The Yucatan peninsula is known for its incredible cenotes, which are freshwater swimming holes that are formed when limestone collapses to create an underground sinkhole. There are literally thousands of cenotes in the region and more and more are being discovered each year.
While living in Playa del Carmen, I loved getting out and exploring new cenotes in the area. It’s such a unique activity and you really get to experience the natural beauty of the region. In this post, I’m sharing my guide to the best Playa del Carmen cenotes, as well as some even more incredible cenotes worth visiting that are a little further away.
The Riviera Maya is known for its beautiful beaches (which are no doubt amazing!) but visiting a cenote is an activity that really allows you to experience the natural beauty of the Yucatan peninsula. Cenotes were once revered by the Mayans as a way to communicate with the gods so experiencing a cenote is truly a unique way to connect with the more ancient culture of the region.
In my opinion, visiting a cenote is one of the best things to do in Mexico and I’ve found that cenotes are a great option for a cloudy day, the perfect way to cool off, or even when there is a large amount of seaweed on the beaches.
What to expect when visiting a cenote
When you first arrive at a cenote, there will usually be a small building where you’ll pay the entrance fee and collect your lifejacket (if available). From there you’ll usually descend down stairs or walk through a wooded area before arriving to the main cenote. It’s a completely natural setting so you can expect an uneven and rocky path.
Once you arrive to the swimming area, there will usually be stairs to enter the water. Be careful they can be extremely slippery! Many cenotes also offer jumping ledges for an extra thrill. I’m slightly afraid of heights but I almost always go for the jumping option when I visit cenotes.
Be prepared the water will usually be VERY cold – it won’t be long until your teeth are chattering! I would definitely recommend wearing a rash guard for extra warmth, especially if you’re visiting during the winter months.
The entrance fee for each cenote will vary but you can expect to pay from $100-$500 pesos (~$5-$25 USD). If it’s a guided tour it may be more. Be sure to bring cash in Mexican pesos as credit cards will not be accepted. Once you pay the entrance fee you will be given a wristband which grants you access to the cenote.
Depending on the type of cenote you visit, there will be different activities available. Most offer the opportunity to jump into the water from high ledges, swim, float, or simply dip your feet into the water, experience a fish spa, or snorkel. Cenotes are also extremely popular for scuba divers so you will often see divers or their bubbles coming up from under the water.
Some cenotes are much more touristy and will have full amenities such as a restaurant, snacks for purchase, lounge chair rentals, showers, changing rooms, and well-maintained bathrooms. However more commonly you will just find minimal amenities such as bathrooms and life jacket or snorkel gear rentals.
Some cenotes have lockers where you can pay a small fee (around $50 pesos) to store your personal belongings. However many of the smaller cenotes do not have lockers. Most people will just find a secluded place to leave their belongings near the cenote. I would recommend not bringing any valuable items with you and you’ll just have to do your best to keep an eye on your belongings.
Cenotes are protected areas and it’s very important to abide by the rules of each cenote. There is usually a list of rules (in both English and Spanish) posted at the cenote entrance. The cardinal rule of visiting cenotes is that regular sunscreen is NOT permitted. I would definitely recommend purchasing biodegradable reef-safe sunscreen before your visit. You can pick some up on Amazon here.
Some other rules I have seen posted include:
- No fishing
- No diving
- No food and beverage
Best time to visit a cenote
Generally speaking the best time visit a cenote is during the week. Cenotes can be very busy on the weekends with many Mexican familes visiting. Sometimes cenotes can even reach capacity and additional visitors will be denied entry. I would recommend getting there as early as possible to beat the crowds.
What to bring to a cenote
There are a few things you most definitely want to bring with you when you visit a cenote and a few things that are nice to have. I never go to a cenote without water shoes as the ground both inside and outside of the water is usually very rocky and extremely painful for your feet. Trust me it is not fun!
How to get there
The easiest way to visit the cenotes near Playa del Carmen and Tulum is by driving or renting a car. Many of the cenotes are located right off the main highway 307, but for those that are further inland, you will definitely need a car to get to the cenote entrance. You could also take a taxi but it will be more expensive and may be difficult to flag one down for the return trip.
Most cenotes do have a dedicated parking lot for cenote visitors and it is usually free. I would recommend getting there early to get a better spot closer to the cenote entrance.
By Public Transportation
If you don’t have a car, cenotes can also be visited by taking a colectivo (shared van) from downtown Playa del Carmen. The main bus depot is located on 2nd Street and 20th Avenue and for any cenotes south of Playa del Carmen, you’ll want to get on a colectivo headed towards Tulum. Then tell the driver where you’re going and they’ll stop at the entrance on the side of the highway. The price should be less than $100 pesos (~$5 USD) each way.
Best Cenotes near Playa del Carmen
I’ll admit Playa del Carmen does not have the grandest cenotes but there are still several fun and noteworthy cenotes that are very easy to get to and definitely worth a visit, especially if it’s your first time visiting a cenote. Below are the best cenotes in Playa del Carmen Mexico or within 30 minutes driving.
Eden Cenote (Cenote Jardin del Eden in Spanish) was the very first cenote I ever visited and it has to be one of my favorites. Located just 30 minutes south of Playa del Carmen and easily accessible from the highway, Eden Cenote can be found adjacent to two other popular cenotes – Cenote Cristalino and Cenote Azul.
It’s large open cenote with a deep swimming pool along with jumping ledges and wooden stairs to descend to the crystal clear dark turquoise water. For thrill seekers you can even jump from a large tree branch protruding out over the water. It is a definite rush!
Cenote Cristalino is another Playa del Carmen cenote located right next to Cenote Eden and Cenote Azul. With many different pools and bodies of water, you can explore, snorkel, or just relax in a beautiful setting. It also has a moderately sized jumping ledge for an extra rush. Cenote Cristalino gets my vote for the best cenote in Playa del Carmen because there’s so many places to swim or just hang out.
Another cool feature at Cristalino Cenote is a cavern where you can float through a tunnel and admire the stalactites. And be sure to head to the back of the cenote where you’ll find Cenote Escondido, a hidden cenote pool in a secluded natural setting. For more information, you can find my full guide to visiting Cenote Cristalino here.
Cenote Azul is a popular cenote near Playa del Carmen located just about 30 minutes south of downtown. It has several different pools with varying depths, as well as a smaller jumping ledge. Most of the pools are pretty shallow so it’s great place to relax and spend the day enjoying nature.
At Cenote Azul Playa del Carmen, you can wander around exploring the different pools, dip your feet in the water for a free fish spa experience, or snorkel to admire the fish and underwater rocks. It’s a very pretty setting and there are some scenic natural bridges connecting the pools. For more information, you can find my full guide to visiting Cenote Azul here.
Cenote Chikin Ha
Cenote Chikin Ha is located about 30 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, close to Cenote Eden but further inland so it’s easiest to get there by car. Chikin Ha is a complex where you have the option to go on a guided tour and visit three different cenotes – Chikin Ha, Ta’ak Bil-Ha, and X-tabay. They also offer zip lines and mountain bikes. It’s a little more expensive (around $350 pesos) but is more of an all inclusive cenote experience.
Cenote Chaak Tun
Chaak Tun Cenote Playa del Carmen has two smaller cenotes and offers a 2 hour guided group tour experience rather than visiting on your own. It’s a little more expensive (around $30 USD) but you’ll have a certified guide who will lead you as you swim through the deep underground caves and admire the stalactites and rock formations.
Cenote Tours from Playa del Carmen
Another great way to visit cenotes close to Playa del Carmen is by going on a tour. This can be a great option if you’re looking for an all-inclusive experience with round-trip transportation, a tour guide, and food and beverages included. Below are some options for a Playa del Carmen cenote tour.
Xenotes is a Playa del Carmen cenotes tour by Xcaret where you can visit four different types of cenotes (open, semi-open, ancient, and cavern). You’ll also get to experience rappeling, zip-lining, kayaking, swimming, and cliff jumping. Round-trip transportation, a certified tour guide, and a picnic lunch are included in the admission. Click here for information and to book online.
Rio Secreto is a popular underground river tour where you can swim through over 1 kilometer of stalactites and stalagmites. Lunch is included and you can add on additional experiences where you can rappel and bike.
Cenote Zapote Eco Park
Cenote Zapote is an eco park near Puerto Morelos along the famous “Ruta de los Cenotes.” It’s a full day adventure park where you can visit three stunning cenotes, as well as zip line through the jungle, explore the park on bikes, and cruise around on ATVs. You can find my full guide to visiting Cenote Zapote here. It was such a fun day!
Cenotes Tankah is a nature park located just 15 minutes outside of downtown Tulum. At the park you can swim in cenotes and lagoons, as well as zip line, snorkel, canoe, and cliff jump. You’ll also get to observe tropical wildlife as you explore the jungle.
Aktun Chen Park
Aktun Chen is an adventure park located about 35 minutes south of Playa del Carmen where you can explore magnificent caves, snorkel in an underground cenote, and zipline on 10 different circuits through the jungle.
Best Cenotes near Tulum
Cenote Dos Ojos
Dos Ojos Cenote is probably one of the most popular cenotes Tulum has to offer. Dos Ojos is located just 25 minutes north of Tulum in a cenote park, which includes a restaurant and amenities, as well as Cenote Nicte Ha. You can take public transportation but it’s about a 30 minute walk from the highway so it’s easiest to go by car or taxi.
The entrance fee for Cenote Dos Ojos is a little more expensive (around $350 pesos) but it’s such a one of a kind experience and you’ll see why it’s considered to be one of the best cenotes in Tulum. With stunning blue water and natural cave formations, it is possible to swim and snorkel at Dos Ojos on your own but the cenote is more popular for scuba diving. Guided snorkeling and diving tours are also available.
Cenote Nicte Ha
Cenote Nicte Ha is a smaller cenote located in the same park as Dos Ojos Cenote. It’s a small open cenote so it doesn’t offer the same cave-like experience as Dos Ojos but you can definitely visit both in one day to get the full experience. Cenote Nicte Ha is more quiet and the water is covered in water lilies which makes for a really beautiful setting.
Gran Cenote is another more popular cenote located less than 10 minutes outside of downtown Tulum. It has a smaller open swimming area, as well as a cave you can float or snorkel through. Snorkeling gear and life jackets can be rented for an additional cost, and there are some amenities like bathrooms, changing rooms, lockers, and snacks for purchase. It’s not huge so it can get crowded with tours coming through. I would recommend getting there early to beat the crowds.
Cenote Tak Be Ha
Cenote Tak Be Ha is a smaller and less well known cenote closer to Tulum and not far from Xel Ha Park. After a short hike, you’ll go down some stairs to arrive at a closed cenote with stunning stalactites and rock formations. It’s an underground cavern and there are lights at the front of the cenote to illuminate the turquoise water and surrounding area. Tak Be Ha Cenote is perfect for swimming and relaxing especially on a hot day to escape the heat. Guided tours are available but not required.
Casa Cenote is an open lagoon type cenote located just about 15 minutes north of Tulum. The water is the prettiest shade of turquoise blue and offers a great place for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and standup paddleboarding. It’s also a very popular destination for scuba divers. Casa Cenote Playa del Carmen is surrounded by lush mangroves and is located close enough to the beach if you want to head over to the ocean to spend the rest of your day.
Best Cenotes near Valladolid
If you want to visit some truly amazing cenotes, you need to head to Valladolid, which is a colonial town less than 2 hours away from Playa del Carmen, and a must-visit destination on any Yucatan itinerary. Near Valladolid you can find some of the most stunning other-worldly cenotes, which are honestly some of the best cenotes you will find in Mexico. Trust me you will be blown away!
Ik Kil Cenote
I visited Ik Kil Cenote on the Chichen Itza tour and it has to be one of the most magnificent cenotes I’ve visited. It’s a massive cenote descending hundreds of feet underground with cascading plants all the way down to the water’s surface. Upon arrival you are required to shower to remove any sunscreen, and then you’ll descend down a winding staircase to the bottom of the cenote.
At the bottom there are wide wooden ladders to enter the water or you can take turns jumping from a few different levels. The cenote is extremely deep so I would recommend using a life jacket unless you want to tread water the entire time. It’s really stunning just to float and admire such a massive underground hole.
Suytun Cenote is probably one of the most stunning and instagrammable cenotes in the Yucatan region. It’s an almost fully enclosed cave and has an iconic standing platform directly centered below the light beaming down from a hole in the ceiling. There are stairs leading down to the bottom of the cenote and you can admire the incredible stalactites looming above. The cenote is more shallow so it’s much better for snorkeling rather than diving.
Zaci Cenote is another popular cenote in Valladolid. Its location in the center of downtown makes it very accessible. The cenote is a massive sinkhole that is half enclosed so you’ll get to experience the cave like setting plus some sun and lush green vegetation. Since the water is so deep it’s not the best place for snorkeling, but rather a great place to swim, cool off, or jump into the water.
I hope this best cenotes Playa del Carmen guide was helpful and you get to experience some of these truly amazing natural cenotes! Visiting a cenote is one of my favorite things to do in Playa del Carmen and so unique that it can’t be missed! If you want to learn about some more even more epic activities in Riviera Maya, click here to download my free Riviera Maya bucket list.
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