The Best Cenotes in Tulum

Take the plunge and visit the best cenotes in Tulum.


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Tulum quickly made its name as a top travel destination during and after the Covid-19 pandemic. Perhaps it’s because of the affordable hotels and Airbnbs. Maybe it’s the crystal clear waters and white sand beaches. I like to think Tulum’s cenotes are what drew so many wanderers to its shores. 

What exactly is a cenote (pronounced se-note-ay)? It’s a natural pit, or sinkhole, made from collapsed limestone. The cenotes exposed the groundwater lurking beneath the surface and are refreshing little hideaways from the heat. 

Tulum is overflowing with cenotes due to the Yucatan peninsula’s geology and the fact that it’s built on top of many underground caves. Don’t get us wrong, though. We’re not complaining. These hidden underground cave pools are geographic wonders that are sure to mesmerize every traveler like a siren calling a sailor to shore. 

We’ve scoped out the best cenotes in Tulum to swim in, explore via snorkel, and even go cliff diving. Here are the best cenotes in Tulum.

THE MOST POPULAR: GRAN CENOTE TULUM & CENOTE DOS OJOS

Vibe: Touristy for understandable reasons
The rundown: If you look up photos of cenotes in Tulum, the pictures you’re likely to see are ones from Gran Cenote and Cenote Dos Ojos, respectively translating to Big Cenote and Two Eyes Cenote. These two cenotes are among the biggest (and most instagrammable). They are adored by tourists for their awe-striking grandeur. Head to Dos Ojos for some snorkeling and Gran Cenote to get lost in its size.

FOR RELAXING: CENOTE ISLA ALAMOS

Vibe: Peaceful, relaxing, quiet
The rundown: For most people, vacation is synonymous with relaxing and unwinding. For a cenote that is less touristy and quieter, visit the Cenote Isla Alamos. There, you can quietly float, lounge, swim, and relax all day long. It’s a bit off the beaten path but worth it to see all the untouched beauty and have some peace and quiet.

FOR THE ADVENTUROUS SPIRIT: CENOTE CRISTAL & TAMCACH-HA & CENOTE CASA TORTUGA

Vibe: Best for those who like an adrenaline rush
The rundown: If the thought of diving off of platforms and plunging into sinkholes sounds exciting to you, you can’t miss visiting Cenote Cristal. This pool has three platforms made for diving and is perfect for those of you who like to get your blood pumping.

For the ultimate platform diving, go to Tamcach-Ha. There are two diving platforms and the 11m jump is sure to make even the most lionhearted of us shake our knees. 

For an all-day adrenaline rush, check out Cenote Casa Tortuga. This cenote is actually an eco-park made up of four different cenotes. Despite the name (Tortuga = turtle), there are no turtles. There are, however, jumping platforms, great swimming areas, and perfect snorkeling locations.

FOR SNORKELING AND SCUBA DIVING: CASA CENOTE

Vibe: Built for on-water adventure, full of activities
The rundown: Casa Cenote is nothing short of a marvel. Its waters are a mix of fresh and saltwater yet every photo of it looks like a river. Don’t be fooled, this cenote is known for its watersports. At Casa Cenote, you can snorkel, kayak, paddleboard, and scuba dive all at the same cenote.

FOR WARMER WATERS: CAR WASH CENOTE

Vibe: Hot tub vibes
The rundown: Did you know that cenotes can vary in temperature? The cenotes with bigger holes and more exposure to the sun get hotter than the ones that are darker and more tucked away. The Car Wash Cenote, or Cenote Aktun Ha, is one of the warmer cenotes in the area and feels more like a hot tub. Its namesake comes from the fact that there used to be a car wash that operated on the side of the road near the cenote. The cenote is also a favorite of divers. Just note that there is a resident crocodile that lives nearby. There haven’t been any issues but, if you’re a chicken like me, this might be the one to skip if your mind constantly jumps to the worst conclusions.

OFF THE BEATEN PATH: CENOTE OXMAN

Vibe: Quiet, peaceful
The rundown: For those of you hoping to steer clear of the crowds, drive about an hour and a half outside of Tulum and go to the Cenote Oxman. This sinkhole is worth the trek. Its warmer waters and on-site rope swing will have you hanging out all day. This cenote also has a restaurant facility and you can pay just a small fee on top of your entry to get a food credit too.

FOR FAMILIES: CENOTE AZUL & ZACIL HA

Vibe: Crysal clear, family friendly
The rundown:

With some cenotes reaching up to 40 meters, you’ll want to be sure you’re a good swimmer. Some cenotes, like Cenote Azul, however, are made of shallower waters. This makes Cenote Azul a top pick for families who want to take a dip without worrying about deeper waters. Don’t worry about missing out on any beauty or fun just because you’re opting for a more kid-friendly option. The surrounding areas have plenty of wildlife, like fish and iguanas, to marvel at.

The Zacil Ha is also a great choice for families. It’s open-air and only three meters deep. It’s connected to the Car Wash Cenote by an underground river and is quite small, but crystal clear.

FOR A RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE: CHICHEN ITZA

Vibe: Historical immersion 
The rundown: Though most of the cenotes on our list are made for lounging and swimming, we did want to include the cenote at Chichen Itza, also known as Sacred Cenote. This sinkhole is not for swimming but was used by Mayans for sacrificial purposes. The steam from this sinkhole was used to purify warriors being sacrificed before throwing them into the pit. If you visit the Mayan ruins, you can see this cenote for about $12 and you’ll also get access to a private beach.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

THERE’S A PRICE TO PAY

Tulum’s cenotes have become a staple of their tourism sector. Their beauty has drawn travelers from all over the world and like any good tourist destination, there’s a price to pay. Entry prices can vary across cenotes and are usually between $4 and $15. Entry fees for ones with tour guides can cost more than double. 

Additionally, the bathroom facilities, life jackets, and changing rooms also come at a cost. These are typically between $1 and $3.

WHAT TO WEAR

If it wasn’t clear that a cenote is an underwater cave pool, now you know. Make sure to wear something comfortable for swimming and diving, if you’re into that. 

The cenotes are also delicate ecosystems, so this is the one time ever in my life that I recommend NOT wearing sunscreen. You don’t want to damage the already fragile cenotes.

AVOID SUNDAYS

 Due to their popularity, cenotes can get quite busy. So here are some tips for enjoying them in all their serenity:

  • Go early in the morning. Most of the cenotes open around 8 or 9 am.
  • Avoid the weekends.
  • Especially avoid going on Sundays — that’s the day that locals get free entry, so the cenotes can get quite full.

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