Mexico rolls Mayan ruins, alluring beaches, steep canyons, lush forests, adventurous activities, and the most intriguing sinkholes called "Cenotes" within itself. Home to around 6000 cenotes in the Yucatan and Quintana Roo peninsula, more than any place in the world, these unique cenotes should be on everyone's list while visiting Mexico.
What Is A Cenote & Why Are They Significant?
Natural sinkholes caves formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock and filled by the currents of underground rivers are called cenotes. As the rock collapses, a secret subterranean world of groundwater pools is unleashed. It takes hundreds of years for the erosion of limestone and is often connected by underground caves. Gradually, they became quite prominent for swimming, diving, and exploring hidden facts.
The Types of Cenotes In Mexico
Basically, there are four types of cenotes.
Open Cenotes: Open Cenotes are natural, open pools, and less deep.
- Eg: Cenote Carwash Near Tulum
Semi-Open Cenotes: It has some parts exposed and some parts hidden by a cave.
- Eg: Cenote Calavera
Cave Cenotes: It can be accessed by the land level entrance and it paves up ahead for an underground pool having both shallow and deep areas.
- Eg: Cenote Samula
Underground Cenotes: Quite tedious to reach, the experienced divers can have only access to them.
- Eg: Pet Cemetery Cenote Near Tulum
Cultural and Religious Significance of Cenotes
As per Mayans, the inhabitants of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, Cenotes are considered as an entrance to Xibalba, a place where Mayan gods would visit. Cenotes were sacred wells for them. Chaac, the Mayan God of Rain, Lightning, and Thunder has its association with it and thus, the intriguing Chichen Itza has been built on cenotes.
Most Beautiful Cenote Excursions In Mexico
No place in the world can boast of gorgeous cenotes such as Mexico, especially the Yucatan Peninsula. Here is a list of the most mesmerizing cenotes.
Cenote Dos Ojos, Tulum
The term, "Dos Ojos" means two eyes and thus the cenote is literally split into two parts. One part is lighter and shallow which is perfect for snorkeling whereas the other half is dark and deep which is ideal for scuba diving. Probably, swimming can still be claustrophobic here but the beams of light penetrating through water can be enlightening. The dry caves and the bats among stalactites are unique aspects of it as well as the stalactites and stalagmites of the caves. The diving gear can be also rented at the center itself and the torch is quite imperative nonetheless.
- Opening Hours, Location & Costs: It is located three km away off the highway, 307 and 22 km north of Tulum and 50 km south of Playa Del Carmen. Entrance to this cenote costs around 18 $ and children under six are free. Life jackets are included in this price.
The Gran Cenote is the best in Tulum which beholds crystal clear water against the lush jungle. Basically, this cenote has two swimming areas connected by a cave.
Either one can snorkel between underground stalactites, go diving in the cenote cave system or enjoy the mini turtle sanctuary which is set inside the cenote. The best time to visit it is from late November to April.
- Opening Hours, Location & Costs: The cenote is open from 8 am to 4.45 am. Entrance to this cenote costs around 15$ which does not include any equipment rentals. It is located around 5kms from the center of Tulum.
Cenote Samulá, near Valladolid and Chichén Itza
One of the best cenotes in the world, it is enclosed in a cave and has the combination of high ceilings of the cave, cool water, and the dancing light. The unique feature of this cenote is a cave hole open to the sky. While the beam of sunlight makes it photogenic on the Instagram ladder, it has chilled water compared to the other cenotes. Visiting Mayan ruins nearby can just be a cherry on the cake.
- Opening Hours, Location & Costs: Located at a 15 min drive outside of Valladolid in a town called Dzitnup, it is open from 8 am to 7 pm. The price costs around 6$ for its entrance.
Suytun Cenote, Near Cancun
A mystical cenote owing to the underground cave with a walkaway in the middle of it makes it quite attractive. As the light beams through the walk away, it features a monolithic cave with turquoise water around. The cave is pretty dark inside as it's completely underground and also gives a glimpse of ancient civilizations.
- Opening Hours, Location & Costs: A short 15-minute drive from the center of Valladolid in the Yucatan Peninsula, this is quite close to the city center. The entrance fee is around 3.50 $ and is open from 9 am to 5 pm.
Best Cenote for scuba diving, Calavera Cenote is also known as "Temple of Doom" and "Skull Cenote". Its cave system has the longest underground river not only in Mexico but across the world. It does not only has freshwater but also saltwater, unlike other cenotes. However, the unique aspect persists that both don't mix although coexist in layers.
This cenote has 3 entrances to underground caves whereas the main entrance has a stair leading down, to climb in and out of the cenote.
- Opening Hours, Location & Costs: Located around 10 mins drive from the center of Tulum, it costs around 5$ for swimming and 10$ for diving purposes. It opens from 9 am till 5 pm.