Guide to Cenotes in the Yucatan Mexico
Suppose you’re planning your trip to the Riviera Maya or want to visit Merida, Valladolid, Playa del Carmen, Cancun, or Tulum. In that case, you’ll see the Cenotes in the Yucatan, Mexico.
Being in a cenote is truly a mystical experience.
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything we experienced on our other visits to the best cenotes in Yucatan.
Which, in our opinion, are the most beautiful cenotes in Yucatan, what are their hours, what is the best time of day to visit them, what you should bring, where to sleep or eat, how to get there, ticket prices, and everything you need so that your trip doesn’t have unpleasant surprises.
So, welcome to TodoCenotes.com! Our names are Julia and Leo, we are cenote lovers, and this is the experience we want to share with you!
Are you organizing your trip to the Cenotes in Yucatan, Mexico?
Welcome! You are in the right place, as we have created this web guide to provide you with all the information you need to organize and prepare a visit to the best cenotes in México.
☑️ The Best Cenotes to Visit in Yucatan
Rest assured that you’re not the first person to ask this question. Anyone who has planned a trip to Yucatan has wondered which cenotes to visit or where to begin their tour.
We know from the messages we receive that some travelers have returned to Mexico for a second or third time to visit the best cenotes and have planned their trip through our website once again.
This fills us with pride, letting us know we’ve accomplished our goal of providing the best information about cenotes.
So, let’s look at the cenotes in Yucatan that you must visit on your upcoming vacation.
☑️ Where to Stay to Visit Cenotes in Yucatan?
Below, we’ll tell you about the best hotels on the Yucatan Peninsula and the most exceptional accommodations for your stay.
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☑️ Regions of the Cenotes in Yucatan, Mexico
While it may be more commonly known for the tourism hotspots of Cancun and Playa del Carmen, the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is also home to thousands of beautiful cenotes to explore.
These natural freshwater sinkholes held deep spiritual significance for the ancient Maya civilization. They were a vital water source and served as mystical gateways between this world and the underworld, marked by ornate sacrifices of ceramics, jewelry, and, occasionally, humans.
Today, many of the cenotes in Yucatan have become popular tourist destinations (though several remain hidden gems for the adventurous traveler). Still, for locals, they are natural swimming pools to enjoy and cool off from the peninsula’s heat.
Overflowing with history, these regions of cenotes in Yucatan are truly the ones you should visit and explore, while supporting local businesses and indigenous communities that rely on tourism to these natural wonders.
▶ Cenotes in Valladolid
As you wander through the city, you’ll stroll down colorful streets brimming with the colonial history that shaped them, centuries-old churches, restaurants where you can savor the flavors of traditional Mexican cuisine, charming cafes, and hotels with colonial style and character.
But without a doubt, one of the most popular attractions for both national and international tourists are the spectacular and enigmatic Cenotes of Valladolid, such as the incredible Ik Kil Cenote, the Suytun Cenote, the SAC-AUA Cenote (the only one with an island inside), or the Ek Balam Cenote, among others.
Most cenotes near Valladolid, Yucatan, have such depth that they require a long staircase to access, with stalactites dripping from the ceiling that formed slowly over hundreds of years.
If you want to know why the Mayans believed that cenotes served as entrances to the underworld, you’ll see it with your own eyes once you descend into one of these incredible cenotes in Yucatan.
You’ll need a few days to explore the cenotes and the area, so booking a flight or a hotel in Valladolid is a great idea. The city is worth a visit in its own right. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to the best cenotes in Valladolid, so you can plan your trip without any setbacks or surprises.
▶ Visit the Cenotes of Merida
Merida may not be one of the most crowded tourist destinations in the Yucatan Peninsula, but it’s one of the most authentic places to visit in Yucatan. As the largest city on the peninsula and one of the oldest in the Americas, it’s a true colonial beauty that will capture your heart ❤.
Founded in 1542 on the ruins of the Maya city of T’Hó, it’s needless to say that this city is full of history.
Merida offers many exciting options to discover and enjoy, such as culture, history, gastronomy, music, festivals, and of course, the wonders we all want and for which we’ve traveled so many kilometers: the cenotes in Merida.
We can say that the most beautiful cenotes near Merida to visit are Cenote Xlacah – located next to the tiny Maya ruins of Dzibilchaltún -, Cenote X’batun, Cenote Kankirixche, Cenote San Ignacio, the Cenotes of Homun and Cuzama, and for us, you can’t miss visiting the Cenotes Hacienda Mucuyché.
▶ Cenotes in Tulum
The Riviera Maya is one of the lucky regions in the Yucatan Peninsula, surrounded by natural wonders not found anywhere else, such as the cenotes in Tulum.
The ancient Mayan civilizations believed these cenotes were sacred and often made sacrificial offerings to their gods.
Fast forward to the present day, the sparkling blue waters are now enjoyed by people of all ages seeking a unique and unforgettable experience.
As the cenotes are scattered throughout the region, we’ve worked to create a comprehensive guide that will indeed allow you to understand which of the hundreds of cenotes in Tulum are worth visiting, how to get to them, their prices, their schedules, what time of day to see, what to bring, and how to take care of them.
▶ Cenotes in Playa Del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is one of Mexico’s most popular tourist cities with its paradisiacal white sand beaches, vast tourist complexes, and easy access to incredible Mayan ruins and crystal-clear cenotes.
From the shallow waters of Cenote Azul, one of the cenotes in Playa del Carmen, to the beautiful Zacil-Ha cenote in nearby Tulum, incredible cenotes are waiting to be discovered near Playa del Carmen.
One excellent way to visit the cenotes in this region is through fun tours from Playa del Carmen, with a tour of the best cenotes.
This can be an excellent option if you want an all-inclusive experience with round-trip transportation, a tour guide, and food and beverages.
▶ Explore the Cenotes of Cancun and Puerto Morelos
If you’re searching for cenotes in Cancun, you’re likely looking for the cenotes in Puerto Morelos, as there are no cenotes in the downtown area of Cancun. Puerto Morelos is a great spot for a quick day trip from Cancun.
Puerto Morelos is an elegant coastal city on the Yucatan Peninsula in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. The cenotes in Puerto Morelos are well-known throughout Mexico due to their proximity to Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
You can reach them by taking the famous “Route of the Cenote,” which houses the best cenotes in Puerto Morelos.
By taking the Route of the Cenotes from Cancun or Playa del Carmen, you can explore several different cenotes in Puerto Morelos all in one trip. However, various tours are available in both cities if you want to avoid renting a car and driving.
☑️ What to Bring to Cenotes in Yucatan?
There’s nothing better than being well-informed before exploring an unknown area, such as the cenotes in Yucatan if it’s your first time visiting them.
But don’t worry; it’s not a dangerous area. The main reason for informing you about what to bring when visiting the cenotes is so that you can enjoy this adventure to the fullest while taking care of these natural beauties.
In this section, we’ll tell you what type of clothing to wear, what footwear, what accessories, what kind of protective creams, and other items that will allow you to live a unique experience in perfect harmony with the environment.
Assuming that the first thing you’ve prepared is your swimsuit, we’ll move on to the list of everything you need to visit a cenote:
It’s essential to read all the information we provide for each cenote. Take advantage of the tips, suggestions, conditions, and rules specific to each place.
Organize your transportation: If you booked an excursion to a cenote, consider the distance and the estimated time it will take you to get there. The same goes if you’ve rented a car; check the route, and make sure the GPS is ready with the coordinates.
After that, make sure to confirm the opening and closing hours of the cenotes you’re going to visit. You may find this point obvious, but we know of travelers who have missed their visit to cenotes due to needing to consider the closing time and arriving late. Remember that most of them close at 5 pm.
Bring cash: There are no ATMs in the cenote area, and they don’t accept credit or debit cards to pay for admission or food. It’s essential to bring cash.
Clothing or swimsuit: We suggest you wear your swimsuit from when you leave your room or hotel. This will help speed up the changing of clothes at the cenote. There’s no need to wear fancy clothes.
These are the basics you should bring in your kit:
Always bring a backpack or any other type of travel bag. The backpack should be versatile, lightweight, and easy to carry, with enough space to keep your belongings safe and dry. Remember to add a couple of plastic bags to store anything wet that you used to swim in the cenote! Please don’t leave them lying around after use!
2- Running shoes:
They are an excellent option for walking on grass and rocky paths in the cenote area. You can also bring trekking shoes (in my case I use a pair of this type of shoes). You can also bring sandals/flip-flops for after a refreshing swim and to keep your shoes dry. Sandals are easy to carry and keep your feet comfortable.
3- Water shoes:
I don’t have a particular opinion on water shoes since I bought only one pair, and they are the ones I currently use. Luckily, they haven’t died yet and will endure several more uses.
Bring a snorkel with an uncolored mask because you won’t see anything if the water is even slightly dark. I realized this when Leo was happily diving with his uncolored mask snorkel while I was using my blue mask and couldn’t see anything 🙁 Have a different experience; if you buy a snorkel mask, ensure it’s uncolored.
5- Water bottle:
Seriously, wherever you go in Yucatan, you must bring water. It gets boiling during the day. In my attempt to save the world and not pollute it and to find a water bottle that doesn’t leak so I can finally stop buying bottled water when I travel, I purchased an Omorc water bottle. Not all cenotes have restaurants or drink and snack shops, so it’s essential to make sure you always have water on hand.
You will get tired after a pleasant and refreshing swim in the cenote. It’s good to know if the cenotes you visit have dining rooms, restaurants, or shops where you can buy food. If there aren’t these businesses, you must bring your own, so we recommend foods like energy bars, fruits, or sandwiches.
7- Life jacket:
Not everyone wants to swim in a cenote with a life jacket, but we should do it, especially for children. Inflatable rubber bracelets and rings are very dangerous in cenotes, so please… please!! Keep your kids from using these accessories. We always bring life jackets because not all cenotes have them for rent, especially for the little ones.
We recommend bringing your life jacket and enjoying the cenotes to the fullest.
In this case, the only suggestion we can make is to buy a waterproof camera. Take the opportunity to take amazing photos underwater; they will get the most likes on your social media. We are not experts on this; we only followed the suggestion of a dear photographer friend who recommended a Fuji all-terrain camera, which is significantly cheaper than GoPro.
9- Natural insect repellent and sunscreen:
One of the precautions when visiting cenotes is not to enter the water with repellents or creams on your body. That’s why some cenotes require you to take a shower before entering. Despite this care, we still suggest that you bring your sunscreen and mosquito repellent to use once you have left the water.
10- Menstrual cup:
Women sometimes worry about swimming during their period. Well, this doesn’t have to be a concern with a menstrual cup anymore. To learn more about them, check out this post about menstrual cups.
☑️ What are Cenotes?
Cenotes are geological wonders that the Yucatan Peninsula has to offer us. They are magnificently mysterious and magical.
Hidden and protected by the thickness of the jungle, they are one of the most beautiful gems to visit and enjoy. Your vacation in Yucatan will only be complete with swimming or diving in one of these Cenotes.
But do you want to know precisely what cenotes are and why they receive millions of tourists annually?
Yucatan has a high number of cenotes because the peninsula is mainly composed of porous limestone. The limestone has been eroded by millions of years of rain, forming a vast network of underground caverns.
Cenotes are fed by rainwater seepage and underground river currents that flow from the very heart of the earth.
This is why swimming in cenotes produces an unparalleled sensation of freshness. The average water temperature in cenotes ranges between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius, depending on the time of year.
The origin of name “cenotes” comes from the Mayans, who called these wells “Dz’onot,” meaning “cave with water.”
☑️ Types of Cenotes in Yucatan
Not all cenotes in Mexico are the same age; just like people, their formation process varies, which determines their date and type of cenote.
No two cenotes in Yucatan are the same. A cenote in Cancun, a cenote in Tulum, or a cenote in Valladolid, even if they are the same age, are not identical.
To differentiate the types of cenotes, they are classified as:
● Cave Cenotes
These are the youngest but also the most enigmatic cenotes. Their source of water is still located inside a cave. The ancient Maya used them as a setting for some of their celebrations.
The shades of water in cave cenotes, ranging from deep blue to emerald green, are only seen when sunlight penetrates through the holes in the cave’s roof or cracks in its dome.
This type of cenote is ideal for adventure activities since some are several hundred meters underground.
● Semi-Open Cenotes
Semi-open cenotes are common throughout the region. They are places where erosion and time have eroded the limestone terrain, leaving these natural wonders barely exposed.
These semi-open cenotes are ideal for visiting Riviera Maya and Cancun to enjoy crystal-clear waters. So crystal clear that you can perfectly admire flora and fauna under its waters.
● Open Cenotes
Open cenotes are older than semi-open cenotes. They are formed when the vault covering them gives way, leaving them wholly uncovered.
This type of cenote may have the most significant natural attraction. Flora takes over the rock walls, conferring them a variety of shades that end up astonishing with their beauty. In addition, butterflies and birds offer a spectacle that complements a dreamlike natural painting.
The Sacred Cenote of Chichén Itzá is among the most recognized open cenotes. Archaeologists have found different pre-Hispanic elements in this cenote, indicating that it was used for ceremonies and rituals.
● Ancient Cenotes
Millions of years have passed since their formation. Not only did their vaulted roof give way over time, but their walls also did, leaving an entire area that resembled a lagoon.
Cenotes are unique oases located within the thickness of the Mayan jungle, offering a natural spectacle you cannot miss and enjoy if you come to Mexico.
☑️ High Season in the Yucatan Peninsula
The high season in Yucatan begins around December 20th and continues until Easter week.
This is the best time due to the calm and warm weather: to visit the best cenotes in Yucatan, snorkel, scuba dive, and fish (milder weather means more transparent and more predictable seas), and see the ruins that dot the interior of the peninsula.
The most popular tourist destinations, such as Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Cancun, and Cozumel, are filled with thousands of excited and bustling tourists, all enjoying the beautiful weather and the Caribbean experience that this region of Mexico offers.
Hotels, shops, and restaurants offer their most expansive range of services with a smile on their face.
The crowds can be exciting and fun for many people, but groups can be discouraging for others.
You will know how to handle this detail based on your preferences.
We all know everything is more crowded and competitive during the high season.
Accommodations for the Yucatan Peninsula and flights should be booked at least two or three months in advance and even earlier during certain times.
Reservations are necessary, transportation is more heavily used, and tours are generally more crowded.
This is when the main tourist destinations earn most of their money, so they roll out the red carpet for every guest.
In general, you will find that prices are higher between Christmas and Easter, as it is the peak of the tourist season, but also during spring break and between July and August because it is when families tend to travel to the region while their children are on school vacation.
☑️ Low Season on the Yucatan Peninsula
While the high season is exciting, the low season is quieter and allows the region’s authentic culture to shine as a tourist and cultural attraction.
With fewer tourists, you’ll find that the pace of life is less hurried and “more Caribbean.”
However, in Cancun and along the Riviera Maya, the demand from Mexican and European visitors is creating a summer mid-season.
During the low season, midday temperatures can rise to an uncomfortable 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit), but the Atlantic trade winds make mornings, afternoons, and evenings delightful along the coast.
On the other hand, traveling during the low season is much cheaper. Hotels reduce their rates by 20 to 60 percent, and tours and shops can lower prices to remain competitive.
The low season also makes accessing public transportation, golf course tee times, tennis courts, water sports, and other activities more accessible.
Flights and accommodations are easier to book.
You can even get a table at a good restaurant without reservations.
It’s a good time for families to travel because it’s easier to keep up with the kids, and there are fewer crowds.
The atmosphere is also more cosmopolitan during the low season, as many tourists are European.
However, traveling inland on the peninsula can be stifling in heat and humidity without the refreshing effects of the sea breeze.
☑️ The Weather in Yucatan
Yucatan is one of the warmest regions in Mexico, with an average annual temperature of 26°C and an average maximum temperature of 36°C.
The climate is warm, but it only has a few tropical and humid months. It’s warm to hot all year round, inviting you to take a dip at average temperatures of 27 degrees.
The best time of year to travel to Yucatan is from December to the first days of April, which is the peak travel season and precisely the months with the least rainfall.
This is the best time for calm and warm weather, to go scuba diving or snorkeling in cenotes, or to go on a fishing excursion (calmer weather means clearer and more predictable seas); and to visit the ruins that dot the interior of the peninsula.
In general, Mexico’s dry season runs from November to April, and the rainy season extends from May to October.
It’s not a problem if you stay near the beaches, but if you want to travel by road to the cenotes in Chichen Itza, the cenotes near Uxmal, or other sites, the temperatures and humidity in the interior can be quite stifling from May to July.
Later in the rainy season, the frequency of tropical storms and hurricanes increases. However, temperatures may drop, making climbs on ruins more enjoyable, accompanied by fresh air and a light breeze.
November is especially ideal for trips to Yucatan, Cancun, Cozumel, and Isla Mujeres. There is also a rainy season from November to January when northern storms arrive. This typically means that visibility for diving expeditions is reduced, and conditions may prevent boats from even leaving.
The low season starts the day after Easter and continues until mid-December.
Entry Requirements to Mexico for Visiting Cenotes in Yucatan
Here are the entry requirements to Mexico for tourists and short-term visitors.
Mexico Visitor Permit, FMM
Passport holders from countries on the list of visa-free countries do not need to apply for an official visa to visit Mexico. Instead, they can use a visitor permit called FMM (Multiple Migratory Form).
For countries that don’t need a visa, you’ll need to fill out a Mexico Visitor Permit (FMM) instead of a visa.
This is a simple form: airlines pass it on board flights, and it must be filled out on the plane before landing, or you can get one at all airports, as well as at land border crossings and sea ports of entry.
If the airline you’re flying with doesn’t have any forms at the check-in counter or on board the plane, don’t worry, you can get one when you land in Mexico and fill it out before queuing for airport officials to check and stamp your documents.
Mexico charges a fee to all tourists and business visitors entering the country. The fee is approximately USD 25.
- If you’re arriving in Mexico by land, you’ll need to obtain a visitor permit at the point of entry.
- If you’re flying to Mexico, international flight crews deliver the visitor permit forms before the flight lands, and they’re also available at Mexican airports near immigration offices.
- If you’re visiting a Mexican port or port as part of a cruise, you’ll need to obtain a visitor permit at your first Mexican port.
How Long is Your FMM Valid?
When you enter Mexico as a tourist or for business, the immigration officer at the port of entry will typically grant you a stay of 180 days; this will be written on the portion of the form you are given to keep safe.
Check how many days you are granted and calculate your departure date accordingly.
- The visitor permit (FMM) always expires after a maximum of 180 days: it cannot be extended beyond the number of days the immigration officer writes on the form (even if it’s less than the maximum allowed 180 days), and it cannot be renewed: you must leave the country before it expires.
Lost your FMM?
If you lose your FMM, you must go to one of the immigration offices in towns and cities throughout the country or at the airport and request a replacement before leaving.
This will involve filling out and submitting some forms and a trip to a local bank to pay the replacement fee for your permit (around USD 30) before returning to the immigration office to receive the replacement FMM.
Retained your FMM?
If you have returned home and realize you still have your FMM tourist permits, the best thing you can do is contact the nearest Mexican Consulate, which will advise you on what to do, including asking you to return it.
Stayed longer than allowed on your FMM?
If you stay longer than granted on an FMM permit (usually 180 days), you must visit an immigration office (or the immigration center at the airport) and pay a fine before leaving the country.
The fine depends on how long you have stayed in the country beyond the established period; it is calculated daily and will be at most 6,000 pesos (260 dollars). Like in the case of lost permits, you must make arrangements to ensure your departure visa before your scheduled departure date, or else you could miss your flight.
Keep your visitor permit safe! If you don’t have your FMM (Visitor Permit) with you when you leave, you will have to go through some Mexican Immigration procedures and request a replacement at one of the country’s immigration offices or at the airport.
The cost of replacing the permit is around 30 US dollars.
Losing the permit, especially if you only report it at the airport when you are ready to leave, will delay your departure and may cause you to miss your scheduled flight.
For more information, you can visit the official website of the Mexican Tourism Secretariat.
Tips and Advice for Foreign Tourists
Bringing Prescription Medications to Mexico
You can bring prescription medications to Mexico as long as you have the accompanying documentation proving a medical need. If you or a family member are taking prescription medications, be sure to bring the prescription or a note from the doctor that includes the patient’s name and the name of the drug (s) to demonstrate the medical need in case your luggage is inspected.
Do Not Bring Firearms or Ammunition
A foreign firearms license is not valid in Mexico; if you have a firearm, do not bring it to Mexico, and do not bring ammunition. The only exception is a firearm and ammunition used for hunting purposes, but you’ll need to obtain a special permit – contact the nearest Mexican Consulate to your location -.
Having lethal knives, firearms of any type, and even a single cartridge of ammunition is a federal crime in Mexico: being caught with a gun can cause serious problems, even if you have a license issued in your country of origin. See also: Mexico’s Strict Gun Laws.
Type and Quantity of Items
Only bring something that appears to be intended for resale, such as multiple laptops. These items will be heavily taxed or confiscated. Personal use items, new or used, will be allowed, but only in quantities consistent with the definition of “personal use.”
You may be questioned if you’re carrying large quantities of anything or if the Customs Inspector believes you’re trying to sell any of the goods you’re having.