Cenotes are the perfect opposite to hot weather and burning midday sun. They are cool, refreshing and extremely relaxing – at least when choosing the right one. As tourism among the Yucatan Island in Mexico expands a lot more and provides tours to almost everywhere, finding a quiet place to unwind can sometimes be challenging. Cenotes have become more and more popular and big tour buses stop at certain ones on the way to tourist attractions like Chitzen Itza or Coba. Some cenotes can only be explored with a tour, which are usually overpriced and make you pay at least 50 dollars for an hour of swimming. Prices vary a lot but they have one in common – they are ridiculous! There are tons of beautiful cenotes out there, that can explored easily by bus, collectivo or even by bike. Plus you are able to decide when you go and how long you stay. And in the end, who would want to go swimming in a cenote with a hundred other people at the same time?
So forget about the tours, forget about the ones that won`t let you in without a guide and start saving you from spending a fortune for a dissapointing experience.
Last year, me and my girl were travelling around Mexico and have seen a few cenotes along the way, but this year we really did see a lot of them! The weather was so hot and the sun burning down, that we needed the refreshment. There are still a few on my list for next time, but for now, check out my personal favourites:
Cenote Escondido y Cristall
My highlight of this years exploration! Escondido, which means „hidden“ is a true gem. There were basically no people and you get 2 for 1. On each side of the road there`s one cenote, you pay once and have entrance to both. Cristall is right next to the road and Escondido about 500m to the other side, but so worth the walk! We went to Cristall first, there were a few tables around the cenote so it`s perfect for a picknick. You even get the opportunity to jump into the deep water from around 3m! For me that really was something to be super proud of, but babe jumped several times and had a blast. The landscape is amazing for pictures, deep green and rich in nature, you feel like you`re in the middle of the jungle discovering a cenote no one`s ever been before – well, at least it gave us the feeling of being „somewhere only we know“.
As there were four of us, we took a cab and paid around 100 pesos one-way. On the way back we waited at the side of the road, just about to call a taxi as no collectivo came along, when we saw a Mayab bus that stopped and took us back to Tulum for 15 pesos each! What a bargain.
Whenever you get the chance to visit the city of Valladolid, don`t hesitate! It`s one of our favourite cities on the peninsula (check out my day trips from Tulum) and relatively quiet touristwise. Located inland there`s no beach nearby, but a beautiful cenote that should be on everyone`s Must See List if you ask me. Cenote Zaci is right in the middle of town very close to the central park and within walking distance to pretty much everywhere. The cenote has a very interesting shape, on one side it looks like a stalactite cave and the other side is open and very green. It`s a little busier with the one or the other tour bus coming in, but usually happening at midday, so if you go either during the morning or late afternoon you will only meet locals enjoying the fresh water. There are plenty of fish in the water and despite being quite dark, it is perfectly clear and awesome for underwater shots! There are lots of stones in the cave to relax on and even a restaurant next door. We tried to avoid it as we thought it would be crammed with tourists but on the way out we noticed a lot of local families having lunch in there.
From Tulum, the easiest and most comfortable way is by bus. We took the ADO on the first ride and booked tickets two days in advance as they are usually cheaper than on the same day, but wanted to stay flexible about the ride back. We ended up at the bus station in Valladolid around 5ish ready to go home and were lucky to catch a Mayab bus (second class) which was a lot cheaper than the ADO (first class) and if you ask me, it was just as comfortable. We paid 92 pesos each for the Mayab and 128 pesos for the ADO including the early booker discount. The journey takes roughly 1,5 – 2 hours.
Our most spontanous cenote visit was the one at cenote „Carwash“. It`s really close to Tulum and you could even cycle there. We took a taxi and paid 80 pesos for the ride. It was definitely one of the smallest and maybe least spectacular cenotes I`ve seen, however the peaceful silence and friendly staff made this a perfect afternoon! There are a couple cenotes closeby that are very touristy and crowded, but this one is only popular amongst divers. At first we thought we were the only people in the cenote but then suddenly two divers appeared from underwater. And then another two. The cenote is more like a tiny lake but with very cool water and extremely friendly staff who offered to drive to one of the touristy cenotes nearby to get us some fresh coconuts! They had snorkelling equipment and overall the whole trip was extremely cheap. Perfect for a cenote experience off the beaten path. So much better to have a cenote (even if it`s a small one) to yourself than having to share it with a noisy crowd.
This one isn`t exactly a cenote, but a beautiful lagoon with tourquise water. We were stunned when we first saw it. It really reminded me of Bacalar, just a lot smaller. It`s located around 500m from the main road and entry fee was 50 pesos each. We took a collectivo and paid 20 pesos each one-way. There`s not much around so hardly any tourists visiting despite a few local families. The lagoon is very picturesque and the water perfect for swimming (not salty for a change!). You could easily spend the entire day relaxing here, it is so peaceful, you can hear birds singing and it`s the perfect place to unwind, read a book or simply enjoy the view. Just remember to bring some food and water. Oh, and sunscreen!
Have you ever been in Yucatan or Quintana Roo? Which were your favourite cenotes? Any on your list for the next visit? Would love to hear your stories and see your pictures! Just tag me using #jotravelholic for the chance to get featured.