The Best Cenotes in Tulum
The Very Best Cenotes near 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. Most of the best cenotes in Riviera Maya cost money, but 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 with insider knowledge! These are the Tulum cenotes that I would recommend for people wanting to dive, snorkel and free dive in these amazing structures!
ⓘ Tulum and Playa del Carmen are so close to each other that I have included the best cenotes near Playa del Carmen at the bottom of this guide. If you prefer to read about Playa del Carmen cenotes, Jump to the Playa Del Carmen section.
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
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 the 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
ENTRY PRICE: Snorkellers: 120 MXN Pesos / Divers: 380 MXN Pesos
CENOTE EL PIT
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
ENTRY PRICE: Snorkellers: 40 MXN Pesos / Divers: 570 MXN Pesos
CASA CENOTE (TANKAH)
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
ENTRY PRICE: 40 MXN Pesos
CENOTE PET CEMETERY
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 are bats everywhere and there are 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 fewer people when you get there. Nearby there’s also a rainforest walk with spider monkeys to be spotted in the trees.
BEST FOR: Snorkelling
ENTRY PRICE: 350 MXN Pesos with a guide
CENOTE ARCO MAYA
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
ENTRY PRICE: Free (unless it is being manned, then you may have to pay a low entry fee)
LAGUNA KAAN LUUM
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
ENTRY PRICE: Swimmers: 50 MXN Pesos / Divers: 150 MXN Pesos
READ: Heading to Tulum? Check out my Budget Guide to the Yucatan Penninsula
The Best Cenotes near Playa Del Carmen
Photo credit: laradanielle / CC BY-ND
CENOTE AZUL, JARDIN DEL EDEN & CRISTALINO
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
ENTRY PRICE: Adults: 100-150 pesos entry / Children: 50
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 seagrass there.
BEST FOR: Snorkelling
ENTRY PRICE: 200 MXN pesos + snorkel hire
Mexico Cenote Map
This custom cenotes map includes all of the best cenotes in the Riviera Maya as well as cenotes near Tulum that I didn’t go to but have been recommended. The Tulum and Playa Del Carmen cenotes that I went to and thought were the best are marked with a heart.
Click on each icon to see more information about the cenote and its entry price. To open this map in Google Maps simply tap the small square icon on the top right-hand side of the map.
If you are using the map from your phone, the map should save into “Your Places” > “MAPS” automatically. You can select an area (such as Isla Mujeres) to download and use offline if you won’t always have access to data. For more information on how to download maps for offline, click here.
Cenotes are usually located on private property, meaning prices can change at any time at the owner’s discretion. I check prices regularly whenever I can but sometimes the price I have listed may not be the most recent. Feel free to comment and let me know if a price is different to what I have listed in this article.
Other things to do in Tulum
Visit Tulum Mayan Ruins to see beautiful ancient Mayan 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 in Tulum
MAMA’S HOME $
LAS PALMAS MAYA $$
This gorgeous eco-hotel is a little more expensive than the hostels, but you get what you pay for. Within a minute you will walk right into the ocean, making it one of the best Tulum beach hotels out there! The whole hotel is run off solar power so it’s super eco-friendly. Don’t worry there are generators for backup if the sun’s not out that day. It also boasts a big communal kitchen so you can save money by not eating out every meal!
MANGO TULUM HOTEL $$
Clean, crisp and engulfed in a lush garden. Featuring free WiFi and an outdoor pool, what more could you want? Well, it is a tiny bit further out of town but if you have a car, it’s fine. It is nice and close to a huge supermarket and a short walk to the restaurant district.
Where to eat in Tulum
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 Tulum Recommendations
1. While there I CouchSurfed with an amazing American guy (hey Tom!) and he had a car and was able to take me to all of the cenotes mentioned above. If hiring a car isn’t possible there are a few tours that do excursions to a few different cenotes in the day.
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.
I wrote a love letter to Mexico…
READ: Going to Cancun? Make sure you Check out Isla Mujeres as well!
Currency: Mexican Peso
$1 USD = 18.92 Mex$
I was here: November 2014
Post Updated: 26th January 2018
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