and crowded all year round!
How to get to Cenote Azul: Taxi or rental car. It’s a short trip this cenote can get very crowded as its also close to Cancun and Playa den Carmen
Cenote Jardin Del Eden, also known as Cenote Ponderosa, stands out for us because of its unparalleled beauty. Upon entering the Garden of Eden-like open-air swimming pool, you will notice that it is framed by lush greenery and crystal clear waters. The amazing views have made this Cenote very popular on Instagram and other social media.
You can enjoy a refreshing swim or embark on a snorkeling adventure in the pristine waters and depths of the cenote. For those looking for some more adventure, try cliff jumping from the sides! Experienced divers will fall in love with the cave system at Cenote Jardin Del Eden…like we have!
How to get to Jardin Del Eden: Taxi or rental car. It’s a short trip
Dos Ojos Park is an enchanting destination due to its unrivaled selection of beautiful cenotes, including the pet cemetery Cenote Sac Actun, Nicte-Ha, that will captivate you with the surrounding lily pads and El Pit, the deepest cenote in the Yucatan Peninsula.
How to get to Cenote Sac Actun, El Pit, and Nicte-Ha: Taxi or rental car. It’s a short trip
Entrance Fee:450 pesos ($22 USD) for all Cenotes in this park or 350 pesos ($18 USD) for just the DOs Ojos Cenote
10. Casa Cenote
– Ideal for: families with kids, diving, snorkeling, and swimming
Casa Cenote is nestled peacefully between the vibrant towns of Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. It offers a one-of-a-kind cenote experience for all ages.
It is surrounded by lush greenery and mangroves, and the turquoise waters will take your breath away.
Whether you choose to kayak or swim in the tranquil depths of the cenote (which reach only 6 meters deep), snorkel through its undersea cave system that leads directly into the ocean, or just relax at a nearby beach – Casa Cenote has something special in store for everyone!
How to get to Casa Cenote: Taxi or rental car. It’s a short trip
Some bad news now as authorities in Tulum, Mexico, have issued a health and safety warning for three of Mexico’s most popular cenotes in 2022 after discovering a noticeably high percentage of bacteria in the water – the kind that is most harmful to tourists (E-coli).
They have now instructed the public to avoid the well-known attraction altogether or desist from swimming in those areas.
At least three Cenotes close to the popular and crowded tourist destinations of Cancun, Tulum, and Paya del Carmen have been found to contain the bacteria:
Numerous bacteria were found in the water of the cenotes, but the aforementioned E. Coli is the one most likely to cause harm. A wide variety of symptoms, including severe stomach cramps, vomiting, and, in extreme cases, bloody diarrhea, have been reported by those who got contamination. Additionally, mild fevers of less than 101F have been reported.
What to bring when visiting a Cenote in Tulum
Here are a few expert tips for visiting the cenotes in Tulum:
Cash (pesos): Bring Mexican Pesos as many of the cenotes don’t accept credit cards. Even the cenotes that accept cash are just for the entrance fee and not for things like food or drinks and beer.
Bring Towels: Some Cenotes offer rentals, but it’s easier, cheaper, and more hygienic to bring your own
Wear a swimsuit: Many cenotes have areas for swimming, so it’s a good idea to dress appropriately.
Bring water shoes: The floors of some cenotes can be slippery and rocky, so water shoes can help you navigate them safely.
Follow any posted rules: Some cenotes have specific rules for visitors, such as no diving or no sunscreen. Be sure to follow these rules to help preserve the natural environment.
No Sunscreen can be used, not even eco-friendly or reef-safe varieties, because the oils and chemicals could harm the Cenote’s delicate ecosystem. In addition, the majority of cenotes require you to shower before entering. Select a bathing suit with long sleeves and a wide brim if you are prone to burning easily.
Consider hiring a guide: Some cenotes offer guided tours, which can be a great way to learn more about the history and geology of the sinkholes.
Don’t forget to bring your waterproof camera: Cenotes are beautiful natural wonders, and you’ll want to remember your visit with some photos you can also upload to Instagram.
Respect the environment: Cenotes are fragile ecosystems, so be sure to leave them as you found them, and don’t litter.
You can’t swim: Good news! Most Cenotes provide life jackets (free or at a small price) for guests.
Other Things to Do Near Tulum
After you’ve explored the majestic Cenote Calavera, why not take part in some thrilling activities?
Take off on an intrepid expedition to uncover Tulum’s wealth of awe-inspiring cenotes! With such a plethora of stunning locations, you and your closest companions will have days full of unforgettable memories.
Unwind and relax at the gorgeous Tulum Beach, and don’t forget to try one of the many amazing restaurants in town
Take a trip to the ancient Tulum ruins, National Parks and, if you find yourself with extra time, venture even further to ruins of Chichen Itza – a stunning location and one of the 7 Wonders of the World!
Enjoy an unforgettable day trip to the magnificent Sian Ka’an Biosphere breathtakingly blue waters and get up close with dolphins and even some crocodiles!
I recommend these travel resources for Mexico that I personally use:
🏨 Hotels: I have found that Expedia and Booking.com consistently have the best deals on hotels and resorts in Mexico. If you prefer to stay at a vacation rental, check VRBO that is usually cheaper than AirBnB’s added fees!
✈️ Flights: To find the best flight deals to Mexico, I always use Kayak. Remember to subscribe to their price alerts for the travel dates you want. Another great alternative for flight deals is Expedia.
🚗 Rental Cars: I always use and highly recommend Discover Cars because it allows me to compare several car rental companies and view ratings on various factors such as overall value, pick-up procedure, agent efficiency, car condition, and total time taken.
🚙 CancunAirport Transportation: For the fastest and easiest way to travel, I suggest arranging a private transfer with Cancun Airport Transportation. Honestly, no better way to travel from the airport to your hotel or resort.
🤿 Tours & Activities: For tours and activities in Mexico, I highly recommend using either Viator or GetYourGuide. These websites offer a full refund if you cancel your booking 24 hours before the start of the tour, and they also provide excellent customer service in case of any issues.
🚨 Travel Insurance: I always suggest purchasing travel insurance as a precaution before traveling, especially after a recent accident in a taxi in Mexico. For short trips, I recommend Travel Insurance Master, whereas for digital nomads, Safety Wing is a better option.
📷 Best Camera for your trip: I always carry with me a GoPro, It’s light, compact, takes great video and pictures, and most importantly, it’s waterproof! You just can’t go wrong with one. If you are interested in higher quality video and photography, I always carry with me on my trips and highly recommend the Sony A7IV which I think is the best travel DSLR Camera out there.
☀️ Biodegradable Sunscreen: Remember to include a good sunscreen to protect yourself from the summer sun. I always use and suggest Sun Bum Sunscreen, which is vegan, reef-friendly, and cruelty-free.
Cenote in Spanish is pronounced, “sen-No-tay”. It is the word used to describe a natural sinkhole with water. The root of the Spanish word is the Mayan word for it this is “d’zonot,” and it means “well”.
The closest Cenotes to Tulum are Cenote Calavera, Cenote Crystal, Cenote Escondito all around 1 mile (2km) from Tulum’s town center. A short taxi ride or bike ride from both Tulum center (pueblo) and the beach. Tulum is just 40 minutes away from Playa del Carmen. There area few cenotes very close to Playa del Carmen also.
Yes! If you want to save money and be flexible with your itinerary, you can travel independently to a cenote. The best cenotes are found in gorgeous but remote locations, so you’ll need to rent a car to get there. This is something to keep in mind.
Cenote Dos Ojos is an incredibly beautiful cenote. The answer to this question depends on your taste and what you expect to see in Cenote or do. Every Cenote offers a different experience and activities (snorkeling, swimming, diving)
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