Heading to Mexico and want to visit the best cenotes in the Mayan Riviera? In this article, I walk you through our top picks.
Having spent over a year living in the Riviera Maya, we have a ton of great tips to share about the cenotes in this region.
Mexico is internationally renowned for its diversity of ecosystems, ranging from its vast deserts and formidable forests to its beautiful beaches that look like they came out of a painting. In addition, in the jungle and near some of the most popular coasts, we find what we call “cenotes”.
Where is the Mayan Riviera?
Before we begin, you might be wondering, where exactly in the Riviera Maya? Located in the Yucatan Peninsula, the Mayan Riviera refers to a region, South of Cancun. It encompasses smaller towns such as Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Puerto Morelos.
For the sake of this article though, I am including a few cenotes that are located near Valladolid as the cenotes there are pretty out of this world.
Technically, these cenotes are near Merida but from experience, when you’re planning out your route around these cenotes, a trip to Valladolid is always factored in.
What is a Cenote?
A cenote is essentially a type of freshwater pool that originates from underwater rivers, once soil erosion creates the hole that allows access to water. The state of Yucatan, in the southeast of Mexico, is one of the areas of the country that presumes the highest number of these wonders of nature.
The Riviera Maya cenotes are, without a doubt, something you can’t miss if you find yourself in this paradisiacal corner of the Mexican Caribbean. In fact, the founders of this blog spent a year living in the Riviera Maya, exploring these stunning underwater caverns.
The four types of cenotes. open cenote, semi-open cenote, underground cenote, and cave cenote. They all have all their own unique charm, and so they’ve become some of the main attractions for nature lovers and fans of underwater activities.
Many of these cenotes in Mayan Riviera can be found in the areas with the highest density of flora and fauna in the Mexican southeast, so the journey will require a car or bus ride to get to them.
However, it may vary depending on the cenote, so here we offer more details about the best cenotes in Riviera Maya, including tips on how to visit them. I have also included a Mayan Riviera cenotes map for each destination so you get an idea on where they are located.
Mayan Riviera Cenotes in Tulum
While we have a full article on the best cenotes in Tulum, here are the best ones from the list. Located an hour away from Cancun, Tulum is a hotspot visited by many.
While most people flock to Tulum to party in its white sandy beaches, there are a plethora of other activities for adventurers to enjoy.
Cenote Dos Ojos
- Operation Hours: Daily 8 am to 5 pm
- Location: Cenote Dos Ojos Maps
- Price: $350 MXN pesos ($17 USD) You can also rent snorkel gear for extra $
- Facilities: Showers, bathrooms
Let’s start with the one that is, unsurprisingly, among the most popular and visited cenotes in Mexico. Not only is it extremely attractive to look at with its fantasy turquoise water, but it also offers a variety of options for hanging out.
Both diving beginners (accompanied by a guide) and more experienced divers can enjoy the delights of this place.
Cenote Dos Ojos consists of two bodies of water that resemble a pair of eyes – hence the name, as it means “two eyes” in Spanish – and caverns interconnected by subway rivers to the Sac Actún system.
As such, it forms part of one of the most extensive underwater cave ecosystems in the world and is considered one of the best attractions in the Riviera Maya. These underwater caves can be explored by scuba diving.
If you want to go to cenote Dos Ojos, keep in mind that it is located around 20 kilometers from Tulum and you have to get there by land. You can rent a car or take a cab, and the trip takes about 40 minutes.
The cenote is within the Dos Ojos Park, which of course takes its name from the cenote but also houses other cenotes (Cenote Jaguar, Cenote El Pit, Cenote Nicte Ha, and Cenote Los Monos).
This area offers a variety of activities and amenities such as zip-lining, diving and snorkeling tours, a restaurant for hungry tourists, hammocks to relax for a little break, restrooms, and lockers that you can rent to keep your belongings safe.
And, if you are interested in delving deeper into the origins of this place, you can participate in a Mayan ceremony.
The cost to enter the park depends on the package you choose and which activities you want to add on. Prices range from $350 to $700 Mexican pesos, and all of them include parking and safe swimming vests among other features that depend on each alternative.
Considering that entrance to Dos Ojos gives you access to a few other cenotes in the Riviera Maya, the steep price tag makes it worth it.
- Operation Hours: Daily 8 am to 4:00 pm
- Location: Grand Cenote Maps
- Price: $300 MXN pesos ($15 USD) You can also rent snorkel gear for extra $
- Facilities: Showers, bathrooms, locker rental, and a small shop
Gran Cenote is, as its name implies (“gran” means “big”), a very large waterhole. This is one of the best Riviera Maya cenotes and is frequently visited by many.
This semi-open cenote with crystalline waters is located approximately 4 kilometers from Tulum, where people of all ages who know how to swim can do different activities such as swimming or snorkeling.
It is also possible to dive in the Gran Cenote although the maximum depth is 10 meters. This depth, which is relatively shallow, is one of the reasons why it is one of the most suitable cenotes for children.
In the Gran Cenote, you can find amenities like parking, tables to eat, hammocks, restrooms, lockers, and snorkel equipment rental – being one of the most popular cenotes, these features are essential not only for the comfort of travelers but also for the conservation of the place.
Fish, turtles, iguanas, and other flora and fauna coexist in this wonder of the Riviera Maya, so it is important to take care of the ecosystem -as in all cenotes- and not pollute any corner of this temple of nature. For this reason, it is mandatory to use the showers before entering the cenote so as not to contaminate the water with creams and sunscreen.
Not being so far from Tulum, you can find various forms of land transportation. In addition to car or cab service, it is also accessible by bicycle or even walking for the more adventurous – although, due to the warmth of the area, the latter is not recommended.
The admission fee to access the site is around $180 Mexican pesos and does not include snorkel equipment rental. It is advisable to arrive early since it is one of the most accessible and popular cenotes and there could be a large influx of tourists during certain hours.
And if you want to continue exploring the beauty of Tulum, from the Gran Cenote, you can visit the Punta Laguna Ecological Reserve or the Coba Archaeological Zone, which are both nearby.
- Operation Hours: Daily 9 am to 4 pm
- Location: Cenote Calavera Maps (Due to its close proximity to Tulum downtown, this Cenote is accessible by bicycle)
- Price: $300 MXN pesos ($15 USD)
- Facilities: Showers, bathrooms, and a small restaurant (recent additions)
Cenote Calavera (“calavera” stands for “skull” in Spanish) is the third cenote we recommend in the list of Riviera Maya cenotes. Don’t let the name scare you, it simply derives from the fact that there are three holes that allude to what the name describes.
In this cenote, you can swim, dive to a depth of up to 19 meters, and snorkel, among other activities. There are restrooms, a small parking area, lounge chairs, a ladder to access the cenote, and a swing; but it does not have all the amenities offered by the most popular tourist parks. The entrance fee is only $100 pesos.
One of its main pros is that unlike the two previous sites and despite lying less than 2 kilometers from Tulum, it is not the most touristic cenote in the area. Cenote Calavera is another excellent cenote to explore via scuba diving.
As a result, the access routes are varied and you can go by car, cab, bicycle, or walking – but, again, you must take into account the sweltering heat before setting off.
The downside goes the same way: being a small cenote, it doesn’t take too many people to make it feel crowded. For this reason, it is still advisable to visit it on days and times when there may be fewer tourists.
Best Tulum Cenote Tours
Don’t want to deal with the hassle of sorting out your own transport? One of the best ways to visit these cenotes is via an organized small group tour! Here are a few of our recommended cenote tours:
If you want to read our full article on the best Tulum Cenotes where we feature more cenotes around the area, click the button below.
Mayan Riviera Cenotes in Puerto Morelos
While Tulum and Playa del Carmen have more cenotes, I did want to include an option for a private cenote in Puerto Morelos as it was just an incredible experience.
It is perfect for those traveling as a large group or as a family. While there are no tours that head to this particular cenote, we recommend either getting a taxi or renting a car and driving there yourself. At the end of this article, I will share more transport options.
Cenote Elvira (Private Cenote)
Operation Hours: 10:00am by reservation
Location: Map for Cenote Elvira
Contact: 984 270 0226
When we were living in Playa del Carmen, we gathered a group of friends and rented out this private cenote. This turned out to be one of the best experiences of the trip. If you’re traveling with a group of friends or as a family, you can rent out this cenote for a day.
The cenote has a little bar area where you can bring in food for a picnic as well as hammocks and chairs. The cenote itself is relatively small but it runs deep, giving you the chance to jump in and out of the opening.
This is one of the best Mayan Riviera cenotes and is an experience I highly recommend doing if you can.
Mayan Riviera Cenotes in Playa del Carmen
As there are over 6000 cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula alone, as you can imagine, there are also a handful of cenotes in Playa del Carmen.
Similar to our article about the cenotes in Tulum, for this section, we chose the three best cenotes in Playa del Carmen, plus tips on how to visit each one.
Cenote Azul (Blue Cenote)
- Operation Hours: Daily 8:30 am to 5:00 pm
- Location: Cenote Azul Maps
- Price: $120 MXN pesos ($7 USD) You can also rent snorkel gear for an extra $
- Facilities: Showers, bathrooms, and a small restaurant
From Tulum to Playa del Carmen, there is one of the most beautiful and popular open cenotes in the region. Cenote Azul (blue cenote) is small but beautiful. It is ideal for swimming, snorkeling, diving in the deepest areas, and even cliff-jumping into the water four meters high for the more adventurous. Younger children can safely enjoy this cenote because it is shallow in some areas.
Amenities include restrooms, parking, stores, and a restaurant. You can also rent snorkeling or diving equipment there, in case you want to try one of these activities. Although Cenote Azul can get busy, it is so large that it does not always feel crowded compared to other smaller ones.
Likewise, we recommend that you visit on a day and time when there are fewer tourists. Early mornings are best for any of these cenotes! Cenote Azul is one of the best cenotes in Riviera Maya so make sure you head there early.
The entrance fee ranges from $80 to $150 Mexican pesos and can be reached by car, public transportation, or even a cab from downtown, located 25 kilometers away from Playa del Carmen.
In Cenote Azul, it is recommended to wear water shoes and avoid applying sunscreen before entering, as it will be necessary to rinse it off in one of the showers beforehand so as not to contaminate the water of the cenote.
Cenote Chaak Tun
- Operation Hours: Daily 9:00 am to 3:00 pm
- Location: Cenote Chaak Tun Maps
- Price: $100 MXN pesos ($5 USD) You can also rent snorkel gear for an extra $
- Facilities: Showers, bathrooms, and a small restaurant
Chaak Tun, a cenote less than 8 kilometers from Playa del Carmen, is a popular attraction in this city.
Not only can you snorkel as in the rest of the cenotes, but you can also participate in an ancestral ceremony to experience firsthand the mystique of this place. You will be able to see turtles, a variety of fish, and other animals that make this place a true oasis of nature. And, as if that were not enough, history also floods this place.
It is made up of three caverns, and in one of them, the Mayas carried out rituals and sacrifices. Some ceramic objects were found there, which can be seen at the entrance.
In Cenote Chaak Tun, in addition to being mandatory to wear a life vest, all tours must be done with a guide in order to protect both travelers and the integrity of the area. So if you are looking for a place where you can move more freely, this cenote may not be the best option for you.
The entrance fee is between $150 and $400 pesos and includes snorkeling equipment and tour, the rental of a wetsuit, life vest, water shoes, a lamp, lockers, and the use of the restrooms.
To get there, you can request a shuttle service directly from Chaak Tun staff, take a cab, or drive – you can leave your car in the parking lot. It is a fantastic option if you’re looking to visit a cenote in Riviera Maya with a guide.
Cenote Jardin del Eden
- Operation Hours: Sunday-Friday from 7 am to 5 pm (Closed Saturdays)
- Location: Cenote Jardin del Eden Maps
- Price: $200 MX
- Facilities: Lifejackets, snorkeling equipment
Considering its name, which translates as “Garden of Eden”, you can expect nothing less than untouched beauty from this place. Located in the middle of the jungle and 24 kilometers from Playa del Carmen, this open cenote is one of the most beautiful and largest in the area. Here you can also swim, snorkel and dive to a depth of approximately 15 meters, as well as take a break from the noise and the city.
The water in the cenotes is usually characterized by being cold, but the location and shape of Jardín del Edén allow travelers to enjoy a warmer temperature, more pleasant to the touch. The possibility of coexisting with fascinating species such as turtles and eels is another of its charms.
The cenote does not have a restaurant but it does have amenities such as restrooms, palapas, and more, for an entrance fee of $200 Mexican pesos.
Best Playa del Carmen Cenote Tours
- Hidden Cenote Exploration: Walk through this underground cave system where you can swim and snorkel. A delicious local lunch is also included in this tour!
- Riviera Maya Buggy Tour with Cenote Swim: Combine some adrenaline and culture as you drive around a buggy in the jungle before stopping at a private cenote for a refreshing swim.
- Tulum Ruins, Cenote & Swim with Turtles: This full-day tour takes you to a sacred cenote in the jungle and the crystal clear waters of Akumal Bay where you can snorkel with turtles. Lastly, it ends with a visit to Tulum Mayan ruins.
If you want to read our full article on the Best Playa del Carmen Cenotes, click the button below.
Famous Mayan Riviera Cenotes near Valladolid
As mentioned, although Valladolid and the cenotes near Merida are technically not in the Mayan Riviera, I wanted to include them in this article as I do think it will greatly help you plan your travels as usually, people plan day trips to see these cenotes from Cancun or Playa del Carmen.
- Operation Hours: Daily 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
- Location: Cenote Suytun Maps
- Price: $120 MXN pesos ($7.50 USD) / Locker rental $35 MX ($1.75 USD)
- Facilities: Showers, bathrooms, and a small restaurant
This is one of the most special cave cenotes, in part due to its beautiful platform structure that allows visitors to walk into the middle of the cenote and enjoy the almost magical illumination that enters through a small vent at the top of the cave.
To appreciate this mystical moment, it is ideal to visit the cenote between noon and 2 p.m., but also keep in mind that it could be the busiest time for travelers. If you prefer to explore the site with fewer tourists, you can visit the site earlier in the day – don’t worry about the darkness, as there is artificial lighting.
It is a shallow cave cenote, with only 5 meters at its deepest point. Even so, it is mandatory to enter the water with a life jacket. For the same reason, diving is not an option in this cenote.
Its offer, however, is different from most other cenotes: you can stay in one of the picturesque cabins nearby, have access to a guest pool, a restaurant, a museum with pieces of Mayan culture, and witness a number of Mayan dances.
Cenote Suytun itself is rather for the “selfie-moment” than for underwater activities, so if your mission is to snorkel and dive, you may prefer to visit one of the others listed here. However, it is still considered one of the best Mayan Riviera cenotes.
It is located 9 kilometers from Valladolid, so you can drive there and park for free or take a cab. More details on transportation is given at the end of this post. The entrance fee is $120-150 pesos and includes a life jacket rental.
In our opinion, this cave cenote is worth visiting, especially if you go early in the mornings so you can catch it without the crowds.
Cenote Ik Kil
Very close to Chichén Itzá and about 40 kilometers from Valladolid, Cenote Ik Kil is one of the mandatory pit stops for travelers heading to the most dazzling archaeological site in the country. Historical evidence tells that this was a sacred place where the Mayans performed rituals and human sacrifices.
It is located in an ecological park that offers different amenities such as bathrooms, lockers, stores, exclusive bungalows with private parking and air conditioning, as well as a restaurant with an international buffet.
With a depth of 50 meters, it is an old cenote wrapped surrounded by lush jungles that will undoubtedly transport travelers to a tropical experience, in total contact with nature and the ancestral and cultural mysticism of the place.
The area is home to exotic animals and plants, such as wild birds and trees hundreds of years old. It is possible to dive and snorkel, but be aware that it is necessary to descend many steps and that carrying the equipment can be very exhausting.
We visited this cenote after a day trip to Chichen Itza and was a great way to spend the morning! From Chichen Itza, Cenote Ik Kil is only a 9 minute drive. It is one of the best cenotes in the Riviera Maya and is considered a must when visiting Chichen Itza.
The cost to enter is $150 to $350 pesos. It is not the easiest cenote to access, but for the same reason, the influx of tourists may be less than in other cenotes. You can get here by driving or by a tourist transport service.
This Riviera Maya cenote is not on the outskirts like others but in the heart of the city of Valladolid. It offers a great exhibition of the region’s gastronomy, parking lots, palapas, lookout point, handicrafts area, and equipment rental.
With a maximum depth of 40 meters, it is not ideal for deep diving, but it is for snorkeling, diving, and swimming.
Located within Valladolid, cenote Zaci can be reached in several ways: on foot, by bicycle, by driving, by taking a cab, or even by public transportation. The price of access is said to be $30 pesos, although the official website of the tourist attraction says it is temporarily closed. Once it reopens, the price could change.
Best Cenotes in Valladolid Tours
FAQ on Cenotes in Mayan Riviera
It is possible, for sure. Is it preferable to know how to swim? Yes, it is. There are many shallow cenotes, and in several, it is mandatory to wear a life jacket, so it is safe to visit a cenote even if you don’t know how to swim.
Ultimately, what is most important is to feel comfortable in the water, as it could be a nerve-wracking experience for someone who is frightened by the immensity and depth of these places. Having said that, most cenotes have life jackets which you can easily rent from which makes the entire process a lot safer if you’re unsure on how to swim.
Absolutely yes, sí, oui! The cenotes in the Mayan Riviera are no exception as they are some of the most beautiful in the area.
Sunscreen that does not contaminate the water, a waterproof camera, a comfortable bathing suit, water shoes (most cenotes have many rocks and slippery parts), and a towel. Depending on which cenotes, some of them have small canteens where you can purchase snacks from.
All cenotes are gorgeous, but Dos Ojos is so popular for a reason. Personally, I find it the most beautiful of them all, although I have to say that Ik Kil is not far behind. Swinging from the ropes and landing in the middle of the cenote is a fantastic experience.
In the end, to each his own. There are beautiful cenotes that don’t offer as much variety of activities, such as Cenote Suytun but are considered worth visiting due to the photos that you can get.
It is best to hire the services of a tour with expert guides so that you can learn about its history, how to best explore the place, and, especially, to stay safe. Many of the activities that you can perform in a cenote involve a certain amount of risk, so it’s preferable to have a professional looking after you.
If you’re confident in driving in Mexico, another alternative would be to rent a car and explore these cenotes on your own. Doing it this way will give you a lot of independence, allowing you to explore and swim at your own pace.
How to Visit Cenotes in Mayan Riveira
When it comes to visiting these cenotes, there is no right or wrong answer as this goes down to personal preference. There are two main ways you can visit these cenotes.
The first is through guided tours which I already gave recommendations for above. The second is to rent a car and drive to each cenote independently. Renting a car in Mexico is easier than you think and driving is pretty easy.
Having said that, we recommend that you compare prices before hand to get the best possible deal. Click the button below to get an idea how much it would be to rent a car.
That’s it for the best cenotes in the Mayan Riviera. I hope this guide helps you plan an amazing experience while in Mexico. If you’re looking for more tips on traveling Mexico, make sure you check out our full Mexico guide.
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