Everything you need to know about the best cenotes Mexico has to offer

If you’re visiting the Yucatán Peninsula, don’t miss your chance to experience the region’s unique and fascinating cenotes (pronounced cey-NO-tays). Many of these natural swimming holes are open to the public, offering an otherworldly landscape to check out, whether snorkeling, scuba diving or just exploring.

If discovering off-the-beaten-track attractions is your idea of a fun vacation pastime then the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico is something not to be missed. Not only does this sun kissed region possess some of the most textbook-perfect beaches in Mexico, but it also is home to the largest number of cenotes in the country. Cenotes, pronounced ‘Say-NO-tays’ are underground natural pools and sacred Mayan ceremonial spaces. Today these cave-like swimming pools provide the most perfect way to cool off and escape the heat of the sun. If this otherworldly aquatic adventure sounds appealing, read on to discover the best cenotes Mexico has to offer.

What is a cenote?

Cenotes are formed over centuries by erosion. Rain breaks down the limestone bedrock and causes the ground to cave inwards. This creates a hole in the earth which over decades fills with water - either rain or via underground rivers. The limestone ground of the Yucatan Peninsula makes the area well suited for the creation of these secret bathing spots. Not all the cenotes Mexico offers are created equal. They come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from supersized 140-meter-wide turquoise waters to discrete secret plunge pools. They are all however united by their unique sacred status, something that fascinates tourists and locals who are eager to explore a cenote underground spring in Mexico.

The origins of the cenotes Mexico is famous for

A lot of the cenotes Mexico is famous for have been well-preserved. This allows dazzling insights to be uncovered about the ancient lifestyle of the Mayans and their curious traditions involving cenotes. Some believe that the cenotes in Mexico were gateways to the afterlife and an important tool for communicating with the water Gods - often via sacrificing valuable objects or even humans. Others believe that they were used simply for their practical purposes, keeping large amounts of water cool and protected in the hot climate. The limestone acts as a natural water filter and the crystal-clear pools are a testament to this.

The best cenotes in Mexico

There are thousands of cenotes dotted all across Mexico but the best ones can be found in Yucatan which is home to over 6000. Luckily reaching these sacred spaces does not mean traipsing through rainforests as the majority are located in Cancún close to the sparkling array of luxury resorts. Scuba diving is often practiced inside the top cenotes in Cancún and many local dive centers offer guided tours to the cenotes with the most interesting rock formations and marine life.

Cenotes near Riviera Maya

One of the best diving spots in the Riviera Maya is the Gran Cenote. This eye-catching cenote has become one of the most famous cenotes in Mexico for its half-moon shape which makes it a photogenic spot for a quick swim. It often tops the list of cenotes Mexico is most famous for thanks to the well-preserved Mayan ruins that are found at the site. The calm shallow waters and proximity to the town of Tulum make it a family-friendly cenote that can be enjoyed all year round. The varying depths of the cenote make it the perfect spot to enjoy a snorkel or for the more adventurous visitors, it is possible to scuba dive up to ten meters in depth. Because of the deepness of this cenote, the water maintains a constant fresh temperature so make sure to bring warm clothes for when it’s time to leave.

Best cenotes near Tulum

Dos Ojos cenote, Tulum is a cenote that competes alongside the Gran Cenote for the top spot of best cenotes in Mexico. Dos Ojos Cenote is famous for housing one of the largest underwater cave systems in the world, stretching a whopping 80 kilometers. This incredible feat of natural engineering can also be enjoyed by scuba divers who are brave enough to navigate the meandering Tulum caves. However, if diving isn’t for you, you can still take in the rainbow of blue tones by enjoying a gentle swim or a snorkel in the tranquil waters. Located just a 30-minute journey from the luxury hotels of the Riviera Maya, this is a must-visit when on vacation in Mexico.

Cenotes - Quintana Roo

Of course, those who are enjoying a relaxing Playa del Carmen vacation won’t miss out on their share of cenotes. The cenotes near Playa del Carmen can all be easily accessed by car making them the ideal activity for a family day out. A visit to the cenote Ik Kil Yucatan is a must for anyone traveling to Quintana Roo. Just a stone’s throw away from the awe-inspiring Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, it is the perfect place to combine a relaxing day in nature with some ancient history. The open-air rock formations and the cascading vines make a swim in this cenote a magical cenotes Mexico experience.

Best cenotes in Playa Del Carmen

While most cenotes stay covered or partly covered, the Cenote Azul charms visitors with its open-air splendor. This cenote is naturally divided into sections making it easy to find the area which suits you best. A rich, luscious rainforest surrounds the water creating a natural paradise that mirrors the beauty of the pristine blue water. Cenotes in Playa del Carmen Mexico come in all sizes and this cenote is large enough to house its natural diving area formed from windswept cliffs in escalating sizes. Find the height that is right for you and jump into the bottomless natural plunge pool.

Discover the weird and wonderful of Mexico's cenotes

Sometimes, there is more to a cenote than the sparkling sapphire water and jungle landscapes. Deep in the jungle of Tulum lies the Pet Cemetery or Sac Actun Mexico as it is officially known. The cenote has been given the nickname the Pet Cemetery due to the large number of animal bones that can be seen at the bottom of the cenote. No one knows how long they have been there, or even how they arrived there but one thing is for sure - this is an incredible cenotes Mexico diving spot just 30 minutes from the cenote Angelita Mexico.