best cenotes in tulum

Best Cenotes in Tulum: Everything you need to know

You can’t visit Tulum without checking out the famous cenotes. If you’re thinking about visiting, you’ve definitely already heard about all the cenotes around town. In fact, there are more than 6,000 cenotes on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. So how do you decide what to include on your itinerary?

If you didn’t know, cenotes are natural pools created from water holes and inside caves. They’re one of the most popular tourist activities in Tulum – they’re known for their beauty, cave dining, and water fun. Make sure you know the best time to visit Tulum, so the weather is perfect for taking a dip in the natural springs.

Let’s take a look at the best cenotes in Tulum that everyone should have on their bucket list.

best cenotes in tulum cenote dos ojos
The best cenotes in Tulum, cenote Dos Ojos

Cenote Dos Ojos

Out of the thousands of cenotes on the Yucatán Peninsula, Cenote Dos Ojos is one of the most famous. Hundreds of visitors can come daily to the cenote right outside Tulum. It’s one of the coolest cenotes and an incredible place to go for a dive.

Cenote Dos Ojos was discovered in 1987 as the largest in Quintana Roo. It’s part of the world’s largest underwater cave system. It’s a must-see cenote to see how big they can develop. 

Snorkeling and diving are the most common activities at Dos Ojos. The benefit the swimming in this cenote is the water visibility. You’ll have a clear view of the rocky bottom.

Local companies offer cenote diving tours to explore underwater for approximately one hour. Tours and swimming are great for all ages. 

The best time to visit is in the early morning or before it closes at 5 pm so check the opening times to avoid the major tourist crowds. 

best cenotes in tulum gran cenote
The best cenotes in Tulum, Gran Cenote. Photo by dronepicr

Gran Cenote

Hop on a bike from Tulum Town to reach Gran Cenote, one of the most popular cenotes in Tulum. The clear water makes it a favorite choice for water recreation.

Gran Cenote has a large swimming hall that’s the go-to spot for visitors. The unique rock sculptures make it one of the most beautiful cenotes. You’ll always see fish swimming nearby. Also, keep your eyes peeled for the bats flying overhead.

Snorkeling is one of the main activities in Gran Cenote. Bring your own gear or rent gear on site to explore the underwater world of the cenote. The high visibility means that you’ll see to the bottom depths. 

Visit Gran Cenote before 10 am to avoid the tourist groups arriving midday. It’s a family-friendly cenote and has visitor facilities like lockers for belongings. 

Be sure to bring cash when visiting and exchange rates aren’t good if you only have USD. 

Cenote Zacil-Ha

Suppose Gran Cenote gets a bit crowded, head a few minutes down the road to reach Cenote Zacil-Ha. It’s a great alternative that’s just as impressive on its own and worth dropping by. It has some of the clearest waters of all the local cenotes.

Cenote Zacil-Ha is developed for tourists with visitor facilities, snack vendors, and a rest area. It’s one of the favorite family-friendly cenotes where you can find local families enjoying a nice day in the water.

Climb down the stairs leading into the water or jump off the ledge. It’s not a large cenote, but it can accommodate lots of swimmers. A unique attraction is the zip line. Ride the zipline to the center of the cenote and drop into the natural pool.

A lifeguard is present on site, and life jackets available.

 best cenotes in tulum cenote calavera
The best cenotes in Tulum, Cenote Calavera

Cenote Calavera

Cenote Calavera is a family destination that you’re sure to see everyone from small kids to teenagers to adults having a great time side-by-side. The cenote is one of the most photographed because of the particular shape. When you’re ready, jump in and enjoy the warm waters. 

The Spanish word ‘calavera’ translates to ‘skull.’ The three openings of the cenote form the shape of a skull head when viewed from above. When you visit, try out each of the holes to jump into the pools.

Cenote Calavera is one of the favorite cenotes for jumping. The holes are approximately 12-ft above the water, giving a nice thrill when you leap. Underwater tunnels connect each of the pools. 

Enjoy scenic views of the sky as you float on your back in the tranquil water. 

Locals provide snorkeling equipment rentals and life vests available.

 best cenotes in tulum Cenote Sac Actun

The best cenotes in Tulum, Cenote Sac Actun

Cenote Sac Actun

Swim through the world’s largest underwater cave system when you visit Cenote Sac Actun. It’s accessible via a guided tour that takes you on an underwater excursion through one of the best Tulum cenotes.

Cenote Sac Actun is an underwater cave extending nearly 350-kilometers long. Cave diving is the best way to experience the cave. Snorkeling is another option. You’ll spend an hour exploring the underwater caverns while encountering lots of marine life along the way. Be sure to look up at the rock formations emerging from the ceiling. 

Areas of light pour in from the holes in the ceiling, but you’ll definitely need a flashlight when you visit. The tour companies provide all of the equipment.

Since it’s inside of a cave with little light, the water is colder than other cenotes.

Cenote El Pit

Cenote El Pit might look like a small cenote but wait until you get a chance to dive inside of it. El Pit is a famous diving spot since the cenote reaches a depth of 40-meters and offers incredible views underwater.

Cenote El Pit is located inside the Dos Ojos Natural Park. There are several dive shops and tours nearby to get your gear and meet with your tour guide. Take a private or group tour to go on a sightseeing swim through the cenote.

The tour takes you down into the open cavern underwater, where you’ll see stalactites formed from the ceiling above as you continue to plunge deeper into the water. Visit on a sunny day to see the breath-taking sunbeams penetrating the surface of the water.

Underwater cameras are permitted during the tours.

Cenote Xunaan-Ha

Skip the big tourist crowds and check out the Cenote Xunaan-Ha, instead. Travel off the beaten path to discover one of the best-hidden gems near Tulum. The quiet setting of the open air cenote pool are perfect for going for a swim at any time of the day.

Hop in a rental car for a 25-minute drive north of Tulum to visit Cenote Xunaan-Ha. Not many tours come to this cenote, but you’ll be glad you did. Follow the designated path through the jungle, which opens up to the cenote.

The cenote is known for its clear turquoise water. It’s surrounded by lush greenery, making it feel more exclusive, especially with the lack of tourists. You can easily spend a couple of hours swimming and jumping off the platforms without seeing anybody else show up. The water has high visibility, so bring snorkeling gear. You’ll see lots of small fish swimming beneath you and the deep walls of the cenote.

 best cenotes in tulum cenote cristal

Cenote Cristal, photo by Lisa Harbin

Cenote Cristal

Cenotes are scattered all around Tulum – it can take some time touring around to the best cenotes nearby. You can get a two-for-one visit at Cenote Cristal without paying two prices. It’s the main cenote but includes access to Cenote Escondido. Check out both during your visit.

Cenote Cristal is one of the most fun cenotes for all ages. It’s an open-air cenote with a large natural swimming pool for everyone to enjoy. It features wooden platforms to jump into the water – you’ll see lots of kids having a blast.

The cenote is located in a peaceful natural setting. It’s not the best photo location, but you’ll still have clear waters and a great place to swim and snorkel. There are also facilities onsite to change and shower.

Cenote Cristal is the most popular of the two, so arrive early to swim with fewer tourist crowds.

Cenote Escondido

Don’t rush off from Centote Cristal so soon after you finish your swim there. Cenote Escondido is located across the highway and accessible with the same entrance fee. Take advantage of the two cenotes to determine your favorite.

Cenote Escondido translates to ‘hidden cenote.’ Many people skip over it, but you now have the advantage to find one of the best cenotes. It’s a short hike trek through the jungle, but when you arrive, you’ll be amazed by the cenote.

The cenote is located in a jungle clearing in the open-air. The jungle surrounds the edge of the pool, but there are places to sunbathe on the side.

Swim in the clear waters or go snorkeling to see an abundance of fish swimming around. There are also large stones on the side that you can jump off from.

Cenote Carwash

Cenotes were used long before tourism was booming in Tulum. For example, Cenote Carwash earned its nickname for taxis that used the water to wash the cars. The official name is Cenote Aktun Ha, so you might hear either of the names when inquiring about it.

Cenote Carwash is a popular place for diving and snorkeling because of the depth. It has clear waters that let you see fish from the surface or venture further underwater to see more marine life living in the cenote. 

It’s one of the most picturesque cenotes you’ll find in Tulum. The jungle flora lines the cenote and provides lots of tree shade when swimming. There is a diving platform to jump into the water.

Cenote Carwash doesn’t get as crowded as other nearby cenotes, so it’s one of the best options to have it all to yourself.

Cenote Chac Mool

Cenote Chac Mool is a unique cenote where most of the appeal is underwater. It’s one of the best places to dive in Tulum that reveals an entirely new world submerged in the water. It always shows up on lists for the best cenotes.

Scuba diving is the main activity at Cenote Chac Mool. It expands 12-meters deep and opens into an underwater cave system. It’s a private cenote that you can only visit with tour guides.

There are plenty of diving tour companies nearby. You’ll swim inside the water caves and see the unique cave formations. One of the best views is seeing the sunbeams shining down to illuminate the underwater caves. And the best part is that it’s for beginners or experienced divers. Even first-time divers can explore the underwater depths at Chac Mool.

Cenote Corazon del Paraíso

Visiting Cenote Corazon del Paraíso transports you to a new world. The name translates to the ‘heart of paradise,’ and you’ll definitely feel like you’re in paradise. It’s an excellent cenote to visit on a leisure day in Tulum.

Cenote Corazon del Paraíso is only a short drive away from Tulum Town, which brings so many people here. Paradise becomes a reality with clear, blue waters and thick vegetation around it. It’s named for the heart-shaped grow pattern of the trees. Pull out your drone to get an aerial view.

The welcoming, family-friendly atmosphere makes it a fun destination for everybody. Bring your snorkeling gear and peer underwater to see lots of fish swimming around. There is also a platform for jumping into the water. 

Cenote Corazon del Paraíso is considered one of the most sacred waters, so immerse yourself into the tranquil natural setting. 

Cenote Taak Bi Ha

You could visit all of the cenotes in Riviera Maya and still rank Cenote Taak Bi Ha as one of your favorites. It’s accessible past Cenote Dos Ojos, and when you arrive, you’ll be welcomed with an incredible sight. Visit the cenote for fun cave swimming.

Cenote Taak Bi Ha is located inside of a cave, so the water is refreshing for hot days. It’s a scenic cave with large stalactites hanging from the roof and clear blue water. You can see the underwater tunnels and rocks underwater. The water is deepest in the center.

Climb down the starts leading into the cenote and slip into the cool waters. Swim around or join a guided snorkeling tour to learn about the marine life and cave features.

It’s a popular place to host events and photoshoots.

Just some friendly traveler advice – plan to visit a few of the Tulum cenotes. Each one is unique and offers a slightly different experience than the next. Cenotes are a unique natural formation that’s created a major tourist activity.

Take and self-guided tour or book a cenote tour to check out all of the best local cenotes. Let me know in the comments your favorite!

Check out all of the related articles to make sure you’re prepared for your trip to Tulum!

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