Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula has the world’s largest number of underground sinkholes and caves called cenotes. After years of living there, I’ve visited many cenotes in Mexico and wanted to share my favorites with you.
Some of Mexico’s cenotes are open like a lake, others are almost completely underground with only a small opening. There are more than 6000 cenotes in the Yucatan, so you have plenty of options to choose from.
Many cenotes are inhabited by colorful fish, some have cliffs to jump from or even built-in ziplines.
There are also many great cenotes near Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Valladolid, and Merida, so you can easily find a number of cenotes to visit during your trip. Here are my recommendations for the best cenotes in Tulum.
Keep in mind that the area of Tulum is way bigger than the beach strip of town, so while some cenotes are technically in Tulum they might be about 25 minutes drive away from where you’re staying.
- What Is A Cenote?
- Best Cenotes in Tulum
- 1. Cenote Dos Ojos: Best Cenote for Snorkeling
- 2. Gran Cenote: Best Cenote for Insta Photos
- 3. Cenote Calavera: Best Cenote for Cliff Jumping
- 4. Carwash Cenote: Best Less Visited Cenote
- 5. El Pit Cenote: Best Cenote for Diving
- 6. Cenote Yax Kin: Best Cenote for Kids
- 7. Cenote Sac Actun: Most Popular Cenote in Mexico
- 8. Tak Be Ha: Most Photogenic Cenote
- 9. Cenote Casa Tortuga: Best Adventure Cenote
- 10. Casa Cenote / Cenote Manati: Best Cenote near Akumal
- 11. Cenote Corazon del Paraiso: Best for Drone
- 12. Cenote Zacil Ha
- 13. Cenote Choo Ha: Best Cenote Near Coba
- 14. Tamcach-Ha: Best Cenote for Platform Jumping
- READ MORE MEXICO TRAVEL TIPS
What Is A Cenote?
A cenote (Mayan dzonot, “well”) is the word used to describe a natural pit made with a lime rock that has groundwater underneath. They were formed by naturally-acidic rain filtering down over thousands of years and dissolving away the limestone.
Mayans believed that cenotes were an entrance to the underworld, so they were often used for sacrifices, both human and material ones. In fact, at the Sacred Cenote found within Chichén-Itzá, archeologists have found many important ceramics, jewelry and bones.
IMPORTANT: At the cenotes in Mexico, you’ll be asked to swim without any lotions or creams on your skin at all, as can poison fish, sea plants, and other delicate marine life.
You will live after being exposed to the sun for a bit, but sadly other creatures will not survive if you infect their natural habitat with sunscreen. However, you can get a biodegradable sunscreen at some cenotes.
Please note: all prices are in Mexican Pesos (MXN). Prices increase all the time, so please keep in mind that it might be slightly higher. Be prepared.
I highly recommend skipping bus tours to cenotes in Mexico and getting a taxi or rental car instead. That way you’ll be able to spend more time at each cenote and won’t be arriving with a big group of people. Some cenotes are big, so it can get really crowded when a tour bus shows up.
If you want to rent a car, the best site to book your car is Discover Cars. They offer competitive rates as it searches all the big car rental companies and finds the best price.
You can read more about what to pay attention to when renting a car in Mexico and things to know before renting a car in Mexico in my other article.
Best Cenotes in Tulum
1. Cenote Dos Ojos: Best Cenote for Snorkeling
Located just 15 minutes drive from Tulum, Cenote Dos Ojos is one of the largest and probably one of the most famous cenotes in Mexico. The cave system of the cenote is known to be at least 61 km and 118 m deep.
As the name ‘two eyes’ indicates this Mexican cenote is divided into two sections: one with blue waters perfect for snorkeling and the other dark one for diving.
- Open: daily 9am-5pm
- Price: 380+ for snorkeling + 130 for diving
- How to get there? You can take a colectivo from Tulum towards Playa del Carmen and ask the driver to drop you off at the cenote.
2. Gran Cenote: Best Cenote for Insta Photos
Gran Cenote is a perfect cenote for everyone with its sandy bottom and bats living in the cave. The center garden includes palm trees, water lilies and elephant ears with a platform for sunbathing.
Keep an eye out for toucans if you happen to be visiting during January or February as they tend to pop out of nowhere sometimes.
- Open: daily 9am-5pm
- Price: 180 Pesos + options 30 Pesos locker rental
How to get there? You can take a colectivo from Tulum towards Coba and ask the driver to drop you off at the cenote. If you’re driving from Tulum towards Coba it will show up on your right side, very close to the road.
3. Cenote Calavera: Best Cenote for Cliff Jumping
Cenote Calavera, also known as The Temple of Doom cenote, was a little cenote that no one really cared much a few years ago, but since it became Instagram-famous about two years ago now it’s always full of visitors and often considered on the of the best cenotes to visit in Riviera Maya.
It has a ladder and rope you can swing on. I know you can dive there as well, but it depends on the availability.
Cenote Calavera Entrance Fee: 250 MXN.
Cenote Calavera Opening Times: 9 AM to 5 PM daily.
How to get there? You can take a colectivo from Tulum towards Coba and ask the driver to drop you off at the cenote. It’s nearby Carwash and Gran Cenote with a big sign.
4. Carwash Cenote: Best Less Visited Cenote
This cenote with a mysterious name is in Tulum, on the way to Coba. I was convinced that someone named it after many amazing plants, but I was wrong. This cenote is so close to the main road that people used to wash their cars there! Fortunately, it’s not happening anymore and now you can snorkel and dive in it.
Carwash has some incredible caves, so make sure you do some diving. However, even if you snorkel you’ll see a ton of fantastic water lilies, turtles, and fish.
I’ve been there numerous times over the years and I’ve never seen a baby crocodile. It’s more of a marketing tactic honestly, like you know… technically you can always see a jaguar nearby as they live in the jungle but in reality they never come out during the day when they hear people 😉
Cenote Carwash Entrance Fee: 200 MXN.
Cenote Carwash Opening Times: 9 AM to 4 PM daily.
How to get there? You can get a colectivo from Tulum towards Coba – ask the driver to drop you off at Carwash cenote. If you’re driving from Tulum towards Coba it will show up on your left side, very close to the road.
5. El Pit Cenote: Best Cenote for Diving
Located in the jungle, The Pit is an exceptional cenote that’s part of Dos Ojos. It’s also one of the deepest in the area. The entrance is steep and narrow what makes the whole experience even more exciting.
El Pit continues deep below the cloud and narrows into darkness down to over 40m so you’ll need a flashlight. It’s one of the best cenotes in Mexico for scuba diving.
- Open: daily 9am-5pm
- Price: 180 Pesos (free if visited the same day as Dos Ojos)
- How to get there? Once you take a colectivo either from Tulum or Playa del Carmen, ask them in basic Spanish to drop you off at The Pit Cenote. However, you’ll most likely go diving there so your diving school will offer you transportation.
6. Cenote Yax Kin: Best Cenote for Kids
Great cenote for some peace and quiet, also best with little kids because it has lots of shallow and flat parts so kids can wander around.
You can also camp there on a designated camping spot with facilities. Here is my full guide to Yax Kin cenote.
Cenote Yax Kin Entrance Fee: 150 MXN.
Cenote Yax Kin Opening Times: 9 AM to 5 PM daily.
How to get there? It’s on right side of the highway coming from PdC to Tulum, more or less half way through.
7. Cenote Sac Actun: Most Popular Cenote in Mexico
Sac Actun cenote is also called Pet Cemetery Cenote. It’s technically part of the same group as Dos Ojos cenote, but bit of a different experience than the rest of cenotes as most people come with a guide and tour.
It’s definitely one of the most beautiful cenotes in Mexico, but also an expensive one to visit. You can snorkel and/or dive at Sac Actun. Bring a lot of bug spray since you will meet mosquitos 😉
Cenote Sac Atun Entrance Fee: 450 MXN.
Cenote Sac Actun Opening Times: 9 AM to 6 PM daily.
8. Tak Be Ha: Most Photogenic Cenote
It’s seriously one of the most stunning cave cenotes. It doesn’t have any opening for natural light, so it doesn’t really matter what time will you visit as it’s all lit up with artificial light (that looks very natural actually).
There are various fantastic snorkeling opportunities in this cenote and even better diving. There are bats in the cenote – warning in case anyone is afraid.
Take Be Ha Cenote Entrance Fee: 500 MXN.
Take Be Ha Cenote Opening Times: 9 AM to 5 PM daily.
How to get there? That’s a very important part – don’t rely on Google Maps, because this cenote is marked completely wrong. It is actually located in the same complex as Dos Ojos.
9. Cenote Casa Tortuga: Best Adventure Cenote
Casa Tortuga is an eco-park of four cenotes of three different types: two open cenotes (Cenote Jaguar & Cenote Tres Zapotes), a semi-open cenote (Cenote Wisho & Cenote Campana) and a cave cenote. Spoiler: there are no turtles, despite the name of the comples.
The cenotes at Casa Tortuga are ideal for swimming, snorkeling and admiring the stalactites and stalagmites. There’s also a jumping platform.
Casa Tortuga Entrance Fee: 650 MXN.
Casa Tortuga Opening Times: 9 AM to 5 PM daily.
10. Casa Cenote / Cenote Manati: Best Cenote near Akumal
Sadly, no manatees live at this cenote, but it’s a pretty unusual one. It’s a place where you can swim, take a kayak around the mangroves, dive, everyone will find something they like there.
It’s not the greatest for little kids, because there’s no shallow space anywhere and it gets quite crowded. While. we did take our toddler there, it wasn’t a very relaxing visit.
Casa Cenote Entrance Fee: 150 MXN.
Casa Cenote Opening Times: 8:30 AM to 5 PM daily.
11. Cenote Corazon del Paraiso: Best for Drone
This cenote is surely one of a kind as it’s the only heart-shaped cenote in Mexico and it’s located very close to Tulum. Most people don’t know about it (neither does Instagram, yet!), so quite often you can be the only ones there.
There are lots of fish swimming in the crystal clear water and plants’ long stems with flat leaves glistening from the sun. Around the edges of the cenote are platforms for sitting or jumping in, what makes it a perfect spot for sunbathing or picnic.
Cenote Corazon del Paraiso Entrance Fee: 130 MXN.
Cenote Corazon del Paraiso Opening Times: 9 AM to 4 PM daily.
12. Cenote Zacil Ha
Zacil Ha is slightly lesser known cenote on a popular road (it’s next to Carwash). It looks like a fake cenote, becasue it’s a perfect swimming hole, but the underwater cave system connects with many other cenotes in the area.
It’s not a big cenote, but big enough. It has a zip line, bathroom facilities and swimming pools.
Cenote Zacil Ha Entrance Fee: 200 MXN.
Cenote Zacil Ha Opening Times: 9 AM to 6 PM daily.
13. Cenote Choo Ha: Best Cenote Near Coba
Deep inside the ground, 5 minutes drive from Coba ruins, you’ll find an incredible cenote called Choo-Ha. Stalagmites are everywhere what makes it a photographer’s dream.
Surprisingly, the water isn’t very cold and you can find some cool black fish swimming around.
Cenote Choo Ha Entrance Fee: 50 MXN.
Cenote Choo Ha Opening Times: 9 AM to 4 PM daily.
How to get there? If you came to Coba with a driver ask him to get you to cenotes – it’s just 5 minutes away. If you’re driving everyone can give you directions.
14. Tamcach-Ha: Best Cenote for Platform Jumping
What makes this cenote special is the two platforms you can jump off. I didn’t have the courage, but everyone seemed to love jumping from an 11m platform.
- Open: daily 9am-4pm
- Price: 50
- How to get there? If you came to Coba with a driver ask him to get you to cenotes – it’s just 5 minutes away. If you’re driving everyone can give you directions.
READ MORE MEXICO TRAVEL TIPS
I hope you enjoyed my guide to the best cenotes in Mexico! Hopefully, you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:
- Detailed Guide to Tulum
- Playa del Carmen Tourist Tips
- Best Things to Do in Playa del Carmen
- Things to Do in Cancun
- Las Coloradas Pink Lake
- Best Beaches in Mexico
- Renting a Car in Mexico
- Interesting Facts About Mexico