We all know how awesome relaxing on your holiday is, but if you are one of those people (such as me) that can’t hold still for long, then I suggest a break from the sandy beaches, historical ruins and traditional tequila for a 1-day adventure. Cenotes are just waiting for you to discover them and the best news is that you can take a dive and get the full experience up close and from deep under.
Cenote\ si-ˈnō-tē \ is an underground cavern filled with the most gorgeous turquoise water.
But what are in fact cenotes and why are they the best in Mexico?
The cenotes, or nature’s swimming pools, are circular underground caverns formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock where rainwater seeps in, forming all sorts of shapes in the soft rock. As you immerse yourself in the underground beauty, prepare to be left speechless by the natural formation surrounding you. Have a quick look above you to the stalactites, but be careful where your next step will be, as you might be approaching a stalagmite. Don’t forget to bring your snorkelling gear to admired the beautifully coloured fishes.
Their history dates back to the Mayans, who have considered their connection to the dark side of the Earth a portal to life after death, naming them also the sacred fountains of Yucatan. Later on, bones and objects used in rituals were found, proving that in fact there was a cult of the cenotes that involved sacrifices for the Mayan God of rain – Chaac.
The caverns are spread out amongst the forests of Yucatan and their beauty is a rare sighting for all explorers, from skilled divers to tourists that embark on this journey. Most of them have been transformed into tourist spots, where anyone can enjoy the crystal clear water or swing from a vine but there are still a few that show off their beauty only to divers. If you are feeling truly adventurous, you can take a dive from a cliff, it’s only up to you how high you are willing to jump from.
Where to start?
Just as I thought when I first arrived in Mexico, you are most likely confused about where to start. After all, there are estimated to be around 6,000 cenotes only in the Yucatan Peninsula. Let me give you a hand, or better yet, a handful of options.
1. Dos Ojos Cenote [Tulum]
You probably guessed it, you need to keep both your eyes wide open not to miss a single moment of what this beauty has to offer. As true as that explanation might be, the real reason why it is called Two Eyes is that in fact, the long cave systems (one of the biggest in the world) has two cenotes joined together by a cave that resemble two eyes. The 61 km long cave system is situated between Playa del Carmen and Tulum and it offers one of the greatest scuba experiences.
2. Cave Diving and Snorkeling in Gran Cenotes [Tulum]
Cave diving in Mexico anyone? No holding back on the adventure with this cenote either. Come prepared to see some colourful fishes even without any snorkelling mask on through the clear blue water as well as some bats lurking in the corners of the cave, because let me assure you that you will notice both of them. Not very far from Tulum you will find the paradise of cliff diving and jumping, vine swinging adventurers and will hardly part with this wonderful place.
3. Gran Cenotes, Tulum Mexico
One of the more popular underground caves is most likely Ik Kil as it is very close to Cenote Chichen Itza. Beautiful nonetheless, this cenote cave can get a bit crowded at times/ during the high summer season, so be prepared to bump more into tourists here. As the coast is clear be sure that you will get those Instagram perfect pictures to make all your friends jealous.
4. El Jardin Del Eden Cenote [Playa Del Carmen]
As the name states it, a little piece of heaven on Earth, the Garden of Eden cenote cave is clearly loved by everyone, from locals to curious tourists. You can lose yourself for one day in this place and not get tired of swimming, snorkelling or diving from the cliffs.
Very close to the famous Playa del Carmen, this place should definitely be on your bucket list.
5. Azul Cenote [Playa Del Carmen Caves]
Couldn’t leave out this cool recommendation! Close to Playa del Carmen caves, this cenote will surprise you with the variety of flora and fauna present. If you look closely around you, you will be able to notice the iguanas hiding in the vegetation surrounding you all while being tickled by a great variety of fishes swimming all around you in the water.
And the list can go on forever, I would never get tired of telling all about these nature’s beauties. While getting mesmerised by all of what nature has to offer there are a few things to keep in mind every time you decide to take a trip to a cenote. As the water and vegetation need to be protected make sure you stock up on a biodegradable sunscreen, this way you get to protect yourself and nature.
Another important aspect to consider, as you are walking around, swimming or diving, make sure you don’t touch any formations, such as stalactites or stalagmites as you might do them harm easily.
Other than that, you will for sure have the adventure of a lifetime in just one trip!