The Best Cenotes Near Tulum

The best cenotes near Tulum - Castaway with Crystal

      The Very Best Cenotes in 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. Though most of the best cenotes cost money, there are still some free cenotes in Tulum and Playa Del Carmen.

      While in Mexico, my local friend took me to all of the best cenotes near Tulum. That means this post is about the best of the best. These are the best cenotes that I would recommend for people wanting to dive, snorkel and free dive in these amazing structures!

      The best Cenotes near Tulum

      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 (aka 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:

      CENOTE DOS OJOS

      The Best Cenotes near Tulum and Playa del Carmen for snorkellers, divers and free-divers - Castaway with Crystal dos-ojos-cenote

      In this winding underwater cave system, both diving and snorkelling are damn good in Dos Ojos (Two Eyes). This is the best place to go cavern diving in Mexico and perhaps the world, in my opinion. As the divers wind their way through the cave system, they can occasionally get a glimpse of the snorkellers and free divers alongside them.

      The cave system is mapped out by reel 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!

      BEST FOR: Snorkelling, diving and free-divers

      PRICE: 120 pesos for snorkellers, 130 pesos for divers

      CENOTE EL PIT

      The Best Cenotes near Tulum and Playa del Carmen for snorkellers, divers and free-divers - Castaway with Crystal the-pit-cenote

      The Pit is one of the deepest cenotes in the area, and the visibility is on point. You can see about 40m down! The entrance 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 in 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 is also a good 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. The Pit is easily one of the best cenotes for divers, due to the amazing things you’ll see down there and the fact that it’s open-water, so suitable for all divers.

      BEST FOR: Snorkelling, diving and free-divers

      PRICE: 40 pesos entry 

      CASA CENOTE (TANKAH)

      The Best Cenotes near Tulum and Playa del Carmen for snorkellers, divers and free-divers - Castaway with Crystal casa-cenote

      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 yet.

      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. There is also a long cave going from the cenote out to the sea for anyone brave/stupid enough to try to swim through it.

      BEST FOR: Snorkelling

      PRICE: 40 pesos entry

      CENOTE PET CEMETERY

      The Best Cenotes near Tulum and Playa del Carmen for snorkellers, divers and free-divers - Castaway with Crystal pet-cemetery-cenote

      Famously called Pet Cemetery due to the animal skeletons found inside that can still be seen when diving. One set of remains was first believed to be that of a dog, but was later found to be of a prehistoric camel. For the snorkellers the cave inside is lit up, there’s bats everywhere and there’s lots of cool places to explore. For advanced divers, it’s one of the best cenotes to dive 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 due to its remoteness. But that just means there are less people when you get there. Nearby there’s also a rainforest walk with spider monkeys to be spotted in the trees.

      BEST FOR: Snorkelling and diving

      PRICE: 350 pesos with a guide

      ARCO MAYA CENOTE

      Tulum CESIAK org national park cenote

      Arco Maya is the only free cenote in Tulum that I went to. It’s quite well hidden, but is a great place to get some quiet as no one else will be around. It’s also a great place to go for sunset as the tree-line is low. There’s a nice deck for you to sit on and a few cichlid fish swimming around the mangroves.

      Being off the normal tourist trail, this cenote can be difficult to find. It’s located just before the Biosphere Reserve of Sian Ka’an at the Arco Maya caseta arch. Once at the caseta, you’ll see a sign pointing you in the right direction of the cenote. I read recently that sometimes this cenote is blocked off from the public due to an ongoing ownership dispute. However, it usually isn’t manned so if someone is there that day you will just have to pay to enter.

      BEST FOR: Snorkelling

      PRICE: Free

      LAGUNA KAAN LUUM

      Tulum Kanlum Lagoon blue-6

      Laguna Kaan Luum is a wide, bright green lagoon cenote located just outside of Tulum. It is a locals’ secret and if you go at the right time of day (afternoon) you’ll have the whole place to yourself.

      Laguna Kaan Luum reminds me of the Blue Hole in Belize. The centre of the cenote is fenced off because it is REALLY DEEP (80 metres deep, actually). But the outside area is shallow and most people could stand. It’s the perfect cenote to bring your kids to! The soft sand at the bottom is known as a great skin exfoliator, but it smells like rotting eggs. Maybe that’s why it’s so good for you!

      BEST FOR: Swimming and diving

      PRICE: 50 pesos for swimmers, 150 for divers

      READ: Heading to Tulum? Check out my Budget Guide to the Yucatan Penninsula

      The best Cenotes near Playa Del Carmen

      CENOTE AZUL, JARDIN DEL EDEN & CRISTALINO

      The Best Cenotes near Tulum and Playa del Carmen for snorkellers, divers and free-divers - Castaway with Crystal cenote-azul-eden-and-crisalito

      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. Just like in the foot spas! Cristalino has a really cool cave you can swim through. All three cenotes are right next to each other so you can make a day of it!

      BEST FOR: Snorkelling and jumping in from the edge

      PRICE: 80-100 pesos entry

      YAL-KU LAGOON

      yal-ku-cenote-lagoon The Best Cenotes near Tulum and Playa del Carmen for snorkellers, divers and free-divers - Castaway with CrystalImage courtesy 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 bits of 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 head to Akumal to swim with sea turtles. There are loads of green turtles in Akumal because they come to eat the sea grass there. 

      BEST FOR: Snorkelling

      PRICE: $9 USD entry + snorkel hire

      READ: How to See Turtle Egg Laying and Hatching in Mexico

      TULUM AT A GLANCE

      What to do

      Visit Tulum Mayan Ruins to see beautiful ancient architecture. Or visit Cesiak Centro Ecologico Reserve: A thin patch of road girt by tropical forest and water. Inside the UNESCO heritage reserve is a lagoon, Sian Ka’an Cenote, a turtle sanctuary and a cabaña. 

      Where to stay

      Cheap: Mama’s Home: Shabby but cute, Mamas has the best backpacker vibes! The rooms are packed with beds, but the breakfast is flipping amazing
      Boutique: Mango Tulum Hotel: Clean, crisp and engulfed in a lush garden. Air-con and pool, what more could you want?

      Where to eat

      La Chiapaneca: I’m just going to take a few seconds to remember my time I had in Tulum with Chiapaneca. Succulent, juicy slow roasted pork tacos, an endless stream of guacamole and roast pineapple to top. This was my most memorable food experience in the Yucatan hands down.

      My Recommendations

      1. 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 the cenotes I mentioned above.
      2. In Tulum I dived with Koox. I found them fun, attentive and well trained in cave diving. They were also a great price and they went to all the best cenotes for diving.

      My tips for visiting the cenotes

      1. 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 to shower before entering and you may also like to get a biodegradable sunscreen.
      2. 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. A couple and their inexperienced guide died while I was visiting Tulum. You’ve been warned. 

      Check out my Love Letter to Mexico

      READ: Going to Cancun soon? Make sure you Check out Isla Mujeres as well!

      The Best Cenotes near Tulum and Playa del Carmen for snorkellers, divers and free-divers - castaway with Crystal

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      Location Info

      Place: Tulum
      Country: Mexico
      Language: Spanish
      Currency: Mexican Peso
      $1 USD = 18.92 Mex$
      I was here: November 2014
      Post Updated: 31st July 2017

      Heading to Mexico Soon? My next Guide will help you do a Road Trip around Mexico. Watch this space or like my Facebook Page and I will post when the next guide is ready!

      NOTE: This article contains Affiliate Links. That means if you book a hotel/hostel using one of the links above I will receive a small commission of the booking at no extra cost to you. Affiliate Links allow me to make a little extra cash and keep the blog running.

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      Categories: Featured, Highlights of...., Mexico, Travel Stuff
      Crystal Egan

      Passionate baby goat cuddler and part-time adventurer, Crystal can often be found doing headstands on the edges of cliffs, taking photos of abandoned buildings or sleeping on deserted islands with dangerous criminals. She has too many awesome stories and helpful tips to keep them all to herself so follow along and in return she will bring you inspiring pictures, travel videos and a whole load of fun!

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