11 Best Cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula

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Cenote Ik Kil Yucatan Mexico, one of the best cenotes of the Yucatan

When most people think of diving, they picture the clear, blue waters of the Caribbean or Pacific. There is another place where you can find some of the best diving in the world: the cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula.

In recent years, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula has become a playground for sun-seekers worldwide. Beginning in Cancun, Tulum, and Cozumel in the 1970s and later spreading to Playa del Carmen and the Mayan Riviera, the area’s spectacular Caribbean coastline has become the site of countless resorts and nearly endless new construction.

Perhaps less known about the Yucatan is that it’s home to some of the most unusual cave diving opportunities in the Northern Hemisphere.

Scuba divers and freedivers can explore underground caves through one of the thousands of cenotes dotting the region. There are over 300 miles of interconnecting tunnels and a unique environment filled with pure water and spectacular rock formations.

What are the Cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula?

Cenote Ik Kil Yucatan Mexic
Photo: gameoflight

Cenotes (pronounced “say-no-tays”) are natural sinkholes throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. They are created when the limestone bedrock collapses, creating an underground water-filled cave.

Cenotes are notable for diving because they offer a unique and unparalleled experience. Since they are located in the jungle, divers can explore caves, caverns, and passageways filled with stalagmites hanging from the ceiling and stalactites.

The water is crystal clear, providing visibility of up to 100 feet, and the temperature is a refreshing 72 degrees year-round.

The origin of the cenotes

Hubiku Cenote
Photo: kaptah

Millions of years of sea changes combined with the impact of a huge meteor worked together to form a gigantic system of underground caverns in the porous limestone of the Yucatan. Over time, many of these are filled with water from rainfall or the water table below the earth’s surface.

A cenote is created when the roof of one of these watery caves collapses. It may be an open lake, a small sinkhole, or just about anything. Some cenotes contain purely freshwater, some are saltwater, and some combine the two.

It is estimated that there are 7,000 cenotes in the Yucatan region, and together, they comprise most of the world’s longest underwater cave systems. There are no above-ground rivers in the Yucatan; all their rivers flow underground and are accessed via cenotes.

Doors to the Mayan underworld

Cenote Dzitnup
Photo: atbaker

The word “cenote” is a variation of the Mayan word “dzonot,” which translates into “sacred well.” And the cenotes were indeed sacred to the Mayan people. Mayan cities like Chichen Itza and Tulum depended on the cenotes for their potable water, and most settlements were built around a cenote.

The mineral-rich waters that filtered slowly through the earth were also thought to have curative properties. Equally important, though, was their great religious significance.

The Mayans believed that all life was a cycle, and that cycle included entry to the underworld after death. The cenotes and other cenotes in Mexico were the doorways through which the dead penetrated that world.

How to Get to The Yucatan Cenotes

To dive the cenotes of the Yucatan, fly into Cancun, drive to Tulum, and rent diving gear. Take a boat ride to the cenotes and explore the underwater caves. When you’re finished, rinse off your gear and drive back to Cancun or visit more attractions in Yucatan.

What to Pack for Cenote Diving

Yucatan Mexico
Photo: gameoflight

When visiting the beautiful place and amazing cenotes in Yucatan, there are a few things you’ll want to make sure to bring with you.

First, be sure to pack a swimsuit and towel. You’ll also want plenty of drinking water and snacks to keep your energy up. And finally, don’t forget to pack your camera!

The cenotes are indeed a sight to behold, and you’ll want to capture the memories of your trip. So, pack everything you need before heading out on your adventure.

Tips for preparing for a dive

Cenote Mexico
Photo: fattytuna

When preparing for a dive, it is important to ensure that you have everything you need. Here are some tips for preparing for a dive:

  • Make sure you are well-hydrated before your dive. Drink plenty of water in the days leading up to your dive.
  • Get plenty of rest the night before your dive.
  • Eat a light breakfast on the day of your dive. Avoid high fat or protein foods.
  • Wear sunscreen and insect repellent on the day of your dive.
  • Pack all of your gear in a waterproof bag. Make sure to include extra tanks, air cylinders, and weights.
  • Pack snacks and drinks for the trip.

See Related: Ways to Make Travel Less Stressful

Why you should consider diving into the cenotes of the Yucatan

Cenote Yucatan Mexico
Photo: gameoflight

If you’re looking for an unusual and exciting diving experience, visiting the Yucatan cenotes is worth considering. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced diver using scuba equipment or freediving, the amazing cenotes offer an experience like no other.

Entering this peaceful underground world of crystal clear water and stalactites. As well as stalagmites and sudden arcs of light, there’s still an opportunity to explore places hidden for centuries.

Divers seeking a truly unique experience should check out Dos Ojos (Spanish for “two eyes,”) a pair of cenotes located just south of the Mayan city of Tulum.

Best Cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula

The Yucatan Peninsula is a great place to dive, with its many cenotes (underwater cave systems). Here are some of the best cenotes to dive in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula:

1. Cenote Dos Ojos

Woman Swimming in Cenote Dos Ojos

This cenote is a pair of interconnected cenotes and is one of the most popular cenotes in Mexico. It’s known for its large system of underground caves, which is still being explored. Dos Ojos is a cenote located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, about an hour and a half south of Cancun.

It is a popular dive site due to its crystal-clear water and abundant marine life. Dos Ojos means “two eyes” in Spanish, referring to the two sinkholes that comprise the cenote.

The cenote is accessible by swimming from an open-air cenote to a large cavern. You can then explore the underwater cave system among the famous cave cenotes. The cave system is filled with stalactites and stalagmites, and it’s possible to see freshwater fish, schools of barracuda, and even turtles.

2. Gran Cenote

Woman Swimming in Gran Cenote

This cenote is one of the most beautiful in the Yucatan, with its clear turquoise waters and impressive limestone formations. Gran Cenote, or the Grand Cenote, is one of the most famous cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula. You may join cenote tours to see this beautiful cenote.

It’s an open cenote perfect for diving, and its clear blue waters make it a popular spot for swimming and snorkeling. The Gran cenote is also home to many fish, which can be seen swimming through the crystal-clear water.

There are many things to do in Gran Cenote, but some of the most popular include swimming, snorkeling, and diving. If you’re among cave divers looking for a great place to dive, the Gran Cenote is the cenote to visit.

3. Cenote Sac Actun

Sac Actun Cenote is an extensive underwater cave system in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It’s one of the longest and largest cave systems in the world and was only recently discovered in 2007.

The caves were thought to be interconnected, but it wasn’t until divers explored them that it was confirmed. Joining the Cancun jungle tour will let you explore Sac Actun and enjoy cenote diving.

The Sac Actun Cenote is a beautiful place to dive, with crystal-clear water and plenty of marine life. The entrance to the cave is about 20 meters deep, and the cave system extends for about 223 kilometers. There are several different passages to explore, and it’s an excellent place for diving enthusiasts.

See Related: The Most Amazing Natural Arches in the World

4. Carwash Cenote

Waters and Trees in Carwash Cenote
Carwash Cenote …” by berniedup is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

This cenote is a great place for beginning divers, with a shallow depth of only 10 feet. It’s also known for its impressive stalactites and stalagmites. The Carwash Cenote is one of the best cenotes in Tulum. It’s well known for its clear turquoise waters and excellent diving conditions. 

It is a cenote that is a great place for experienced divers to explore. There are many interesting formations and crevices to discover.

5. Ik Kil Cenote

Trees and Ik Kil Cenote
Ik Kil Cenote-13” by GOC53 is marked with CC BY 2.0.

This cenote is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Yucatan Peninsula. It is known for its stunning turquoise waters. It’s a great place for swimming and cave diving.

Ik Kil Cenote is a natural sinkhole. It’s one of the most popular cenotes in the area and is visited by tourists worldwide. The cenote is about 66 meters deep and features a beautiful limestone bridge that spans its width.

6. Cenote Angelita

Trees Hovering Cenote Angelita
Cenote Angelita” by Just Booked A Trip is marked with CC BY 2.0.

This cenote is unusual because it’s underwater and only accessible by scuba diving or snorkeling. It’s known for its clear waters and impressive coral formations.

Cenote Angelita is a cenote located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. It is one of the most popular diving spots in the Yucatan.

It is known for its clear turquoise waters and abundance of aquatic life. The cenote is deep, and divers can descend to depths of up to 100 feet.

7. Chichen Itza Cenote

This cenote is located near the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza. It is famous for its crystal clear waters and impressive Mayan ruins.

The cenote is one of the most popular diving spots. The cenote is a flooded sinkhole that formed when the roof of a natural limestone cave collapsed.

The cenote is about 100 feet deep and is filled with crystal-clear water. The cenote is home to various fish and plant life, and it is also a popular spot for swimming and snorkeling.

8. Samula Cenote

This cenote is known for its large system of underground caves, which divers can explore with the proper equipment. Samula Cenote is located on the Ruta de Los Cenotes, about halfway between Cobá and Tulum. This large cenote is open to the sky, with a diameter of about seventy meters.

The cenote has two entrances, one on the east side and one on the west side, and there are stairs leading down to the water. The bottom of the cenote is sandy, and several large trees are growing in the cenote.

The water in Samula Cenote is very clear, and it is possible to see the bottom even when it is dark. Many fish are in the cenote, and it is possible to see them swimming in its clear water.

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9. Xkeken Cenote

Cave Stalagmite and Stalactite
File:Cenote Xkeken.jpg” by Haakon S. Krohn is marked with CC BY 4.0.

This cenote is known for its beautiful turquoise waters and lush vegetation. It’s an excellent place for swimming and diving.

The Xkeken Cenote is one of the most beautiful cave cenotes in the Playa del Carmen. It’s a large cenote with crystal-clear water and an impressive depth of 280 feet. It’s perfect for diving, and many divers come to explore its depths.

10. Cenote Calavera

Underground Cave with Water and Ladder

If you’re looking for a fantastic diving experience, look no further than Cenote Calavera. This famous cenote is home to some of Yucatan’s most beautiful underwater landscapes.

With crystal-clear water and a wide variety of fish and coral, it’s easy to spend hours exploring this natural wonder.

The cenote is known for its clear turquoise waters, making for great diving. The cenote is also home to many fish, which can make for some great photo opportunities.

11. Cenote Manati

Cenote Manati, Tulum, Aerial View
Adobe Stock / Tom H

Cenote Manati is a popular tourist destination in Yucatan. It’s well-known for its crystal clear blue water and beautiful limestone formations. The cenote is also home to various fish and wildlife, including freshwater turtles.

It is among the highly recommended diving the cenotes of Yucatan if you’re looking for an adventure. There’s something genuinely magical about swimming in these underground waterways. Not to mention, the Mayan ruins and ancient temples make for a fantastic backdrop.

12. Cenote Azul

Clear Blue Water in Cenote Azul
Azul Cenote” by linkogecko is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Cenote Azul is a beautiful cenote located in the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen. It’s well known for its clear blue water, limestone formations, and day trips. The cenote is open to the public and is a great place to swim, dive, and snorkel.

13. Cenote Choo Ha

Cenote Choo Ha is a beautiful and one of the best cenotes in the Yucatan. To visit the cenote, you may join fun day trips with included lunch.

It’s a popular spot for diving and swimming, and its clear blue waters are stunningly beautiful. The cenote is also home to several fish and other aquatic life, making it an ideal spot for snorkeling.

14. Cenote Suytun

People and Lights Inside the Cenote Suytun
Cenote Suytun” by Daquella manera is marked with CC BY 2.0.

The Suytun cenote is a large and impressive cenote located in Yucatan. It’s well-known for its crystal clear waters, making it a popular spot for scuba diving.

The cenote is also home to several interesting geological features, including stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and interesting rock formations.

FAQ

What are cenotes?

Cenotes are natural pits, sinkholes, or caverns that fill with water. They are often associated with the Yucatan Peninsula and Mexico.

What is the difference between a cenote and a cave?

A cenote is a natural pit, sinkhole, or cavern that fills with water. A cave is a natural underground formation of rock.

Is diving in a cenote dangerous?

No, diving in a cenote is not inherently dangerous. However, it is essential to take proper safety precautions when diving into any underwater location.

What should I bring when diving in a cenote?

You should bring a dive light, fins, and a mask when diving in a cenote. You may also want a snorkel and wet suit if the water is cold.

Do cenotes have an entrance fee?

Yes, most cenotes have an entrance fee. The fee varies depending on the location.

What should I wear when visiting a cenote?

When visiting a cenote, you should wear clothes that can get wet. You may also want to bring a swimsuit and towel.

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Kyle Kroeger
WRITTEN BY

Kyle Kroeger

Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He's a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he'd heard.

Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he's learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.

He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time. Read more about his portfolio of work.

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One thought on “11 Best Cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula

  1. Avatar of Grace @ Green Global Travel
    · December 22, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    “one hollowed out by the inexorable forces of underground rivers and time.” Beautiful post! There really is something mystical about the Yucatan.