A cenote is a natural phenomenon, a sinkhole in the Earth’s surface. The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico has an estimated 7,000 cenotes because it is primarily made up of porous limestone.
One of the great attractions of the Riviera Maya are the cenotes, natural formations reminiscent of the Yucatan Peninsula when several million years ago it was submerged in the sea and formed a large coral reef. After the last ice age, these cenotes or sinkholes, remained above sea level, partly flooding, leaving spaces or air domes, and later, providing the only source of water in the jungle for the Mayan civilization.
The word cenote comes from Yucatec Maya “d’zonot” or “ts’onot“, “well” which means well / cave with water tank which serves as a reminder that these natural openings connect to underground river systems. Cenotes were the main source of fresh water for the ancient Mayan civilization. Mayans believed the cenotes contained curative elements and considered many of them to be sacred. They also believed cenotes to be portals to the underworld and a way to communicate with the gods. The majority of the cenotes are shallow, between 5 and 15 meters, and temperatures average 25 ° C throughout the year.
3 Cenotes to Visit in the Yucatan and Quintana Roo
Some of these beautiful natural sinkholes are open to the public.
Gran Cenote – The Great Cenote
This cenote lives up to its name (gran = grand or large) and is a must see. It is one of the most popular cenotes, or sinkholes, for diving and snorkeling. Located about 3.5 km from Tulum on way to the Coba Mayan ruins, it welcomes experts and novice divers alike. Snorkeling in this underground system will bring big surprises and unforgettable moments. Great stalagmites, stalactites and columns can be seen in this circular shaped cenote.
The Great Cenote is a perfect way to spend the whole day with the family with green areas to relax.
Location: Just outside of Tulum Mayan Ruins, it is easy to find. (State of Quintana Roo)
Hours: Open 10 am to 5 pm every day of the week.
Cenote Dos Ojos – Officially called Sistema Dos Ojos, or “two eyes”
Its name refers to the two neighboring cenotes, appearing like two large eyes on Earth that are connected to a very large cave area.
In this system 28 connected cenotes have been mapped out and along the way more than 81.9 miles of underground routes have been discovered making it one of the longest underwater caves systems in the world.
It also has the deepest area known in the Quintana Roo caves: 119.1 meters.
IMAX filmed part of their film “Journey into Amazing Caves” here. There are bathroom facilities and snacks available. Look for the “Bat Cave”!
In the Cenote Dos Ojos you can snorkel and dive and is visited daily by hundreds of tourists. Near the surface you can see a variety of fish while deep under water, with a trained eye, you can see various types of shrimp. In some parts you can also see fossilized fish, snails and sea shells that prove that the Yucatan Peninsula was completely submerged in water. The play of light with the surface contrasts with the beauty of a colorful underworld.
Location: 9 miles south of Tulum on highway 307 on the right. 29 miles south of Playa del Carmen in Quintana Roo
Hours: Open daily from 8am to 5pm.
Cenote Azul Sagrado “Ik Kil” – Sacred Blue Cenote “Ik Kil”
This stunning place is one of the favorite cenotes visited by travelers worldwide. At 43 feet deep, its walls are covered with vegetation and constantly falling water provide a particularly relaxing sound. It is possible to dive or snorkel. Its form of an open cenote almost allows for a circular entry of light down to the water level where you can appreciate the natural habitat that is ready to explore. Some animals like water turtles, eels and colorful fish will welcome you.
Location: Eco-archeological Park Ik Kil is 1.8 miles from Chichen Itza Mayan ruins in the Yucatán.
Hours: Open daily from 8am to 6pm.
Dare to live an adventure that brings to life thousands of years of history.
The cenotes still fascinate thousands of tourists who find warmth in the Riviera Maya. Dive into the depths, contemplate the natural beauty and breathe in the mystical air that gave life to one of the most powerful civilizations of Mesoamerica: Mayan culture.
Snorkeling or Caving?
The depth and length of the cenote are the characteristics that determine whether it is preferable to go snorkeling, caving, or both.
Snorkeling is the term for free diving with a snorkel which is shaped like a plastic cane up to the surface that allows you to breathe underwater.
– Caving is the term for diving in cenotes.
– Snorkeling is recommended for cenotes that are shallow and long and caving for cenotes that are deeper.
We recommend both activities for an unforgettable aquatic experience. The natural habitat of the Riviera Maya adds a touch of freshness and mysticism to these geological formations.