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The Most Beautiful Cenotes of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula

Azure blue water & secret charm – Mexico’s cenotes are a highlight for many on their travels. The beautiful Yucatán Peninsula in east Mexico in particular has many cenotes to discover. 

Cenotes are underground karst caves filled with fresh water. You can swim in many of the cenotes in Mexico, some you can even go diving in, or perhaps just marvel over from the outside. 

Which of the cenotes in Mexico are especially charming? What do I need to look out for when visiting a cenote? We let you in on all of our personal tips for your trip to these natural wonders of Mexico. 

1. Cenotes of Yucatán in Mexico (with our personal experiences and tips)

Gran Cenote

Let’s start with one of the most well-known, and also one of the most beautiful cenotes, the Gran Cenote (also called the Grand Cenote). It is located around 5 minutes’ drive out of Tulum, one of the tourist towns in Yucatán. 

The Gran Cenote is a beauty of nature: Deep blue water and impressive rock formations await you here. The Gran Cenote is absolutely picturesque. 

You might already suspect what’s to come: As beautiful as the cenote is, unfortunately it can also be fairly crowded. So don’t let the photos of a seemingly empty cenote fool you. Our tip: arrive either early or late in the day – that way you’re able to avoid the crowds a little. 

Info for visiting the Gran Cenote

Entrance: 300 Pesos per person; snorkel equipment and lockers cost extra (they were all taken when we visited)
Departure point: Tulum
Recommended accommodation: Biwa Tulum
Getting there: On the road from Tulum to Cobá (on the right), about 5 kilometers outside of Tulum; by car (approx. 5 minutes) or by bike (approx. 15 minutes), free parking is available

Gran Cenote Erfahrungen

Cenote Carwash

Sticking in the Tulum area, the Cenote Carwash (also called Cenote Aktun Ha) doesn’t look anything like your classic cenote. It resembles more of a small lake. So, if you’re on the search for a cave style cenote, this isn’t the right place. 

Even so, we think this cenote is worth a visit – if only because it’s much quieter here. This cenote is brilliant for swimming. There are also platforms to dive off. 

Our conclusion: If you’re keen on swimming, you will really enjoy this cenote. The underwater world is also great: there are lots of fish, turtles and allegedly even a small crocodile. Crazy, right? We haven’t heard about any accidents, so this this one seems not to be a danger to humans. 

Info for visiting the Cenote Carwash

Entrance: 100 Pesos per person
Departure point: Tulum
Recommended accommodation: Biwa Tulum
Getting there: On the road from Tulum to Cobá (on the left side), approximately 8km out of Tulum; from Tulum Pueblo with the car (approx. 10 minutes) or with a bicycle (approx. 25 minutes), free parking is available

Cenote Calavera

All good things come in threes: The third renowed cenote near Tulum is the Cenote Calavera. It is very unique because it’s completely unsuitable for swimming. 

The Cenote Calavera is famous for two things: Firstly, it makes for a very popular photo opportunity. There are thousands of photos of this cenote on Instagram.  

What you don’t see in these photos: It is teeming with bats under there (at least it was on our visit). Therefore, a relaxed swim or snorkel is not on the cards. Something that is pretty cool: Instead of climbing down the ladder, you can simply jump into the depths through an inconspicuous hole in the ground.

Info for visiting the Cenote Calavera

Entrance: 250 Pesos per person
Departure point: Tulum
Recommended accommodation: Biwa Tulum
Getting there: On the road from Tulum to Cobá (on the right side), approximately 2km out of Tulum; from Tulum Pueblo with the car (approx. 5 minutes) or with a bicycle (approx. 15 minutes), free parking is available 

Cenote Azul

Lake or cenote? The Cenote Azul is actually so large that you could think it was a normal lake. This cenote is located in South Yucatáns, very close to the majestic lagoon, Bacalar.

If you’re after a mystical, cave-style cenote, you might need to go elsewhere. If you’re after a cenote primarily to swim in, then the Cenote Azul is an absolutely lovely spot. 

Info for visiting the Cenote Azul

Entrance: 25 Pesos per person 
Departure point: Bacalar
Recommended accommodation: Hotel Aires Bacalar
Getting there: approx. 10 minutes with the car, south of the town centre  

Cenote Ik Kil

Wow! From a purely visual point of view, the Cenote Ik Kil is a natural gem! The hanging lianas make you feel a bit like you’re in the jungle here. The cenote is located a stone’s throw away from the world wonder, Chichén Itzá. Not least because of this, it is very popular and well visited. 

Our tip: Come first thing in the morning! Then you can enjoy this wildly romantic cenote in peace. We were almost the only guests there in the morning – a dream! 

During the day, the cenote is more like a water park than an oasis. Unfortunately, then you miss out on feeling the mystical atmosphere. If you’re lucky enough to experience the Cenote Ik Kil (almost) without people, then you will definitely find it just as fantastic as we did. 

Info for visiting the Cenote Ik Kil

Entrance: 150 Pesos per person
Departure point: Chichén Itzá
Hotel tip: Mayaland Hotel & Bungalows 
Getting there: approx. 5 minutes’ drive from Chichén Itzá 

Cenote Tsukán

Unlike her big sister Ik Kil, the Cenote Tsukán remains a secret spot near to Chichén Itzá. This cenote first opened its gates to visitors in 2019. 

On your visit to the Cenote Tsukán you can expect to discover a beautifully scenic cenote. You can swim here in a cave-style cenote with striking stalactites. Speaking of swimming: wearing a lifejacket (provided) is mandatory. 

The Cenote Tsukán is located in a very well-maintained and beautifully landscaped park. They also have a restaurant there. Our conclusion: This spot is absolutely perfect for anyone who wants to visit a cenote away from the crowds. 

Info for visiting the Cenote Tsukán

Entrance: 225 Pesos per person
Departure point: Chichén Itzá
Hotel reccommendation: Mayaland Hotel & Bungalows 
Getting there: approx. 10 minutes’ drive Chichén Itzá 

Cenoten Yucatan

Cenote Zaci

Crazy but true: You can find the Cenote Zaci located in the middle of the city of Valladolid. When you pass through the entrance you may not believe what an oasis you will find just a few streets away from the main square. 

The Cenote Zaci is surprisingly spectacular and really beautiful to look at with its small waterfall. If you’re looking for a cenote to swim in, this isn’t the right place. If you’re brave it is possible to jump from the edge into the depths.  

Info for visiting the Cenote Zaci

Entrance: 30 Pesos per person
Departure point: Valladolid
Reccommended accommodation: La Flor Casa Boutique
Getting there: Located at the intersection of Calle 36 and Calle 37 in Valladolidnot more than a 10 minutes’ walk from the main square. 

Cenote Samula & Cenote X’keken

Both the Cenoten Samula & X’keken are located in the same area. You can either visit just one of the two, or both on a combo ticket. 

Both of the cenotes are classic cave-style cenotes, straight out of a picture book. It’s pretty dark in the cenotes and the atmosphere is very mystical with gigantic stalactites hanging from the ceiling. Light only comes through a tiny hole in the cave’s ceiling. 

As beautiful as the cenotes are to look at, we personally found the whole experience too staged and uncomfortably commercialised. For example: They try to convince you at the entrance to take photos with a parrot. Definitely not something for us! 

Our tip: It’s best to come first thing in the morning, then you enjoy the area in peace. Usually they offer a free guide at the entrance. You can of course take it, but you don’t have to. Just politely decline if you don’t want it. 

Info for visiting both of the cenotes

Entrance: 80 Pesos per person (for one of the cenotes), 125 Pesos per person (combo ticket for both cenotes), 20 Pesos per cenote for the life jackets (unfortunately a requirement since 2021) 
Departure point: Valladolid
Accommodation tip: La Flor Casa Boutique
Getting there: approximately 15 minutes’ drive from Valladolid

Cenote X keken

Cenote Suytun

Anyone scrolling through photos of various cenotes on Instagram is sure to come across the Cenote Suytun sooner or later. It is probably the most Instagrammable cenote on the Yucatán Peninsula. 

Taking a photo on the circular stone slab is one of the absolute must-dos for many Yucatán travelers. And we have to admit: We were also attracted by the photos. Unfortunately, the cenote is fairly gloomy. It gives it a very mystical atmosphere but makes taking photos without a tripod quite difficult. 

Anyone who swims in the cenote must wear a lifejacket. (You can pay to rent one). Good to know: the iconic cone of light that is visible in some of the photos shines through (on a sunny day) into the cenote at around midday. Of course, it’s usually especially busy at this time. We were there in the late afternoon and were lucky that there were only a few other guests in the cenote. 

Info for visiting the Cenote Suytun

Entrance: 150 Pesos per person
Departure point: Valladolid
Accommodation tip: La Flor Casa Boutique
Getting there: approximately 15 minutes’ drive from Valladolid

Cenote Soytun

2. Useful info & tips for visiting cenotes in Yucatán, Mexiko

What is a cenote anyway?

Cenotes (also called cenotes in Spanish) are karst caves filled with freshwater. They are uncovered when cave ceilings collapse. The most exciting part: many cenotes are connected with each other underground. There is a ramified, fascinating cave system to discover under the earth in Yucatáns. 

There are estimated to be over 6,000 cenotes on the Yucatán Peninsula. Some sources even say there are up to 10,000 cenotes. The fact is: there are far too many to visit in one lifetime, let alone in one trip. 

Just as there are many different cenotes, their appearance and nature are equally as diverse: from dark, mysterious stalactite caves to spacious cenotes that are more reminiscent of a lake, everything is there. 

What should I take with me when I visit a cenote?

First of all: Be sure to take your swimsuit and a towel if you want to go swimming in a cenote. You will usually find changing rooms and sometimes also lockers at the more well-known cenotes. 

If you want to go snorkeling, we definitely recommend taking your own mask and snorkel. Sometimes you can borrow snorkeling equipment on site but personally, we wouldn’t do it. 

We also always took our GoPro with us. It was almost too dark in many of the cenotes to take underwater pictures but some turned out to be really great shots. 

Also be sure to take some cash with you – paying with card is not very standard. It’s also better to leave your valuables at home. 

What do I need to be careful of when I swim in a cenote? 

The swimming rules vary from cenote to cenote. For example, you are only allowed to swim in some of them if you are wearing a lifejacket (possible to hire on site). At almost all of the cenotes you need to shower (sometimes including washing your hair) before you get in the water. 

Important: make sure you don’t apply any sunscreen or insect repellant before swimming in the cenotes. This pollutes the water. 

When is the best time to visit a cenote? 

The more well-known the cenote is, the more we would recommend coming outside of peak hours, i.e. either early in the morning or later in the afternoon. (Note: most of the cenotes are only open until around 4:30pm or 5pm).

The disadvantage of coming early or late: The sunshine at around midday creates a magnificent cone of light in some of the cave-style cenotes and colours the water a wonderful azure blue. The light is not as spectacular at some (not all) of the cenotes if you arrive early morning or late in the day. 

3. Map: Overview of all of the cenotes in Yucatán 

We’ve marked each of the cenotes we mentioned on this map, so that you can get an overview of where each of them is located on the Yucatán Peninsula. We let you know how you can best integrate the cenotes into your travel route in this blog article: Yucatán Itinerary.

Disclaimer: Affiliate Links

This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of affiliate links. If you book or buy something via the links, we will receive a small commission. This will not change the price for you at all. A million thanks from the both of us! 

Have already been to Yucatán and visited a cenote? Which cenote did you like the best? It would be great to hear how your experience was. We look forward to your comments.  

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