Swimming in a cenote feels like an exclusive adventure and thrills are guaranteed! And their crystal clear water keeps you cool on a hot Mexican summer day.
Cenotes are natural pits, or sinkholes, that developed over millions of years. The word cenote derives from the Mayan “ts’onot”, that refers to any location with accessible groundwater. For the ancient Mayan civilization cenotes where the only source of water in the jungle. They were considered sacred, and portals to communicate with the underworld.
Some cenotes seem like a lake, others are underground, in a cave, often connected to an extensive underground river system. There are hundreds of cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula, and they all contain astonishingly crystal clear, fresh and cool water with no or very low salinity. That makes them the perfect place to plunge in and cool off on one of those infamous tropical, hot days in Playa del Carmen.
Dos Ojos – For Divers
Dos Ojos, close to Xel-Ha is one of the ten longest underwater cave systems worldwide. The name means “two eyes”, referring to the two cenotes that are joined together by caves. The local Maya community operates it as a sustainable tourism project, offering dive and snorkel tours. Expect the dive experience of your life, diving through an underground river from one cenote another . If you’re an experienced diver don’t miss the famous “Pit”, a 110 meters (370 f) deep cenote where you can see ancient human and animal remains. Or you just snorkel and swim while admiring the stalactites and stalagmites.
Gran Cenote – For Families
This cenote, about 4 km west of Tulum, is partially open-air. It has partially submerged tunnels through which you can swim to other cenote pools. Over your head, bats are hanging from the roof and between your feet little fish swim around while you explore the underwater formations. There are docks to jump down from and it’s a lot of fun for all the family, since there are also pools with less deep water and sandy ground where kids can play.
Cenote Cristalino – For Spa-Goers
The open-air cenote about 30 km south of Playa del Carmen is next to 2 other cenotes (Azul and Jardin Eden), which are all similar. Cenote Cristalino is surrounded by mangroves which gives you the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, relaxing in the nature. In the water are a lot of small fish that are not scared of humans, on the contrary, they like to suck on your skin, what tickles a bit. There’s a small shop where you can buy snacks and drinks or rent snorkel kits.
Cenote Ik-kil – For Gods
The tours that take you to Chichen-Itzá usually make a stop at this gorgeous cenote. The Mayan considered this cenote the perpetual dwelling of Chaac, god of the water and rain. Ik-kil is in fact so beautiful, that it might really be the residence of some god. The lush forest suddenly gives way to the earth and you find yourself in a hole that resembles a little piece of heaven. Swim in the clear and cold water, with the blue sky above you and water dropping from the vines hanging from the opening, creating tiny waterfalls. If you dare, jump from one of the platforms!
Rio Secreto – For Adventurers
Rio Secreto, about 5 km south of Playa del Carmen, seems to be an underground world of its own. Gear up for your spelunking experience with a wetsuit, neoprene boots, helmet and headlamps to wander through the mostly waist-deep water of its rivers and swim in the cenote pools. Besides stalactites and stalagmites you find the very rare and beautiful helictite formations. They grow out like branches, resembling bizarre icicles.
No matter what cenote you decide to visit, you’ll have a great time!