When you think of Mexico, chances are good your mind conjures up at least one image of the Yucatan Peninsula and the Cenotes Tulum. The part of the country that juts up into the Gulf of Mexico toward Cuba and the Caribbean islands.
Hot and humid during the summer, but mild and pleasant during the winter, this peninsula has become a favorite location for both seasoned travellers chasing warmer weather and tourists just starting to dabble in international adventure.
And there’s good reason for this popularity.
With a little digging, flights to the region’s major airports (Mérida, Yucatan and Cancun, Quintana Roo) can be had for incredibly affordable prices—often less than 250 USD round trip.
And that, combined with a great deal or two on a resort room from Club1 Hotels makes this part of Mexico something everyone should explore.
Yucatan holds so much to explore. First, of course, there’s the ruins of the historic Maya. All across the Peninsula, massive pyramids rise hundreds of meters above the jungle canopy. These are definitely worth a visit.
Then there’s the area’s phenomenal beaches. You can marvel at the pink waters of Las Coloradas or while away weeks beside the ocean in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or the island of Cozumel.
Yet, even further south, along the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, in the city of Tulum, Quintana Roo, travellers can find another opportunity for adventure unique to the area.
Equal parts jungle exploration and water fun, the cenotes Tulum holds will capture the imagination of both families and nomads alike.
A visit to any cenote Mexico offers is worthwhile, but the cenotes Tulum boasts are among the most beautiful in the area.
Here, you can immerse yourself in the dark blue, cool water and gaze up at the lush green jungle foliage clinging to the cave walls and dangling from the ceiling.
To help you decide which of the Cenotes near Tulum are right for you, we’ve put together this list of the best cenotes in Tulum.
From the more popular Cenote Dos Ojos to hidden gems where you can escape the tourist crowds, here’s what we recommend.
What is a Cenote?
At it’s root, a cenote is simply a sinkhole that’s been flooded with rain and ground water. That definition may leave you wondering what all the fuss is about, but trust us, taking a dip in a cenote is a whole lot more fun than that makes it sound.
First off, some of these pools are downright massive. They’re often dozens of meters across, just as deep, and buried in caves far beneath the jungle landscape.
What’s more, many join together via a labyrinth of underwater passageways carved into the limestone by erosion eons ago.
Unsurprisingly, cenotes have earned a privileged place in Maya culture. The Maya gave the sinkholes the name we use today.
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But what does cenote mean?
It’s actually just derived from the Maya word for groundwater. Yet, to the Maya, cenotes are much more than a water source. They are seen as holy and as passageways to the underworld.
If you enjoy snorkeling or diving, you will find a visit to one of Tulum’s cenotes one of the highlights of your trip.
Filtered by the soil and jungle above, the rainwater that fills cenotes is some of the clearest in the world. And in that water, you’ll find captivating marine life and majestic cave formations that stretch on and on beneath the water.
Best Cenotes Tulum
1. Cenote Calavera
One of the most overlooked and under-rated cenotes near Tulum is Cenote Calavera. The name comes from the Spanish word for skull because when you are swimming in the cenote the holes in the top resemble a human skull.
Another super fun and unique feature of this cenote is how you get in. It’s also often called the temple of doom cenote.
At the top of the cenote is one large and two small holes all about 10 feet (3 meters) above the water making them perfect for jumping. The water below is plenty deep enough for diving, jumping, or a really good cannonball.
The adventures in Cenote Calavera don’t end at the surface, it’s also a popular dive site with lots of beautiful chambers for cave diving. Often listed as a favorite among dive masters this cenote has some unique features.
In the depths of the cenote bones of centuries old animals have been found – which gave this cenote its nickname “The Temple of Doom”. Along with the bones toward the bottom Mayan pottery has also been found dating back hundreds of years.
However, these aren’t even what make this place a favorite for divers – its the fresh and salt water mixing line. At the bottom of the cenote sits the heavier salt water and above that fresh water, but where to two meet they create a unique visual effect.
Here in Cenote Calavera it’s very defined and super beautiful. Whether you are a diver or not you need to put this cenote on your list.
Recommended by Adam from Getting Stamped
Address: Quintana Roo 109, Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Distance from Tulum: 3 km
Admission fee: 100 Pesos (around 5.20 USD)
Opening times: Monday to Sunday from 9AM to 4PM
2. Gran Cenote
As its name implies, Gran Cenote is one of the best cenotes in Tulum. And for that reason, it’s also probably the most popular.
Why is Gran Cenote the best? It offers something for everyone. Unlike other cenotes in the area, parts of Gran are shallow enough to wade in. This makes it a great option for families or travellers who aren’t the most confident swimmers. As a bonus, soft, comfortable sand covers much of the cenote’s floor (rather than jagged or sharp cave rock).
But Gran also holds plenty of opportunities for the adventurers and explorers among us. The location is a favorite of cave divers, because the cenote holds underground passageways that connect to one of the largest cave systems in the world.
Some of these connecting caves and tunnels are only partially submerged, which means that strong swimmers and snorkelers can explore the labyrinth. Just watch out for bats.
Just five kilometers from central Tulum, Gran Cenote is a common stop for many organized cenote tours that depart from the town. If you don’t own your own scuba or snorkeling gear (or if you’re not yet comfortable diving without a guide), one of these tours is the way to go.
As I mentioned above, Gran Cenote is one of the most frequented Cenotes near Tulum. So, if you don’t like crowds or are looking for a less festive atmosphere, aim to visit during off-peak hours (either right after opening hours or just before closing).
Address: Quintana Roo 109, 77796 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Distance from Tulum: 5 km
Admission fee: 180 Pesos (around 9.40 USD)
Opening times: From 10AM to 5PM every day
3. Car Wash Cenote
Just a bit further from Tulum, at 8 kilometers away, Car Wash Cenote holds another afternoon of fun. The cenote got this unorthodox name because Tulum’s taxi drivers used to use the pool to wash their cars.
Unlike Gran Cenote, Car Wash Cenote rarely draws large crowds. That means that it is a great cenote for those travellers looking to relax and have more water to themselves.
And there’s plenty of water to go around here. Car Wash Cenote is almost 50 meters wide and, on average, around 3 meters deep. To be honest, it feels more like swimming in a backwoods pond than a what you’d expect from a cenote—that is, until you get in the water.
For snorkelers, freedivers, and scuba divers, Car Wash Cenote is a bit of an undiscovered treasure. Beneath the surface, a rich ecosystem of marine plants spring from the cenote floor. Within this underwater forest of green, you’ll catch glimpses of colorful freshwater fish, small crocodiles, turtles, and more.
Like Gran, Car Wash Cenote also connects to a maze of underwater caves. Diving tours of this cave network can be booked from Tulum. The caves are great for both experienced divers and those just getting into the activity.
Car Wash Cenote is open daily from 9 am to 4pm, and admission costs 50 pesos.
Address: Calle Carretera Federal 109, Tulum 77710, Mexico
Distance from Tulum: 9 km
Admission fee: 50 pesos (Around 2.60 USD)
Opening times: From 9AM to 4PM every day
4. Cenote Zacil-Ha
Right next door to Car Wash Cenote, you’ll find Cenote Zacil-Ha. While Car Wash Cenote has an isolated, natural feel with little more in the way of manmade amenities than a few small swimming and diving docks, Zacil-Ha is much more developed. Modern conveniences at Cenote Zacil-Ha include a restaurant, changing rooms, a pool, and even a zipline that can take you just a meter above the surface of the water.
The water itself is crystal clear, and like its neighbor, Zacil-Ha connects to many other caves in the area through underwater and half-submerged passageways carved into the limestone by Mother Nature. Above the surface, the jungle surrounding this cenote brims with wildlife. If you keep your eye peeled and watch the trees as lounge in the water, you might even spot a toucan!
Because of all the extras and amenities, Cenote Zacil-Ha is probably one of the more family friendly Tulum cenotes on this list. If you really want to get the most out of your visit to this cenote, you can even book a cabin on site.
Those traveling to Zacil-Ha from Tulum should combine the trip with a visit to Car Wash Cenote. Most tour groups arrive at 11 am, and the cenote typically stays pretty busy from then until late afternoon. So, if you’d like to beat the crowd, plan to hit the water as soon as they open: 10 am.
Address: Quintana Roo, Mexico
Distance from Tulum: 9 km
Admission fee: 80 Pesos (Around 4 USD)
Opening times: From 10AM to 6PM every day.
5. Cenote Caracol
A relatively lesser-known cenote that was only discovered by divers in 2002, Cenote Caracol is located between the beaches of Tulum and Akumal.
Cenote Caracol is an underground cave-style cenote that feels very different from the other cenotes you’ll find in the Tulum area. In fact, it’s so different that it feels like it might as well be located on Mars.
What’s so unique about this cenote?
While it isn’t the only cave cenote in the area, but it IS probably the most impressive one apart from the much more touristed (and much more expensive) Rio Secreto complex near Playa del Carmen.
And while you may have been fortunate enough to explore a cave by foot in some other part of the world, it’s a very different experience to do it while swimming!
As it is located 8 kilometers into the jungle off the main road, you’ll either need to rent a car, hire a driver, or take a tour in order to get to Caracol Cenote from Tulum.
But once there, it will have been worth the trouble: you can swim, snorkel, and even dive (with proper certification) through these enchanted waters.
Not in the mood to get wet?
That’s ok – there are several parts of the cave complex that can be explored by foot too!
For a leg up on accessing this cenote, book your stay at the nearby stylish Jashita luxury hotel, located far enough away from the bustle of Tulum that you’ll feel surrounded by nature while you’re being pampered!
Recommended by Nate from Travel Lemming
Address: Federal Road 307. Kilometer 240, Tulum, Mexico
Distance from Tulum: 16 km
Admission fee: 75 Pesos (Around 3.90 USD)
Opening times: From 9AM to 5PM
6. Cenote Dos Ojos
Cenote Dos Ojos in Tulum is one of the most famous cenotes in Tulum, if not the first famous, and it’s understandable why.
With its blue water, the stalagtyte formations and its 400 meters long passageway under the water, it caters to pretty much everyone, families, snorkelers, and it’s paradise for divers.
Cenote Dos Ojos is actually a system of 2 different sinkholes, in fact “dos ojos” in spanish means “two eyes”.
The first cenote is where you’ll swim in that beautiful blue water you see in the photos (the light hits it from the top), while the second one is more rugged and mysterious looking being inside a cave.
You’ll even see bats flying around!
If you want to swim in a cenote all by yourself, this is not the right one for you ‘cause it’s so popular, it’s pretty much always crowded, but if you come right after opening time or right before closing time, you won’t find groups and bus tours, and you’ll be able to enjoy it in peace.
At Cenote Dos Ojos you’ll find all sorts of facilities including changing rooms, toilets, a restaurant, and even a massage parlor, so it’s suitable for families with kids too.
If you’re in Tulum, you really can’t miss visiting this incredible cenote!
Recommended by Stefania from Every Steph
Address: Cenote Jaguar Rd, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Distance from Tulum: 22km
Admission fee: 200 Pesos (Around $14 USD). Snorkelling equipment can be rented for an additional 100 Pesos (Around 3.90 USD)
Opening times: Every day from 8AM to 5PM
Nicte-Ha is another rustic cenote that’s a great option for swimmers and divers hoping to avoid the throngs of tourists that flock to the more popular cenotes near Tulum.
It’s actually a bit puzzling why this cenote isn’t more popular. It’s located along the same road as the much more frequented Dos Ojos Cenote (you actually purchase your ticket in the Dos Ojos parking lot). Yet, when you arrive, instead of dozens of swimmers posing for selfies, you’ll discover a hidden paradise. With a little luck, you may even get it all to yourself.
Nicte-Ha is a smaller cenote that sits only a few meters below the jungle floor. Thick tree roots dive over the rocky edges of the pool and drink from its depths. The cenote’s waters are crystal clear, yet brimming with life. Countless lily-pads decorate the surface, and beneath them, fish and turtles hide within thick forests of marine plants.
On one side, the cenote’s waters drift into a cave directly beneath the forest floor. Though this alcove is pretty shallow, it’s still fun to explore.
Nicte-Ha Cenote does have some relatively rudimentary toilets and changing rooms if you need them. As I mentioned above, you can purchase tickets in the Dos Ojos parking lot. From there, it’s a short walk to the cenote along a dirt road. Admission here is a bit costlier than other spots on this list, at 100 pesos, but the serenity is well worth the price.
Address: Cenote Jaguar Rd, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Distance from Tulum: 22 km
Admission fee: 100 Pesos (Around 5 USD)
Opening times: From 9AM to 4PM
8. Cenote Sac Actun
Cenote Sac Actun can be found just north of Tulum on the same highway exit as the popular Dos Ojos. However, being about 7 kilometres further down a dirt road, it receives a fraction of the visitors.
Sac Actun is actually a series of cenotes that are part of the largest underwater cave system in the world. This is not the kind of cenote that visitors float around in and relax on the nearby grass.
To visit Cenote Sac Actun a guide is mandatory and groups will be taken through a series of caves that open up into caverns of various sizes. The water is so clear the snorkel is not necessary for the majority of the tour.
Most adults will be able to walk through the water for much of the time should they so choose as the water is pretty shallow. It is dark, pitch black at times, but waterproof flashlights are available to rent for an additional fee.
The tour lasts around 45 minutes but the guide gives people an option to remain in the open air section for longer if they wish. One of the best things about this cenote tour is that you will see all types of cenotes at once.
There is an open air section with crystal clear turquoise water as well as completely covered caves. There is also one cave with a piece of roof that has collapsed to allow tree roots to reach down through the earth.
The guides are knowledgeable Mayan people who give plenty of information about the history and geology of the cenotes during the tour. While Cenotes Sac Actun are not the cheapest option, it really is an amazing experience and definitely worthwhile.
Recommended by Claire from Past The Potholes
Address: Carretera Federal 307 (Cancun-Chetumal) pasando Xelha un kilometro hacia tulum., 77760 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Distance from Tulum: 25 km
Admission fee: 450 Pesos (Around 23.40 USD)
Opening times: From 9AM to 5PM
9. Cenote El Pit
The Cenotes Tulum are entrances to intricate cave systems that draw divers from around the globe to dive in the cenotes. The Pit (119 m) is the deepest cenote in the State of Quintana Roo, you need an advanced qualification to dive here.
Not a very fancy name, but a perfect description for this cenote, with a hole of about 10m diameter falling into the jungle floor. Rain water filters through the ground into the cenotes resulting in crystal clear water and this cenote is an excellent example with amazing visibility for diving, on many days exceeding 40 meters.
As you decend during your dive you reach a overhung cavern with some beautiul stalagtites and stalagmites. One of the highlights is the bright beams of sunlight that reach through the mouth of The Pit and bright rays can be seen 30 meters down.
The halocline, a blurry layer, where salt and freshwater mix is an interesting experience to decend through and is visible because of refraction of light passing through the water layers with different denities.
Close to the bottom you dive into a cloud of hydrogen sulfate swimming around some eerie tree branches before starting your ascent.
The dancing rays of light, glimmering bubbles and perfect diving conditions everyday make this unique dive site in the jungle spectacular.
Recommended by Campbell and Alya from Stingy Nomads
Address: Calle Centauro Sur # 18, Tulum 77765, Mexico
Distance from Tulum: 25 km
Admission fee: 25USD
Opening times: From 8AM to 5PM
Best Cenotes in Playa del Carmen
1. Cenote Azul
Cenote Azul, meaning ‘blue’, is a popular swimming hole between Tulum and Playa del Carmen. It’s a wonderful place to cool off on a hot Mexican day! Situated just beside Cenote Cristalino, Azul is a great option for families and kids.
There are shallow areas for swimming and a dock to jump from. If the cool water isn’t enough to exhilarate the senses, taking a leap from the 15 ft (5 m) cliff should do the trick. Like many of the other cenotes, there are a lot of fish to admire.
In fact, if visitors like the idea of the ‘fish spa’, this is a great place to have it done for free. They just need to sit still for a couple of minutes and the fish will come to nibble away any dead skin.
Cenote Azul has plenty of space to set up a towel and enjoy a pre-packed lunch. Alcohol is not allowed but water, soda and a small selection of snacks can be purchased at the entrance.
Azul can be reached by either taxi or Colectivo (mini-buses). To get there via Colectivo, visitors need to tell the driver that they’re heading to Cenote Azul. The fair is paid upon arrival and is usually 20-40 MXP per person if coming from Tulum or Playa del Carmen.
Recommended by Alejandro from Mi Viaje por el Mundo
Address: Quinta Avenida sur. Mercado Xaman-Ha Loc 15., Aviación, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico.
Distance from Tulum: 40km
Admission fee: 70 Pesos (Around 3.60 USD)
Opening times: From 9AM to 5PM
2. Cenote Cristalino
Take it from those who lived in Playa del Carmen for about 6 months, Cenote Cristallino is always worth a visit. After exploring just about every activity in the area, this cenote was the top choice when friends or family would come to visit.
The name, Cristalino, comes from the color of the water. In English it means ‘crystal clear’, and this makes it ideal for swimming and for photos. The cenote has 5 or 6 natural pools where visitors can swim, sit or just lounge in the sun.
The main area, however, consists of 2 sections. The first is an open area exposed to the sun and surrounded by mangroves and trees. There’s a large area for swimming and, for the very adventurous, there’s a 12 ft (4 m) cliff to jump from.
The second section is more of a cave or grotto. This area is fantastic for snorkeling, so it’s highly recommended that visitors bring a mask, snorkel and if possible, an underwater camera. One side of the cave is sheer rock, plunging deep into the water.
Dropping something in this area might mean never getting it back. Just opposite the solid rock, light breaks through the mangrove wall and penetrates the water. The light, mangrove roots and crystal clear water make this a great photo opportunity.
It is so picturesque that frequent professional photo shoots take place in this section of the cenote. As with all cenotes, biodegradable sunscreen is required in order to protect the environment.
The beauty of this particular cenote has made it quite popular on weekends and holidays so it’s best to visit on a weekday.
Recommended by Alejandro from Visit Copper Canyon
Address: On Highway MX 307 – Next to Cenote Azul, Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
Distance from Tulum: 40 km
Admission fee: 100 Pesos (Around 5.20 USD)
Opening times: From 8AM to 6PM
3. Chikin Ha Cenote
Between white sand beaches and layers of aquamarine ocean, there are jungles thick with song, chatter and beautiful cenote.
About a 40 minute drive from Tulum and 30 minutes from Playa del Carmen is eco-park Chikin-Ha. There are three ziplines to ride and several cenote sites in this recreation area to give visitors a variety of experiences.
The park offers snorkel gear to explore them all. Some of the cenote are more covered, set deeper within the remaining cave system, filled with a variety of stalagmites and stalactites; some are more exposed to sun, with beams of light floating between fallen foliage.
There are paths to explore the pristine jungle and you’ll even find a makeshift temple to investigate, in a large cavern with candles flickering light onto the stone walls, surrounded by dangling tree roots.
The Mayans believed cenotes were the dwelling place of departed souls. A cenote is the underground water exposed by collapsed limestone rock.
It’s also the place where the present people draw fresh water. That’s why before you go into the water, the staff at Chikin-Ha will have you shower.
When you’re done exploring, or just need a break, you can enjoy lunch on site in their little gazebo.
Recommended by Rina from L.A. Family Travel
Address: Quintana Roo, Mexico
Distance from Tulum: 41 km
Admission fee: 232 Pesos (Around 12 USD)
Opening times: From 8AM to 5PM
Where to stay to visit the Cenotes Tulum
Where to stay in Tulum
1. Alea Tulum
The Alea Tulum is the perfect hotel to base yourself in Tulum if you want to explore beautiful cenotes. Largely because, it has one right outside its door!
This beautiful property is located on the beachfront where you can make use of the complimentary kayak rental with your stay, or you can head out into the water and snorkel.
If you just want to relax, then head to the beach front to find the sun loungers, or instead wander out to your very own private balcony. Some rooms even include swimming pool access so you can literally step out of your room, into the swimming pool.
The on-site restaurant will serve you up a delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner, alongside local beers, wines and soft drinks. The rooms are spacious, clean and comfortable.
The mini bar included in your room is also complimentary which is a nice touch. Air conditioning is provided in the rooms to help you cool off and you’ll feel truly refreshed after a stay at the beautiful Alea Tulum.
If you wish to discover the ruins of Tulum or other Cenotes in the area, you can order a taxi from the property to take you, or you can rent your own car for the day and discover the whole area.
Recommended by Cazzy from Dream Big, Travel Far
Click here for more information, photos and/ or to make a booking.
Where to stay in Playa del Carmen
1. Mahekal Beach Resort
Between all the partygoers, modern day Playa del Carmen can still offer a way to connect to the ancient Mayan civilization through magical destinations like the Mahekal Beach Resort, recognized as a top Mexico resort by both Travel and Leisure and Reader’s Choice in 2016.
Its name literally translates to magical. Through culinary classes and a Shaman blessing during a ritual before your treatment at their Revive Spa, you can experience the cuisine and ceremonies of rich Mayan history.
The Mahekal Vida Aquatica Dive Center can arrange many ocean adventure but they can also arrange a trip to visit the Chikin-Ha Eco-Park.
You can borrow a hotel bike or walk along quiet, cobblestone paths that lead to the world famous 5th Avenue, or Quinta Avenida, shopping plaza where there are plenty of outdoor restaurants, vendors offering fish spa pedicures and souvenirs to buy for those who weren’t lucky enough to accompany you on your trip.
Recommended by Rina from L.A. Family Travel
2. TRS Yucatan Hotel
Nearby Akumal and just 30 minutes from Playa Del Carmen, the TRS Yucatan Hotel is an adults-only beach-front resort that features 2 large swimming pools with 4 swim-up bars, a saltwater pool, 24-hour room service, and a gorgeous white-sand beach.
There are 7 types of suites to choose from – I personally thought that the junior suite with a private pool was lovely. T
he hotel also serves the world’s best breakfast – think eight kinds of fruit juice, fresh seafood, pastries, all kinds of eggs you can order off the buffet, great cheese selection, champagne (because who doesn’t drink champagne for breakfast, right?) and real coffee!
Speaking of food, I really appreciated the butler’s service. You will receive an email with a questionnaire prior to your stay to help them understand your preferences, and trust me when I say that every little detail is being taken care of.
The service was excellent, the food was delicious, and it’s all inclusive without being cheesy!
Whether you are a couple or a group of friends looking for a private and personalized stay for your trip to Tulum, Mexico, the TRS Yucatan is perfect and worth the splurge.
Recommended by Kristin from Be My Travel Muse
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2. If you are concerned about safety while traveling in Mexico you can read this article. It is mostly focus on the northern region of Mexico but the advices and tips can be applied to the whole country.