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Cenotes

Home > Cancun Travel Guide > Cenotes

 

The Yucatan peninsula was originally under the ocean and the region's limestone foundation is fossilized coral beds and ocean floor. There are no above ground rivers in this area.  All of the ground water sinks through the porous limestone and travels to the sea in underground rivers. Parts of the limestone weakened over time and collapsed, leaving sinkholes filled with water - a cenote (pronounced: seh-NO-tay).

During the ice ages, portions of the underground rivers dried up and water dripping through the limestone left mineral deposits in beautiful formations. Stalactites and stalagmites formed in the caves and caverns, and were covered with water when the rivers began flowing once again.

The Maya used the cenotes for water - both for drinking and irrigation - and in religious ceremonies. Some of their cities were built around cenotes or wells dug down to the ground water.  Divers have explored the cenote at Chichen Itza and have found offerings the ancient Maya made to the gods. Among them copper and gold necklaces, pottery, jade beads,  and skeletons of both sexes and all ages.

Today at least 1000 cenotes have been located among the approximately four thousand that are believed to exist in the Yucatan. These unique places are now included in the ever increasing number of tourist attractions of the area, both for the archaeological value they offer and for the exquisite natural beauty they possess.

 
Cancun Tours With Visits to Cenotes
 ATX-Rails Expedition
Location: COZUMEL   Departs From: COZUMEL

 

Enjoy a truly thrilling experience driving a fully automatic All Terrain Xrail, which can seat up to 2 passengers. This exciting adventure consists of a ride through the heart of Cozumel's lush jungle to the Jade Cavern system.
 ATV Jungle Adventure
Location: COZUMEL   Departs From: COZUMEL

 

Get ready to enjoy a fascinating adventure through the jungle of Cozumel on an incredible ATV ride. The ATV adventure starts from the Mayan town "El Cedral" and takes you through abundant jungle to visit a natural cenote (freshwater sinkhole), after that you'll get to explore an underground cave.
 Chichen Itza Deluxe
Location: YUCATAN  
Transportation From: CANCUN, RIVIERA MAYA, PLAYA DEL CARMEN

 

Add an incredible touch of culture, adventure and Mexican flavor to your vacation. Take some time to visit one of the most amazing archeological sites in Mexico: Chichen Itza. This mystical Mayan city, made up of a series of pyramids, has recently been named as one of the New Wonders of the World.
 Chichen Itza World Wonder
Location: YUCATAN  
Transportation From: CANCUN, RIVIERA MAYA, PLAYA DEL CARMEN, MERIDA

 

Chichen Itza is the capital of ancient Maya empire, its majestic building dates back to 435 and 455, and it is geographically located in the middle of spectacular natural environs in the Yucatan Peninsula. At this site, declared as one of the 7 World Wonders, you can visit magnificent temples.
 Coba - Mayan Encounter
Location: RIVIERA MAYA  
Transportation From: CANCUN, RIVIERA MAYA, PLAYA DEL CARMEN

 

This attraction gives you the opportunity of a fascinating encounter with Mayan culture, where you will visit Coba, a spectacular archeological site hidden inside the rain forest, at the Yucatan Peninsula. Once there you can observe the Nohoch Muul temple the most important temple in the area.
 Cuzama Sinkhole Tour
Location: YUCATAN   Departs From: MERIDA   Transportation From: MERIDA HOTELS

 

Are you ready to enjoy a great adventure during your trip to Merida? This tour gives you the opportunity to discover and swim in the famous Cuzama cenotes, which are bodies of fresh water located underground. Throughout your journey you will pass by Mayan pyramids, colonial buildings and old haciendas.
 Hummer Jungle Tour
Location: CANCUN & PUERTO MORELOS  Departs From: CANCUN

 

Dare to live an extreme adventure driving your own Hummer vehicle! Apart from the adrenaline rush, in this tour you can learn about the Mayan culture, visit a wonderful beach and swim in a crystalline cenote. Come and live this unforgettable 4x4 adventure!
 Jungle Maya
Location: RIVIERA MAYA  
Transportation From: CANCUN, RIVIERA MAYA, PLAYA DEL CARMEN

 

Are you ready for an extreme expedition? This exciting adventure tour in the Riviera Maya features a unique combination of the best recreation this area has to offer, from swimming in underground rivers and cenotes to flying on zip lines over the lush Mayan jungle.
 Rio Secreto
Location: RIVIERA MAYA  
Transportation From: HOTELS IN CANCUN, RIVIERA MAYA, PLAYA DEL CARMEN

 

Experience a fantastic adventure in an incredible natural wonder of the Riviera Maya. You will be given a wetsuit, a helmet with a lamp and wet shoes. Then venture into an endless labyrinth with intricate natural passageways that were formed by geological processes.
 Scuba Diving at Cenote Dos Ojos
Location: RIVIERA MAYA   Transportation From: CANCUN HOTELS

 

This underground wonder, which appeared on the IMAX film "Journey into Amazing Caves", is among the ten largest cave systems in the world. It is the longest explored and mapped cave system in Quintana Roo, measuring about 387 feet long.
 Tulum & Xel-Ha All Inclusive
Location: RIVIERA MAYA  
Transportation From: HOTELS IN CANCUN, RIVIERA MAYA, PLAYA DEL CARMEN

 

Discover one of the most beautiful Mayan archeological sites, the only one overlooking the Caribbean Sea as a walled fortress.  From here you will be taken to Xel-Ha, a spectacular theme water park, where you will spend a day of adventure enjoying natural, ecological and aquatic attractions.
 Xcaret
Location: RIVIERA MAYA  
Transportation From: HOTELS IN CANCUN, RIVIERA MAYA, PLAYA DEL CARMEN

 

Known as ''nature's sacred paradise'', Xcaret is one of the world's most famous eco-archaeological parks. Here, you will find archaeological ruins, a dolphin show, horses, a farm with tropical birds, butterflies, bat caves and a stunning beach. You can go also snorkeling in the famous caves.
 Xcaret, Xel-Ha, Xplor and Xichen
Location: RIVIERA MAYA  
Transportation From: HOTELS IN CANCUN, RIVIERA MAYA, PLAYA DEL CARMEN

 

Choose from two, three or four great tour options and schedule them on different days all for one single discounted payment. Discover Xcaret, Xel-Ha, Xplor and Chichen Itza. Make the most of your stay in Cancun or Riviera Maya with these excellent tour packages!
 Xel-Ha All Inclusive
Location: RIVIERA MAYA  
Transportation From: HOTELS IN CANCUN, RIVIERA MAYA, PLAYA DEL CARMEN

 

Xel-Ha is the perfect spot for snorkeling and relaxing. This natural aquarium is famous for its thousands of brightly colored tropical fish and dramatic limestone formations. At Xel-Ha you will be able to explore creeks, lagoons and caves fed by subterranean rivers.
 Xichen
Location: YUCATAN  Transportation From: CANCUN, RIVIERA MAYA, PLAYA DEL CARMEN

 

Venture into the ancient Mayan world to discover their greatest secrets with this visit to the ruins of Chichen Itza. Experience one of the Wonders of the World, the Pyramid of Kukulkan, also known as The Castle! Once the tour around Chichen Itza is over, visit the beautiful city of Valladolid.
 Xplor
Location: RIVIERA MAYA  
Transportation From: HOTELS IN CANCUN, RIVIERA MAYA, PLAYA DEL CARMEN

 

Experience a unique and exciting outdoor adventure in the heart of the Riviera Maya! Xplor offers an unforgettable natural landscape of jungle, cenotes (natural wells) and underground caves. It is situated just 4 miles south of Playa del Carmen.
 

Snorkeling in Cenotes and Cave Diving

Many cenotes give access to these underground waterways and one of the most exciting experiences uniquely available in this part of the world is to dive and explore these wondrous, mysterious cenotes and their hidden rivers.  Cenotes are a great place to snorkel and swim, and is safe as long as you stay at the water's surface.

Don't go cavern diving without a guide.  The "cavern" dive is an advanced dive in an overhead environment and should be done only under the supervision of a qualified professional guide.  If you are a certified open water diver, you can dive in a cenote cavern with a qualified guide. 

 Scuba Diving at Cenote Dos Ojos
Location: RIVIERA MAYA   Transportation From: CANCUN HOTELS

 

This underground wonder, which appeared on the IMAX film "Journey into Amazing Caves", is among the ten largest cave systems in the world. It is the longest explored and mapped cave system in Quintana Roo, measuring about 387 feet long.
 

Cenotes Near Cancun

Several cenotes are located within an hour or two of Cancun.  All cenotes are different. Some are below stone overhangs, others are open like ponds. You can take a cooling swim in them, or bring your snorkel gear to see what is below.  There are scores of cenotes in the Tulum area. Most have been explored so it's safe and east to access them.

Descriptions of some of nearby cenotes (in order of distance from Cancun):

Boca del Puma:  Located in the Boca del Puma Eco Park, situated 16 km west of Puerto Morelos.  This cenote is located in a private eco-park that offers tours that include a zip line, bicycle riding, and a swim in a cenote.

Cenote Verde Lucero:  Located in the Selvatica Eco Park, 18.5km west of Puerto Morelos. Selvatica offers zip lines, horseback riding, cenotes, and snorkeling.

Sistema Xcaret:  Located in the Xcaret Eco-Park, 6.5km south of Playa del Carmen. Here you will find archaeological ruins, a dolphin show, horses, a farm with tropical birds, butterflies, bat caves and a stunning beach. You can go also snorkeling in the famous caves and the well known underground river. With its 53 activities to enjoy, Xcaret is an experience for all your senses.

Cenote Chac Mool: Located 22 km south of Playa del Carmen (near Puerto Aventuras). It includes two separate cenotes, with snorkeling available in the larger of the two.  There is a large cavern zone with beautiful views of the jungle from inside the cavern. A restaurant and bathrooms are available at the site.

Sistema Ponderosa - Cenote Eden:  Go exactly three kilometers south of Puerto Aventuras on Highway 307 or 13.0 kilometers north of the Akumal C.D. entrance. Take dirt road going west up over hill past the power lines 1 kilometer. Sign in at gate through local dive/snorkel businesses. Drive one kilometer to parking area. Includes 13 cenotes within the cave system, including Cenote Eden, Cenote Uchil Ha, Cenote Cristalino, and Cenote Azul. Wide cement steps and platform leading from parking area down to the water. Well maintained foot paths around the cenote and surrounding property. Public toilets available

Sistema Aktun Koh:  The road entrance is 3.9 kilometers south of Puerto Aventuras or 15.4 kilometers north of Aventuras Akumal. West side. Follow Rough road going west for 2.5 kilometers to the very end. Includes Cenote Actun Koh, Cenote Bear's Den, Cenote Overpass, Cenote Foxhole. This is a popular commercial snorkeling site for tourists.

Sistema Taj Mahal:  From Puerto Aventuras drive south on Highway 307 5.5 Kilometers or from Aventuras Akumal drive north 13.8 kilometers. Entrance on west side of highway at the tourist shop selling blankets and crafts. Pay dive site fee inside. Take dirt road back into the jungle and Drive 1.9 kilometers to the very end. Parking area. No public toilets. The cave system includes six cenotes: Cenote Taj Mahal, Cenote Sugar Bowl, Cenote Mangrova, Cenote Buena Vista, Cenote City of Agra, and Cenote Sacrada.

Sistema Aktun Chen (Wood Cave):  Located 40 km south of Playa del Carmen. This cave system includes nine cenotes, including cenote Aktun Chen. 

Sistema Alhambra (White Castle):  Go to the Playa Aventuras (DIF) entrance, Go west through gate on dirt road for the Actun Chen dry cave and drive approximate 1.0 kilometers to the power lines, Turn left and follow trail 200 meters to the first power line tower, Park vehicle and follow trail 50 meters to the cenote.

Xel-Ha:  Located 48 km south of Playa del Carmen. Xel-Ha is an eco-park in Riviera Maya renowned for its stunning natural aquarium. Xel-Ha has the Cenote Paraiso and Cenote Aventura on their grounds. At the park you can enjoy with your family or friends, an array of water activities and both natural and ecological attractions. Or alternatively, simply relax on the tranquil lazy river as you sail along on a comfortable inner tube.

Dos Ojos:  Located on the highway between Akumal and Tulum.  Part of Nohoch Nah Chich cave system. This was the location of filming for Imax Journey into Amazing Caves documentary. Very popular. Many stalactites & stalagmites.

Casa Cenote (also known as Cenote Manatee)Located 11 km north of Tulum in Tan Kah.  The cenote itself is actually pretty easy to get into and out of, and the calm and clear waters are fun for kids. Casa Cenote is actually very close to the ocean, and has a connecting tunnel to the Caribbean. Although swimming in the connecting tunnel is not suggested, it is interesting how the salt water comes into the cenote and mixes with the fresh water. There is also an ocean-view restaurant between the cenote and the Caribbean.

Calavera Cenote:  Located 3 kilometers from Tulum on the road towards Coba right side.  Probably the most dangerous cenote in the area. Calavera is easy enough to get into by jumping in. However, getting out can be a problem because of the ten foot drop from the cenote rim to the water. Exit can usually be made using an existing tree branch, or by bringing a rope.

Cenote Abejas (Bees):  Located 2.3 kilometers north of the intersection going to the Navy Air Station and the Tulum Aquario Hotel or between kilometer 232 and 233 on the east side of Highway 307.  Pay at the gate.

Gran Cenote:  Tulum. Right off of Highway 307 when you get to the second traffic light in Tulum. You want to head towards the Coba ruins, and go about 3 kilometers where you will see a sign for Gran Cenote on your right.  A collection of several cenotes around the edge of a large oval depression. These cenotes offer shady and rocky floors, green and blue water, and some stalactites dripping from the cave ceilings.

Car Wash Cenote:  Located 7 kilometers west of Tulum on the road to Coba left side.  A fun cenote for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. You can drive in (about 30 meters or 100 feet) right up to the cenote (hence the name). There is a diving platform on the edge that makes swimming a breeze. Many small tropical fish inhabit the cenote.

Systema Naharon - Cenote Cristal:  Located 4 kilometers south of Tulum, on the way towards Chetumal.  This is actually 2 cenotes, cenote cristal and cenote escondido, one on the left side of the highway and one on the right side. The entrance fee includes access to both cenotes. The larger of the two pools is about an acre in size, with much of the access up a 18 foot cliff, or on the far side via the vegetation.

Cenote Azul:  Located well south of Tulum, approximately 20 miles north of Chetumal and across Chetumal bay from Xcalak near Bacalar. Cenote Azul is a pit cenote. In fact, it's the largest pit cenote in all of Mexico, 600 feet across and more than 290 feet deep. It is a spectacular cenote in a beautiful garden setting. Snorkeling the rim is quite interesting, although the bottom can only be seen with Scuba gear. A restaurant is located right on the edge of the cenote, and is a great place to relax in the cool shade.

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