Cancun and the Riviera Maya are the land of cenotes in Mexico, the beautiful bodies of water of karst origin formed by the dissolution of limestone rock.
Near the Mexican Caribbean coast are hundreds of stunning cenotes.
In today’s post, I will share what I think are the 23 most impressive and charming ones for aquatic amusements.
But before I start, I would like to review what cenotes are for those who aren’t familiar with them.
What is a Cenote, and why is it important?
It is believed that about 65 million years ago, the fall of an asteroid on earth caused the extinction of the Dinosaurs.
Furthermore, it also made geographical changes that allowed the formation of subway bodies of water around the place where it fell; Chicxulub, Yucatan.
These “water subways” began to transform into mangroves and wells under the earth that accumulated the water that filtered in from the outside.
The type of rock found throughout the peninsula is limestone, allowing the water to seep and accumulate underground.
What did Mayans use Cenotes for?
The Mayas used to make offerings and ceremonies; during these celebrations, they would throw jewels, precious stones, and sculptures.
Besides all this, it was the place from where they extracted (and still do in some communities) fresh water for daily use in the homes of the inhabitants of these lands.
Best Cenotes in Mexico: Top 23
1. Cenote Azul
Next to the beautiful seven-color lagoon in Bacalar is Cenote Azul, with majestic caverns where you can dive, preferably in the company of an expert guide.
It is surrounded by almost virgin jungle, approximately one km from the Barceló Hotel, along the federal highway.
It is a wide and deep body of water, up to 90 meters deep and 360 meters long.
Despite its beauty, it is always possible to find space, although it is more crowded in the afternoons.
2. Casa Cenote
Casa cenote in the Municipality of Tulum has an extensive channel that moves away from the Caribbean Sea, from which a narrow strip of land separates it.
Its transparent waters allow you to see the interior so clearly that it seems shallower than it is.
Because of its length, it is suitable for swimming. Access fees are about 150 pesos (8 USD) per visitor.
Some people looking for more tranquility prefer to go in the late afternoon when those who have spent the day are leaving.
It is ideal for diving, snorkeling, and canoeing, and its proximity to the beach allows you to enjoy the cenote and the sandy beach simultaneously.
3. Selvatica Cenote
The “Selvatica” cenote is at km 18 of the Quintana Roo Mexico Cenotes Route, on the Puerto Morelos – Leona Vicario Highway.
Its hanging bridges are a fun experience in which you can compete with your friends on who will cross them without falling.
You can also do bungee jumps from a ledge and take a delicious dip in the clear, refreshing water.
The jungle environment of Selvática park creates an atmosphere of intimate contact with nature, and the staff is all kind and gentleness.
Many users rate Selvatica as one of the best cenotes in Mexico, where you can also practice extreme activities.
4. Cenote Siete Bocas
This cenote is at km 15 of the Mexico Cenotes Route, near Puerto Morelos.
It is not among the busiest, so it is appropriate for people who prefer to avoid crowds.
On the flip side, the fact that it’s not very popular makes it lack infrastructure, so you will need to bring equipment for diving and snorkeling.
Because of its rusticity, it is a favorite cenote for people who like natural and quiet things.
As its name suggests, it has seven bocas (mouths) through which sunlight enters, beautifully reflecting the blue color of the water.
5. Chac Mool, one of the most shallow Cenotes in Mexico
This shallow cenote is suitable for beginner divers who want to try these water bodies for the first time.
Since there is no need to go down vertiginous abysses or penetrate through narrow passages.
It is recommended that an expert accompany all beginners.
It has incredible passages full of rock formations, such as stalactites, stalagmites, and columns, as well as plant remains such as trunks and roots.
The illumination is magnificent when the sunlight penetrates through the cavern.
6. Cenote Zacil-Ha
Cenote Zacil-Ha is at km 8 of the Tulum – Coba highway. It has a zip line, and the people in charge keep it clean and in good condition.
It has a rustic infrastructure but is very cozy. Although the water mirror is not very large, the outdoor spaces allow visitors to settle comfortably in palapas, tables, chairs, and umbrellas.
The zip line is short but very fun, and visitors line up again and again to enjoy it.
It has restrooms, changing rooms, a restaurant, and a food area.
If you bring your own food, you must pay the “corkage fee.” The regular entrance fee is 50 pesos (3 USD).
7. Ponderosa Cenote
The cenote area in which “Ponderosa” is located is called Garden of Eden, at km 24 of the Cancun – Tulum Highway.
The access road is a bit steep, but it is worth it for the beauty of the place.
The water is cool, crystal clear, and beautifully colored. Access fee is 100 pesos (5 USD), and the snorkel equipment rental is 40 pesos.
It has good areas for swimming and snorkeling, but no restaurant, so if you go for the day, you should bring your own food.
The cenote is full of multicolored fish, and the transparent waters allow you to hold them with your hands.
8. Secreto River
Rio Secreto is less than 20 km from Playa del Carmen, with access from the Chetumal – Puerto Juarez Federal Highway.
A subway stream in the middle of the Yucatan jungle, full of cenotes and caves.
The most electrifying experience at Rio Secreto is touring the caverns. The guides will provide a wetsuit, a headlamp, and a safety helmet.
The tour operators will take you approximately 600 meters (1,000 feet).
You’ll admire the stalactites and stalagmites formed over the millennia by the constant dripping of calcareous water.
9. Cenote Cristalino, Playa del Carmen Mexico
Cristalino is very close to the Cenote Azul of Playa del Carmen (not to be confused with the Cenote Azul of Bacalar) after passing the Aktun Chi Park on Highway 307.
It looks like a large natural pool with small fish of different colors swimming through its clear waters.
You may want to read: Top Valladolid Cenotes: Yucatan’s Best Kept Secrets
It allows the practice of various aquatic activities such as swimming, snorkeling, and diving and has a zip line.
The infrastructure of Cenote Cristalino is enough to spend a lovely day with family or friends since it has a restaurant and essential services.
It is also good to go for a short while, like in the late afternoon, because it is close to the hotel zone, about 20 minutes from downtown Playa del Carmen.
10. Nohoch Nah Chich
This system of cenotes connected to the Caribbean Sea is about 50 km from Ciudad del Carmen.
The strange name means “The Giant Bird” in the translation of the Mayan dialect.
Its maximum depth is 9 meters, and the water temperature ranges between 25 and 28 degrees Celsius.
You can dive or snorkel, admiring the rock formations and colorful marine fauna, including fish and turtles.
Likewise, you can descend with a rope or a wooden ladder and bring your own equipment or rent it on site.
11. Chaak Tun
This cenote near Playa del Carmen can be accessed from Juarez Avenue.
Two caverns form the beautiful place, one small and illuminated with artificial light and the other more prominent, with a cavity through which sunlight enters.
Right in the middle of the second cavern is a tree and the sun filtering through the branches offers a beautiful natural spectacle.
The smaller cavern has a ceiling of stalactites that “threatens” anyone who passes like a swarm of beautiful rock arrows about to attack. The water is quite cold.
12. Dos Ojos Cenote
It is only 15 km from the town of Tulum, so it is very convenient to go by cab.
Access to the cenote is by a narrow dirt road, and because of its proximity to Tulum, you should arrive early to find a good spot.
Dos Ojos is considered one of the best cenotes in Mexico by divers because it is connected to an extensive and intricate network of underwater caves that is one of the largest on the planet.
13. Crystal Cenote
This open cenote, also called Naharon, is 3 km south of Tulum on Federal Highway 307.
It looks like a huge natural pool placed by a miraculous hand in the middle of a beautiful property of palm trees and lush greenery.
Its depth is only 5 meters, making it great for kids just starting out in fun underwater sports.
There’s also a two-meter platform for diving, although those who prefer the comfort of a hammock can admire the cenote risk-free.
It is open from 8 AM to 5 PM and has vests for rent. There is also a palapa where you can leave your belongings and have lunch.
14. Great Cenote
As its name suggests, it is a large karst body of water located about 3.5 km from Tulum.
It lies along the road into the jungle, towards the Mayan archaeological site of Coba.
The maximum depth of the Gran Cenote is only 10 meters, which, together with its network of caves, makes it an appropriate place for aquatic entertainment for all family members, provided they can swim.
The views that await underwater are lovely, with stalactites, stalagmites, and other formations.
While its magnificent lighting makes it a suitable place for divers with little experience in cenotes.
Services at the site are limited, as they only offer parking, restrooms, and rental snorkel equipment.
15. Mexico Cenotes: Tak Be Ha
The most astonishing thing about this cenote is the impressive cavern ceiling above the mirror of crystalline water.
Tak Be Ha is only 15 minutes from the town of Tulum and half an hour from Playa del Carmen on Federal Highway 307.
This cavern formed millions of years ago is of singular beauty, especially for the rock formations that hang from the ceiling like stony spears that seem ready to be shot into the water.
The place is very well kept, and people gladly pay 100 pesos (5 USD) to go swimming, snorkeling, and admire the beauty of the water and the surroundings.
16. Angelita Cenote
It is formed by fresh and saltwater subway currents and is located 16 km from Tulum, in the direction of Chetumal.
To reach the cenote you have to walk half a km through the jungle.
The maximum depth of the cenote is 60 meters, and divers have good visibility down to about 30 meters.
The water current is similar to a surface river, with its banks covered with vegetation and leaf litter.
At the bottom, it is possible to distinguish tree trunks that succumbed to the passage of time.
It is similar to a vertical tunnel in which fresh and sea water meet, and the hydrogen sulfide in the salt water creates an interesting visual effect.
17. Tajma Ha Cenote
This cenote is named after the famous 17th-century Hindu mausoleum, perhaps because of the resemblance of the name to its native name of Taj Mahal.
This cenote is right off Federal Highway 307, about 25 km south of Playa del Carmen.
The transparency of its waters allows us to appreciate the natural phenomenon of haloclines, which are columns of water with layers of different appearances due to varying degrees of salinity.
The natural light that filters in the depths and the beauty and whimsical shapes of the rock formations make diving in the Tajma Ha Cenote a wonderful experience.
18. Uch-Ben-Ha Cenote
It is one of the four cenotes for public use in the Kantun Chi Ecopark, in the heart of the Riviera Maya.
The ecological park is a beautiful space of caves and water in the middle of a tropical jungle populated by rare species, among which the spider monkey stands out.
Uch-Ben-Ha is an open-air cenote, so the sun’s contact with the water makes it a little warmer.
Small fish of various sizes and colors swim through the clear water, and there are hammock islands for the more comfortable and water-shy visitors.
The other cenotes in the park are Kantun Chi, semi-open; Sas ka leen Ha, the largest and has a small Mayan shrine; and Zacil Ha, which has light entrances through the limestone layer.
19. Aktun Chen Cenote
Aktun Chen is an ecological park of cenotes and caverns located 16 km from the archaeological site of Tulum and just over 100 km from Cancun.
The park is accessed through a beautiful road bordered by tropical jungle.
Its main cenote cave has a staircase carved in the rock to provide greater safety to visitors.
The cave combines natural and artificial light, allowing visitors to admire the whimsical rock formations sculpted by nature in all their splendor.
In the last room of the cave is the beautiful cenote, in which swimming is not allowed to preserve the fragile 7-meter thick calcium carbonate layer that has formed over hundreds of thousands of years.
20. Suytun Cenote
This cenote is just a few minutes from the Yucatan city of Valladolid.
It is a subway cavern with a body of crystalline water surrounded by stalactites and other rock formations that offer visitors their whimsical profiles.
The shallow water and active aquatic life are visible, with hundreds of fish moving around.
It is an ideal place to take a refreshing dip and swim a little after a good sweat while touring the Mayan archaeological city of Chichen Itza.
Cenote Suytun has clean and comfortable cabins and is available to visitors between 9 AM and 6 PM.
21. Escondido Cenote
It lies 5 minutes west of the city of Tulum on Federal Highway 307, near Cenote Cristal.
To get to the cenote, you can make the final one-kilometer journey by car or on foot, among tropical trees and fauna species.
It is a broad and deep pool, suitable for cooling off and swimming and protected by cliffs up to 4 meters tall.
In the waters of the natural pool, there are multicolored fish and freshwater turtles; from it, you can access the underwater caves.
On the cenote’s shore, there are wooden platforms to facilitate access to the water for swimmers and a palapa for shade and to enjoy a picnic. The entrance fee is 5 USD.
22. Mexico Cenotes: Skeleton (Calavera)
This famous cenote is also called the Temple of Doom or Cenote Calavera.
It has a network of caves and passages and is run by a community of Mayan descendants.
It has several points from which to dive, and the sound of the winnowing puts the bats that live in the area in flight.
Cenote Esqueleto is near the municipal capital of Tulum on the road to the Mayan ruins of Coba.
Its enigmatic name and indigenous presence have created a mysticism around the body of water frequented by diving and snorkeling enthusiasts.
The light filtering through the cavern’s holes creates a beautifully luminous effect on the rock formations and other elements of the environment.
23. Cenote Ik Kil
I left some of the best Mexico cenotes for the end, and Ik Kil is no exception.
This is the most spectacular cenote among those found in the vicinity of the Mayan archaeological site of Chichen Itza and the Yucatan colonial Magical Town of Valladolid.
Most tours to the archaeological site and Valladolid stop at this beautiful cenote.
So that people can refresh themselves before or after their intense days among pre-Hispanic monuments or colonial mansions.
You may want to read: What is The Mayan Route? A Road Trip Adventure You Cannot Miss
I hope you can visit most of these cenotes on your next trip to Cancun and the Riviera Maya.
And please, don’t forget to share your most exciting experiences with us.
See you again soon for another beautiful trip through the Mexican territory. Vamonos!