People always ask, “What should I do, when I visit Tulum”? My first response is, you must visit a cenote. Imagine walking around in the hot sun, sweat dripping down your body, and needing to find a place to cool off. Look no further, the cenote can be described as a refreshing body of water. I was in awe of how clear the water is, so clear that I could see the fishes swimming around my feet.
What is a cenote?
A cenote is a natural sinkhole located in the Yucatan Peninsula. There are reportedly over 6,000 cenotes, some of which have not been fully discovered. Cenotes can vary in size, shape, and maybe covered, partially covered, or located inside a cave.
Cenotes are essential to the Mayan community. Cenotes were important as the water was used for everyday chores such as cooking, bathing, and washing. In addition, it was used for religious ceremonies where Mayan Gods were able to connect with the underworld.
Traveling to Cenotes
Guided Tour: Although a guided tour is not necessary, you may pay for an all-day tour that includes a guide.
Rent a Car: If you drive along the highway you will find several cenotes. Locate the name of the cenote you would like to visit, put in your GPS and you should arrive at the exact location.
Collectivo: a less expensive method of transportation often used by locals in a shared van. Collectivos will usually say the destination on the side of the van. For example, it may read Playa Del Carmen-Tulum. Make sure to signal when you arrive at your destination as there are no marked stops.
Taxi: Flag a taxi by waving your hand on the side of the road. Inform them of which cenote you would like to visit. Make sure that you negotiate the price before entering the taxi.
I rode the collectivo from Playa del Carmen to Cenote Azul for 40 pesos. Our group arrived early, so we had the cenote to ourselves before the local crowd arrived. The first sinkhole is great for non-swimmers to wade in. The second sinkhole is great for swimmers because you can jump off the cliff, or for non-swimmers, like me, you can just sit and bask in the sun. If you have ever wanted to try a fish pedicure, here’s an opportunity to do so. The fish gravitate toward your feet and nibble at your skin. At first, it felt weird, ticklish, and then a bit relaxing.
There are 3 different cenotes located inside caves with stalactites. They also offer other activities such as rappelling, ATVs, and cultural ceremonies. On-site they have a professional photographer, which I highly recommend.
Cenote Tankecha Ha
Be careful as you walk down a winding staircase that leads into a large body of water. This cenote is for swimmers but you cant rent a life jacket if you can not swim. As a non-swimmer, I used a life jacket but stayed fairly close to the stairs. Although my sister can’t swim, she is a bit more adventurous and she was able to float in deeper water.
Zaci is located in Valladolid and has a restaurant with delicious food.
Maax is located at the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary and can be accessed by booking a tour that includes ATV riding, sanctuary, and cenote. It is inside of a cave and has the prettiest blue water. Don’t forget to use the code TIFFANY for 10% off if you decide to visit.
Although I did not have the opportunity to visit these particular cenotes, I highly recommend exploring the following Cenotes:
- Cenote Car Wash
- Cenote Dos Ojos
- Grand Cenote
- Casa Tortuga
- Cenote Suytan
- Cenote Calavera
- Laguna Kaan Luum
- Clan Destino Cenote
Cenotes are great for photos due to the crystal clear water. Try and capture the sea animals such as fishes or turtles.
- Go Pro Camera- is great for taking photos underwater.
- Camera Phone- You can simply use your phone but remember to use a waterproof protector. Don’t worry if you forget it at home, you can purchase it at a nearby store.
- Camera- feel free to bring your own personal camera.
- Hire a photographer-Bring your own or one may be provided for an additional cost.
Tips for Visiting Cenotes
Hours of operation- Most cenotes are open from 9 am-4 pm but some may stay open later.
Go early- The earlier you arrive, the fewer the people and better Instagram-worthy photos.
Bring Pesos- Most cenotes entrance fees are between 100-300 pesos.
Shower- You must take a shower before entering a cenote to protect the environment. No sunscreen allowed.
Life Jackets- If you can not swim make sure to use a life jacket. You may have to pay a small fee to rent one or it may come with the entrance fee.
Water shoes- Some cenotes are a bit rocky, the best practice is to wear water shoes.
Snorkel and Scuba Dive- Some cenotes such as Gran Cenote are great for this activity.
Bring a Towel