Among the most interesting Yucatan Cenotes, the ones you can visit in Cuzamà are among the most interesting. But is it ethical to visit them? I will tell you why I have my concerns.
One of the reasons why I always suggest to rent a car when you are in the Yucatan peninsula is that it allows you to reach spectacular places (such as the Cenotes of Cuzama) at your own peace without being at the mercy of the local busses schedule, which is not always compatible with your travel plans.
Besides, driving on the Yucatan roads is fascinating and super safe.
I have been driving around the peninsula so many times. This time, I was in Playa del Carmen for a few weeks, and I decided to see a friend on the other side of the Yucatan peninsula, the Gulf of Mexico coast, near Progreso.
Since my friend wouldn’t have been available before late that day, I decided to take advantage of my time and make a few stops along the way, one of which was Cuzama, where I have never been before, for some unknown reasons. And here I am going to share my thoughts about it.
In this post, I will tell you all about one of the “Anillo de los cenotes” (cenote ring) communities, where are the most popular among the Yucatan cenotes: Cuzama. I will explain how to get there and all about it, but I will also give you a good reason why you should not go there or help create awareness among the local community on responsible tourism.
I guess you are curious to know now.
I want to tell you first and foremost the reason why I went one time and I will never go back.
Cuzamà in Yucatàn is such an attraction for most of the tourists, mainly because to reach the cenotes, you sit on a cart pulled by a horse.
Nothing wrong with that, also because the cart is on a rail and the horse doesn’t really make much effort to pull it even with heavyweight, as it pretty much moves by inertia.
The main issue here is that those horses are very badly looked after.
They are so skinny you can see the bones. My own horse just had the baby and was already “working”
That is what drives me mad.
Because it’s pure exploitation when it takes very little to look after them properly.
And treating them well would also attract more people to the business if you want to see the business side of it.
When I told my guide what I thought he was minimizing the issue.
I believe if we stopped going there, though, it wouldn’t change the animal conditions, because they will keep exploiting them and underfeed them, especially if they have a lower budget.
However, if we go and keep denouncing the bad maintenance of the place and the horses, they will get the message eventually.
The cenotes are gorgeous, but also I believe we must go with a thoughtful mind as well.
Having said that, let me give you a brief introduction about what’s a cenote and then I will tell you how to get to Cuzama’.
WHAT IS A CENOTE?
Heritage of the Mayan culture the cenotes of Yucatan are deep underwater lakes or sink-holes
The entire flat and low region is made of limestone bedrocks which allow 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 inhabited 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 OF CUZAMÀ
I have already talked about the cenotes of Homun and its amazing cenotes, located in the so-called Anillo de los cenotes (cenote ring).
Well, Cuzama’ is the same ring, at about 5 minutes’ drive from the sister town Homun.
The difference from Homun is that the 3 cenotes that are open to the public in Cuzama, become a popular attraction because you will reach them on an old cart pulled by a horse just like in the old times.
And you cannot go on your own. That’s the only way to reach them.
Once you get to the entrance you will have to jump on a very rustic cart, made of wood and your guide will take you through the jungle to your refreshing cenotes.
Nothing wrong about it.
The only problem is, as I was mentioning before, the cart is pulled by a very skinny and visibly badly-nourished horse (for my full rant and sermon see introductory chapter above).
There are 3 cenotes. Depending on the number of people the guide will decide where to take you first, trying to avoid the crowd.
I would suggest you should avoid Tuesdays and Thursdays because those are cruise days and it will be packed.
If you must really go on those days, go very early or very late.
It’s a nice although bumpy and vibrating ride, definitely not suitable for pregnant women or those who have back issues.
The cenotes are beautiful although nothing more exciting than the ones in Homun or the cenotes around Valladolid, so if you are so sensitive to animal exploitation you can avoid going and you can check out other options in the area.
I assure you you will find plenty of equal beauty or even better.
You can check out all my posts on the cenotes, which includes all the cenotes I have visited in the Yucatan peninsula (almost all).
THE THREE CENOTES OF CUZAMÀ
They are all cave cenotes with narrow but easy stairs to take you down into the underworld.
Not so difficult to climb if you are not particularly sensitive to narrow caves.
If you do, just hold your breath and you will reach the underneath platform in a blink of an eye.
The Cenote Bolonchojool has the longes stairs and completely vertical but if I did it, anybody that doesn’t suffer from any physical challenge can do it.
Cenote Chan Ucil
(Mosco pequeño = small fly)
(Hormiga roja de madera= wooden red ants)
(9 agujeros de raton= 9 mouse holes )
FACT SHEETS CENOTES CUZAMA
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO VISIT THE CUZAMA CENOTES?
The entrance fee has a minimum of 400MXN for 1 to 4 people.
If you are 5 you would pay 100 MXN each.
5 is the maximum number of people (of average size) that a cart can hold.
Cuzama opens from 8 am to 5 pm every day.
HOW LONG THE TOUR LAST?
You will need to consider that the farthest cenote is at a 40-minute ride and then you will have maximum leisure time for each cenote of 30 minutes.
So I would consider 3 hours and 30 minutes to be on the safe side.
When I asked I was told 1h40′ and obviously after the second cenote, I realized I was going to be late for my appointment.
Luckily I have a very flexible and understanding friend who has welcomed with a warm ” you have acquired the Yucatan sense of time” and we had a good laugh.
HOW TO GET TO CUZAMÀ AND WHERE TO TAKE THE TOUR
First thing first, you don’t have to join an organized tour to visit Cuzama’.
There are ways to get to Cuzama on your own, either by taxi, local busses, or your own car (my favorite).
Here below I will explain how to get to Cuzama by each means of transportation.
Getting to Cuzama by car
Arriving from Merida center will take about 1 hour. See the google road map here.
Arriving from Valladolid it’s about 2 hours. Click here for the google road map directions.
In both cases, once you arrive in the Cuzama’ town, in the main plaza, where the church is, you will need to drive by the church, leaving it on your left-hand side and just keep driving straight for about 1 km.
You will find the entrance on your right and side.
Can’t miss it.
If you feel lost, once in town, you will see many kids (and adults) asking if you want to be taken to take the tour.
If you say yes, you will need to give them a tip.
People in Yucatan are nice and welcoming, but in this case, it’s basically their job.
It’s a questionable activity but that’s what it is.
So if you don’t want to feed this kind of self-employment, just say no and use google map, just like I did.
Visiting Cuzama’ by bus from Merida
I never went by bus but I found this information on Yucatan Today website which says that there are bus departures to Cuzamá from the Noreste bus station (Calle 50 at 67, Centro) at 7:45, 9:15, and 10:45 am, or in colectivos with frequent departures. Remember to double-check with the driver the departure schedule to get back to Merida
Getting to Cuzama’ by taxi
That would be a little more expensive. It will cost about 1500 MXN. In this case, if the first two options are not suitable for you and you are flexible on the cenotes to visit you might want to consider joining an organized tour. See below:
Join an organized tour to visit the cenotes in Cuzama’
Not all of the travelers are happy with going independently to places and I get that. Because it feels like a job, you need to organize and do everything, whereas if you join an organized tour you just let them take you and you don’t have to think about anything else but enjoying the place.
Even though I personally have more fun in going on my own and even more I find that organizing my trip has its charm, I get you.
Therefore I have researched companies where you can actually pre-book your tour if you are like me and want to plan ahead of time.
Click on the link to find the available tours to Cuzama Please make sure you read in detail what it’s included or not.
CENOTES PRACTICAL TIPS AND RULES
WHAT TO BRING
Make sure you have your swimsuit, a towel and a repellent (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.
RESPONSIBLE TOURISM: CENOTES’ RULES
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.
- don’t wear any sunscreen or repellent before bathing in the cenotes
- don’t leave anything that doesn’t belong to the place
- don’t hang on to stalactites or stalagmites or trees roots
- don’t do anything that can damage the environment
- don’t shout in the cenote. Remember it was a sacred place for the Mayan civilization but it’s still seen as a place of peace and tranquillity. Even if you don’t think so, at least respect the others’ silence.