Cenote Sac Actun Tulum
Exploring Cenote Sac Actun is an adventure; not only can you enjoy swimming in this awe-inspiring environment, but you can also explore its depths as it features part of the world’s longest underwater cave network!
Soaking up the sights, sounds, and unique atmosphere of a cenote is an unforgettable experience that should be on every traveler’s list while visiting Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.
The crystal-clear water found in these freshwater sinkholes offers swimmers – or photographers – exceptional opportunities to capture amazing moments beneath the surface.
In recent years, cenotes have become very popular and trendy. Yet, despite the buzz many people are still not aware of what they are and their importance to the Mayans. If you already know what a cenote is, then go ahead and skip this section!
Cenotes are ancient limestone pools with sparkling rainwater and otherworldly beauty. It all stems from centuries-old caverns that collapse and form natural sinkholes. Over time the built-up rainfall in these basins grows connected to underground rivers – this is what makes a cenote so exquisitely unique!
Drawing from its Mayan roots, the term “cenote” literally translates to “well.” Yet, not all cenotes share a similar aesthetic – in fact, there are four remarkable varieties of these natural hidden gems.:
• Open Cenotes – Cenote Ponderosa located near Playa del Carmen, is a true wonder that all visitors will cherish. These open-air cenotes offer a mesmerizing escape, varying in depth and even connecting to underground rivers for the avid diver!
• Semi-open Cenotes – As its name implies, a partially submerged cenote is composed of components visible in plain sight and areas hidden away in caverns. The two most stunning examples are Cenote Calavera (my own favorite!) and the breathtakingly gorgeous Cenote Zaci.
• Cave Cenotes – Dare to explore the thrilling cave system of Cenote Samula with its land-level entrance! Have a dip in this underground pool that features both shallow and deep areas. This one-of-a-kind experience offers plenty of exhilaration, guaranteeing you an unforgettable journey.
• Underground Cenotes – For a daring and unforgettable journey, only brave divers have the means to discover underground cenotes like The Pet Cemetery Cenote near Tulum. Due to their subterranean character, access to these secret sites may be tricky.
Ancient Mayans considered the cenotes to be pathways leading to the netherworld of Xibalba, so sacrificial offerings were thrown into them. Human sacrifices are thought to have taken place at times as well! Remains that were discovered in these depths make cenotes increasingly crucial archaeological sites today. In fact, with recent findings in the Sistema Sac Actun cave system, this site is now renowned worldwide as one of the most vital underwater archaeological locations! In this article by the Telegraph, you can read more about it.
Shining the flashlight on the ceiling of Sac Actun reveals thousands of diamond-encrusted icicles – stalactites that have been forming for centuries. Some are so long their tips reach above the water surface, and everywhere near them hang thin spiderweb-like threads that attest to ongoing growth. Every square centimeter is evidence of a hundred years of hard work by Mother Nature!
Descending into the cave, you realize that there are bats hanging upside down from the ceiling and swooping around us like tiny shadows in flight. Under other circumstances, this could be frightening, but instead, I am captivated by nature’s wonders.
This incredible cave system, which is thought to have been formed during the Pleistocene epoch around 2.6 million years ago, dives 101.2 meters at its deepest point and stretches an astonishing 346 kilometers in length – making it not only the longest underwater cave on Earth but also the second-longest overall after Mammoth Cave Complex in America! The site has revealed a plethora of archaeological discoveries over time, some even dating back more than two million years!
The water was so crystal clear that you’d be able to see even without a mask, yet the tight passages and closing ceilings made it all the more useful. I wasn’t cold until near the end of our excursion. Yet, some from my group could not seem to stay warm in spite of their wetsuits – something important to bear in mind while considering whether or not you should invest in renting one for your tour, as temperatures tend to remain around 20° Celsius.
The entrance fee is 450 pesos ($30 USD). This fee includes guide service and equipment such as lifejackets, snorkel tubes, and masks are provided. However, you should consider obtaining a flashlight.
Read Next our favorite cenotes in Mexico:
And of course if you are up for a road trip make your way to Chichen Itza and the magical cenotes of the Chichen Itza park. We have also put together guides for the best cenotes for families in Tulum.
There are no colectivo buses that run to its location, which lies 13 miles (20 kilometers) away from Tulum – so you can’t walk either !
In conclusion, if you’re looking for an adventure in Mexico, then there are two ways to reach this amazing destination: taxi or car.
Renting a car and driving to Sac Actun was an accessible journey; however, it’s important to note that the road is quite bumpy.
To reach Sac Actun from Tulum, take the highway to Playa del Carmen and exit for Cenote Dos Ojos. Keep driving past the entrance until you see a left turn. There aren’t many signs indicating Sac Acton’s location, so it may be hard to find. Once you’ve taken this left turn, continue straight ahead for roughly 6 kilometers before arriving at your final destination! To ensure a peaceful journey, make sure you have our provided map below! What’s more, parking near Sac Actun is plentiful, and there are no fees attached. If driving yourself – proceed with caution! The roads are in rough shape and contain various deep potholes. It is possible to reach your destination safely, but do not speed; drive slowly and attentively.
For those catching a taxi, it might be best to have the driver stay while you explore Sac Actun.
Sac Actun isn’t among the major tourist destination cenotes yet, large tour operators aren’t bringing groups of people there either. Fortunately for us, though, we were able to explore almost entirely alone – how remarkable! In contrast to the crowds of tourists at Tulum ruins, Sac Actun is a hidden gem, and getting there can be tricky.
Unfortunately, no. Even though the app is functional there has been a lot of push-back from the local taxi-mafia and some violence so for your safety, we would suggest against using it.
We recommend 1-2 hours to take everything in, explore and have some time to relax and unwind.
As early in the morning as you can to get some time before the crowds arrive, or before the site closes down for the day.
After you’ve explored the majestic underground cave systems of Cenote Sac Actun, why not take part in some thrilling activities?