Destinations in Mexico like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum are most commonly known for all-inclusive stays featuring pristine beaches and aqua blue ocean views. However, these destinations have another pristine blue natural phenomenon to offer visitors, and there are more than just a few to chose from. These are called Cenotes and here are the 7 best cenotes near Playa del Carmen to visit.
A Cenote is a natural pit created from the collapse of limestone bedrock which exposes ground water underneath. Otherwise known as…a cave full of water perfect for scuba diving, swimming, snorkelling, and the occasional sacrificial offering. Ok well, maybe the sacrifices are a thing of the past.
Crystal clear and bright blue, the stunning Cenote Azul is by far my favourite in the area. Arriving at and swimming in Cenote Azul makes you feel as if you are swimming in the middle of the jungle in a magical oasis. The water is just that clear and blue. There are fish, turtles and water eels everywhere and because this cenote is an open lagoon and well positioned in the sun the wildlife and plant life have flourished. This is the cenote to snorkel in as the number of fish, the light from the sun and the depth of the cenote create perfect conditions. There is a cliff at the far end for adventurers to jump from, and a series of plant lined wooden bridges connecting little islands throughout the cenote creating its unarguably mystical scenery. Here you can also find a large example of the spa fish, so take a seat on a bridge and get the dead skin eaten from your feet, and prepare to laugh. It tickles.
Getting to Cenote Azul: Rent a car in Playa del Carmen (Car rentals are always a blast) and take highway 307 south towards Tulum for 25 minutes until you see the sign for Cenote Azul. Drive 1 mile down a dirt road and you are there. If you do not want to rent a car, you can pick up a collectivo (mini bus shared by 10 people that drops you off wherever you ask along their route). Tell the driver you are visiting Cenote Azul. Collectivos can be found on Calle 2 between 20th and 25th avenues.
Cost: 70 pesos ($4USD)
Cenote Jardin del Eden (Ponderosa)
Cenote Jardin del Eden is of the most popular cenotes for locals and visitors a-like. It is a sizeable cenote with a cliff to jump off of on one end and a deck to catch some sun on the other. This is one of the busier cenotes in the area because it has something for everyone. There are scuba divers enjoying the underground cave systems, as well as cliffs and decks to jump from which are perfect for adrenaline junkies. The cenote is big enough to enjoy snorkelling and splashing around without feeling like you are interrupting others, and there are areas to picnic and relax with lifeguards on duty as well.
An absolute treat found here is that some of the fish in the cenote are the same fish used in spas to eat dead skin from your feet. So if you sit still the fish will come and work on your feet like a kind of odd spa treatment.
Getting to Cenote Jardin del Eden: Rent a car in Playa del Carmen and take highway 307 south towards Tulum for 25 minutes until you see the sign for Jardin del Eden. Drive 1 mile down a dirt road and you are there. If you do not want to rent a car, you can pick up a collectivo (mini bus shared by 10 people that drops you off wherever you ask along their route). Tell the driver you are visiting Cenote Jardin del Eden. Collectivos can be found on Calle 2 between 20th and 25th avenues.
Cost: 90 pesos ($5 USD)
Cenote Cristaliano is very similar to Cenote Azul and Jardin del Eden as it is next-door and on the same Ponderosa system. This cenote is a great place to go swimming! It is like a giant open air pool surrounded by mangroves, with cliffs to jump from, sufficient depth, and loads of swimming space. This cenote is popular with both locals and tourists so enjoy your day swimming with everyone!
Getting to Cenote Cristaliano: Rent a car in Playa del Carmen and take highway 307 south towards Tulum for 25 minutes until you see the sign for Cenote Cristaliano. Drive 1 mile down a dirt road and you are there. If you do not want to rent a car, you can pick up a collectivo (mini bus shared by 10 people that drops you off wherever you ask along their route). Tell the driver you are visiting Cenote Cristaliano. Collectivos can be found on Calle 2 between 20th and 25th avenues.
Cost: 100 pesos ($5.30 USD)
Chikin-Ha consists of 3 separate cenotes all for the price of one! This cenote is very well developed and does not get as crowded as some of the others in the area making it a very attractive choice. Upon entry, there are clean showers, bathrooms, a place to grab snacks, and tables for dive gear as well as a place for equipment rentals. A pleasant manicured path leads visitors through the jungle to all 3 cenotes offered within Chikin-Ha.
The first is a small cenote called ‘Ta’ak Bil-Ha’. While it is not swimmable, it is full of small fish and insects, and is shadowed by a cave with lush vegetation surrounding it making it more than picturesque.
The second cenote titled ‘Xtabay’ is an open aired lagoon which means there is no cave to swim in for non scuba divers. However, it is decently shallow in places and there is beautiful vegetation surrounding it, making for a great location to relax in the sun for an afternoon. You can also zip-line across it if you are feeling adventurous.
The third cenote, Chikin-Ha, is a half moon shaped cenote with an undercut cave and crystal clear waters. It is full of fish and perfect for snorkelling. There are two entrances into the cenote, one on each end so you can swim from one to the other. The cenote is decently deep and has an entrance to a scuba friendly cave system. Don’t forget to bring your mask, for this cenote is exceptionally clear and blue.
Getting to Chikin-Ha: Rent a car in Playa del Carmen and take highway 307 south towards Tulum for 20 minutes until you see the sign for Chikin-ha. Drive 1 mile down a dirt road and you are there. If you do not want to rent a car, you can pick up a collectivo (mini bus shared by 10 people that drops you off wherever you ask along their route). Tell the driver you are visiting cenote Chikin-ha. Collectivos can be found on Calle 2 between 20th and 25th avenues.
Cost: 232 pesos ($15USD)
Cenote Dos Ojos – The Bat Cave
Dos Ojos is one of the most developed cenotes in the Playa del Carmen area.
Within the Cenote, there are a few restaurants, change rooms, bathrooms and showers, as well as areas to nap or just relax on hammocks. This cenote’s caves are of the more popular locations for scuba diving and snorkelling tours so you can find outlets for these types of activities here, available for every level of course.
The name ‘Dos Ojos’ means ‘two eyes’ and it is given this title because of the two sinkholes sitting side by side which measure 70 meters in diameter and are connected by a 400 meter long passageway. This is one of the largest and deepest underwater cave systems in the area reaching depths of 118 meters.
Part of the cenote is nicknamed ‘the Bat Cave’ due to the fact that it is a large open cave with a small entrance in the top where bats tend to live. You can arrive here via snorkelling tours. Snorkelling tours last about 45 minutes and provide wetsuits, flippers, snorkels, masks and underwater flashlights. The tour takes you on a detailed exploration of the cavern meaning every few meters you stop for an explanation of what you are seeing. Because this place is truly a maze, you definitely do not want to enter without a guide, and yes, there will be bats.
There are also a number of other cenotes in the Dos Ojos area that you can visit and swim in along the way. However Dos Ojo’s is truly the star.
Getting to Cenote Dos Ojos: Rent a car in Playa del Carmen and take highway 307 South towards Tulum for 40 minutes until you see the sign for Dos Ojos. Drive 1 mile down a dirt road to the welcome center. If you do not want to rent a car, you can pick up a collectivo to Tulum (mini bus shared by 10 people that drops you off where you ask along their route). Tell the driver you are visiting Cenote Dos Ojos. Collectivos can be found on Calle 2 between 20th and 25th avenues.
Cost: 200 pesos ( $11 USD) to enter. Snorkelling and scuba diving prices vary within the cenote.
Gran Cenote is one of the most popular cenotes in the Tulum area as it has something for everyone. There are many fish and even turtles living here making it great for snorkelers. It is large, open, perfect for swimming, and is also well lit throughout making it ideal for divers.
The cenote is partially covered and sports two open sections. There is a tunnel you can swim through traversing from one open section to the other. Although the cenote is quite shallow reaching only 10 meters in depth, the visibility is outstanding, making quite a show for divers interested in cave formations.
Due to the popularity of this cenote, arriving early in the morning when there are less people is an advantage.
Getting to Gran Cenote: If traveling from Playa del Carmen- Rent a car and drive south down 307 to Tulum, upon reaching Tulum, turn right on 109 and drive 4km until you see the obvious ‘Gran Cenote’ sign. You can also take a bus or collectivo (found on Calle 2 between 20th and 25th avenues) from Playa del Carmen to Tulum and grab a taxi from here to Gran Cenote. If you are staying in Tulum, a taxi or renting a bicycle can get you to this cenote.
Cost: 150-200 pesos ($11 USD)
This Cenote is a little far away from Playa del Carmen/Tulum to count on this list, but if possible, it should not be missed as this is by far the most famous of them all. This is the cenote often used in advertisements for Mexico, you know in the hostel world videos and such. It is also the cenote included in tours to Chichen-Itza and it could not be more grand.
This cenote is ominous as one must walk down a 26 meter (85ft) circular rock carved staircase in order to reach the swimming platform of this 60 meter (200ft) diameter and 40 meter (130ft) deep sinkhole open to the sky. There are small waterfalls along the edges, and vines hanging all the way down this 26 meter cave, adding to its ominous beauty. This Cenote was sacred to the Mayans and they used it for both relaxation and rituals. One again this cenote is full of fish (black catfish) and has jumping platforms to swim from. Due to the lack of light there are no dive tours operating here.
As this is the most popular cenote and due to its attachment to Chichen-Itza tours, this cenote is highly developed. There is a restaurant, a store, a large indoor changing facility, bathrooms, showers, lockers for rent, and even cabins to stay in on-site. There is also a small Mayan ruin available for your exploration nearby.
These all sound and look wonderful. Will definitely reference this when in Mex.
The Travel Ninjas says
Cenotes are amazing and irresistible places. They are almost too goo to be true. Thanks for covering 7 awesome ones around Playa del Carmen. We’ll try to visit as many as we can on our next visit.
Abhinav Singh says
I am an outdoor enthusiast and therefore loved reading this blog. The jumping picture had me smiling. Looks like you sure had a great time here. The water is so crystal clear. I could spend weeks here.
Tania Mukherjee says
Long time back once I read an article about a certain cenote in Mexico and since then I made ‘Mexico’ a must visit country in my bucket list. It is odd before reading that article I didn’t even knew what are cenotes!!It’s a good thing you have also attached the prices and directions!
Rob Taylor says
OMG, I can’t wait to go back! I loved swimming and watching the bats darting everywhere in Dos Ojos. Such a cool experience! Must return. Soon.
Selda Eigler says
Great. In the summer I am in Yucatan. Great tip
sabrina barbante says
I love water and open air travel activities and that’s why this post made me dream and the video made me smile :-) The bat cave looks particularly mysterious and blue… wish I was there now
Fiona Maclean says
Those Cenotes look quite amazing. I’d really love to go swimming in the first one, the colour is so stunning
Hugo Cura says
Cenotes are great fun! What a wonderful list of beautiful cenotes to visit. Great choices.
These look like fabulous swimming holes. Hoping to visit Tulum in the fall, and I’d love to jump into the Cenote Jardin del Eden!
First of all, I had no idea there were that many cenotes near Playa del Carmen and I totally missed out the last time I was there! The pictures are inspiring, I’d love to see Chikin-Ha, especially if its a three for one deal.
Sandy N Vyjay says
Cenotes are something so surreal. They are one of the enchanting treasures of nature. The cenotes featured here look really out of the world. Would love to dive into the inviting placid waters of one of these.
Kevin Wagar says
I wish we had spent some more time exploring the cenotes when we were in the regions. We dove Dos Ojos, but I want to see more!
This is a great list of cenotes. I still need to check a couple off the list but these are some of the best aspects of visiting the Yucatan.
Wow these all look amazing. I love the colour of the water and would be keen to dive in cenotes too
Such an interesting post on some unheard gem. I am in Colombia making my way to Mexico can’t wait to explore the beauty of these attractions.
Cenotes look scary! I would be afraid to swim in one, but those that you listed look so inviting! My favorite is Cenote Azul!
Trisha Velarmino says
I am a fan of nature trips so this post really caught my eye. Thanks for sharing these places of Playa del Carmen. You should visit the Philippines for more nature trips!
Doreen Pendgracs says
Mexico is so amazing! So many incredible natural wonders. The cenotes are a place of magic. Thx so much for sharing this round up.
Guy Crotty says
How cool are Cenotes?!! We were in the area late last year and went scuba diving in Dos Ojos and El Pit. Loved them both. This totally makes me want to go back!
Vicky and Buddy says
I always see photos of these cenotes and always think they are just so cool! I didn’t realize they used to do sacrificial offerings there. Glad that’s over! lol! They look like a lot of fun though. Love seeing the photos of people jumping in.
Mimi and Mitch says
I knew there were some amazing places in Mexico but had no idea on how beautiful these gems are. We are going there in July so now we will schedule these into the plans. Thanks!
Pedro Richardson-Oliveira says
I really need to go back to Yucatan! Even though I had planned it, I didn’t visit any of the cenotes in the area. Great guide!
Don’t forget cenote Angelita and Tajma Ha! I agree on Gran Cenote and Dos Ojos, both are great, though Gran Cenote is more for swimming or snorkeling. As for Dos Ojos, this is an “easy” cenote for beginner scuba divers. Angelita and Tajma Ha are both for advanced ones with rewarding views on stalagmite/stalactite-caverns (Tajma Ha) or a halocine of hydrogen sulfide (Angelita) resebeling a greenish cloud :)
Cenote Escondido is far from being the most beautiful cenote near Tulum, but it’s really hidden and you can enter for free if you visit Cenote Cristal.
Excelente blog, congratulations!!!
You also must visit Cenotes Zapote in the Ruta de los Cenotes in Puerto Morelos, there are many eco parks and cenotes, simply magic!
thank you for share! im about to go to playa del carmen and this helps a lot :)
You can also visit Cenotes Route, 40 minutes from Playa del Carmen; ziplining, atvs, mountain bikes, horseback riding tour and uncrowded : )