At the top of my list when we visited Mexico was to dive into a cenote (or three!)
Of course, during my Mexico trip, I also wanted to eat ALL the Mexican food, explore the ruins, discover the Mexican beaches, and go scuba diving in Mexico as well as taking a dip and snorkeling in the best cenotes in Mexico.
Below is a list of some of the best cenotes near Cancun, cenotes near Tulum and cenotes in the Yucatan.
If you’re looking for Yucatan cave swimming then there are plenty of ideas in this post. These Mexico water holes are sure to be a highlight of your trip to Mexico, they sure were for me!
Table of Contents
What are cenotes Mexico?
First things first, “what are cenotes in Mexico?” Cenotes are natural swimming holes or swimming caves in Mexico. They’re formed by the collapse of porous limestone bedrock. When the rock falls it reveals a secret subterranean world of groundwater pools!
Most Mexico pool caves, or cave cenotes, have fresh water that has been filtered by the earth. This makes the water super clear and pure. So clear in fact that you can often see straight through to small fish darting about in the plants.
Where to find the best cenotes in Mexico
Looking for the best cenote in Mexico for your upcoming Mexico trip? Be sure to check out these Mexican cave pools!
A lot on the list are based in the Riviera Maya and while this list could be way, way longer, I’ve picked out the best cenotes in Riviera Maya for you to explore.
A map of the 17 most beautiful cenotes in Mexico
Use this map of cenotes in Mexico to find your way around the best cenotes in Mexico. This Mexico cenotes map includes some of the best cenotes near Tulum and the best cenotes in Yucatan. There aren’t any cenotes super close to Cancún but as you can see the best cenote in Cancun is probably those near Tulum or Valladolid.
If you’re staying in Cancun, this bestselling tour will pick you up from your hotel, and take you to Tulum’s ruins and nearby Cenote before dropping you back at your hotel in Cancun.
Best cenotes in Tulum
The cenotes in Mexico near Tulum are some of the best-known ones since they’re close to this popular town. They’re not too far away from Cancun, so you could also consider them the best cenotes in Cancun.
Looking for other things to do in Tulum? Check out my list of the best free and cheap things to do in Tulum.
1. Cenote Dos Ojos, near Tulum
The name Dos Ojos means ‘two eyes’ and describes this cenote’s two pools of water: one blue and clear, the other dark and cavernous. Both pools are nice to swim in, but the darker of the two gets the most attention for its light-free snorkelling.
You can rent diving gear at the cenote itself and don’t forget to get a torch so that you can see the stalactites up above. Swimming at this Mexico cenote can be a bit cramped and claustrophobic, but it’s exhilarating to see beams of light cut through the clear waters below.
At Cenote Dos Ojos you can also walk through dry caves and see bats snuggling among the stalactites.
These Tulum cenotes are also some of the most beautiful ones too especially for cave swimming in Mexico.
2. Gran Cenote
Gran Cenote is just like a remote tropical beach in an underground cave! Wander down the path to the white, sandy shoreline at the bottom before descending through gardens of tropical foliage.
Snorkelling is the main attraction here and swimmers come face to face with a rare triad — fish, turtles, and stalagmites.
3. Cenote Azul, near Tulum and Playa Del Carmen
One of the best cenotes in Playa del Carmen, Cenote Azul (or Blue Cenote) has the charm of an old theme park. It’s not one of the biggest cenotes in Mexico, it’s smaller and a bit quieter. But that’s what makes it one of the top cenotes in Mexico!
The clear turquoise water is full of tropical fish and the pool is just waiting to be discovered by eager snorkelers and divers!
There’s also a mini cliff which you can jump off, smaller pools to wade through and a path to stroll along to get a view from all angles.
4. Cenote Calavera near Tulum
The name “Calavera” means skull in Spanish and you’ll see why! There is one bigger hole and two smaller holes that look like they’re the eyes and mouth of a skull!
You can jump into the waters from all three holes but be careful with the two smaller holes – there’s not a whole lot of room for error!
There’s also a ladder which you can climb down to get into the water too and there’s a little rope that can be used to sit on when you need a break.
5. Cenote Santa Cruz Tulum
Cenote Santa Cruz is an excellent destination for you if you’re looking to spend an unforgettable few hours in Akumal Pueblo, Mexico.
The cenote is located down a deserted road and you may need a guide to help you get there.
Below the water, you’ll find a beautiful cave filled with the most interesting stalactites and tree roots reaching deep down. Small fish live there in total darkness, as well as odd insects, and bats that occasionally fly overhead.
The experience is unique and different from other cenotes and you can get life jackets, underwater flashlights, and snorkelling masks at the cenote. It’s a good idea to wear water shoes or at least a pair of old sneakers because there are many rocky areas beneath the water.
6. Cenote Abierto
Cenote Abierto is a family-run cenote that has beautiful crystal-clear waters.
It’s best to visit this cenote in the morning when the waters are nice and cool and there is plenty of fish to see too.
One of the highlights of Cenote Abierto is the cliff jump and there are some cool swim-through caves to swim through too.
The site has nice amenities and everything you could need is available for rent. Life jackets are optional but available for free.
If you get hungry, there is usually a roadside taco stand right before the entrance, which is worth it and very cheap. There are also some coconuts for a drink too!
7. Cenote Zacil-Ha
Zacil-Ha is a beautiful small cenote that offers visitors a peaceful few hours away from the crowds. It’s located about 10 minute drive from Tulum and is a great spot to enjoy an afternoon of drinks, swimming, and food.
The water is cool and clear, and there’s a platform to jump in from and a zip line for a small entrance fee.
The cenote had few tourists and was enjoyed mostly by local families. There are shaded seating areas nearby, and a few bars/restaurants around the cenote if you’re getting hungry or thirsty.
The cenote has a small cave that you can swim into, and there are lots of little fish swimming around.
All in all, Zacil-Ha is a small but fun cenote that’s worth visiting for a relaxed afternoon away from the crowds.
8. Cenote Pedrín Fenómeno
Cenote Fenomeno is a beautiful cenote that’s located a bit of a drive away from Tulum.
If you’re looking to dive, then making your way to this cenote is definitely worth it. However, if diving isn’t your thing, then there are some other cenotes (on this list) which are more suited to just swimming, or paddling.
The cenote is a bit challenging to find and requires some perseverance to get to, but once you do, you’ll be greeted with absolutely beautiful water. It’s a stunning sight to behold and worth the effort it takes to get there.
Cenote Fernomeno is a hidden gem that’s well worth a visit for those who are up for the adventure!
Best cenotes in Yucatán, Mexico
Find some of the best cenotes in the Yucatan area of Mexico below.
9. Cenote Noc-Ac
Cenote Noc-Ac, also known as Cenote Kambul, is a beautiful natural swimming hole (cenote) near the village of Noc Ac in Yucatan, Mexico.
Though it’s one of the smaller cenotes in the area, it’s a popular attraction due to its proximity to the northern coastline and its unique features. This includes the discovery of prehistoric critters like manatee fossils and prehistoric sharks like Carcharodon Megalodon being found around this cenote.
The cenote has a small hole in the back that allows beams of sunlight to shine into the crystal-clear blue water, which makes it such a cool sight if you get the right lighting conditions.
When you visit, you can access the cenote by jumping in or by climbing down the ladder.
10. Cenote Samulá, near Valladolid and Chichén Itzá
Cenote Samulá is in the town of Dzitnup. This is one of the best cenotes in Mexico and possibly one of the best cenotes in the world. It’s a photogenic celebrity. There are even coloured artificial lights that gently pulsate through the enclosed cave!
Make sure to look up where you’ll see long tree roots crawling through the hole up above. The tree stays alive because its roots drink the cenote’s water!
Jump in and swim with the catfish who’ll nip at your feet and watch the bats up above.
11. Grutas de Loltún
You don’t have to miss out on seeing the Mayan underground wonderland because you hate tight spaces or don’t fancy swimming. Grutas (caves) showcase cenote views without you having to get wet.
The Grutas de Loltún are the largest caves in the Yucatán Peninsula and offer a spectacular path through Mexico’s inner world of monumental ceilings.
Follow a guide who’ll lead you through a network of caverns decked out in hand drawings thousands of years old. Spot tree roots bursting through the ceiling. Gaze at the stalagmites and stalactites that have joined to form columns and have a go at thumping them to make the rocks ‘sing’ the caves’ name, ‘Lol’ and ‘Tun’.
12. Ik Kil Cenotes
Ik Kil is en route to the Chichen Itza ruins which makes it one of the busier Mexican cenotes but still one of the best cenotes in the Yucatan.
The 60ft pool comes with a restaurant, gift shop and a well-lit limestone staircase that’ll take swimmers to the hanging vines and blue waters below.
If you’re feeling even more adventurous then try some extreme diving (but use caution!). This diving is so extreme that Red Bull held a dive competition here a few years back!
13. Cenote Zaci
Zaci is the only in-town cenote in Mexico. In the small Mexican city of Valladolid, you can hike into the 260ft cave and enjoy a shady respite. You may even see a few workers who’ve left their desks at lunch taking a swim!
Perhaps don’t jump straight in though; you’re right next to a bunch of city sewer lines!
14. Cenote Suytun
The Suytun cenote sits on a private ranch outside Valladolid and boasts some of the clearest water of any watering hole in Mexico and is one of the most famous cenotes (at least on Instagram!). It’s definitely one of the must-see cenotes in Mexico.
You can gaze to the bottom of it from the observation platform! Although gaze is all you’re gonna want to do as the water is freezing! Make time for the daily performance of Mayan dance too!
Cenotes in Cuzamá
15. Cenote Chacsinicché
There are three cenotes to choose from in Cuzama, with each of these Mexican water holes offering visitors a different experience.
First, try the “tree-root-dropping-into-a-cavern” cenote. To get there walk down the old wooden staircase at Chacsinicche and watch the light bounce off the water and dangling roots.
This cenote, Cenote Chac-Sinic-Chr has vibrant, blue-green waters which are ideal for swimming.
16. Cenote Bolonchoojol
Cenote Bolonchoojo is a dark cavern lined with stalactites as well as beautiful green waters.
And for the truly adventurous, there is an unnamed cave with limited access that leads to, well, another cenote. It’s not well-marked and perfect if you’re looking for something remote
17. Cenote Xkeken
Since the only light that comes into this popular cenote is from the small hole in the roof, the best time to visit is in the middle of the day. At this time the light beams straight down into the pool and gives an almost heavenly spotlight to the waters below.
Unfortunately, there’ll be a ton of other people there to bask in the light with you as it’s crazy popular – but for good reason!
If you want to make it an afternoon, swimming is allowed (they’ve got a lifeguard!) and you can even lounge on the small island in the middle.
FAQs about Cenotes in Mexico
Are cenotes deep?
Some cenotes can be vary deep but not all of them are. Most will have a combination of shallower and deeper areas. These Mexican swimming holes are all quite varied.
What’s special about cenotes?
The Ancient Mayans worshipped cenotes because they were a water source in dry times; the name cenote means ‘sacred well’. They settled villages around cenotes and believed that they were a portal to speak with the gods.
When you visit a cenote today it’s easy to see why they held the Mayans in awe. Swimming in the pristine waters feels like stepping back in time thanks to the giant tropical trees and vines and the almost-eery sunbeams.
How many cenotes are in Mexico?
No one knows exactly how many cenotes in Mexico there are but it’s believed there are over 6000 in different cenotes in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico alone!
What is the best cenote to visit in mexico?
I loved the cenotes in Tulum since Tulum itself is a great destination too. My favourite of the ones I visited was Cenote Calavera.
How much do Mexico Cenotes Cost?
The cost of a ticket for a cenote is usually between 100-200 pesos (USD$8-16 / £5-10; cash only) per person.
Should I visit alone or on a tour?
Whilst you can easily visit these beautiful Mexico cenotes alone you may also want to combine a cenote swim with a tour to other parts of Mexico.
Booking a day tour is if you’re a solo traveller and want to meet new people, or don’t want to think about transport. These tours are rated super high:
- Tulum and Cenotes Tour: Visit two of the area’s top attractions, Cenote Chen Ha and Tulum archaeological ruins. Transport to and from Cancun and Tulum included.
- Tour Cenotes Oasis Maya: A full-day eco-adventure with kayaking, snorkelling, rappelling and swimming. Lunch and transport included.
What should I pack for a cenote, Mexico?
Bring swimwear (if you want to do some Mexico cave swimming), sunscreen, water, sandals/flip-flops and a towel, and leave valuables at home.
Due to their popularity, a lot of the cenotes of Mexico have changing facilities, plus flashlights, life vests and snorkelling equipment for hire.
Final thoughts on the best cenote Mexico
So, now you know just what is a cenote in Mexico is, which one are you going to explore?
This round-up of the best cenotes in Mexico includes some of the best cenotes Yucatan has to offer as well as some of the cenotes in Tulum which are some of my favourites of the cenotes Mexico has.
From snorkelling in cenotes to taking a dip with the fish or just checking them out from dry land, Mexico cenotes are magical and you should definitely make time to visit some of them during your Mexico trip.
Don’t forget about other great areas of Mexico near Yucatan.
Holbox in particular is beautiful with great delicious Holbox food, beaches and a chilled-out vibe.
Have you got travel insurance? I’ve been using SafetyWing for a while and it’s incredibly easy, affordable and overall hassle-free! Make sure you check them out before your trip (or after, you can subscribe even if the trip has already started!). They offer subscription-based travel insurance which is great for digital nomads. It allows you to claim medical expenses, and you can add travel coverage to cover your for lost or stolen belongings or additional expenses due to delayed travel.
Last Updated on November 1, 2023 by Hannah
Hannah started That Adventurer after graduating back in 2013 and has documented all of her adventures since then. From backpacking South America to city breaks in Europe, a 3 month road trip across the USA in a self-converted van and 6 years living in Canada, you’ll find posts on all of this.
Hannah specialises in active travel and on That Adventurer you’ll find hiking, walking, biking, skiing and all sorts of active travel guides to allow you to see a destination in an adventurous way.