Cenotes are impressive, natural, freshwater sinkholes that result from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath, which is collected by filtrated rainwater or through underground rivers. Mostly surrounded by luscious tropical vegetation, cenotes expose the most magical colors that range from turquoise blue to emerald green. The water is clear, fresh and pure, which allows you to see the bottom of the cenotes from above as well as the endemic fauna that lives below.
The Yucatan Peninsula is flat and covered with cenotes. They were the primary source of fresh water for the Mayan people and were also sacred as they considered them pathways to life after death.
Expert estimates suggest there are more than 6.000 though less than half of them have been registered and studied. The majority of the cenotes that are open to the public are located near the city of Tulum. Amazing natural wonders that can be enjoyed while snorkeling or diving.
If you enjoy cave and cavern diving you should know that Tulum is home to the largest underwater cave system in the World named “Sac Actun” meaning “White cave” and it’s 354 kilometers (220 miles) long.
While visiting any cenote, bear this in mind:
- Most of the cenotes charge an entrance fee ranking from $5 to 10$ us per person per day and usually offer snorkeling gear and life vests for rent.
- Bring water shoes for safety and comfort, as you will have to walk on rocky ground to reach the water.
- Do not apply sunscreen or insect repellent, as they cause major damage to the fragile underwater ecosystem.
- Don’t touch the rock formations, stalactites or stalagmites, the oils from your skin may damage or break these fragile formations that took millions of years to form.
- Bring a towel.
- Underwater camera.
Here are three of the most beautiful cenotes near Tulum:
- Gran Cenote: This cenote is one of the most popular ones, it is closest to Tulum and easy to find. Just a 9 minute drive away from downtown Tulum going towards Cobá, it will be on your right hand side and has a big sign. Divers enjoy this cenote as it provides access to the “Sac Actún” cave system. It has 140 meters of calm, shallow waters, easy-to-use walkways and partially submerged tunnels connecting different sections of the cenote, which can also be easily seen while snorkeling. You will be admiring thousands of millenary rock formations, harmless bats clinging from the top of the caves, marine fossils, blind endemic fish and will be stunned by the transparency of the fresh and clear water.
- Jardín del Edén: Located between Tulum and Playa del Carmen with access off the main highway, you can visit and enjoy the three cenotes that are right next to each other: Cenote Azul, Cenote Jardín del Eden (a.k.a. Cenote Ponderosa) and Cenote Cristalino. These cenotes have the most fascinating colors: deep blues, intense greens, turquoise and purple tones.
- Cenote Azul is quite large and deep in some areas, people can dive into the water from the edge of the cenote which is about 12 feet tall. These cenotes have some caves that are completely underground, others are partially covered and some just surface like a peaceful lake. Be prepared to feel hundreds of tinny fish nibbling on your feet, a free and natural pedicure.
- Jardín del Edén is a gorgeous, 100% natural water park for you to enjoy.
- Cenote Dos Ojos: It’s named so because two 70-meter (229 feet) sinkholes connect by a 400-meter (1312 feet) passageway, which gives the appearance of two eyes. You will find the entrance 22km (30 minute drive) north of Tulum on the main 307 Highway that leads to Playa del Carmen.
These cenotes are perfect for snorkeling and especially for cave and cavern diving, for which you will need your Open Water Diver certification.
The crystal clear waters will allow you to observe millions of limestone formations: stalactites, stalagmites, columns, ancient fossils, prehistoric bone formations and native animal species.. The water temperature is mostly warm, 24-25°C all year round, which is an advantage while diving.
Enjoy the cenotes, unique natural wonders of Tulum and one of the most popular Instagram spots in the area!