The Best Cenotes in Riviera Maya – An Essential Guide
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The Riviera Maya Cenotes are an opportunity to enjoy this extraordinary work of nature without traveling too far from your comfortable hotel on the Mexican Caribbean coast.
In fact, there are a lot of cenotes along the Riviera Maya, and all are scattered along the main road (Carretera federal- route 307) that connects Cancun – Puerto Morelos – Playa del Carmen, and Tulum.
Where is the Riviera Maya?
Let’s make a clarification first. The Riviera Maya is that stretch of land that starts from Puerto Morelos and goes all the way to the end of the Sian kaán biosphere in Felipe Carrillo Puerto.
Cancun and anything before Puerto Morelos is technically not included in what is called the Riviera Maya.
I have already mentioned the beautiful cenotes of Puerto Morelos which are the closest cenotes to Cancun, on the Ruta de Los cenotes.
Here below I will be talking about all the best cenotes in Riviera Maya that you can visit in half a day trip (or one full day, depending on how much you will love it).
Mayan Riviera Cenotes Map
What is a Cenote?
Before moving forward, I need to spend a few words on what is a cenote. If you like you can find out more detailed information here.
As a heritage of the Mayan culture, the cenotes of Yucatan are deep underwater lakes whose waters are filtered from the rocks either from underneath or from the rains above.
There are more than 300 all scattered around the entire peninsula of Yucatan and they are some of its most precious natural treasures.
The entire flat and low region is made of limestone bedrock which allows the rainwater to filtrate the soil allowing huge deposits of water and underground rivers.
The importance of the cenotes goes back to the Mayan times, the pre-Hispanic population that inhabits this area.
They used the cenotes not only as precious and unique sources of water provision but also sacred places for their religious ceremonies.
More about the history and geology in this post.
The Cenotes in Riviera Maya
Just like the popular towns of Homun and Cuzamà in Yucatan and La Ruta de Los cenotes in Puerto Morelos you can find many cenotes along the Carretera Federal (as you can see in the below map).
The majority of the cenotes of the Riviera Maya are located on the side of the road that is opposite from the beach although there are a couple right by the beach, fascinating ones.
I have visited some of them but I will tell you also what I haven’t personally seen but I have heard of, just for the sake of information.
The list will follow a geographical order from Puerto Morelos to Tulum.
However, if you are interested specifically in the Tulum area, you will find this guide on the Cenote around Tulum more suitable for your needs.
You can also check them out on the map at the end of the post.
So if you are ready, let’s start.
The cenotes of the Riviera Maya between Playa del Carmen and Tulum
1. Cenote Cristalino
This cenote, for being so close to the city and very accessible is often very crowded. In order to enjoy it fully, you should avoid weekends and prefer early hours.
The entrance fee is 150 pesos (7 USD)
2. Cenote Azul
Cenote Azul Riviera Maya is the most beautiful Riviera Maya cenote among the open cenotes. Of course, it is just my personal opinion.
I love it more than any other because it’s wide with a lovely path that allows you to walk around it and benches every now and then to sit and enjoy the silence on your own.
Cenote Azul on the Riviera Maya (not to mix up with the Cenote Azul in Bacalar)feels like it’s made of different separate pools although it’s actually one. It’s immersed in a lush tropical garden. A great place where to spend a full day.
There is a lot of space and benches in the shadow where to relax and enjoy the soothing nature.
The entrance fee is only 120 MXN and you can spend there all day, swimming and jumping.
Insider tip: in order to make the best of it, it’s advisable to avoid Saturdays and Sundays as it’s going to be crowded.
3. Cenote Eden
Cenote Eden (o Jardin del Eden) is one of my favorite cenotes in the area, although I normally find cave cenotes more appealing, Cenote Eden is quite fascinating too.
It’s a huge round body of water surrounded by lush generous vegetation. You can see the beautifully shaped rocks emerging from the deep bottom through the emerald crystalline water.
The only time I went I spent the whole day, lying on the huge platform watching people jumping and after too long a hesitation, I managed to jump too. So proud.
But the platform was not that high. It was a weekday and the cenote was not that crowded. Just a few tourists and some divers.
You can take your snorkeling gear with you, which might be handy. For sure you will have fun.
4. Cenote dos Ojos
The cenotes Dos Ojos, which means 2 eyes, is one of the most popular among divers. It is a flooded cave system that has been explored since 1986 and it’s still on the radar of passionate adventure divers and archaeologists.
According to the information we have the underwater cave system is around 61km long with a depth of 396 feet (118 meters)and with that length it remains one of the top 10 underwater cave systems in the world. Diving in there is no joke.
It requires a good level of preparation, apt equipment, and an expert guide. Of course, you don’t need to be a diver if you just want to enjoy the cenote, have a swim and even snorkel.
If you dive though, you can enter from one cave and come out from the other, hence the name.
Since it’s been open they have made lots of changed and developed the area and of course increased the price.
I am sharing with you the pictures of the new price lists. As you can see you can either enter the cenote on your own, visit more than one cenote, as they have discovered a few others in the area that are managed by the same community.
Cenotes Dos Ojos Price list entrance only
Cenotes Dos Ojos Price list guided tour
Opening hours 8-5 – If you dive you need to ask your diving shop.
The entrance fee can be included or not. Always ask.
Keep in mind that if you pay in USD the conversion is not convenient at all. So make sure you bring enough pesos with you.
5. Cenote Taak bi ha
Taak Bi Ha Cenote is a relatively new cenote and the most spectacular of all. The entrance is from the Dos Ojos but you must keep driving and you will pay directly to the cenote entrance. If you don’t have a car and get there by combi, you can get transportation from the entrance to the cenote.
Entrance fee 350 MXN
You can dive if you come with a diving guide and it has a different cost ( check with your dive shop)
6. Cenotes Labnaha
This is a typical cave cenote, with underground tunnels and beautiful rock formations like stalactites and stalagmites. The tour lasts about 45 minutes and it is always led by a guide.
Despite its undiscussed beauty, I find it super overpriced as the cost is 900 pesos (45$) and I don’t really believe it is worth it when if you go a little further in the Yucatan peninsula you would find the same breathtaking beauty, more untouched.
The center offers other activities such as diving and zip line.
7. Cenote Chickin-ha
This is actually a group of 3 cenotes located about 40 minutes from Tulum which makes a great day trip from Tulum. The entrance fee appears more expensive than the other cenotes but you have actually access to 3 cenotes all in one place.
Besides they are all very different from one another and it’s fun exploring them. Since it’s still not very popular you may have the place all for yourself.
That’s what actually happened to me when I visited, just a small group.
The first cenote is a wide-open cenote surrounded by lush vegetation and on a good sunny day, it’s beautiful to photograph (but you need to be there in the afternoon if you want a good light at your back.
The second cenote is a cave cenote which is a lot of fun because you can start swimming on one side and go out on the other side. It’s really cool.
The third cenote is mainly used for ceremonies. It resembles the cenote Isla Alamos but here there is not enough water for swimming. However, it’s really photogenic and I would suggest you visit it and take cool pictures.
I found the 350 pesos really worth it.
8. Cenote Caleta Yal-ku
The beauty of this place is not even dimmed by an overcast sky, like the one I have found. This cenote is more like sort of a lagoon, surrounded by mangroves, home of a huge amount of bird and fish spices.
The emerald transparent water will have you jump in a second, as soon as you approach the rim.
A snorkeling tour with a local guide is sincerely recommended. There is a lot of sea life to discover right there. To know more about it read this article.
9. Casa Cenote
Casa Canote was indeed a beautiful surprise. I was checking out the beaches of the riviera maya, and I literally bumped into this beautiful emerald color body of water surrounded by lush mangroves.
The cenote is also called Manatì for the presence of these funny marine mammals whom you can now rarely see as they have been unfortunately scared away by the human proximity.
You can pay for the entrance to the restaurant, opposite the cenote, called Casa Cenote as well, where you can also find cheap and modest accommodation. The entrance is about 8$ (150pesos)and it includes the life jacket.
The beautiful swim will take you to the sea and when you approach the salted water you will realize how the seawater is mixing up with the sweet waters, a phenomenon that if you are snorkeling or diving underwater will make your sight blurred.
The road that leads you there is an unpaved road towards the sea situated at about 9 km from Cancun. You will see a white big sign with a peacock painted on it saying Pavo Real Resort.
When you actually meet the resort you make a left and a few meters ahead you are there. You won’t miss it. Keep your eyes open as this is also a beautiful road with lovely hotels and interesting beaches.
In fact, right in front of the cenote on the beachside, there is a pebble beach with access to the sea ideal for snorkeling and diving. A nearby dive shop will rent you the equipment and will take you diving. I haven’t tried them so I cannot recommend them.
If you wish to know about the hotels in the area, you can check out this post:
For Further Reading: The best hotels of the Riviera Maya
10. Cenote Yax kin
I have finally managed to visit this cenote that has recently opened during these weird times.
It’s an open cenote with emerald green water and is surrounded by lush vegetation. The local community of workers strives to keep it clean and tidy. It’s a cenote that is suitable for families as well as the water quite shallow in most of the area.
You will find also a lot of space in the surroundings where you can bring your own lunch and do a picnic and enjoy the peaceful nature.
The entrance fee is 150 MXN
Life jackets are available for rent and also you can find some snacks and soft drinks.
Cenote of the Riviera Maya beyond Tulum
11. Cenote Cristal & Escondido
These two beautiful cenotes are located right past Tulum coming from Playa del Carmen, less than one mile from the city center.
If you are staying in Tulum you can easily reach them by bicycle. You pay the entrance at the cenote Cristal and it is good also to visit the cenote Escondido, located on the opposite side of the road.
It’s a huge open cenote, surrounded by thick and lush vegetation reflecting on the blue water that makes it even more beautiful. It’s 7 meters deep and you can both swim relaxedly or jump from a tall platform built for the courageous ones. There is also the possibility to dive. The entrance is 120 pesos (6usd) for both cenotes (200 for divers -10usd). Open from 8 to 5.
On the other side of the main road opposite Cenote Cristal, is also a precious place even more uncontaminated, if you like. There are a couple of cords that allow you to play Tarzan. Or you can just swim around.
How to get there:
Renting a car – Get on the main road (ruta 307) from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, you can see the signs on your right-hand side. Also, you can check the map here below where the cenote you are interested in is approximately located.
Getting there by bus – You can catch the Colectivo (minivans) in Playa del Carmen on Calle 2 Norte between Av. 10 and 15. Ask the driver to drop you off at the cenote you want to go. They will know for sure. The cost would be around 35 pesos.
By Taxi A taxi to the cenotes from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, taken from Playa del Carmen should cost around 350 to 400 pesos(approximately 32-36 USD).
Cenotes on the road between Tulum and Coba’
13. Gran Cenote
The Grand Cenote is one of the most popular and, for a reason.
It is, in fact, one of the most beautiful of the Riviera Maya, one of the reasons being the fact that half of it is open and the other is inside a cave.
You can enjoy going through tunnels within the caves and coming out on the other side, just like the Cenote Dos Ojos, before mentioned.
A downside of this cenote is that it’s always busy and it is rare that you can enjoy it fully by yourself like when you visit a less known one in the middle of the Yucatan peninsula.
I know that living there and having the chance to explore more cenotes I have been a little spoiled.
Maybe try to go very early morning when it opens, around 8 so that you might be able to be alone and really appreciate it more.
14. Cenote Calavera
Cenote Calavera is situated about 10 km from the more popular and busier Grand Cenotes, and the smallest among the Tulum Cenotes on the way to Coba.
I haven’t been here as it is especially known among the divers.
The cenote is in fact very small and apt for jumping and continuing the exploration underneath the surface.
But there is not much space for swimming around and enjoying it.
Even if you don’t dive you can still admire it for 50 pesos and have fun jumping from the rim.
How to get there
From Tulum, you can go by bicycle or taxi.
Cenotes in Coba’
15 -17. Cenote Multum Ha, Cenote Choo ha – Tankach-Ha
In the town of Coba, famous for the towering pyramid of the ancient Mayan city, there are three refreshing cenotes hidden in the beautiful green jungle definitely worth a visit, especially after a very hot day spent exploring the beautiful old Mayan buildings.
They are only a 10-minute drive from the Coba archeological site.
The best way to visit them is by car, but I explain more in detail how to visit the Coba Cenotes in my detailed guide.
18. Punta Laguna
Just for the sake of information, at about 30 minutes drive from Coba, you will also find another less visited fascinating spot called Punta Laguna, where for a few dollars, knowledgeable guides will take you around the jungle to see spider monkeys, listen to the howling monkey, and maybe see some, cruise in the lagoon and, rappel down a very small cenote. You can find more information on puntal laguna in my detailed post.
Opening time: the entrance is normally from 8/830 am to 5/5.30 pm – open every day.
Costs: it varies from 70 pesos to 150, more if you do some extra activity.
WHAT TO BRING
Make sure you have your swimsuit, a towel and a repellent (better if ecological), sunscreen that you should wear only after swimming in the cenote.
If you want to bring your mask in some cenotes it will turn out useful.
Dress light but I would recommend comfortable closed shoes to protect you from insects. They are not dangerous but certainly annoying.
As in every natural place, I always like to recommend following some commonsense rules in order to preserve the environment which I am sure you know already but a gentle reminder is never in excess.
- sunscreen or repellent are prohibited before bathing in the cenotes
- don’t leave anything that doesn’t belong to the place
- you cannot hang onto stalactites or stalagmites trees roots
- don’t do anything that can damage the environment