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9 best cenotes near Tulum, Mexico

WHAT IS A CENOTE

I was thinking how to describe what a cenote is in the best way possible but wikipedia did a great job instead of me, so here it is:

“A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater. The regional term is specifically associated with the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, where cenotes were commonly used for water supplies by the ancient Maya, and occasionally for sacrificial offerings.”

There are 3 types of cenotes and they are: open cenote, semi-open cenote and cave. There are more than 6 000 cenotes around Yucatán Peninsula and most of them are connected underground.

Most of the cenotes have fresh water however the ones that are close to an ocean contain salt water too as they are connected to the ocean underground.

WHAT TO BRING AND WHAT NOT TO

To protect the ecosystem of the cenotes you are not allowed to wear any mosquito repellent or sunscreen. In some cenotes you have to take shower before entering to preserve the water, so keep that in mind. Bring a towel and some water shoes if you have (it’s not a big deal if you don’t, flip-flops will do). Always bring cash with you as most of them (if not all) don’t accept credit card payments.

Snorkelling is quite popular in most of these cenotes as the water is mainly super clear so bring your snorkel gear with you.

One bad thing about cenotes near Tulum is that many of them don’t allow you to bring a camera (only a cell phone, or some allow GoPro).

If you want to know more about which cenotes allow you to bring a camera and which not read the bullet point number 20 of this article: http://borntotraveldiaries.com/201-useful-tips-for-your-mexico-trip/

1. GRAN CENOTE

Probably the most famous and the most visited cenote near Tulum is Gran Cenote. The water is crystal clear and there are many turtles swimming around you. The place is just gorgeous. There are two “pools” connected through a cave which makes it very interesting. We suggest you to come in the morning as soon as they open as it gets filled up quickly.

There are bathrooms, changing rooms and a small shop that sells drinks and snacks however it was closed when we visited (might be because of covid), but you are allowed to bring your own food.

A bad thing about Gran Cenote is that you can’t bring a camera. They even check your backpack before entering to make sure. You are allowed in only with a GoPro and your cellphone.

WHERE IT IS AND HOW TO GET THERE

Gran Cenote is one of the closest cenotes to Tulum (5 km from Tulum centre) . On the internet we found that there should be a colectivo heading to Coba ruins which is the same direction so they could stop for you at Gran Cenote, however we asked many people once we were there and they said that unfortunately there is no colectivo (mini bus) so our options were: a rental car, a taxi, a scooter or a bike.

We decided to rent a bike in Tulum centre for 150 MXN/day (6,20 EUR). The road is easy and straight forward but it can be a bit dangerous as it’s the main (high speed) road and there are many buses, trucks and other big cars passing by, so you have to be very careful.

We rented our bikes here: https://zazil-electric-scooters-bike-rental.business.site/?utm_source=gmb&utm_medium=referral

Taxis are very overpriced in Tulum but if money is not an issue then it’s probably the most comfortable way.

Renting a car is a good option too but parking around Tulum (especially in the hotel zone) is one big mess. If you rent it just for visiting cenotes it’s fine. Most of the cenotes have parking lots, however parking in Tulum hotel zone is way too expensive and stressful.

The last option is renting a scooter which I would say it’s a “middle golden way”, however we have no informations about the prices.

ENTRANCE FEE

The entrance fee is 180 MXN (7,50 EUR). There is an option for renting a snorkel for 80 MXN (3,30 EUR) if you don’t have your own or a life vest for 50 MXN (2 EUR) and also lockers for 30 MXN (1,25 EUR). If you would like to rent a locker you need to leave your ID as a deposit, so don’t forget to bring it with you.

OPENING HOURS

It is open from 8 am to 4:45 pm at the time of writing.

2. CENOTE CALAVERA

“Calavera” means skull in Spanish and this cenote got its name thanks to its shape that looks a bit like a skull. It is a very small cenote with 3 holes where you can jump in. Most of it is hidden inside the cave and it’s pretty dark so snorkelling is pointless. Leave your snorkel for other cenotes! You have a lot of fun while jumping in the different holes (at least we had 🙂 ).

We would also suggest to come early in the morning because even though it is not as famous as Gran Cenote, it is much smaller and there is really not much space for many people.

We visited during the pandemic so there were not many people at the time but we heard that normally it gets crowded.

There are bathrooms and a small stand that sells only drinks. There are also a few chairs and hammocks around the cenote that you can use to relax, which is very nice.

WHERE IT IS AND HOW TO GET THERE

It is the closest cenote to Tulum (3 km from Tulum centre) and it is on the same road as Gran Cenote so everything I wrote about how to get to the Gran Cenote applies also to the Cenote Calavera.

ENTRANCE FEE

The entrance fee is 100 MXN (4 EUR).

Unfortunately you can’t bring your camera nor GoPro unless you pay an extra charge of 20 USD which in our opinion is ridiculous. Otherwise you are allowed to take pictures only with your cellphone.

OPENING HOURS

It is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm.

3. CENOTE ZACIL-HA

We actually haven’t visited this cenote ourselves but we talked to many locals during our trip and they all recommend this it. From the pictures we can understand why.

Another cenote with crystal clear water looking very similar to Gran Cenote. It is more open though and less crowded. The cenote itself is not so big but you can definitely spend some time there.

There is a restaurant with a bar, bathrooms, changing rooms, gift shops and also a hotel with a private pool that rents out small cabanas.

WHERE IT IS AND HOW TO GET THERE

It is located on the same main road as Cenote Calavera and Gran Cenote. Only around 9 km from Tulum centre which takes around 10 min with a car or 30 min with a bike.

Your options are: a bike, a scooter, a car or a taxi

If you are planning on visiting more cenotes in the same day, your best option is a rental car/scooter or a bike which is the cheapest but also the most tiring option.

If you are looking for a taxi to go in between them, you would have to call it all the way from Tulum which would add up and some taxi drivers refuse to do it.

ENTRANCE FEE

The entrance fee is 50 MXN (2 EUR). You can also rent a lifejacket for an extra fee.

OPENING HOURS

It is open from 10 am to 5 pm.

4. CENOTE CARWASH (AKTUN HA)

Very large and deep open cenote with a crystal clear water perfect for snorkelling! Jumping platforms with a rope swing that we all love so much! AND ATTENTION PLEASE! Apparently it is also home to a small crocodile! But no need to be worried, from what we heard you almost never see him and he is very friendly.

There are available lockers, changing rooms and picnic tables. There is no bar or a restaurant so bring your own food.

WHERE IT IS AND HOW TO GET THERE

It is located only 5 min walking from Cenote Zacil-Ha so it makes a perfect combo for the day! Your options are once again: a bike, a scooter, a car or a taxi. Read the paragraph “where it is and how to get there” of Gran Cenote. Same applies to Cenote Carwash.

ENTRANCE FEE

The entrance fee is only 50 MXN (2 EUR)

OPENING HOURS

It is open from 9 am to 5 pm.

Some people did meet the local crocodile!

5. CENOTES CASA TORTUGA

Probably one of our favourite cenote visits near Tulum was to Casa Tortuga. It is a big complex of 4 cenotes in total. Two of them are cave cenotes and two are open. In the begging you start your visit with a guide that takes you around and explains you many things about the complex and also the history of these cenotes. During the tour it’s mandatory to use a lifejacket and you also get a snorkel which you both have to return after the tour. This tour takes around 1,5h – 2h. After the tour you are free to do whatever you like.

There are bathrooms, changing rooms and lockers for an extra charge available. They offer their own personal photographers who you can “book” for the entire visit. Unfortunately we can’t provide you the price as we did not take one.

There are also quite a few bars and restaurants around that sell drinks and real food (not only snacks).

WHERE IT IS AND HOW TO GET THERE

The easiest and cheapest way to get to cenote Casa Tortuga from Tulum centre is by colectivo heading to Playa del Carmen. It takes only 10 min to get there and the ride cost around 30 MXN (1,20 EUR) per person.

WHAT IS A COLECTIVO?

Colectivos are small mini vans for around 10-15 people that travel many routes and they stop on the way wherever you need. They don’t have the timetable but they leave once they are full. They are super cheap and convenient to use.
Here is the exact location where the colectivo for Playa Del Carmen leaves from: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Colectivos+Tulum+-+Playa/@20.2101037,-87.4679589,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x8f4fd7543af76695:0x2394789d42d7ba7!8m2!3d20.2101037!4d-87.4657702?hl=sk-IT

There are a few stops in Tulum centre where this colectivo passes and this is just one of them so look for the closest one to your hotel.

Other options to get to this cenote are with your rental car, scooter or a taxi. Unfortunately you can’t get there by bike as it’s on the highway.

ENTRANCE FEE

The entrance fee is 350 MXN (14,40EUR). It is more than any other cenote but keep in mind that there are 4 cenotes in the complex and you get a guided tour. We can highly recommend it.

OPENING HOURS

It is open everyday from 9 am to 5 pm.

6. CENOTE DOS OJOS

The one cenote we regret the most we didn’t have enough time to visit is Cenote Dos Ojos. From the pictures it looks breathtaking and locals suggested it too!

There are bathrooms, changing rooms and lockers for rent available. You can have lunch in their restaurant or bring your own food and have picnic instead.

WHERE IT IS AND HOW TO GET THERE

It is located on the side street on the way to Playa Del Carmen. It takes around 25 min driving to get to the cenote and the cheapest way to get there is with a colectivo which is heading to Playa Del Carmen.

You can find one of the bus stops of colectivos going to Playa Del Carmen here: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Colectivos+Tulum+-+Playa/@20.2101037,-87.4679589,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x8f4fd7543af76695:0x2394789d42d7ba7!8m2!3d20.2101037!4d-87.4657702?hl=sk-IT

However the colectivo leaves you on the main street where there is also the ticket booth, but to get to the cenote from the ticket booth it takes around 30 min walking, so if you don’t want to do it this way rent a car/ scooter or go with a taxi.

ENTRANCE FEE

The entrance fee is 350 MXN (14,40 EUR) and you can also rent a snorkel with fins and a locker for an extra fee.

OPENING HOURS

It is open from 9 am to 5 pm.

7. CENOTE AZUL

Cenote Azul is a very big open cenote with crystal clear water. It really is “Azul”! We liked it because you could do many things there. Snorkelling as you can imagine was great because of the clearness of the water. There were a few cliffs you could jump from which we enjoyed very much. You could even swim properly like in the pool as it was a really big space. It is located in the middle of a “jungle” which makes it look like one big oasis.

There are bathrooms, gift shops and a small store to buy food and drinks. There are also tables with wooden chairs where you can have your lunch.

The only thing we were missing was some space to relax. Somewhere where you can just sit or lie down, but unfortunately there is not as all around is a “jungle”.

This cenote is also quite popular so we suggest to visit in the morning. At around 12 pm we decided to leave because it was too crowded.

WHERE IT IS AND HOW TO GET THERE

Cenote Azul is more or less halfway between Tulum and Playa del Carmen. It takes 30 min driving to get there from Tulum centre and even though from Playa Del Carmen it takes only 20 min, we would suggest you to visit it from Tulum if you are planning on taking a colectivo.

And here is why…

If you are staying in Tulum centre, the colectivo bus to Playa Del Carmen leaves directly from the main street which should be close to you from any hotel in Tulum centre.

From Playa Del Carmen, colectivos that are going to Tulum leave from a place that is quite far if you are staying somewhere on the 5th Avenue.

Another way to get there is with your rental car, scooter or a taxi.

This applies also to Cenote Cristalino and Cenote Jardin del Eden as they are all next to each other.

ENTRANCE FEE

The entrance fee is 120 MXN (5 EUR) and if you want you can rent a snorkel or a lifejacket for an extra fee.

OPENING HOURS

This cenote is open from 9 am to 5.30 pm at the time of writing.

8. CENOTE CRISTALINO

Cenote Cristalino looks almost the same like Cenote Azul but it’s a bit smaller and less crowded. You definitely don’t have to be sad if you don’t have time to visit both of them as they are almost identical, however as they are next to each other they make a perfect combo for a day trip together with the Cenote Jardin del Eden.

There are bathrooms, changing rooms, showers and lockers available.

WHERE IT IS AND HOW TO GET THERE

It is located around 10 min walking from Cenote Azul and 15 min from Cenote Jardin del Eden.

So take a colectivo heading to Playa Del Carmen, rental car, scooter or a taxi and you can visit all 3 of them in the same day. All the informations written above about “where it is and how to get to” from Cenote Azul paragraph apply to Cenote Cristalino too.

ENTRANCE FEE

The entrance fee is 150 MXN (6,20 EUR). Lifejackets are available free of charge and lockers for an extra fee.

OPENING HOURS

It is open from 9 am to 5 pm.

9. CENOTE JARDIN DEL EDEN

Another very similar cenote to Cenote Azul and Cenote Cristalino is Cenote Jardin del Eden. Perfect for snorkelling, cliff diving and swimming. The very serene and untouched area of the cenote is perfect for all nature lovers.

There are bathrooms, changing rooms and small stands with drinks and snack available. You can bring your own food too so it depends on you what you prefer.

WHERE IT IS AND HOW TO GET THERE

As I already mentioned it is located just next to Cenote Azul and Cenote Cristalino so all the informations written above about them apply to Cenote Jardin del Eden too.

ENTRANCE FEE

The entrance fee is 200 MXN (8,20 EUR) and you can rent a life jacket or a snorkel for an extra fee of 25 MXN (1 EUR).

OPENING HOURS

It is open from 9 am to 5 pm.

THE PERFECT TULUM CENOTE ITINERARY WOULD LOOK SOMETHING LIKE THIS:

DAY 1 – Cenote Calavera & Gran Cenote

DAY 2 – Cenote Zacil-Ha & Cenote Carwash

DAY 3 – Cenote Casa Tortuga

DAY 4 – Cenote Dos Ojos

DAY 5 – Cenote Azul, Cenote Cristalino & Cenote Jardin del Eden

STAYING IN THE HOTEL ZONE/ TULUM BEACH AND WONDER HOW TO GET TO THE CENOTES FROM THERE?

If you are staying in the hotel zone/Tulum beach your best options are: a rental car, a scooter or a taxi.

With a bike you can get to Gran Cenote, Cenote Calavera and Cenote Zacil-Ha, however it’s very far.

To get to the rest of the cenotes you need to go on a highway so you are not allowed there with a bike or a small scooter.

Your other option is to take a taxi, bike or a colectivo to Tulum centre and then follow “our instructions” on how to get to each of them from Tulum centre.

Check out also our blog post about the “7 best cenotes near Valladolid, Mexico”:

http://borntotraveldiaries.com/7-best-cenotes-near-valladolid-mexico/

And our “20+1 useful tips for your Mexico trip”:

http://borntotraveldiaries.com/201-useful-tips-for-your-mexico-trip/

We hope this cenote guide was helpful to you and you are gonna have a great time while visiting them. For all the pictures and videos from Mexico check out our Instagram and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to comment bellow or contact us via email or even better via Instagram @borntotraveldiaries. Thank you for your time and stay tuned for our next diary page 🙂.

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