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.