A Guide to Exploring the Cenotes in and Around Tulum, Mexico
The Gran Cenote near Tulum is popular with swimmers, snorkelers and divers | © Helmut Corneli / Alamy Stock Photo
The Yucatán Peninsula has the largest number of underwater sinkholes, or cenotes, in the world. Sacred to the ancient Maya, they’re formed when limestone is eroded over hundreds of years. Here’s our guide to the most beautiful cenotes in and around the Mexican town of Tulum.
You can now book and travel with Culture Trip – swim in magical cenotes and along pristine, white-sand beaches on our small-group, nine-day tour of the Yucatán Peninsula, led by a local insider to ensure you dive straight into the deep end of Mexican culture.
© Sergi Reboredo / Alamy Stock Photo
Just 3mi (5km) from central Tulum, the Gran Cenote has partially submerged tunnels connecting open-air sections. It’s a draw for divers, as it provides access to the second-largest cave system in the world. And with a sandy bottom and sunbathing decks, it’s also a favorite with swimmers and those looking to relax in the sun. Keep an eye out for bats and the occasional toucan.
Cenote Dos Ojos
© Jan Wlodarczyk / Alamy Stock Photo
One of the most well-known cenotes in Mexico, Dos Ojos is a magnet for tourists. The name translates as “two eyes” and refers to the fact that the cenote is split in two – one half is clear and shallow, making it perfect for snorkeling, while the other is deeper and best for scuba divers.
Ruins, Natural Feature
A short car ride from the Cobá ruins, Choo-Ha is an impressive underground cenote. To get into the huge round cavern, take a narrow wooden staircase from ground level. Once inside, look up to the high rock ceiling to see thousands of stalactites. There are two other cenotes in the immediate area. Tankach-Ha is loved by dare-devil cliff divers, and Multún-Ha is best for scuba divers.
Around 15 minutes from central Tulum, the Cenotes Labnaha site is widely regarded as one of the best sinkholes in the Riviera Maya. Unlike most cenotes in the region, Labnaha maintains a strict maximum limit on the number of daily visitors, therefore reducing the impact on the local environment. Qualified and professionally trained guides from the local area provide excellent tours of the site, and the organization is also committed to working with and helping local Mayan communities.
Also known as Cenote Jardín del Edén, this is a stunning destination for swimmers. With fresh, crystal-clear water, the vast open cenote is home to all manner of wildlife, including brightly colored motmots, turtles and freshwater eels. Thrillseekers will also enjoy making a daring jump from the edge of the cenote into the water.
These recommendations were updated on September 2, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh. This article is an updated version of a story created by Stephen Woodman