Many people travel to Playa del Carmen because of the beautiful beaches. But have you ever swam in a cenote? Be warned, this may easily become your new favorite activity. Here are the top 7 cenotes of the Riviera Maya.
What are Cenotes?
Cenotes are natural pits, or sinkholes, that developed over millions of years. The ancient Mayan civilization considered them 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, others are partially open. They all contain astonishingly crystal clear, fresh and cool water with no or very low salinity. There are uncountable cenotes all over the Yucatan Peninsula, many of them in the Riviera Maya. Here are Playa Palms Beach Hotel‘s favorite cenotes:
1 Rio Secreto
Rio Secreto, about 5 km south of Playa del Carmen, is an underground world of its own, with a series of cenotes that are connected by an underground river. 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 natural pools. Besides stalactites and stalagmites, you will also see the very rare and beautiful helictite formations that grow out like branches, resembling bizarre icicles.
2 Gran Cenote
This cenote, about 4 km West of Tulum, is partially open-air and lets you swim through its tunnels to the different 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 a sandy ground, perfect for kids to play.
3 Casa Cenote
This family-friendly cenote is one of the most beautiful places between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. What makes it so special, is that it’s really just steps from the ocean. Casa Cenote is a great place for snorkeling since you can see many fishes darting around in between the underwater mangrove roots. You can also rent kayaks to explore the river-like cenote, and divers can dive through the underground river that connects it with the ocean. Casa Cenote is located about 50 km South of Playa del Carmen, just before arriving to Tulum.
4 Cenote Azul
The open-air cenote, about 30 km South of Playa del Carmen, is next to 2 other cenotes (Cristalino and Jardin Eden), which are similar. It is 26 m deep and has stunning clear blue water, in which the rocks form beautiful patterns. It’s quite a popular spot, also for locals, and it can get a bit crowded. But since the area is big you will sure find a quiet corner. Bring your own snorkels if you want to discover the underwater world at Cenote Azul!
5 Cenote Chaak-Tun
Chaak-Tun, completely hidden in a cave, is in Playa del Carmen, at the end of Avenida Benito Juarez, about 15 minutes drive from the center. It’s a perfect destination if you are looking for an activity for a rainy afternoon, or only want to spend a few hours exploring a cenote. You need to take guided tours, otherwise, you could easily get lost in the labyrinth-like tunnels of Chaak-Tun. The tour takes about 2 hours, through huge stalactites and stalagmites and caves. You will be amazed!
6 Cenote La Noria
La Noria is a rather off-the-beaten-path cave cenote close to Puerto Morelos, North of Playa del Carmen. Its water is of a stunningly blue color and what makes it unique, is the swing inside the cave which makes for really cool photos (take notes, Instagrammers!). There is a floating platform in the center where you can swim to and relax.
7 Cenote Verde Lucero
This mostly open-air cenote is located close to La Noria, in the middle of the beautiful scenery of the jungle. You can jump from zip lines or from a cliff into the crystal clear water and there are various small caves that you can explore. If you are looking to get away from the crowds, you should definitely mark this amazing place on your map.
Keep in mind that most cenotes close at 5 or 6 pm. Also, please don’t use sunblock or bug spray when swimming in a cenote, since it destroys the flora and fauna of these magical places.