Cenotes may technically be considered ‘sinkholes’, but the ones found in the Yucatan Peninsula are very different from what you would picture for a ‘sinkhole’. The Yucatan Peninsula has only a few lakes and rivers… above ground level. Below ground, however, this peninsula is covered with limestone ‘shelf’, when a portion of earth above the river/lake does collapses, it tends to stay that way (as opposed to sand caving into an empty cavern).
Please remember the natural environment here is very fragile and we must respect it if we want our children to be able to enjoy it as we do. Please do not go into the cenotes wearing sun tan oil or insect repellent, as it can kill the fish and pollute the water. Use common sense and just ‘tread lightly’.
Want to explore a cenote during your vacation. We don’t blame you! Here are a few options.
This full day tour will be the best day of your vacation. Snorkel and swim through an amazing cenote, feel your adrenaline rush with the zip lines and rappel. After a quick ride to the beach, snorkel in the bay, once on the reef to see coral and fish and again with giant sea turtles. Simply Amazing!
Book Snorkel Xtreme from Cancun $139 adults / $109 kids 5-12
Book Snorkel Xtreme from Riviera Maya $126 adults / $89 kids 5-12
Grab your equipment and with you guide, you will navigate through the hidden world. Swim and walk your way through the tunnels, as you are stunned by the views of the stalactites, stalagmites and rock formations. Half day tour.
Book Rio Secreto from Cancun $109 adults / $55 kids aged 6-12
Book Rio Secreto from Riviera Maya $109 adults / $55 kids aged 6-12
Buggies, Cenote & Snorkeling
A half day tour where you get to drive your own buggy and explore the natural wonders of the area. Take a dip in the crystal clear waters of a cenote and then you have the chance to snorkel with sea turtles.
Book the Buggy Tour $70 per person
ATV’s and Cenotes
Feel the thrill of riding an ATV through the jungle.Your final destination is a cenote, where you will explore the underworld. Get your helmet and flash light and prepare to be amazed. See the stalactites, stalagmites and take a dip in the crystal clear waters. This tour is not available from Cancun. Add $5 per person if you require transportation.
Book ATV Single Rider
$83 $67 per ATV Book ATV Double Riders
$130 $110 per ATV
More information on cenotes…
Not only do the cenote it provide fresh drinking water for the people, but also for the indigenous wildlife… which is where easier hunting comes in. The vast majority of the Yucatan is parched for most of the year, so it can’t be overstated how important the cenotes were to the original inhabitants. It is worth nothing that all the (well known and secret) sites associated with the Maya are located where cenotes exist. It seems the bigger the cenote the larger the site. No coincidence. Because these cenotes provided such an important and basic natural resource, it is only natural that the ancient Maya included these cenotes in their religious rituals.
How important a part is up for speculation though. Some archeologists believe they used to toss young virgins in to appease the fertility gods. Also the team captain of the famous ballgame. (Winner? Loser?)
Others insist that it they were clever enough to build the pyramids, come up with the concept of ‘zero’, and invent a calendar that to this day is accurate to within 10ths of a second… that they would surely be smart enough not to pollute their own water supply! This water supply is immense. Almost all the rain that falls on the peninsula gets naturally filtered through the limestone into this giant underground river system. All of these cenotes are connected, and their water eventually finds it’s way to the sea.
How to get to a cenote on your own
There are big, well known cenotes, and small ‘unknown’ cenotes as well. They are everywhere. Ask the local children, when you travel, where is their favorite ‘swimming hole’? There are several small cenotes right here in Playa del Carmen, and some larger ones suitable for swimming within just a few miles.
If you want to visit a cenote on your own, there are many options. Grab a taxi or a colectivo van and head south on the highway. Just past Puerto Aventuras through until Tulum, cenotes are sprinkled along the west side of the highway just waiting to be explored.
A particularly nice one is Cenote Azul, about 4 kilometers from Puerto Aventuras. Fantastic fresh water swimming of course, but it’s specially a delight to cave divers because this is a principal entry point to visit many other cenotes.
Cave diving in Cenotes
BIG caution to divers – you must be cave-dive certified to dive these underground rivers. it’s easy – and deadly – to get lost. There are experienced professional dive-masters here in Playa who are familiar with these cenotes and rivers and have specialized equipment (lights, etc.) needed to dive them safely. Take advantage of their knowledge and services. You’ll find many types of fish in Cenote Azul, of various shapes, colors, etc., most of which are typical river fish including Bagre and Mojarra, but also including a miniature (10 cm) version of sailfish!! The beautiful natural environment here is home to a large population of flora and fauna, including multi-colored parrots. Monkeys occasionally come to drink water here, and there are even a few Toucans who visit sometimes.