The Best Valladolid Cenotes (2019 Mexico Expert Guide)
This page may contain compensated links. For more information read our disclaimer.
This guide will help you discover the best Valladolid cenotes, ready for your visit to this beautiful colonial city. Filled with loads of useful information about each place, it’s perfect to help you find the top cenotes in Valladolid, Mexico for your needs.
CONTENTS OF BEST CENOTES, VALLADOLID
Mexico is well known for its amazing Cenotes and in my opinion, Valladolid had the best cenotes in Mexico by far! We spent an entire 5 days exploring all of the Valladolid Cenotes, and today I report back with the best of the best, so you can go exploring too!
Cenotes are a type of sinkhole found in abundance in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. There are over 6,000 cenotes in the Yucatan alone, and only a fraction of them are accessible to the general public. Cenotes were extremely important life sources for the Ancient Maya and were also used for sacrifices.
I love that many of the names of the cenotes in Valladolid are from the Mayan language, instead of in Spanish. It’s fun and interesting to try to say the names, especially with all the “X’s” and “Z’s”.
There are two main types of water-filled cenotes around Valladolid. Open cenotes are ‘aged’ and the ones inside caves are called ‘young cenotes’. I suggest you try to visit at least one of each, but overall I prefer the open cenotes because there is more light to see and usually more life in and around the open cenotes too… like the Mexican Motmot birds flying around Cenote X’Canche next to the Ek Balam ruins.
BEST OPEN CENOTES IN VALLADOLID
I just had to put my most favorite cenote first out of all the cenotes we visited in Mexico (and there were A LOT of them). What I love most about Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman is its Jungle Book feel and how open and beautiful it was. There are forest plants that grow and dangle over the edge and the water is a vivid blue color with black catfish swimming peacefully around the rim.
The cenote is set on the property of the beautifully restored Hacienda San Lorenzo – so you can knock off two Mexico bucket list items at once. They have a restaurant in the ground of the Hacienda plus a shallow man-made pool that’s perfect for families with small children.
I prefer the cenotes that are exposed at the roof because I find they are always brighter and have more plant and fish life to observe. Swimming in the dark caves sometimes has me on edge. Cenote Oxman is an aged cenote, meaning it’s been exposed for so long that the ground that once covered it has fallen in and the walls now reach directly up. You cannot see the bottom of this cenote but we were told it is 20 meters (66 foot) in depth.
After climbing down the stairs to reach the water, there is ample room at the side of Cenote Oxman to place your belongings or sit and relax. There is a platform with a swing and lifejackets are provided in the entry price. As you swim around, look up! A small rainforest pokes out over the sides and the roots of old trees reach all the way down to the water. But the best thing about Cenote Oxman for us was that hardly anyone was there – so we had the whole cenote to ourselves for a few hours!
This stunning cenote is located right in the town center of Valladolid! You won’t need to walk far from your hotel to easily see this amazing cenote (possibly my second favorite cenote in Valladolid). It has deep blue water, stairs carved straight out of the rock winding around the edge of the entire cenote and a lush forest garden that sprinkles down. Zaci is a large semi-open cenote that is 46 meters (150 feet) across and 80 meters (260 feet) deep. Most of it is underwater.
As you approach Zaci cenote from the city, you may find it hard to believe there is actually a cenote nearby, since there are shop fronts lined up along the carpark and gigantic busses parked everywhere. It has the feel of a busy Mayan ruin, more than a peaceful cenote.
Once you fight your way through the crowds (unless you are lucky/smart enough to miss all the tourist buses) you pay your super cheap entry fee and weave your way through all the tourists taking photos before reaching a cavern seating area to leave your towels. Now for the fun part! None of these bus tourists go for a swim, they are just there to take photos, so it’s likely you’ll have all the water to yourself. Jump in from the edge if you feel brave and enjoy the warm water and tranquil surrounds.
Cenote Zací is named after the old Mayan city of the same name and was an important cenote to the Mayan people all throughout history. If you like stories of hauntings, Cenote Zaci has many. Among the reported ghost sightings (mostly of ancient Mayans who were sacrificed) there is one legend about two star-crossed lovers who committed suicide. They were forbidden to marry, so instead of living life apart, they jumped into the water where they knew they would drown. Bizarre sounds, voices, crying and the appearance of Ancient Mayan warriors are some of the things you might be able to see/hear here.
This hidden Valladolid cenote is located in the jungle of the Ek Balam archaeological site, a 2 km / 1.2-mile walk (or rickshaw ride) from the entrance of the park. It’s so close to the ruins that it is sometimes referred to as the ‘Ek Balam Cenote.’ Cenote X’Canche provides a much-needed respite after spending the day walking around the ruins.
We snorkeled and birdwatched for hours at this magical cenote. The pale green water housed thousands of friendly blind catfish and a small cave on the edge was home to hundreds of tiny birds. These birds had built nests on the cave roof and flew in circles around the basin of the cenote in a flurry of speed and color.
The sides of Xcanche cenote are completely collapsed in and the roof is open. You can circle the inside walls of this cenote in entirety along rickety steps and wooden ramps that give this cenote an isolated, magical feel.
A small tip; you don’t actually have to pay to enter the Ek Balam park to visit this cenote, they have a separate entrance and walkway that runs along the side of the park. If you come in the morning, it is likely that you’ll have the whole place to yourself.
THE BEST CAVE CENOTES NEAR VALLADOLID
Thanks to Instagram, you’ve probably seen photos of this famous cenote. Saytun Cenote’s green murky waters are interrupted by a circular concrete platform. The platform is perfectly placed in the middle of the cenote, where light beams stream in from a small opening in the roof of the cave. Photography here is especially beautiful because the sheer vastness of the cave, coupled with shimmering light beams make for a brilliant, whimsical photo.
The cenote is not as impressive for swimming, however. Limestone mud makes the water murky, and the cave is quite dark. But it is definitely worth paddling over to the opposite side to check out the cave walls – complete with dripping stalactites.
The time of day you visit this cenote is crucial if you are there to take photos. You want the light beams to be pointing at the platform, so as to wash your subject in warm light. We were the first people through the door at 9 am and the lighting was perfect. I have also heard that the afternoon, from 3:30 pm, is also a good time.
Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Samula
Cenote Samula and Cenote X’kekén are located within the same park, often referred to as Cenote Dzitnup. At the entrance, you can pay to enter just one of the cenotes (at a normal rate) or both of the cenotes (at a discounted rate). I only went as far as the park entrance of these cenotes, because I decided to go to Cenote Oxman instead. I got put off by the hordes of tourist buses lined up in the carpark – but I later found out that the cenotes themselves are usually pretty quiet.
Cenote Samula is likely your first stop and it is a popular cenote to photograph. It once had huge roots growing from the roof to the floor of the cave which made for gorgeous photos, but now most of the root has since rotted and fallen away. It is still worth a visit though because there are jumping platforms, shallow areas for children and cave decoration galore! Just keep in mind that you are not allowed to swim up and get on to the small island that houses the roots anymore.
Cenote X’keken is a 5-minute walk away from Cenote Samula through a paved jungle walkway complete with souvenir shops and restaurants. Once you descend the stairs and enter, you will probably be even more impressed than with Samula cenote, since the decorations and shallow translucent water make it all the more enchanting. This cenote is perfect for the family because the waters are shallow and there are loads of fish to observe. Make sure you remember to bring your snorkel gear!
Xkeken means “pig” in Mayan, and the cenote was named by the farmer who discovered it. His pig kept returning home clean and free of mud, so he decided to follow it and find out how the pig got clean.
Cenote Agua Dulce and Cenote Palomitas
Cenote Palomitas and Cenote Agua Dulce are definitely the most off-the-beaten-path cenotes on this list. They are not accessible by public transport, so you will need a car to visit them (or you can take a taxi and have them wait for you). But
Both cenotes are conveniently set within the same entrance. You can opt to see just one cenote or the two of them on the same trip. They are each a bit different.
Agua Dulce cenote (meaning sweet water) is a gigantic, dark cave cenote only 12 meters (39 feet) deep but 70 meters (230 feet) wide. Once you descend and get used to the lack of light, you’ll be blown away by the stunning decorations all over the roof and walls of the cave. A few kayaks and paddle boards float lazily around in the bright turquoise waters. In the middle, a thin, fragile spiral staircase hangs from the roof and lands on a floating platform. You can climb down it – if you dare!
Cenote Palomitas is smaller but equally as dazzling at a diameter of 50 meters (164 feet) and a depth of 45 meters (148 feet). Complete with stalactite decorations, colored lighting and vivid dark-blue water with incredible visibility, even in the darkness of the cave. The interesting and kinda scary thing about the water is how deep you can see. Seemingly endless cave walls reach far into the underwater abyss. Make sure you bring your snorkel mask to these hidden gems of the Yucatan.
CENOTES NEAR CHICHEN ITZA RUINS
Cenote Ik Kil
One of the most famous cenotes in Mexico, and also one of the most beautiful. Tainted only by how busy this cenote becomes. Similar to Cenote Oxman, the walls of Cenote Ik Kil protrude 25 meters (85 feet) and are adorned with green ferns, vines, and giant tree roots. Plantlife hangs into the glassy aqua waters, there are a number of rocky shelves with ladders to climb over and explore and a couple of platforms to jump in from the edge.
It sounds like a tropical paradise, but if you are there at the same time as the tour buses (from lunchtime to close) you may find the atmosphere jarring. At this time, hundreds of screaming bodies and floating bright orange life vests fight for space near the only two ladders to disembark by. If this is likely to ruin your zen, I highly recommend visiting Cenote Ik Kil before 12 pm, so as to better appreciate the sheer beauty of this place.
Maybe you’ve seen the videos of the Red Bull cliff diving competitions at a Yucatan Cenote? Yeah, that’s done here at Ik Kil Cenote! It was also used as a place of human sacrifice by Ancient Mayans and archaeologists found bones and jewelry in the depths of this
Sacred Cenote (Cenote Sagrado)
As the name suggests, this cenote (also known locally as Chen Ku) is extremely sacred to the Ancient Maya and is a precious source of evidence for archaeologic studies. Human bones, gold, jade, jewelry, weapons,
This cenote is not for swimming though, and you really wouldn’t want to anyway. The water is a pale, sickly green color and the steep cliffs that hem Sacred Cenote are an electrifying white. If you are already visiting the Chichen Itza ruins, be sure search out Cenote Sagrado and see this important landmark yourself.
VALLADOLID CENOTE MAP
This custom map of cenotes near Valladolid includes all of the best cenotes in the area as well as Valladolid cenotes that I didn’t go to but have been highly recommended.
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 to download and use offline if you won’t have full access to your data in Mexico. For more information on how to download maps for offline, click here.
How to Get to the Cenotes in Valladolid
The cenotes range from inside Valladolid town-center to over 40 kilometers (25 miles) away. This means picking which cenotes you go to is dependant on the type of transportation you have access to.
Bike Hire in Valladolid
There are several bike rental places in Valladolid. The most popular rental place is
You can also hire bikes from Bicicletas Zaci, Hostel La Candelaria, and lots of other large hostels and tour agencies.
Colectivos are a shared taxi van. They are fast and cheap and are always my most recommended way of getting around the Yucatan without a car. There are colectivos running from the center of Valladolid to Ek Balam ruins and Chichen Itza ruins. The locations you take the colectivos from is marked on my map above. Prices for colectivos vary but are usually around $40 MXN pesos for a 30-45 minute drive.
The ultimate way to see all the Yucatan cenotes you want is to rent a car. We did this and think it is the best way if you love getting off the beaten path. Although you cannot rent cars directly in Valladolid, you can easily grab one while you are in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and even Tulum. The drive between these places and Valladolid consists of flat roads and highways. Suitable for drivers of all levels.
I prefer to book online with CarRentals.com as they compare across several rental companies to give you the best price. Always take pictures/video of the car before you leave the rental office to avoid scams (they can happen anywhere, not just Mexico).
CENOTE PACKING LIST
After much time exploring countless cenotes around Valladolid and the Yucatan Peninsula, I have compiled a list of items you should bring to maximize fun and minimize risk.
If you’re doing your own trip to the cenotes you will definitely want to bring your own snorkeling gear. Some of the bigger cenotes will rent snorkel gear to you at a price, from my experience at around $50-200 MXN pesos each time you rent. But most of the time the gear is old, crappy and has had other peoples mouths all over it!
Packing light and don’t want to bring too much baggage? I have found that a small pair of Goggles just as useful for exploring the cenotes. It’s not the whole package but it does the job of seeing underwater.
You are NOT ALLOWED to wear normal sunscreen in the cenotes of Mexico. The bio-diversity in cenotes is fragile and the ingredients of most sunscreens and insect repellants can damage the cenotes and harm the fish. Some popular cenotes will even require you to shower before entering because of oils on the human skin. It is better to buy biodegradable sunscreen at home and bring it with you because it can be difficult to find and/or very expensive in Mexico.
GoPro Hero Action Camera
Everyone has them nowadays, and there are loads of reasons they are perfect for capturing your cenote adventures! GoPro underwater cameras are so cheap nowadays and you can use them for loads of different types of photography, not just water. You really don’t have an excuse not to buy one when their prices start at only $199 USD!
Waterproof Phone Cover
Great for those of you who aren’t in the market for a GoPro and just want a way to capture your watery memories! FYI capturing video is much easier if you press record above the water and then dip the phone under.
Dive Light for GoPro
This was one of my most frequently used GoPro attachments in Mexico! Did you know that the deeper you go the more colors you’ll lose out of your photos or video? Water cuts out light, meaning by about 10 meters (33 feet) deep your GoPro footage will be all blue. The dive light is a way of adding colors back into your picture is by using artificial light. It’s also very useful in cave cenotes that don’t have much natural light.
Have you seen those amazing half-underwater and half-above-water photos? They are done with an awesome contraption called a dome. It essentially makes it much easier to get those drool-worthy shots. Check out some of the shots that mine took in the cenotes around Tulum!
Black Diamond Waterproof Headlamp
This is a super low-cost waterproof head torch. The Black Diamond Storm headlamp had been on my radar for a long time because it’s cheap, waterproof, sleek and small. It outputs quite a bright light (250 lumens), which you will want inside the dark cenote caves. It also dims and flashes and has a red light (great for spotting wildlife at night).
Aqua Booties / Reef Shoes
Some of the less popular cenotes are set amongst the jungle with limited facilities. Protect your feet around and inside the cenotes by wearing these super stylish aqua booties. P.S. They are also great for exploring Cozumel Island and other places in Mexico with rocky shorelines.
Also don’t forget:
- A hat
- Swim shirt
- Picnic blanket
- Beach bag or waterproof bag
WHERE TO STAY IN VALLADOLID
Hostel Candelaria $
This bright and cheerful hostel is definitely the best option for travelers on a budget. Cheap private rooms and dorms are just the beggining. It’s located on a pretty block, just minutes from the main center. The whole place has “got it right” from the hammocks set amongst a gorgeous leafy garden, the helpful and nurturing staff and the FREE breakfast with eggs.
Casa Valladolid Boutique Hotel $$
This clean, crisp hotel is great value for money! With a huge pool on site, a free light breakfast, super comfortable (and big) beds, a marble ensuite bathroom and patios on some of the rooms you really can’t go wrong with this one. Plus I just love boutique hotels, they always have so much character!
Hotel Zentik Project & Saline Cave $$$
This exotic adults-only hotel is a one of a kind. The owners have put a lot of thought into this arty hotel. From the heated saline cave to swim in, the artworks adorning every wall and the creative tequila coffee (optional) that comes with your free breakfast. Every guest who stays says that it was a delightful experience, full of charm and a sensory wonderland.
Airbnb in Valladolid
There are loads of unique accommodations in Valladolid through Airbnb. From entire private apartments to rooms in the homes of friendly locals, Airbnb is a great way to get a more intimate experience out if your travels. If you are new to Airbnb, sign up with my discount link to receive up to $40 USD off your first stay.
How Often do I Update the Prices of Cenotes?
Mexico’s cenotes are almost always located on private property, meaning prices can change at any time at the owner’s discretion. I check prices regularly and update them, 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 from what I have listed in this article.
Pin These for Later!
I hope this post has helped you choose the best cenote in Valladolid for your needs. If you need any help or have anything to say, feel free to comment them below!
Originally Posted: November 2018. Frequently updated.
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and other affiliated sites. For more information read our disclaimer.
Share using these babies! ↯