A family friendly guide to exploring Mexico's cenotes
Cenotes, which were sacred to the Mayans, are spread across the Yucatan Peninsula, offering an otherworldly aquatic adventure.
An absolutely necessary experience to have during your family getaway at the all-inclusive Barceló Maya Grand Resort (comprised of Barceló Maya Beach, Barceló Maya Caribe, Barceló Maya Colonial, Barceló Maya Tropical, and the all-suite, AAA Four-Diamond Barceló Maya Palace) is a dip in one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s magnificent cenotes (pronounced se-NOH-tes). These natural swimming holes, which were sacred to the Mayans, are spread across the area, offering an otherworldly aquatic adventure. No two cenotes are exactly alike – and there are more than 1,000 of them on the peninsula. Some require scuba or snorkeling expertise. Some are tricky to access, with rope ladders leading you down. But others are suitable for all ages. Here are a few of Mexico’s cenotes that your whole family will love.
Cenote Azul is perhaps the Yucatan Peninsula’s most family friendly cenote. Its dock leads to the turquoise waters and there are great spots to explore throughout the pool. For the more adventurous members of the family, there’s a fantastic cliff diving area – not too high, not too low. Go ahead, make a splash (or even if you don’t want to, watching others take the plunge is almost as entertaining.
- Tip: If you are staying at the Barceló Maya Grand Resort, you can just cross the highway (look both ways before!) and walk over to Cenote Azul.
One of the most well-known cenotes in all of Mexico, the Gran Cenote is located very close to Tulum, home to some of the Mayan world’s most well-preserved ruins. Its proximity is no coincidence. The Gran Cenote was an important resource for the Mayans, for both spiritual and practical reasons. Today, it’s a perfectly preserved spot, with 140 meters of calm, shallow waters and easy-to-use walkways. For older members of the family, Gran Cenote snorkeling and scuba diving is legendary – the water in the caverns here is so crystal clear that even from the surface you can see down to the bottom.
- Tip: This is a very popular attraction! Make sure to get there early to beat the crowds.
Set amidst a teeming jungle, the Yokdzonot Cenote is also located near to a famed Mayan site – the incredible Chichen Itza, which was one of the Mayan civilization’s largest cities. Owned and operated by locals, the enchanting eco-park has many family friendly areas in which you can float and splash around in the cool, clean water. It’s easy to get to as well, with a well-maintained staircase leading down to the cenote. Keep an eye out for tiny fish darting around you as you swim!
- Fun Fact: Yokdzonot is home to an array of diverse wildlife, including bats, iguanas and all kinds of beautiful tropical birds.
Cenote Dos Ojos
Located south of Playa del Carmen and north of Tulum, Cenote Dos Ojos is so named (“two eyes”) because its two neighboring pools resemble eyes when you look down upon them. The cenote is famous because has one of the longest underwater cave systems in the world. But you and your kids may not be ready for such an intense scuba diving experience. No worries. Dos Ojos also has several areas that are great for kids, with sandy beaches, warm, crystal clear water and lifejackets provided.
- Fun Fact: In 2010, Dos Ojos was the site of a Guinness World Record-breaking freedive, during which Carlos Coste swam 490 feet – on one breath!