I have spent around 5 months in Mexico and that time lead to an incredible discovery – the best cenotes in Tulum!
As soon as I stepped foot into Mexico, I instantly became cenote-obsessed and went on a hunt to find the best and most incredible ones out there!
There are over 6,000 cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula that are basically sinkholes emerging from the bottom of the earth in the oceanic area.
This is the largest number of cenotes any place has historically known to hold – so, you can naturally imagine the beauty this place holds!
In all honesty, though, I could not have imagined it until I witnessed it myself in person.
11 Best Cenotes in Tulum
I’m listing the 11 Best Cenotes in Tulum for you to explore here (even those that are not mentioned in the top ten lists commonly found on Google).
Tulum is a Mayan city that also was part of Coba as its major port. It is a major tourist spot mainly due to its variety of incredible cenote attractions.
Among all the trips I’ve taken (55 countries and counting!), this particular one to Tulum and Mexico in general is among the Top 3.
Snorkeling is one of my favorite activities in Mexico and everywhere I travel, but experiencing those underwater caves is truly unique.
To share the magic I have experienced, I will try to convey my experiences in words and will also provide a few tips and tricks that I have learned during my time exploring cenotes in Mexico.
Here’s exactly what I will cover:
- The Best Cenotes in Tulum
- The Best Cenotes near Tulum
- The best organized tours for exploring Cenotes
- Tips and what to pack to have the best experience
- Best Cenotes for Scuba Diving
- Best Cenotes for Snorkeling
- Free Cenotes in Tulum
Please note: All prices mentioned are as of October 2019.
Although I’ve numbered the list, it doesn’t mean that cenote #1 is the best cenote. They’re all stunning in their own ways and all of them are more than worth visiting!
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1. Cenote Calavera
Calavera in Española (Spanish) means skull. This is quite literally the case as Calavera has two eyes and a mouth-like opening, giving it the unique shape of a skull.
Calavera is basically a little cenote that lies 3 km outside of Tulum and the surface of the water starts at four meters below ground level.
This is an open invitation to divers, although because of its narrow holes, I was told to dive in the presence of an expert.
For folks afraid of diving headfirst into it, the cenote has a ladder you can use to climb down.
Calavera is still quite unpopular, so you won’t find swarms of tourists there – also making it the perfect solo travel destination!
This also naturally translates into the ticket to this cenote being quite cheap at only 100 pesos.
2. Gran Cenote
Gran Cenote is definitely one of the best cenotes in Tulum and quite popular.
It lies five kilometers from Tulum and proudly boasts fresh, sparkling, crystal blue water.
One of the most amazing things about Gran Cenote is the abundance of super cute turtles and picturesque lilypads as you can see in this video:
The entry fee is 180 pesos ($10).
This cenote is a haven for experienced scuba and free divers due to its incredible depths. It is also a pretty well-known spot, much like Dos Ojos.
To catch it in its serenity and wholesome beauty, it is best to visit the cenote either early in the morning or a little before closing time.
There are many organized tours you can be a part of if you don’t want to explore Gran Cenote on your own.
After listing all of the stunning cenotes, I will give you an overview of the best tours to explore them.
Most of the cenotes you can barely see from outside, they’re all quite hidden (as you can see in this photo) even though some of them are really big!
3. Cenote Corazon
Lying just 8 km away from Tulum, Cenote Corazon Del Paraiso earns its name due to the specific fashion in which it has ‘nature’ grown all around it.
Its title translates to “The Heart of Paradise” and you can surely see why in the image above.
The cenote is shaped in the form of a heart due to the multiple years that brought with it the erosion of soil and minerals.
The water temperature is fairly low and much lower than most cenotes, hence making it THE spot to be during the summers.
It used to be the ancient heart of the Mayan culture and is the main attraction in Tulum to date.
Plus the visit will cost you only 80 pesos ($4) – the cheapest you’ll find!
4. Carwash Cenote (Aktun Ha)
If you are particularly into exploring and working a little before earning your beautiful view, Cenote Aktun Ha, also known as Cenote Carwash, is the place you want to be.
Lying just 9 km from central Tulum, it earned its title because taxi drivers would often go there and wash their taxis while enjoying their break.
You would think that since it is easily accessible, it might be the place to avoid because of the tourist crowds.
Well, not really.
The underlying specialty of this cenote is that even though it is easily approachable, it is usually not overpopulated making it a prime destination for divers like myself.
The entrance ticket costs 195 pesos ($10) for individuals looking for a fun diving experience.
Way below the surface of the water, there lies a mystical “garden” at your dispense to explore.
It also contains underwater caves that are more than just extraordinary!
The water tends to get warm, though during the summers because of the algae on the surface so it’s even more ideal to explore in the chillier months!
5. Casa Cenote
Situated 11 km from Tulum, this particular cenote has a cave system under the surface of the water that acts as a segue between the caves and the sea.
What is unique about this cenote is that it contains both sea and freshwater. This gives you a variety of fish to be surrounded by.
Casa is almost always tourist-packed due to the fact that it is basically a huge swimming pool and allows for indulgences such as snorkeling, diving, and scuba diving.
There I am, going for a little snorkeling session after diving Casa Cenote…
Scuba diving gives you a chance to linger around the main mangrove location and sometimes you can spot the exact location where the seawater meets freshwater.
The cost of the entrance is no more than 150 pesos ($7).
6. Cenote Labnaha
If you drive 15 minutes away from central Tulum (13 km), you will land in a place as beautiful as its name.
Cenote Labnaha is largely known as one of the top sinkholes in Tulum. What’s so special here is that you can go zip-lining, how cool is that?
The beauty of the place is so surreal that it has limitations to the number of visitors per day – and it is quite costly as well (880 pesos/$45).
This helps reduce the tourist footprint in the region and also aids in the maintenance of the eco-system.
All sorts of activities such as diving and snorkeling are done in the presence of trained professionals.
The entrance fee of this cenote is relatively high, but this is only because the fee deposits go directly into helping wildlife such as trees and animals that are on the brink of extinction.
Labnaha also has an Eco Park called Magic Mayan World that caters to only small groups of people. More information here.
The Best Cenotes near Tulum:
7. Cenote Dos Ojos
When translated to English, the name of this cenote means “Two Eyes”.
Physically, this is because the cenote has two sinkholes on the surface that are conjoint by a passageway about 400 meters long.
However, I call it Dos Ojos because my two eyes were under a spell after witnessing its beauty.
Located 22 km north of Tulum, it ranks top on most people’s list of the best cenotes in Tulum and it does on mine, too.
The serenity shown in the picture can only be touched if you visit early. If you get there right after the opening time, you get a chance to enjoy Dos Ojos in its grand totality for a couple of moments.
However, thanks to the tales of its mesmerizing beauty, this cenote visit does not come as cheap as some others!
The ticket for this attraction costs $14 (around 200 pesos in local currency).
Furthermore, because of its popularity, it is very crowded all the time except a few minutes into the opening time, which is great if you do not mind having people around but not so much if you want to truly experience the tranquility of the cenote.
8. Cenote Nicte–Ha
Tourist crowds can sometimes spoil the fun and take the edge off the beauty of cenotes.
Unlike the case with some other cenotes, Nicte-Ha is a cenote secluded from the population because it falls away from the tourist trail.
It is located 22km north of Tulum and quite close to Dos Ojos Cenote, so if you go exploring by yourself, you can do both in one trip.
The cenote lies above ground, making it perfect for a quick swim by gorgeous trees and other plants.
A part of the cenote also has a rock-made appendage that you can climb through making your way to the other openings to get that real explorer-vibe going.
The entrance fee will cost you around 100 pesos ($5) – which is quite cheap.
9. Cenote El Pit
Originating in the jungle, El Pit is the darkest part of the Dos Ojos cenote.
Lying 25 km north of Tulum, this pit is one of the deepest in the area.
Its rocky, narrow and adventurous opening gives it an enticing look and gives birth to an experience of a lifetime.
The pit extends about 40 meters after its opening and gets dark enough for you to carry a torch on you for the rest of the trip down.
The best part is that you get the whole entrance fee off (140 pesos) if you visit it the same day as your visit to the Dos Ojos cenote.
10. Cenote Ponderosa
Popularly known as Cenote Jardin del Eden, this cenote lies in Quintana Roo, 40 km from Tulum.
It has a terrace right above it so you can enjoy the view if you prefer not to take a dip.
This particular cenote is often referred to as an open swimming pool because of its crystal clear waters.
The visit will cost you around 120 pesos ($6), but you’ll get to experience all kinds of marine life species the cenote is home to such as the motmots, eels, turtles, and fish.
These creatures will eat the dead skin off your feet while you enjoy a quick dip into its warm clear waters.
So, all in all, you get to experience the mysterious beauty of nature first-hand along with state-of-the-art pedicure therapy.
What’s not to love here?
11. Cenote Azul
Cenote Azul is gigantic enough for you to spend an entire day there exploring its mystique beauty and splendor.
Since it is quite shallow in most places, it is perfect for a day out with the family.
Way inside of the cenote (15 feet away), there is a deep cliff jump that makes exploring even more fun; giving you an opportunity for a bone-chilling cliff diving experience.
The entry fee is 137 pesos ($7) for adults.
The opulent greens in the form of vegetation make you feel like you have left civilization miles away although it is only a 50-minute drive (63 km) from Tulum.
Best Organized Tours to Tulum’s Cenotes
If you don’t want to explore the cenotes on your own (some can be a bit hard to find as they’re quite hidden), these tours make it super easy for you to discover the highlights of Tulum’s Cenotes:
- 4 cenote-tour starting in Tulum: This tour from Tulum takes you on a fun journey across 4 different cenotes where you can snorkel your heart out and explore the beautiful marine life as well as enjoy a traditional Mayan meal. Starting at $156.
- Bike Tour of secluded cenotes and caves from Tulum: Far away from the crowds, this bike tour starts in town and takes you to the hidden cenotes, caves, and caverns of the outskirts of Tulum. Prices start from $90.
- Scuba Diving Cenote Intro Course from Tulum: If you’d like to explore more of a cenote than just looking down from the surface while snorkeling, this experience will introduce you to scuba diving in just a day. Experience the sparkling light in an open lagoon surrounded by mangroves – you won’t ever forget this day, promise! Price starts at $160.
- Cenote, Ruins and Riviera Maya Snorkeling Tour from Cancun or Playa Del Carmen: During this day-tour you will not only explore the rock formations of Cenote Hilarios but also snorkel the reef of the Riviera Maya and explore the ruins of the ancient Maya city of Tulum. Starting from $64.
- Tulum Ruins and Dos Ojos Cenote: This 5-hour guided tour starts from either Cancun, Playa Del Carmen or Downtown Tulum, wherever your hotel is. It’s a great combination of exploring the ancient ruins and then cooling off in the famous Dos Ojos Cenote I mentioned above. It’s a total steal starting at only $45.
- Turtle Snorkeling and Cenote Exploring: Join this tour and you will get the chance to snorkel with sea turtles along the Great Mayan Reef, right in front of the Mayan ruins of Tulum. Your guides will explain more about the turtles and diverse marine life as well as the cenote system and then take you to two cenotes to explore. Starts at $88.
Tips for Visiting the Tulum Cenotes
For cenotes that lie right inside Tulum, I advise you to go very early at opening time or late around closing time.
This is where you will be able to enjoy and make the most of your visit because most tourists have either not arrived yet or already left the location.
Carry eco-friendly sunscreen. This is usually a mineral-based, biodegradable sunscreen that is not harmful to the natural environment. I recommend to bring this wherever you go in order not to destroy the corals and eco-system, but in the Cenotes of Tulum, it is officially required. I love this, great job Mexico!
Bring a towel. And then another towel. Preferably both made out of microfiber material because of their compact and quick-dry features.
Wear water-resistant shoes for cave cenotes and water-resistant shoes/sandals for water cenotes. I have a personal recommendation for you in my snorkeling equipment list below this article.
Don’t forget to pack a waterproof head torch! It can get quite dark in the underwater caves, as you can imagine.
I also always bring my own snorkeling equipment and recommend you do the same for several reasons: it’s more hygienic, it saves you money, and you won’t have to worry about masks and fins that don’t fit, get foggy, etc.
The snorkel equipment I usually use is listed below this article.
Scuba Diving Cenotes in Tulum
If you are like me and love to scuba dive every chance you get, you should do your homework before you plan your trip.
Lots of good diving cenotes lie right outside or on the outskirts of Tulum that are not jam-packed with tourists.
This helps you avoid accidents and explore freely at your will.
Here is my list of the best diving cenotes in Tulum:
- 1. OxBel Ha
- 2. Nohoch Nah Chich
- 3. Dos Ojos
- 4. Gran Cenote
- 5. Angelita
Snorkeling Cenotes in Tulum
If you prefer to indulge in a less intense sport than scuba diving, then snorkeling is your best bet! Snorkeling in Mexico is a fantastic experience anyways, but cenotes are really out of this world.
There are certain restricted cenote spots that allow snorkeling. This is to reduce crowding in order that you may enjoy the glorious marine life below.
Snorkeling is done where lots of marine life swims close to the surface of the water, and a large amount of tourists is bound to disturb the natural habitat of the species.
Hence it is seen that fewer people are around during snorkeling activities.
Below is a list of the best snorkeling cenotes in Tulum that I thought would help you snorkeling fans out there:
- Casa Cenote
- Garden of Eden
- Dos Ojos
There are fun tours that actually take you snorkeling into the underground caves of Tulum like the ones I mentioned above in the organized tours section.
Free Cenotes in Tulum
If you don’t intend to spill out any cash, you can still fulfill your cenote-obsession by checking out a free cenote in Tulum.
Just go ahead and visit the free Tulum cenote at Clan-Destino Cenote Bar.
Here, all you have to do is buy something from the bar and help yourself to a COMPLETELY free-of-cost fun exploration.
It is a 24/7 bar that helps you cool off the Mexican heat and lets you enjoy in a nature-given swimming pool all the while doing so.
Cenote Arco Maya also gives you this free of cost facility.
It is a non-commercialized cenote and is placed right at the heart of Tulum.
This cenote is well hidden, so it is not always crowded but nonetheless, is easy to find.
It is a perfect spot to enjoy the sunset, swimming in peace and meeting with locals.