The Yucatan Peninsula offers the best selection of cenotes in Mexico for adventure. If you are looking for an epic time on your trip, do not miss the opportunity to check these off your bucket list.
While traveling to Mexico, you have to at least visit one of the many cenotes scattered around. These sinkholes are all over the place. In fact, all you have to do is drive down any road near the major cities, like Tulum or Cancun, and you will probably pass at least five different cenotes. The difficult part is figuring out which ones to actually visit.
What is a “cenote”?
Cenotes are all over the Quintana Roo and the Yucatan provinces in Mexico. A cenote is a deep, water filled sinkhole. The pool of water is formed by rain or an underground river. These are formed when the roof of an underground cavern collapses. As a matter of fact, cenotes come in all different shapes and sizes. There are several different types of cenotes, including open, semi-open, and cave.
An open cenote is the oldest, whereas a cave cenote in the youngest. When the roof completely collapses, you are left with an open cenote entirely exposed to the sky. A semi-open cenote is one in which there is only partial openings in the roof of the cave. Furthermore, a cave cenote has the entire roof still intact.
Why should you visit a cenote?
Cenotes are a playground perfect for taking a relaxing swim, snorkeling, swinging from a rope swing, or even cliff diving for the adventure seekers. These picturesque locations are perfect for a new experience in your life.
However, the downside is these locations can become filled with an obnoxious crowd of tourists. Unfortunately, it can turn an amazing experience into a less than enjoyable situation.
Why you should venture away from the crowds?
Although, some of the most popular cenotes are visited for a reason, there are many other options to avoid the crowds. These options will take you to cenotes filled with adventure opportunities, reduced crowds, and all the time to create an amazing travel experience. While hitting some of the popular cenotes are a great addition, make sure to hit those first in the morning. The first hour within opening is your best shot to some serenity, if remaining close to any tourist spot.
Instead, I recommend getting a rental car to explore in less touristy destinations around the Yucatan peninsula. You will not be disappointed. The best part of exploring a lesser known cenote is the possibility you will have it all to yourself.
How to get there?
The best way to actually see all of the less-crowded and unique cenotes is to rent a car. Car rentals are super easy, cheap, and roads are a breeze to navigate. If unable to rent a car, public transportation is possible. You have the option to take a taxi or the bus. However, a taxi will be quite expensive if coming from a coastal destinations.
If you do not mind moving around throughout your trip, than staying in the cities of Valladolid and Merida can be a great alternative to longer road trips from the coast. These cities are beautiful and give a completely different vibe from the coastal areas, especially if staying in resorts. Either way, all of these cenotes are an easy trip from Tulum, Cancun, and Playa de Carmen.
One-Way Driving Times
- Tulum to
- Valladolid: 1.5 hours
- Merida: 3 hours
- Homun/Cuzuma: 3 hours
- Yaxunah: 2.5 hours
- Ek Balam: 1 hour 40 minutes
- Cancun: 1.5 – 2 hours
- Tulum to
- Cancun to
- Valladolid: 2 hours
- Merida: 3.5 hours
- Homun/Cuzuma: 3.5 hours
- Yaxunah: 3 hours
- Ek Balam: 2 hours 15 minutes
- Cancun to
The Best Cenotes in Mexico for Adventure
- Entrance Fee: $350 pesos [There are additional entrance fees for any camera or Go pro use]
- Hours: 9am – 4pm
- Location: Tulum
- Nearby Cenotes to Check Out: Cenote Carwash
Calavera is one of the most popular cenotes in the Tulum vicinity. It is small, yet makes up for it with unique openings you are able to jump through into the water below. You have several options to enter the water, you can jump into any of the three holes or you can climb down the big ladder in the middle. However, make sure to check this cenote out early in the morning, as it gets chaotic.
Cliff diving is allowed and encouraged. Just watch out not to jump on anyone else as the opening is not too big. Also, there is a swing present at the water level down in the cenote. However, a picture without other people in it is difficult.
Around the cenote is lounge chairs to hang out and enjoy the sun. In addition, there is a bar and restaurant just a short walk away. Since the location is so close to Tulum, the place gets rather packed fairly quickly. If you are looking for a peaceful getaway, this is not it.
Is Cenote Calavera worth the price?
The price to enter is rather steep, especially when compared to other cenotes. Additionally, the fact they charge separately to just use a camera to take a couple pictures is kind of crazy. I mean the price to enter is already excessive. But if you are staying in Tulum and do not want to travel far this is a decent option to try out.
If you are looking to meet other travelers than this is a solid choice. But it does get crowded. Almost to the point where its even hard to swim since there are tourists everywhere.
After visiting this cenote, we decided to stay away from any cenotes in close proximity to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. The prices are insane, overcrowded, and way too many rules, like paying extra to use a Go Pro. If you want a true cenote experience, hit the road and head inward to find some hidden gems.
- Entrance Fee: $80 pesos [There are additional entrance fees if you want to include a meal credit and or drone use]
- Hours: 9am – 6pm
- Location: Valladolid
- Nearby Cenotes to Check Out: Cenote Suytan, Hubiku, Zaci, and the Dztinup Cenotes
Cenote Oxman, a Yucatan gem near the center of Valladolid, is one of the best semi-open cenotes in the area. This cenote is easy to get to by car, bus, or tour company. Again, since it is close to Valladolid and easy to get to it can become crowded with large tour buses. However, it is not too crowded to enjoy the cenote due to the large size.
The cenote is located in the traditional Hacienda San Lorenzo, once was an agave plantation. The parking lot is right next to the building you will buy your ticket. On top, there is a pool and restaurant making for a great place to hang for the afternoon. Bathrooms, changing areas, and showers are all available near the entrance. Make sure to check out the viewing platform on the top before heading down for a swim.
The underground cenote has a staircase tunnel leading you down to the bottom. Life jackets are a requirement at this cenote. You have two options to enter the water. One, you can either jump off a 3m platform or use the rope swing. In addition, on the far side there are stairs leading into the water. The water is a deep blue and is the perfect temperature to cool off. Take some time to swim out into the middle of the cenote and look up. It is an incredible view!
The cenote is far underground. The walls tower around you with cascading tree roots leading all the way down to the water. Even on a sunny day it stays quite cool and dark in most areas of the cenote. There is plenty of room to hang out by the water after your swim. Overall, Oxman is one of the best cenotes in Mexico for adventure.
Stepping away from the path of most tourists will leave you with the discovery of the lesser-known cenotes. These hidden gems are the best cenotes in Mexico for adventure. You will be surprised with how different your cenote experience is from ones near the coast.
When traveling to smaller villages, like Homun or Yaxunah, you can feel more connected to the local culture. As a result, you find cenotes with a rustic and more natural appearance. Although less popular, these cenotes still offer amenities, like a bathroom and shower. Here are three cenotes offering a great adventure without all the crowds.
- Entrance Fee: $50 pesos
- Hours: 9am – 5pm
- Location: Yaxunah
- Nearby Cenotes to Check Out: Cenote Ik Kil
Cenote Lol-ha is an absolute gem and should not be missed! It can be found 15 miles, in a small village, away from Chichen-itza. The village is very small and does not see a ton of tourists. The cenote at this time is not too built up, which makes it a great place to escape from the crowds. If you enter this village from the direction of Chichen-itza, you turn left at the center green and it is on the back side.
For this cenote, you will benefit from having a rental car. However, you can take a bus to the center of Yaxunah. Since not a ton of people show up at this cenote, you are able to park right outside of the entrance on the street.
Right across the street there are bathrooms available, but minimal compared to other cenotes in the area. The cenote is a short walk down from the road to reach the top. Cliffs are around all sides but are not too tall. Thus, most of the cenote stays in the sun. The deep blue waters can be reached either by a set of steep stairs or by jumping from any side. The entire cenote is extremely deep.
The best part of this cenote is that cliff jumping is acceptable. Heights range greatly from a small wooden platform just above the water to around 15 meters. Life jackets are available but are not mandatory. Cenote Lol-ha is one of the best cenotes in Mexico for adventure and is highly recommended!
- Entrance Fee: $300 pesos [You will be here for multiple hours]
- Hours: 9am – 5pm [consider this trip will take several hours]
- Location: Cuzuma and Homun
- Nearby Cenotes to Check Out: Cenote Canunchen, Santa Barbara, and Los Tres Oches
The villages of Homun and Cuzuma are home to countless hidden cenotes. Smaller, and more traditional Mexican villages that miss the waves of tourists closer to the coast. The area is home to hundreds of cave cenotes. Much are difficult to find. In fact, you will have to connect with a local to reach any of these cenotes. However, no need to worry. As soon as you drive into the center of either village, there are plenty of locals standing on the side of the road offering you a trip to their cenote.
Just be prepared as these are a bit more rugged, and many contain steep and narrow stairs to reach the water. One of the best cenotes in Mexico for adventure are the X’tojil Caves.
Remote Cenotes in Mexico
The X’tojil caves are at the end of Cuzuma, if driving from Homun. Parking is offered right at the road. From there, you will get to experience taking a ride on a horse-drawn railway. You will be on a trip for the next few hours to four different cenotes.
All the cenotes are deep underground. So be prepared to head down steep wooden stairs to enter any of these cenotes. However, swimming in a cave with no one else around is an incredible experience worth the struggle.
One of the cenotes has a large rope swing. However, if you take off from the top of the stairs, just pay close attention to how high you swing up. You can easily hit the top of the cave on the other side. Otherwise, swimming around all the different caves was such a cool experience.
After visiting the four cenotes, you are brought back to the parking area. If hungry, there is a small restaurant offering a typical selection of foods.
Check out these blog posts from Why We Seek and Bobo and Chichi for more information on all of the amazing cenotes in the Homun and Cuzuma region.
- Entrance Fee: $70 pesos
- Hours: 8am – 4pm
- Location: Ek Balam Ruins near Valladolid
- Nearby Cenotes to Check Out: Cenote Agua Dulce and Cenote Hubiku
Cenote X’canche is a semi-open cenote right outside the Ek Balam ruins. Surprisingly, the cenote was not crowded in the early morning, even though the location was right outside the famous ruins. In fact, no other tourists showed up until after 10am. So, make sure to get up early if you prioritize having the cenote to yourself.
The entrance to buy a ticket is at the ruins. From the ruins, it is a 2km walk, bike, or drive down to a larger parking lot right outside the cenote. There is a large changing and shower area down at the top of the cenote. You must shower off before entering this cenote.
Activities Other Than Swimming
The cenote has much more to offer than just swimming. In addition, you can buy a ticket including a zip line and rappelling from one of the trees at the top of the cenote. There is a small rope swing at the bottom as well to enjoy. For the thrill seekers, this cenote is accepting of cliff diving.
From the top, there is a steep set of stairs down to the bottom, just make sure to watch your head from a rock jetting out. There are a few options to getting into the water. In two spots around the edge there are stairs leading into the water. Another option is to take the plunge from the rope swing.
Around the entire cenote there is a wooden boardwalk making it easy to see the cenote from every angle. When the water is high, parts of the boardwalk can become submerged making the wood very slippery, so watch your step. Otherwise, if you are looking for one of the best cenotes in Mexico for adventure make sure to check out all the activities available at X’canche.
Top Tips to Make the Most of Your Cenote Adventure
First, check out Adventure Travel Packing List prior to your trip to Mexico to avoid forgetting anything! Following are the top tips to make visiting all the cenotes as easy as possible.
- The best piece of advice for all cenotes is to get there right when they open in the morning. Otherwise, plan to arrive in the late afternoon just prior to close to avoid the crowds. Avoiding the crowds is essential when visiting any of the cenotes.
- As said before, a car is the best way to get to all the cenotes if you are planning on stopping at several. A car allows you to be on your own schedule, and to make sure you arrive at the cenotes in the morning when least crowded.
- Make sure to always carry cash, many of the smaller and less popular cenotes do not accept credit cards.
- Cenotes are delicate. Many will require you take a quick shower before entering to rinse all the chemicals off your body. Sunscreens destroy cenotes, so avoid using any to keep the cenotes pristine.
- Water shoes are a great option for all. Many of the cenotes involve walking around either to cliff dive or walk down the ladders into the cenotes. The rocks surrounding many of the cenotes are rough, so if you have sensitive feet, you should use shoes.
- The most important tip is to have a waterproof camera. A go pro or underwater housing for your camera is a great way to capture your adventure around all the cenotes. The right picture is the perfect way to show your friends and family your incredible time exploring the cenotes in Mexico.
Make Sure to Check Out These Cenotes
Whatever you do, make sure to check out some cenotes if you have the opportunity. These are the best cenotes in Mexico for adventure and you do not want to miss them on your next trip! If looking for more cenotes in the region check out Cenote Finder.