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Have you seen those pictures of people swimming in pristine blue-water swimming holes with vines and caves all around? These are the secret cenotes of Mexico, and they are waiting for you to come and enjoy their cool waters and lush landscapes. If you’re looking to visit one of these magical cenotes, Tulum is the place to be. Look through this list of the 12 best cenotes in Tulum, Mexico, and start planning your next getaway.
What is a cenote?
A cenote is a limestone sinkhole filled with crystal-clear, fresh water — the perfect place to enjoy a hot Mexican day. These gorgeous basins are formed when bedrock collapses and exposes the groundwater below. Many are connected to a full underground river system, at one time believed to be inhabited by ancient gods and supernatural beings. These sacred places were home to rituals, sacrifices, and celebrations honoring the gods and ancestors of the land.
The Yucatán is home to over 6,000 cenotes, Tulum housing some of the best. While many remain underground, the cenotes you can access provide space to float, swim, snorkel, and scuba dive. You’ll find some above ground with large pools for swimming and jumping, while others will take you underneath the earth into small caverns with limited lighting. The list below will show you some of the best, so you can plan your trip and enjoy these divine pools on your next getaway.
Reminders and tips for visiting cenotes
Before you go, there are some things you need to know. Visiting a cenote is not like visiting a beach or pool resort. These natural caverns and basins are pristine freshwater swimming holes, and the goal is to keep them that way. This short list can help you prepare for your visit.
- Nature: Do not wear sunscreen, lotions, or bug spray as they can damage the environment. It’s also important to keep your hands and feet off of stalactites, stalagmites, and other naturally occurring rock formations in and out of the water.
- Price: Visiting cenotes can cost anywhere from USD 3 to USD 35. If you choose to go with a tour, the price can be as high as USD 100 depending on what’s included. And dive trips will cost significantly more.
- Facilities: Some cenotes have restrooms, snack bars/restaurants, towels, and adventure parks, while others offer nothing but the cenote itself. Do your research and come prepared.
- Guides/tours: Booking a day trip with a driver/guide is the easiest way to see these natural wonders. With a tour, you won’t have to worry about driving/parking, and most tours offer lunch, too!
Now that you have all the info, let’s check out the stars of this cenote show!
- Known for: Swimming and scuba diving
- Cost: USD 15 – 25
The Gran Cenote is a semi-open cenote just outside the Tulum area. It features a series of caves and caverns, along with a spacious open-air swimming area surrounded by a lush jungle backdrop. You can walk the wooden paths and docks to explore each part of this beautiful sanctuary and float in its crystal-clear waters. If you’re a diver, this is a great place to book a dive trip and explore the underground areas of the cavern.
- Known for: Quiet location; swimming, jumping and scuba diving
- Cost: USD 3 – 5
The word Calavera translates to skull and references the property’s three sinkholes said to resemble two eyes and a mouth. Cenote Calavera, aka Skull Cenote, may sound scary, but this incredible swimming hole features a four-meter drop into the water accessible by ladder or, for the courageous, a jump straight into the pristine pool. This little slice of heaven is truly a hidden gem in Tulum, bringing less tourists and visitors per day. If you’re looking for a quiet dip in a magical backdrop, this is the cenote for you.
Cenote Isla Alamos
- Known for: Less tourists; relaxing atmosphere; floating and swimming
- Cost: USD 4 – 5
If you’re one to travel off the beaten path, then Cenote Isla Alamos is the right choice for you. Located in the middle of the Quintana Roo jungle away from modern amenities and tourists, this hidden gem provides a relaxing cenote experience encapsulated by lush trees rooted into the surrounding area with untouched land on all sides. Float, sit, swim, and enjoy this sacred space away from the crowds and resorts. However, there are no facilities on-site, so come prepared.
Cenote Manatí/Manatee (aka Casa Cenote)
- Known for: Swimming, snorkeling, and scuba lessons
- Cost: USD 7 – 10
Casa Cenote is one of the more popular cenotes in Tulum due to its mix of freshwater and saltwater, along with its moving current (which is quite rare). Its river-like qualities mean more space to spread out and enjoy the tranquility of the area. It’s so big, you can swim, snorkel, kayak, paddleboard, and scuba dive with equipment that you can rent on site. Many come here not only for the crystal waters, but also for the abundance of birds, butterflies, tropical fish, and lush mangroves. This great spot is also right across the street from a local restaurant that’s open all day. Enjoy breakfast and a swim, or paddleboard and grab a beer after a day in the water.
- Known for: Family-friendly; swimming, jumping, and floating
- Cost: USD 3 – 5
The Zemway Cenote is a family-friendly swimming hole that offers jumping platforms to get your heart racing and clear turquoise waters to soothe the soul. This is a place to relax with loved ones, let the kids play, and enjoy the sun while floating in the refreshing basin. Here, you’ll find bathrooms, areas for picnic lunches, and a snack service with freshly made treats. There’s also a lifeguard on-site to keep everyone safe!
- Known for: Swimming, jumping, and snorkeling
- Cost: USD 6
If you’re looking to get away from the crowds, the Cristal Cenote is the perfect option. Great for swimming and snorkeling, enjoy the large expanse of turquoise water in a lush jungle backdrop with jumping platforms, tropical fish, and wooden decks with ladders for easy access. (With entry to the Cristal Cenote, you can also access the Escondido Cenote right across the street!)
- Known for: Swimming, floating, and snorkeling
- Cost: USD 20 – 25
15 minutes from Tulum, you’ll find this pristine park featuring two underground cenotes free of large crowds and the hustle and bustle of resort life. The first cenote, Yax-Muul, is decorated with colored lights for a truly unique experience. The second cenote, Sac Tuunich, is engulfed in lush jungle foliage and features shallow waters for floating, along with the option of participating in an authentic Mayan ritual with local guides. For a quiet and relaxing experience in a sacred space, these cenotes are the right choice.
Cenote Dos Ojos
- Known for: Swimming, scuba diving, and snorkeling
- Cost: USD 12 – 15
Dos Ojos translates to two eyes and gets its name from the two sinkholes connected by a long passageway. While these basins are great for swimming and snorkeling, it’s the underwater cave system that makes this location ideal for diving. It’s one of the largest underwater cave systems in the Yucatán!
- Known for: Family-friendly; swimming and jumping; zip-lining
- Cost: USD 9 – 11 (excludes zip-lining)
Cenote Zacil-Ha is an open-air cenote with various facilities on-site, making this a great family option. This space is less crowded than most of the cenotes with adventure parks, offering a tranquil respite in the jungle for kids and adults alike. The property also features traditional swimming pools, a restaurant, restrooms, and a zip-line that will take you directly above the cenote. You can even stay overnight in the property’s cabanas! Make a day or night of it in this pristine location.
Cenotes Casa Tortuga Tulum
- Known for: Multiple cenotes; swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving
- Cost: USD 25
At Cenotes Casa Tortuga, you don’t just get one cenote; you get four! The semi-open Bell Cenote offers ancient rock formations, Wisho Cenote features an underground cavern with fossils and bats, Cenote Jaguar is for the adventurous with underground passageways to sacred Mayan locations, and Cenote Tres Zapotes is a large, open-air swimming hole where you can rest, relax, and float. On-site, you’ll find restrooms, food, and spaces to lay out and enjoy the chill vibes. From marine life and ancient Mayan secrets to stalagmites and stalactites, this playground of sinkholes has something for everyone.
Cenote Santa Cruz Tulum
- Known for: Swimming, snorkeling, and exploring
- Cost: USD 12 – 16
At Cenote Santa Cruz, you can have the best of all cenote worlds. Float in the open-air sinkhole filled with pristine turquoise water and soar off the rope swing, or explore the underground cave system with a guide by walking the dry caverns and swimming or snorkeling through secret passages! Here, you can enjoy a relaxing day or an afternoon of adventure. However, you must book in advance to visit the property, as the owner’s mission is conservation and environmentalism. You can also enjoy food on-site, as well as restrooms.
Cenotes Sac Actún
- Known for: Snorkeling, cave diving, and wildlife
- Cost: USD 23 – 35
Sac Actún features the longest underwater cave system in Mexico and the largest in the world! The cenote itself is fully underground, but that doesn’t mean you can’t float and relax. There is space to enjoy the tranquil vibes in the refreshing crystal-clear water in various parts of the system. On-site, you can rent items such as waterproof flashlights, snorkeling equipment, and wetsuits. We highly recommend paying a guide to take you through the cave system, bringing you to gorgeous underground areas you may not find on your own. There is so much to see in this expansive spot!
Looking to book a trip to Tulum? Reach out to us at TourHero and let us help you plan the perfect getaway with excursions to the best cenotes in the area.
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