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The best cenotes in Yucatan are a well kept secret. In fact, many tourists who travel to Mexico don’t even know what a cenote is! Visiting these marvels of nature was a highlight of my two weeks in Mexico and I recommend that they are added to any travel itinerary that is in this part of the world.
The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is a popular holiday destination. It has Maya ruins, stunning resorts, some amazing wildlife and also plenty of cenotes.
We spent about 10 days in the Yucatan Peninsula and we absolutely loved it! There is a lot to see and do here. The cenotes are a big attraction in the area, but there are so many that you couldn’t possibly visit them all. So which ones should you choose? I have done the research do you don’t have to…
What is a cenote?
First of all, what is a cenote and why should they have any impact on your trip planning? Good question!
A cenote is a natural pit caused by the collapse of limestone bedrock. This makes way for groundwater, and they are just beautiful.
Yucatan is famous for its many cenotes. Most are perfectly safe for swimming in, and others are beautiful to look at. The best cenotes of Yucatan are some of the most popular tourist sites in the area.
Cenotes were also used by the Maya civilisation. They provided a water source, and it is rumoured that the Maya god of rain, Chaak, lived in various cenotes over time.
But the best cenotes in Yucatan often have a darker history to them. It is said that these cenotes were sacred, and provided places for human sacrifice during the Maya era. Jewels, sculptures and clothes were thrown into the cenotes; scientists have also found various human skeletons beneath the water, too…
If you like dark tourism, then learning a bit about the history behind the cenote that you are visiting is a must!
Where are the best cenotes in Yucatan?
There are many, many cenotes in Yucatan (more than 6000!). Some cenotes are more accessible than others.
Many people will choose to combine a visit to a cenote with visiting one of Yucatan’s many temples. This can be a good idea as they are often just a short drive off of the main routes.
However, public transport doesn’t tend to be available when visiting most cenotes in Yucatan. This is because they are often in remote or ‘off the beaten path’ locations.
When we did our road trip through Mexico we hired a car. This meant that is was really easy to stop off and visit any cenotes that were on our route or that we wanted to visit.
If you don’t have your own transport, I recommend hiring a driver or taking a taxi.
Below is a map showing where the best cenotes in Yucatan are located. You can use this to work out if you will be travelling near by and if these cenotes are accessible too you during your trip.
Which are the best cenotes in Yucatan?
So now that we have established that you should visit some cenotes on your trip to the Yucatan Peninsula, it is time to decide which ones to see.
Personally, I think that there is nothing worse than finding out another tourist went to see a bigger and better site than the one you went to…. (this happened to me when I went up the World Financial Centre Tower when I visited Shanghai with the kids– everyone told me afterwards that I should have gone to the Pearl Tower instead…). So, read on to see which ones you should visit and why.
#1 Suytan Cenote
If you are staying in Cancun, this is one of the best cenotes in Yucatan for you to visit.
A walkway leads right to a circular platform in the very middle of this perfectly round pool of bright blue water. When the light hits, it’s purely magical. You will definitely get a sacrificial feeling here! So if you’re interested in Maya history, this cenote is one of the very best.
Costing just 70 pesos per person to visit (less than £2.50 GBP) it is an affordable cenote to visit in Yucatan.
It opens at 9.00 am, and is well worth seeing.
#2 Tak Be Ha
Is snorkelling in a cenote on your bucket list? Head to Tak Be Ha, one of the best cenotes in Yucatan for snorkelling.
Locals recommend it, and it isn’t one of the most well known cenotes. This makes it great for those looking to avoid crowds, and the crystal-clear water is perfect for swimming and snorkelling.
The water is deep in places and shallow in others, and the gaps above allow for beautiful light to filter through.
It costs 200 pesos to visit Tak Be Ha; this is just under £7 GBP.
#3 Gran Cenote
Located in Tulum, Gran Cenote (also known as the Great Cenote) is easily one of the best cenotes in Yucatan. It is also one of the most popular.
With a stunning jungle backdrop and beautiful clear water, it’s no wonder it attracts thousands of tourists every year!
There are two swimming areas connected by a cave, you can snorkel amongst underground stalactites and so much more.
There is even a small turtle sanctuary inside the cenote, which makes it pretty unique!
As this is one of the most-visited cenotes in Yucatan, is it really well kept. There are toilets and showers, and the area in general is incredibly clean.
For 180 pesos (£6 GBP) you can access the cenote and its amenities.
Zaci is one of the best cenotes in Yucatan if you are interested in history.
Located in Valladolid, a colonial town that oozes history and charm, the cenote is very central. Valladolid is perfect for a day trip from Tulum, with its brilliant restaurants and beautiful streets. Zaci is the cherry on top, surrounded by lush greenery.
Again this isn’t one of the most well known cenotes, and you can easily spend a couple of hours relaxing here and enjoying the beautiful scenery.
It is an open-air cenote, and you can swim, snorkel and cliff-dive here.
It costs only 30 pesos (around £1 GBP) to access.
#5 Ik Kil Cenote
When planning a trip to Mexico, you’ll likely want to see some Maya ruins.
Chichen Itza, the famous step pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula, is high on most people’s travel bucket lists. If you’re heading there, be sure to stop at the Ik Kil Cenote too.
Just a 10-minute drive away, this cenote is beautiful.
Il Kil Cenote has a wide opening letting in plenty of light, a stairwell leading down to the water and jungle vines all around.
Under a blue sky, it’ll truly feel like you’re in paradise. And the cool water is so refreshing after spending time out and about exploring!
The entrance fee is 80 pesos – just under £3 GBP.
#6 Cenote Xlacah
Last but not least, located near Merida, Cenote Xlacah is one of the best cenotes in Yucatan.
Here you’ll find an underwater lily garden! Colourful fish and bright blue water make for a beautiful and peaceful place to spend a couple of hours of your day.
This is another fairly unknown cenote, but it is located within the archaeological site of Dzbichaltun, which makes it a fascinating place to visit.
The entrance fee is around 50 pesos per person (less than £2 GBP) and children get in free.
There is a lot to see at this site, so it’s definitely worth venturing over here if you’re in the area.
The best cenotes in Yucatan
These are just some of the best cenotes in Yucatan. There are actually over 6,000 cenotes across the peninsula – some more well known than others. Not all are tourist sites, meaning not all are safe. But the ones mentioned above are open to visitors, and you will be able to spend an enjoyable few hours swimming, snorkelling, SCUBA diving or simply admiring the scenery.