The Best Cenotes Near Tulum
The Very Best Cenotes around Tulum and Playa Del Carmen
Cenotes are created when the limestone ground cover of underground river systems collapse in, creating an entry point. There are over 4,000 known cenotes in the Riviera Maya region and so far, seven of the world’s ten longest mapped underground waterways exist beneath the Yucatan peninsula.
While in Mexico, my local friend took me to all of the best cenotes, so this article is of the best of the best. This is what I’d recommend for people wanting to dive, snorkel and free dive.
Sac Actun System
Sac Actun, meaning ‘white cave’ in Mayan, is the second-longest underwater cave system in the world, accessible by hundreds of sinkholes (the cenotes). These gorgeous caverns are punctuated by stalactites and stalagmites jutting out all over the place. Sac Actun is only 4km from Tulum, but is also easily accessible by Playa Del Carmen as well. The best cenotes in Sac Actun are listed below.
DOS OJOS – Snorkel & Dive
In this winding underwater cave system, both diving and snorkelling are damn good in Dos Ojos (Two Eyes). This is Cavern Diving as good as it gets I think! As divers make their way through the caves, you will occasionally get a glimpse of the snorkellers and free divers alongside. The cave system is mapped out by lines which makes a first timer like myself feel more than safe navigating these confusing tunnels. It’s totally breathtaking here and absolutely worth the price. Some of the BEST diving I’ve ever done!
PRICE: 120 pesos for snorkelling, 130 pesos for diving.
EL PIT – Snorkel & Dive
The Pit is one of the deepest cenotes in the area, and the visibility is on point – you can see about 40m down! The enrance is steep and narrow but once in the water it opens up into a huge menacing cavern. If you have the balls – you can jump from the edge. This is a good one for divers and snorkellers to do together because the snorkellers can literally watch the divers the entire time. It would also be a great place to practice free diving. At about 30 meters deep divers can see what looks like the sand with an eerie branch sticking out from it. Actually this is a white gas layer, which is caught between the salt and fresh waters. The cave then drops even further but can’t be reached by diving.
PRICE: 40 pesos entry
CASA CENOTE (TANKAH) – Snorkel
Casa Cenote was perhaps my most favourite, mainly because it was adorned with mangrove roots and cichlid fish hiding in amongst them. It was also really accessible and not too many people there. Although you can dive it’s not very deep and it’s open-water so it’s best for beginner divers who aren’t ready to go inside the caves. Because it’s so close to the ocean it’s got some cool brackish water fish that you don’t see in the other caves. It also has a long cave going from the cenote out to the sea for anyone brave/stupid enough to try to swim through it.
PRICE: 40 pesos entry
PET CEMETERY – Snorkel & Dive
Famously called Pet Cemetery due to the animal skeletons found inside that can still be seen when diving, one of which is the remains of a prehistoric camel. For snorkellers the cave inside it lit up, there are bats everywhere and there are lots of places to explore. For advanced divers it’s some of the best diving around because all of the bones and fossils are still in their original position. This beautiful cenote is the most difficult to get to out of all the Sac Actun cenotes, but that just means there are less people. There is also a rainforest walk at Pet Cemetery with spider monkeys to be found.
PRICE: 350 pesos with guide
Near Playa Del Carmen
CENOTE AZUL, JARDIN DEL EDEN & CRISTALINO – Snorkel
These three cenotes are tightly packed together so a day trip to all of them is easy. Cenote Azul is 26 metres deep, has crystal clear waters, rocks to sit on and mangrove roots to swim through. There’s also an easy platform here to jump from and plenty of fish to follow around. Jardin del Eden also has platforms to jump from and trees to climb as well. There are also places to chill with your feet in the water and have the little fish eat the dead skin like in the foot spas. Cristalino has a cool cave you can swim through
PRICE: 80-100 pesos entry
YAL-KU LAGOON – Snorkel
Image curtesy TripAdvisor
For beginners, the snorkelling at Yal-Ku Lagoon is flipping great! This is THE place to come to if you love to see lots and lots of fish. Try feeding the fish banana – they’ll go nuts for it! The place is HUGE and there’s also a small cave you can dive through. Nearby, you can also head to Akumal to swim with turtles that eat the sea grass growing at this beach.
PRICE: $9 USD entry + snorkel hire
Swimming: The oils from human hands and certain elements in lotions and repellents can severely damage this natural growth process and also harm the fish! Some cenotes will require you shower before entering and you may also like to get a biodegradable sunscreen.
Diving: You MUST dive with an experienced guide in the cenotes so you don’t get lost. It’s quite dangerous; people have got lost in the many tunnels and drowned inside.
While there I CouchSurfed with an amazing American guy (hey Tom!) and met his friend Nick who runs Avatar Adventures Cenote Tours. Nick is REALLY fun and very knowledgeable so check him out if you’re up for doing a tour of all the cenotes I mentioned above.
In Tulum I dived with Koox; I found them fun, attentive and well trained in cave diving. They were also a great price and went to all the cenotes that I was interested in diving
Check out my Love Letter to Mexico
Currency: Mexican Peso
$1 USD = 18.92 Mex$
I was here: November 2014
What is you favourite place to swim in the world?
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