Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is famous for its coastal beauty, engaging culture, lasting traditions, as well as the little town of Tulum. You’ll find the city bustling with beaches and well-preserved ancient Mayan ruins, including the central port. But Tulum isn’t just known for its picturesque ruins–it’s actually a wonderful jumping-off point for discovering the gorgeous cenotes that are found all around the town and the Riviera Maya region.
All of the cenotes in Tulum welcome millions of people every year. It’s no wonder because cenotes are so unique to Mexico. If you have not been to any cenote ever, you should definitely plan your trip around experiencing a cenote or two! You are guaranteed to have an unforgettable experience.
If you’re sold on the idea of visiting a cenote and are wondering which are the best cenotes in Tulum, we’ve got you. This post will reveal everything you need to know about the best cenotes in Tulum–we did the heavy lifting for you so that you didn’t have to do it yourself!
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What Are Cenotes? How Did They Form?
Cenotes are reservoirs of water that naturally take the shape of pits or sinkholes. These sinkholes naturally occur in limestone rock when an underground cave collapses on itself and exposes the groundwater underneath.
Interestingly, if you look up cenotes, you’ll find that the word has been attributed specifically to sinkholes in the Yucatan Peninsula because natural sinkholes aren’t abundant anywhere else in the world.
This geological phenomenon goes way back to the Mayan civilization, and cenotes were frequently used by the Mayans for water. Today, these cenotes are a source of tourism for Mexico, and for the people who visit them, a source of entertainment that is truly unique to Mexico!
Many of these pools are underground and feature geologic wonders such as underwater stalagmites, stalactites, and underwater caves. Cenotes are also home to turquoise and emerald waters that contain tropical fish and other marine life, making them awesome snorkeling and diving spots.
The entire stretch of the Riviera Maya coast is dotted with cenotes, totaling nearly 7,000 of them, and Tulum is no different!
If you’re looking to experience cenotes for yourself, Tulum (and even Playa Del Carmen) is a great jumping-off point to explore some of the best cenotes Mexico has to offer.
Different Types of Cenotes In Tulum
Near Tulum, you will find a mix of open, semi-open and underground cenotes. Here’s the difference between the three.
- Open cenote: these cenotes resulted from caves that completely collapsed on themselves and are open to the sky. This usually means that the water isn’t as cold since you’ll have sun exposure from above. There are usually lots of areas to relax and sunbathe by the water. (Example: Cenote Zacil-Ha and Cenote Carwash)
- Semi-open cenote: these cenotes are mostly underground but have small openings in the ceiling where light shines through. These cenotes are typically very photogenic as the light beams from above illuminate the pristine waters below. (Example: Cenote Ik Kil and Cenote Samula)
- Underground cenotes: Aside from the point of entry, these cenotes are completely underground in a cave system and have no natural light to illuminate the water. You will typically want to rent flashlights at underground cenotes. The water also tends to be chillier in underground cenotes. (Example: Cenote Choo-Ha and Cenote Xkeken)
Are Cenotes in Tulum Free To Swim In?
It usually costs a small fee to swim in a cenote, but the admission will usually include a life jacket rental. Depending on the location, they sometimes will have snorkel gear and flashlights for rent as well.
The 9 Best Cenotes In Tulum
We’ve compiled a list of the 9 best cenotes in Tulum that are worth every moment of your time. Read on to discover everything you need to know about each one.
1. Dos Ojos
The ever-popular Dos Ojos cenote is located on Jaguar Road, between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. This is a gorgeous, flooded cenote situated within a cave.
And this isn’t just any ol’ single cenote. Rather, it is made up of 5 cenotes including its namesake cenotes–the Blue Eye and the Black Eye. As soon as you get there, you’ll see why they’re named after eyes. There are two eye-like cenotes conjoined to give a dramatic effect, hence its name Dos Ojos, which translates to “two eyes”.
This mesmerizing sinkhole is so beautiful that it looks straight out of a fairytale. The sun usually hits the water perfectly in the afternoon, really lighting up the waters. With its pristine blue waters and a mysterious bat cave for exploring, Dos Ojos will give you serious Mysterious Island vibes.
Entrance: Dos Ojos entrance starts from $350 to $700 pesos.
Services: Extra services include diving tours, dining restaurants, snorkeling tours, massages, hammocks, and even locker rentals.
Notable features: Good for swimming and snorkeling, has cool stalactites and stalagmites in the cave to see, more crowded due to its popularity.
How to get to Dos Ojos: Rental car, taxi, or colectivo. If you are traveling by colectivo from Tulum, take the colectivo heading north on Highway 307 towards Playa Del Carmen. Colectivos will drop you off at the entrance to the park, but you’ll still have to walk for about 30 minutes along a dirt road to reach the cenote. Bring comfortable shoes if you plan on walking!
2. Yal Ku Lagoon and Cenote
In the mood for something shallower and safer? The Yal Ku Lagoon’s Cenote is a freshwater reserve with shallow waters ranging from 5-15 feet deep, nestled in an underwater outlet to the sea.
The calm turquoise waters are home to sea turtles, tropical fish, and manta rays, making it an awesome place to snorkel and see some marine life. You could easily spend hours here discovering the little underwater ecosystems!
Yal Ku is located in Akumal, between the towns of Tulum and Playa del Carmen. And while technically this doesn’t exactly fall within the Tulum area, it’s close enough to still be a part of Tulum.
Yal Ku Cenote has baths and beaches, perfect for a day out with the youngsters. This shallow cenote is surrounded by lush greenery, which makes it a sight worth seeing.
Entrance: The entrance fee is $200 pesos.
Services: Nearby hotel, access to the Tulum highway, snorkeling, beach facilities, public baths, lockers, snack bar, palapas (open cabins) with hammocks for rent, and more.
Notable features: best for snorkeling, also good for children, first-timers and people who are not the best swimmers. There is very little chance of getting swept away to sea here.
How to get to Yal Ku Lagoon: Rental car or taxi are your best options. If you take the colectivo from Tulum, you will get off by the main entrance and walk into Akumal. From there, you can either take a taxi to Yal Ku or walk for about 20-25 minutes.
3. Gran Cenote
Another limestone cenote, Gran Cenote, is one of Tulum’s most popular cenotes. Gran Cenote is actually a string of cenotes connected by walking paths. You’ll be in a mystical cavern setting with various snorkeling areas. With wooden platforms to walk, a sprawling swimming area, and a deep cave, this Tulum cenote will feel super magical and blow your mind!
Since this cenote is situated only a few short minutes from the Highway to Coba, it usually appeals to Tulum-goers and those making a pit stop en route to explore the Coba ruins.
Nearby, you can find lots of restaurants to fill you up at the end of a tiring but fun day.
Entrance: The entrance at Gran Cenote ranges from $300-350 pesos for adults and starts from $100 pesos for children.
Services: Snorkelling, life vests, boardwalks, equipment rentals, lockers, snorkel rentals, bathrooms, and outdoor showers.
Notable features: Open cenote, more crowded due to its popularity, good for swimming and snorkeling. There are several cave sections as well for exploring.
How to get to Gran Cenote: Easily accessible by rental car or taxi, or colectivo.
4. Casa Cenote (Cenote Manatí)
On the Carretera Cancun in Tulum, a paradisiacal cenote with clear turquoise water and romantic vibes awaits your arrival. The Casa Cenote is secluded, which makes it a great place for romantic getaways and honeymooners. It is a river-like open-air cenote situated along a beach, making it an ideal spot to swim and lounge right after.
What makes the Casa Cenote extremely favorable among the locals is the nearby hotel, with affordable living and facilitated rooms. If you’re planning to escape reality and want to spend time in cool waters for more than a few days, then the Casa Cenote is going to tick all your boxes. You can even explore the ancient Mayan ruins and the Chichen Itza, one of the seven wonders of the world. It’s truly a trip worth every moment.
Entrance: The prices may vary from time to time but generally fall between $150-300 pesos. Lockers are available for $50 pesos.
Services: Whale-Shark diving, Chichen Itza exploration, Sian Ka’an natural reserve, eco-parks, snorkeling, snorkel equipment and rentals, and more.
Notable Features: Lesser crowds, is a popular scuba diving location.
How to get to Casa Cenote: Rental car, taxi ride, or take the colectivo (followed by a 20-minute walk along a dirt road from the colectivo drop-off spot)
5. Cenote Cristal and Escondido
Located south of Tulum, Cenote Cristal (or Crystal) and Cenote Escondido are both limestone sinkholes surrounded by jungle. Because of the lush, tropical setting of the cenotes, these are perfect for nature lovers and people who just love exploring everything the earth has to offer.
With a reputation for clean and clear water and awe-inspiring snorkeling tours, Cenote Cristal is an adventure you cannot miss. You really can’t find anything to dislike at Cenote Cristal; the cenote is surrounded by walls of greenery, and the water is ideal–even Goldilocks wouldn’t complain.
Both cenotes are located on opposite ends of the highway but have the same entrance booth, so you might as well swim in both and enjoy the best of both worlds.
Entrance: The tickets start at $120 pesos per person and $200 pesos for scuba divers. This admission gets you access to both cenotes.
Services: Snorkeling, bike tours, bike, and snorkel rentals.
Notable features: Swimming and platform jumping (Cristal), located just a quick bike ride or drive from Tulum town.
How to get to Cenote Cristal and Cenote Escondido: Bike ride, rental car, taxi ride, or colectivo. It can easily be combined with a visit to the nearby Cenote Azul and Cenote Jardin Del Eden.
6. Cenote Azul
Surreal, breath-taking, and spacious–that’s Cenote Azul for you! Situated in northeast Tulum between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum, Cenote Azul is a group of pools that vary from shallow to deep pools.
This makes it suitable for both kids and adults, so for those who are accompanied by younger family members, you won’t need to constantly worry about the safety of the kids!
Not only is this cenote great for swimmers of all ages, but it’s also really loved by snorkelers as well. Cenote Azul contains several stepping stones that are underwater and is swarmed by tiny fishes that swim around all day. It’s really a snorkeler’s dream.
Pro Tip: Because of how easily accessible Cenote Azul is from Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and Tulum, it gets very busy here. We recommend visiting on weekdays, early in the mornings, or later in the afternoons to avoid crowds.
Entrance: Entrance begins at $120 pesos.
Services: Snorkeling, drinks, food, snorkel, and diving rentals.
Notable Features: Very busy on weekends, has a combination of shallow and deep pools, lots of restaurants and picnic areas, good for cliff jumping, snorkeling
How to get to Cenote Azul: Rental car, a quick taxi ride, or colectivo ride
7. Jardin Del Eden (Cenote Ponderosa)
Also located in northeast Tulum between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum lies the cenote Jardin Del Eden. This cenote gets its name from its ultramarine pools of water and large, flat stones that lie just beneath the water surface. That’s right, this cenote is surrounded by jungle and rocky outcroppings–making it so unique.
It’s a pretty chill place to hang out; locals and tourists like to relax on the flat stones submerged in water and splash around. Though there isn’t much marine life to witness, the clear quality of the water makes it an excellent snorkeling spot. At a certain distance are diving caves buried underground, making it a diver’s delight.
Due to its popularity, Jardin Del Eden typically sees more crowds in the afternoons and weekends. The best time to visit to avoid crowds is in the mornings on weekdays.
Entrance: Entrance starts at $200 pesos.
Services: Restrooms, diving and snorkel rentals, life jacket rentals, and nearby snack bars.
Notable features: popular for swimming, snorkeling, and especially scuba diving.
How to get to Jardin del Eden: Rental car, a quick taxi ride, or colectivo ride
8. Cenote Zacil-Ha
Right down the street from the Gran Cenote lies Zacil or Zazil-Ha, a spectacular cenote with a turquoise reservoir of cool, calm, and crystal clear waters.
Surrounded by a Yucatan forest of lush green trees on all sides, the Cenote Zacil-Ha can easily be your personal sanctuary for a day. It’s an excellent open swimming spot, perfect for a day out with friends.
What makes Cenote Zacil Ha exciting is the fact that there are lots of ways you can choose to enter the water–jump in from the sides of the pool or even zip line across and drop in from above!
Entrance: The entrance starts at $100 pesos.
Services: Palapas (open cabins) for rent, zip lines, bathrooms, changing areas, snack bars, hammocks, and more.
Notable Features: Open cenote, best for swimming
How to get to Cenote Zacil-Ha: Easily accessible from Tulum (by bike ride, taxi or colectivo in the direction of Coba)
9. Cenote Carwash
You’ll find Cenote Carwash (Cenote Ak Tun Ha) a short distance away from Tulum, between Tulum and Coba. This cenote gets its super interesting name from its history–it was actually used in the past to wash cars!
Easily accessible off the road, Cenote Carwash is a favorite site among locals for swimming under the bright blue skies. And because the cenote reaches up to 50 feet in depth, don’t be surprised when you find divers emerging from the depths here and there.
Cenote Carwash has a large swimming area along with deep caves that people love to explore. It’s a rich sanctuary, home to beautiful vegetation, fish, turtles, and even a resident crocodile. Don’t worry; you’re in no danger!
Entrance: Pricing ranges from $50 pesos to $200 pesos
Services: Life jackets, swimming and snorkel gear, bathrooms, changing rooms, and even a rope swing
Notable Features: Open cenote, good for swimming and diving
How to get to Cenote Carwash: Easily accessible by rental car, taxi or a colectivo (take it in the direction of Coba)
Complete Map Of The Cenotes In Tulum In This Post
Essential Tips For Cenotes In Tulum
Cenotes are sensitive in nature which means there have to be certain rules and tips to follow. Here are the dos and don’ts of Cenotes:
Do bring cash
Don’t completely rely on just bringing enough for the entrance fees listed for cenotes because the prices can vary from time to time. Even more important is that you may need money for the extra amenities you might need to get (for example, if a cenote requires life jackets but you don’t have one, you might have to rent one).
Prices may surge during peak tourist times, so make sure you carry extra cash with you!
Do bring your own towels
Bringing your own towels is a definite tip not to miss because sometimes cenotes don’t offer drying towels, and even if they do, they may be washed only after multiple uses. For the sake of your own hygiene and comfort, bring your own towel with you!
Do take a pre-entrance shower
To protect the ecosystem of cenotes, most will offer an outdoor shower, accessible at all times. It’s best if you take a shower or rinse yourself thoroughly before you go to the cenote in order to preserve the environment. It’s healthier and cleaner that way.
Do some more research
It’s important and smart to do your research before you visit anywhere as you might find information that may benefit you. For example, some cenotes may offer discounts on certain days of the week or on specific occasions, so it’s best if you’re well-informed about where you’re going. Another benefit? You can learn about aquatic life beforehand!
Do NOT use sunscreen in the cenotes
There’s only one don’t of cenotes: sunscreen is the biggest no-no of cenotes. “But what if I don’t want to tan?” you may ask? Don’t worry! Most of these cenotes are in a preserved or shaded area or in places where the sun isn’t too bright, so you won’t need to worry about tanning or getting negative sun exposure.
So why exactly is it so bad to use sunscreen? Well, you can actually destroy the fragile chemical balance of the ecosystem in the cenotes, causing environmental degradation. Since this chemical balance is what keeps the cenotes “alive” and healthy, any other chemical will ruin them to the point of no return.
So in summary, the chemical agents in sunscreens, even the biodegradable types, can cause irreparable damage to the underwater ecosystems here. Just don’t contribute to the harm. Remember to rinse off before entering the water.
How To Get To Cenotes In Tulum
BY RENTAL CAR
Renting a car is going to be the option that provides you with the most flexibility if you plan on visiting some of the more remote cenotes. There are a few car rental establishments located right in Tulum, but you can also rent cars at the Cancun International Airport.
If the convenience of driving to a cenote appeals to you but you don’t want the hassle of renting a car, then taxiing to cenotes is the next best option. Reaching most of the farther-from-town cenotes on this list should cost between 400 and 600 pesos. This is one of the pricier options for transportation to cenotes.
Some of the cenotes along the Carretera that are situated between Playa del Carmen and Tulum are accessible by taking the colectivo (bus) from Tulum. The cost to take a colectivo usually ranges between $20 and $40 pesos. This is going to be one of the most affordable options for getting to cenotes.
Using the colectivo is pretty simple. Just head to the main road where the colectivos run. Once the colectivo arrives, hop on and tell the driver where you want to go. He/she will usually remember and will stop at your destination and let you know to get off.
Some of the cenotes you can get to by colectivo include Cenote Azul, Cenote Cristalino, Gran Cenote, and more.
If you’re able to rent a bike from the town of Tulum, then getting to a few cenotes by bicycle is totally manageable. Rental usually costs $180 pesos per day from various hotels and bike rental shops.
A 10-30 minute bike ride north of town along Avenida Coba will bring you past Cenote Zacil-Ha, Cenote Car Wash, and Gran Cenote. These three pair really well together if you want to turn your day into a cenote-hunting day.
Riding 20 minutes west along the main road through Carretera Cancun-Chetumal leads to Cenote Cristal and Cenote Escondido, which you can visit with the same admission fee. A 30 minute bike ride east will bring you to Casa Cenote and a few other ones.
TAKE A CENOTE TOUR
The easiest and most stress-free way to see cenotes near Tulum is to go with a tour company that specializes in cenote tours. While there are lots of cenote tours to choose from, do note that not all tours will take you the cenote of your choice.
Some tours will be fixed combo tours, allowing you to mix in other activities earlier in the day, followed by a cenote visit in the afternoon.
If swimming in a cenote is on your bucket list (which it should be), but you don’t want to be bothered with renting a car or finding your own transportation there, there are several tour options for visiting cenotes from Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Tulum.
Check out a few of the below that best suits your needs:
- Snorkeling & Underground Cenotes Half-Day Tour from Tulum
- Tulum, Coba, & Cenote: Full-Day Tour
- Tulum Cenote Trail: Caves Visit and Bike Tour – Cenote Cristalino, Cenote Escondido and Gran Cenote!
- Cenote, Chichen Itza, and Valladolid Tour from Tulum
What To Pack For Your Cenote Visit
- Cash | This one’s easy. Bring cash (pesos) to pay for admission fees, rentals, and snacks at the snack bars.
- Quick-drying towel | A few of the more popular cenotes offer towel rentals, but it’s much more convenient (and cheaper) to bring your own with you. This one is a great option because it’s both light and quick-drying.
- Sunscreen | While wearing sunscreen into the cenotes is strictly prohibited, you can wear sunscreen after you’re done swimming if you plan to sunbathe and lounge for a bit. No matter where we go, we like a coral reef-safe brand, as traditional sunscreens contain chemicals that damage our environment. For the face, we are absolutely obsessed with the magical Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen.
- Water shoes | With a simple pair of water shoes, not only will you get a better grip on the cenote walkways and on the underwater rocks, but you’ll have the comfort of knowing that the fish in the cenotes won’t be nibbling at your toes! These water shoes are both super affordable and come in a bunch of fun, crazy colors.
- Snorkeling gear| You can bring your own snorkeling gear or rent it on site. If you plan on visiting a few cenotes, we recommend bringing your own snorkeling gear. In addition to saving some money on rental fees, you’ll have the comfort of knowing the snorkel and mask haven’t been used by a million other people. Seavenger, one of the best snorkel gear makers in the game, makes a Hanalei Anti-Fog 4-Piece Snorkeling Set that’s really loved by both kids and adults.
- Underwater camera | For all those epic swimming/snorkeling shots, you should definitely go with the waterproof GoPro.
Where To Stay In Tulum For Cenotes
It’s actually mind-blowing how picturesque and thoughtfully designed Tulum’s hotels and accommodations are. There are so many gorgeous accommodations in Tulum ranging from backpacker-friendly to ultra-luxe. No matter your budget, there will be a tasteful hotel perfect for you in Tulum. Check out a few of our recommendations below.
Best Eco Hotel – Pepem Eco Hotel Tulum at the Jungle
This eco-luxury hotel was designed for the environmentally conscious traveler and will help you unwind and relax at the drop of a hat. Pepem Eco Hotel Tulum has everything you need to get in touch with nature and to get away from the bustle of everyday life. From the nature sounds at night to the privacy to the exceptional jungle views, this hotel is a must!
Guests can swim in the outdoor swimming pool, relax in the garden, or go hiking or snorkeling nearby. You’ll be within a 5-minute drive of Tulum National Park and Gran Cenote.
Best Aparthotel (apartment-style hotel) – Hotel Panacea Tulum
The entire outdoor area of Hotel Panacea Tulum is simply gorgeous. The hotel offers spacious and comfortable apartment-style living areas with a patio or a balcony, an optional plunge pool, free WiFi, as well as an outdoor swimming pool and a fitness center.
You will definitely fall in love with this hotel, and we’re hoping you get that “home away from home” feeling as soon as you step inside!
Best Luxury Hotel in Tulum – Hotel Bardo
Hotel Bardo is jungle luxury at its finest. Imagine waking up in a secluded hideaway deep within Tulum. The property features loft-style villas, a full-service spa, a restaurant, and an outdoor pool.
The whole concept of the hotel, its design and interiors of the villas, the pool, lush grounds, friendliness of the staff members, food & drinks–simply unbeatable.
Runner up: Best Luxury Hotel in Tulum – Una Vida
Best Boutique Hotel/Hostel Hybrid – Mayan Monkey Hotel & Hostel Tulum
Mayan Monkey is a new and modern luxury hostel in Tulum. And while it’s considered a hostel, it really is more like a hotel. They have private hotel rooms with private bathrooms too so if the dormitory-style life is not for you, no worries, they can accommodate you.
You’ll get comfortable beds, nice showers, and thoughtful amenities. There is a computer room, lounge room, kitchen for use, and of course a DJ lounge to party in! The hostel hotel is located halfway between the city center and the beach. You need a bike to get to the beach.
Runner up: Best Boutique Hotel/Hostel Hybrid – Meteora Stay & Coffeehouse Tulum
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