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Top Valladolid Cenotes: Yucatan’s Best Kept Secrets

  • Joel CZ 
  • 19 min read
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Valladolid cenotes are not just beautiful but unique. The word cenote comes from the Mayan “dzonot,” which means “sacred well.”

Cenotes were sacred to the Mayans because it was the gateway to Xibalba, a subway world with many deities.

That is why they were used as ceremonial places where offerings and sacrifices were made.

Today, you can bathe in these magnificent natural wells, sometimes outdoors, like natural pools, and sometimes hidden in subway caves.

There are an estimated 10,000 cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.

Since there are many cenotes to choose from, I reduced the list to the best Valladolid cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula (and others in Quintana Roo and Campeche).

I tried to make a varied list, with some cenotes more suitable for families, others not too touristy and quite rustic; perfect for adventure seekers.

So, which cenotes to see in Valladolid Mexico? Let’s get started!

1. Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman

valladolid cenotes
Source: Simon Dannhauer / shuttlestock.com

Cenote Oxman is named after the Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman, located just 10 minutes from the colonial city of Valladolid.

It is an open cenote surrounded by rocky walls with long overhanging roots. The view from the top is breathtaking!

You reach it by a staircase of 73 steps, and once down, you can jump into the water from the edge of a wooden platform. Or even better: with the zip line!

In the afternoon, groups of tourists arrive after they visit Chichén Itzá, so I recommend going to the cenote in the morning.

It is the ideal place to rest because there is a nice pool with lounge chairs, tables, and umbrellas, a restaurant, and a bar in addition to the cenote.

How to get there: From Valladolid, Yucatan, take Calle 54. You can also get there by bike (10-15 min.) from downtown or take a cab (70-80 pesos).

2. Cenotes Dzitnup

valladolid cenotes
Samula cenote – Source: javarman / shutterstock.com

The cenotes Xkeken and Samula also deserve to be on this list.

These are located in the community of Dzitnup, near Valladolid, and are therefore often referred to simply as the cenotes of Dzitnup.

X’kekén means “pig” in Mayan, and the guide told us that it takes its name from the curious story of its discovery.

Some farmers had a little pig that often went out for a walk and always came back full of mud, even in times of drought when it didn’t rain.

Then one day, they decided to follow him, and he went into a cave, and that’s how they realized there was a cenote.

Cenote Xkekén is located in a cave with large stalactites and an opening in the roof that allows natural light to enter and highlight the turquoise color of the water.

Cenote Samulá, which is right next door, is more prominent and less known.

How to get to Dzitnup: 12 minutes from Valladolid, take Highway 180 to Ebtun and turn left at Dzitnup; or by public transportation, you can take a colectivo next to the ADO bus station (10 pesos).

3. Ik Kil Cenote (Chichen Itza)

valladolid cenotes
Source: Fominayaphoto / shuttlestock.com

Cenote Ik Kil is often referred to as the cenote of Chichen Itza or the sacred cenote.

It is a good argument for its promotion but utterly false because there are already two cenotes in the archaeological zone of Chichen Itza.

One of them is called the Sacred Cenote, but you are not allowed to swim in them!

What is true is that the cenote Ik Kil is located very close to Chichen Itza (5km) and is, therefore, the ideal place to cool off after you visit the famous Mayan site.

It is one of the most beautiful cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula but also one of the most touristic, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage:

  • There are more people, but it is also very well maintained and with all the facilities that make it accessible to the whole family (restaurant, store, locker, large parking lot).

How to get there from Chichén Itzá: cab (180 pesos round trip) or by colectivo.

How to get there from Valladolid: take Highway 180 (45 min); or by public transportation, ADO bus (33 pesos) or colectivo (35 pesos) leaving from Calle 39.

4. Cenote Hubiku

Cenote Hubiku is located in a cave between the Ek Balam Archaeological Zone and Valladolid.

A staircase of 115 steps accesses its cold and crystalline water.

The most beautiful moment is around noon when the sun is high in the sky, and the rays enter through the roof’s opening to illuminate the water.

Before leaving, you can stop by the Museo del Tequila Don Tadeo, which presents the tequila manufacturing process and where you can try some products.

I really liked the chocolate and coconut liqueur!

5. Zazil Tunich

This is a two-and-a-half-hour guided tour over 400m in a cave 20m underground.

You will see some 80 stalactites and stalagmites surrounding the cenote, including the largest stalactite in the Yucatan!

There is also a package that includes a traditional Yucatecan meal in a Mayan house in addition to the cenote, but it is only available on Mondays and Tuesdays.

It is ideal for the whole family because the path is well-lit, and the water level reaches about 2m at the most.

It is also close to the cenotes of Xcanahaltun, Sac Aua, Palomitas and Agua Dulce.

How to get there from Valladolid: take Highway 180 and then the Yalcobá-Xtut Highway (37min); by public transport, take a colectivo near the main square to Yalcobá.

6. Cenote Suytun

valladolid cenotes
Source: Simon Dannhauer / shuttlestock.com

Of course, Cenote Suytun in Valladolid is yet another beautiful spot in Yucatán.

It is a magnificent hidden cave with light rays that give it a magical atmosphere. You can stand on its stone walkway to get the perfect picture.

Keep in mind there are almost always tourists. So to fully enjoy the cenote, I suggest you go around 9 or 10 in the morning.

The water varies between 1m30 and 5m deep, so it is ideal for the whole family.

My advice

The entrance ticket also gives you access to a second cenote, the Ka’pe cenote, where almost nobody goes because you can’t swim there, but it’s worth seeing!

7. Cenote XCanché

valladolid cenotes
Source: Pe3k / Shutterstock.com

Cenote X’Canché is close to Ek Balam, one of Mexico’s most beautiful places.

It is straightforward to get there from the archaeological site either on foot or by bicycle because it is less than 2 km away.

There is even a bicycle cab service if you prefer someone to pedal for you.

This is a lovely open cenote 15m underground, but go down carefully because the stairs are pretty steep.

Once down, there are several platforms to jump into the water, a Tarzan rope, and two zip lines.

There is also a camping area (140 pesos per person) and cabins (700 pesos) to spend the night in the middle of nature.

How to get there from Valladolid: there are colectivos (50 pesos) at the corner of 44th and 35th streets. By car, take Highway 295 to Tizimín, then turn right 6 km after Temozón (33 min).

8. Cenotes Palomitas and Agua Dulce

These two magnificent Yucatan cenotes are located 200m from each other at Rancho Agua Dulce, between the villages of Yalcobá and Hunukú.

Both cenotes are located in a cave. The Palomitas cenote is the most famous, but both are beautiful, and I am surprised that the Agua Dulce cenote is not talked about as much.

You can rappel and rent a kayak for a ride in the crystal clear waters, plus it’s a big cenote!

You can rent a bike to go from one cenote to another and there is even a small restaurant.

I found the site very nice, and I recommend it if you are looking for a quiet place without tourist groups.

To get there from Valladolid: take a colectivo (40 pesos) towards Yalcoba; you can take a bike-taxi (30 pesos, 3km) to get to the entrance.

9. Choo-Ha (Cobá)

valladolid cenotes
Source: robert gibson z / Shutterstock.com

It is indisputable that Coba is an incredible place to visit in Yucatan and one of the best tourist attractions in Mexico.

It was a mighty Mayan city hidden in the jungle and has the second-highest pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula, offering a magnificent view from its top.

But although Cobá has become quite touristy in recent years, few people know that there are also three cenotes in Cobá managed by the local community:

  • Choo Ha and Tankach Ha, about 200m from each other
  • Multum Ha is a little further away

And how nice! With few people, you always enjoy it more.

They are subway cenotes located in beautiful caves with stalactites and crystal-clear water, but all three are different and worth visiting if you have time.

If you visit Yucatan with your family, I suggest Choo Ha because it has shallow water areas with easy access. Perfect for kids!

Getting there by car: go to the town of Coba and then follow the signs to San Juan de Dios.

Public transportation includes colectivos to Coba from Tulum and Valladolid, or you can take an ADO bus from Tulum and Playa del Carmen, then a cab or rent a bike (6km) to the Choo Ha cenote.

10. Valladolid Cenotes: Zací

valladolid cenotes
Source: robert gibson z / Shutterstock.com

Cenote Zací is located in Valladolid (2 hours from Merida), just 10 minutes from the main square.

It is a large open cenote, a few meters below ground level, with beautiful vegetation on the walls and a small artificial waterfall that gives it a lot of charm.

For those looking for a bit of adrenaline, you can jump into the water from different platforms, but there are also stairs to go down into the water, and you can sit around the cenote.

A great advantage if you are traveling to Mexico on a budget: the entrance fee is only 30 pesos. And if you eat 100 pesos worth of food at a restaurant, the cenote is free.

Sounds pretty good to me! Especially because everything is very well kept, and clean, with changing rooms and showers.

The only disadvantage of this cenote is that you can’t snorkel because the water is quite opaque.

11. Cenote Noh Mozón

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Source: MARI TERE / shuttlestuck.com

I had never heard of cenote Noh Mozón before I went there, nor had I heard of its neighbors, cenotes Nayah and Suem.

Perhaps it is because they are located in Pixyah, a little over an hour from Mérida, far from the tourist routes.

Also, access is not so easy as you have to go on a dirt road (25-30 min) which is not in very good condition.

When I went there, we were even blocked by cows. So you have to be patient; it is part of the adventure. Thanks to these obstacles, it’s not too crowded.

Noh Mozón is one of the most beautiful cenotes in Yucatán, and also one of the most natural and rustic I have visited.

The water is gorgeous, clean, and ideal for snorkeling or diving, and you can jump to 5m, 13m, and 18m high.

Warning! I don’t recommend it if you travel to Yucatan with children: there are no safety measures, no life jackets, the stairs of the cenote move a little when you use them, and there is no service on-site.

12. Cenote Azul

Although we’re talking about Valladolid cenotes, this one is an outdoor cenote just 20 minutes from Playa del Carmen in Quintana Roo.

It is pretty large, with different depths and a 5-meter rim from which you can jump into the water so all swimmers, whether beginners or advanced, can enjoy the water.

How to get there by public transportation: colectivo from Playa del Carmen 40 pesos (leaving from the corner of Calle 2 and Avenida 20 norte); from Tulum 40 pesos.

By car: located on Highway 307, 20 minutes from Playa del Carmen and 30 minutes from Tulum.

13. Crystalline Cenote

valladolid cenotes
Source: Marine_Larzilliere / shuttlestock.com

Cenote Cristalino is one of the most famous cenotes in the Riviera Maya. For its beauty, of course, but also for its accessibility.

It must be said that cenotes are generally relatively far from the roads and can be challenging to reach without a car.

Good news for all those who travel to Mexico by public transport: the entrance to Cenote Cristalino is right next to the highway, 20 minutes from Playa del Carmen, not far from Cenote Azul and Cenote El Edén.

It is a semi-open cenote, so it has one part outside and the other under the rock, perfect when you want to escape from the sun.

It seems that it carries its name very well with its impressive crystal clear water that lets you see its large stones at the bottom, turtles, and fish.

There is also an area surrounded by mangroves, giving it a lovely intimate side.

It is a family cenote near Playa del Carmen, perfect for spending a few hours.

14. Chaak Tun

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Source: mundosemfim / Shutterstock.com

Chaak Tun is the only cenote in Playa del Carmen. Note: the only cenote in town because there are many in the surroundings.

Chaak Tun is discovered with a 1:45 hour guided tour that allows you to see two subway cenotes in caves full of stalactites and clear water: the Pixan cenote and the Xibalbá cenote.

Before entering, they lend you a mask and snorkel, water shoes (Aquashoes), a flashlight, and a life jacket.

My advice

They will also offer a wetsuit (included, but optional), which I recommend you accept because the water is COLD.

My friend wanted to be brave, said no, and regretted it!

The caves are awe-inspiring, and our guide was very professional and not demanding, so you can go with kids and grandparents.

And if you like tequila, take advantage of the small tasting before you go.

15. Rio Secreto

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Source: Anna Sulencka2 / Shutterstock.com

Rio Secreto is one of my favorite places and deserves 100 times to be on this list of the best Valladolid cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Why?

Because it offers you the opportunity to discover one of the most beautiful natural sites in Mexico on a 1:30-hour guided walk and swimming tour.

It is a 40 km subway network, and you only see 600 m, but it is more than enough to see its magnificent caves full of stalactites, stalagmites, and its subway river.

They lend you a helmet with a headlamp, neoprene clothes, water shoes, and a life jacket.

It is a great adventure you can experience in complete safety, and the guides are exceptional.

Keep in mind:

It is forbidden to bring your phone or camera for safety reasons. But you can buy your photos inside (I guess that’s how business works, haha).

16. Dos Ojos Cenote

valladolid cenotes
Source: Simon Dannhauer / shuttlestock.com

Cenote Dos Ojos is the most famous cenote in the Riviera Maya.

It is part of the Sac Actun, the most extensive flooded cave system in the world, extending over 347 km.

It is formed by two cenotes connected by a 400m underwater corridor.

It is an excellent place for diving with its two routes: Barbie (easier, 515m) and the Baticueva (advanced, 312m).

But the Dos Ojos cenote is also perfect for those who want to swim or snorkel with their family.

How to get there by car: Highway 307 is 20 min from Tulum, 40 min from Playa del Carmen, and 1:40 hours from Cancun.

How to get there by public transportation: many colectivos go from Playa del Carmen to Tulum (and vice versa). It leaves you 2.5 km from the entrance, and you can walk or rent a bike.

17. Kantun Chi

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Source: NickSpinder / shuttlestock.com

Kantun Chi Ecological Park is only 15 minutes from Akumal and 30 minutes from Playa del Carmen.

It is located in a beautiful tropical forest where you can enjoy five different cenotes: Kantun Chi, Saskaleen-Ha, Uch Ben-Ha, Zacil-Ha, and Zihil-Ha.

But it’s the subway river that impressed me the most!

You are in front of a small opening in the ground and take a ladder down to the cave. In the beginning, you can see almost nothing; only the light of the guide’s flashlight creates a very particular atmosphere.

Moving forward, you arrive in front of an incredible spectacle with transparent water and many subtly illuminated rock formations.

Here you understand why these places were sacred to the Mayans!

The cenotes are magnificent, but I recommend you buy the entrance that gives access to the river because it is a unique experience.

18. Blue Cenote (Bacalar)

valladolid cenotes
Source: Tommy_tom / shuttlestock.com

The Cenote Azul of Bacalar, not to be confused with the Cenote Azul of Playa del Carmen, is genuinely unique in this list of the most beautiful cenotes in Yucatan!

It is a 90 m deep and 200 m in diameter cenote, surrounded by a forest, right next to the famous Bacalar Lagoon.

It is ideal for swimming, diving, and snorkeling. Not too comfortable swimming?

No problem, you can rent a life jacket, and there is even a rope across the cenote so you can explore it at your own pace.

There is a seafood restaurant with a terrace facing the lagoon. I honestly can’t say it offers the best value for money, but it has a great location.

It is very important not to touch the stromatolites in the cenote because they are fragile organisms.

Cenote Ich Ha Lol Xaan in Campeche

A lot is said about the Valladolid cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula and the State of Quintana Roo, but very little about Campeche because it is a much less touristic state.

The most beautiful cenote in Campeche is Ich Haa Lol Xa’an, and it’s an ecotourism reserve that houses two cenotes.

The first one is relatively small but has incredibly crystal clear water where you can see many little fish. The second cenote is a bit larger, with emerald-colored water.

There is also a river with a suspension bridge where you can’t swim, but you can rent a kayak for only 50 pesos per person.

It is an ideal activity for families with children because the water level is shallow. Bring insect repellent! It will come in handy here.

I went on weekdays and didn’t run into anyone for almost two hours!

How to get there by car: it is located on highway 180 between Merida and Campeche, near Hampolol, only 30 minutes from Campeche city.

By public transportation: you must go to Hampolol, the closest town.

You must take the bus from Campeche (45 pesos, 35 min).

Bring mosquito repellent because they are very voracious.

Valladolid Cenotes: Tips and recommendations

  • Don’t bring valuables: in many cenotes, there are no lockers, so you will have to leave your belongings unattended
  • Bring your own snorkeling gear: some cenotes don’t even rent the mask and snorkel kit, but when they do… it costs 5$usd! Better buy it at Walmart or Amazon, and it will be cheaper
  • Bring your own towel (many people forget!) and some Aquashoes, which are very, very, very handy to avoid slipping or getting hurt on the rocks
  • Be a responsible traveler: please don’t touch the roots and stalactites, always take a shower before entering the water, and don’t use sunscreen or mosquito repellent
  • I insist: do not use sunscreen even if it is organic because it damages the ecosystem of the cenotes
  • Always carry cash, as cards are not accepted
  • The best time to enjoy the cenotes is in the morning to avoid groups and during the weekdays because on weekends, of course, there are many families in the area
  • The cenote water is always cool (outdoor cenote) or cold (subway cenote); it is never like the sea! So having a neoprene top is a good idea

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