Visiting cenotes is an absolute must on any trip to the Riviera Maya, and Tulum just happens to top the list for its large concentration of them. So, whether you’re basing yourself there or are taking a day trip, I’ll help you sort through the best cenotes in and around Tulum.
First things first: What’s a cenote?
Cenote is the Spanish word for sinkhole. This work of Mother Nature occurs when the earth above an underground cavity collapses due to the erosion of soft rock like limestone. These cavities then fill with water, creating a new environment for wildlife and fantastic swimming holes for humans.
The cenotes near Tulum have three styles: Open, semi-open, and underground. Although their names speak for themselves, it’s best to experience each type in person to fully appreciate them.
The following five cenotes in and around Tulum offer an excellent variety for you to enjoy your cenote hopping experience to the fullest.
1. Swim with turtles in Gran Cenote
Gran Cenote is one of the most popular cenotes in Tulum because of its proximity to town; it’s a mere 5 kilometers away. If you’re wondering how to get to Gran Cenote from Tulum, you have a few options—you can take a taxi, bus (colectivo), rent a car, or bike there.
As you swim among fish and turtles, you can enjoy both an open-air portion of the cenote as well as caves.
Address: Quintana Roo 109, 77796
Gran Cenote entrance fee: 180 pesos
2. Straddle sinkholes at Cenote Dos Ojos
Translated as “Two Eyes” in English, you get a two-for-one deal with Dos Ojos—it has two sinkholes that you can visit using a boardwalk that runs between them.
As if it couldn’t get better, the space where the sinkholes meet creates an underground cavern, and this is a popular place for snorkelers and divers. If you didn’t bring snorkeling gear, no problem! You can rent equipment on the spot for 100 pesos.
Address: Cenote Jaguar Rd, 77780
Dos Ojos entrance fee: 200 pesos
3. Zip line into Cenote Zacil Ha
Cenote Zacil Ha is an excellent option for people on a budget who want to stay away from the larger crowds that gather at Gran Cenote and Cenote Dos Ojos. This cenote is small, but it has excellent facilities, including hammocks, a zip line, and nearby swimming pools.
Speaking of swimming pools, Cenote Zacil Ha has a swimming pool-like vibe since it’s an open-air sinkhole. There are also various areas where you can dive into its crystal-clear waters.
Address: Coba km 8, México 180D, 77780
Zacil Ha entrance fee: 100 pesos
4. Go diving at Cenote Carwash
Cenote Carwash is an excellent complement to Cenote Zacil Ha because it’s located a short distance away. Like Cenote Zacil Ha, Cenote Carwash also has an open-air style, but this cenote gets up to 50 feet deep. Therefore, if you’ve been dreaming of diving in cenotes, this is a great place to do so.
Here’s a fun fact that you can share with your fellow cenote goers: Before they turned Cenote Carwash into a tourist site, its water used to be used for washing cars!
Address: Calle Carretera Federal 109, 77710
Cenote Carwash entrance fee: 100 pesos
5. Float through the forest at Casa Cenote
Casa Cenote is an absolute must-see during your cenote visits in Tulum. It’s a nature lover’s playground with mangroves and jungle foliage framing its sides. Furthermore, this sinkhole snakes through the forest where it eventually empties into the ocean.
Because of its gorgeous caverns, Casa Cenote is a popular choice among divers. You can also rent snorkel, kayak, and paddleboard equipment at the entrance gate.
Address: Carr. Tulum-Puerto Juarez Fracc. Tankah Caribe Lt. 32 Mza. 3
Casa Cenote entrance fee: 150 pesos
Getting to Tulum’s cenotes
Once you’ve looked at a cenote map and chosen the sinkholes you want to visit, you’re likely wondering how to get to them. Below are some of the most popular travel options.
How to get to the cenotes from Playa del Carmen
You can easily take a day trip from Playa del Carmen to Tulum to visit the cenotes. The trip takes around one hour, and you can opt to take a bus or minivan. Between the two, there’s an impressive 36 daily departures.
Alternatively, you can travel from Akumal to Tulum, which is halfway between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. After hanging out with the sea turtles in Akumal, simply catch a minivan and enjoy a 30-minute drive down to the cenotes in Tulum.
How to get to the cenotes from Cancun
Cancun is another great place to take a day trip to the cenotes around Tulum. The Cancun to Tulum travel time is around 1.5 hours, although this can vary depending on traffic.
Of course, there are so many cenotes in Tulum that if time allows, it’s beneficial to spend a few nights there so you can see more of them.
How to get to the cenotes from Bacalar
After you explore the stunning blue water of Bacalar’s lagoon, the trip from Bacalar to Tulum will take you around 3 hours. The ADO bus company operates this route once per day, so make sure to plan your trip accordingly to avoid missing your ride!
How to get to the cenotes from Merida
Merida is also about a three-hour drive from the cenotes in Tulum if you go by private vehicle. Otherwise, you can hop on an ADO bus and it’ll take around five hours, as it makes a stop in Jose María Morelos along the way.
The cenote dilemma
With such an array of beautiful cenotes to visit in and around Tulum, deciding which ones to see can be more difficult than choosing beachside accommodation in Tulum’s Hotel Zone. If you’re short on time, I recommend prioritizing at least one underground and one semi-open or open cenote so you can see the difference. However, all of Tulum’s cenotes have their own charm, so you’re bound to enjoy your visit regardless of which ones you choose.