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How to Visit Cenote Calavera Tulum: Temple of Doom

How to Visit Cenote Calavera Tulum: Temple of Doom

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

Visit the Temple of Doom in Tulum, once a hidden gem and now a globally recognized must-visit cenote.

While the Tulum Cenote Calavera or Skull Cenote in Spanish was once unheard of, Instagram has once again taken this little cenote global!

I’m sure most would have already seen the idyllic swing and wooden steps leading into crystal-clear water in this underground cenote. It’s a truly picturesque site especially if you visit before the crowds!

There are plenty more reasons why you should visit. From cliff jumping to diving, let me break down everything you need to know about The Temple of Doom Cenote below.

Haylea sitting on the swing inside calavera cenote in tulum, mexico

Things to Know About Cenote Calavera

  • Opening Hours: This cenote is open 7 days a week from 9 AM until 5 PM.
  • Price (entrance fee): 250 pesos per person

The Cenote Calavera, or Skull Cenote is a Cántaro, or jug style cenote. This means that the roof has broken away, revealing a narrow opening to a large underwater cavern.

The truth is Cenote Calavera isn't the hidden gem it used to be. These days, it's one of the most popular cenotes in Tulum. With that said, it's still much less crowded than Gran Cenote, even though it is located closer to the Pueblo.

The global attention has made this a big attraction, causing opportunistic Mexican entrepreneurs to create a brand new, flashy entrance. There are also plenty of facilities including chairs and a bar/restaurant.

Locals market this Cenote as the Temple of Doom. When I asked where the name came from, the locals didn't really have an answer for me. However, it could be due to the human skull and Mayan pottery located deep in the cavern (only accessible by diving).

Tips for Visiting!

Ready to head out and explore the epic Calavera Cenote in Tulum? Here are some more tips to make your visit more enjoyable. I mentioned some of these below– this is for you skip-readers!

  • Visit early – this is one of the most popular tourist spots in Tulum and gets crowded. The Skull Cenote opens at 9 AM. Unfortunately, the water isn't lit up during this time, but you'll have much fewer people around.
  • Pack a small bag and avoid valuables – the lockers won’t accommodate large backpacks
  • Bring your ID – you’ll need to leave it as a deposit if you plan on renting snorkeling gear
  • Avoid swallowing the water – I know, this is hard when you're jumping in. You might see crystal-clear water, but this is far from safe drinking water.
Cliff jumping at skull cenote tulum

Where is Cenote Calavera

Cenote Calavera is located just outside of Tulum Pueblo on QROO 109 (road to Coba).

This is only about 1.9 miles from the town center, making it easy to get to with a motorbike, bicycle, public transport, or your own car.

Map of cenote calavera in tulum, mexico

Best Cenote Calavera Tour

Looking for the easiest and most convenient way to visit Cenote Calavera from Tulum? You're in luck.

Cenote Calavera is part of the Triple Cenote Tour - the best cenote trip in Tulum.

One of the best ways to experience the cenotes in Tulum is to book this guided trip from Tulum. This is one of the most-booked and highest-rated tours in the region for a few reasons.

You’ll get: 

  • Hotel pickup/drop-off
  • Multi-lingual guide
  • Visit Gran Cenote, Calavera Cenote & Casa Cenote
  • Includes all entry fees

This is excellent value as transport in Tulum is notoriously expensive. Furthermore, the entry fees for each add up to $50 USD alone and are included in your ticket.

Girl sitting on the calavera tulum swing

How to Get To the Cenote

If you don't want to book the recommended tour, you could also get to Calavera Cenote from Tulum quite easily.

By Taxi

The first option is to simply pay for a taxi from downtown Tulum (Pueblo). The price should be about $80 MXN each way. The only problem with this option is that there aren't always taxis waiting at the Calavera Cenote and you might need to walk the road or wait a while to catch one coming back from Coba or the Gran Cenote.

Independent: Car, Scooter or Bicycle

One of the best ways to explore all of the epic Tulum attractions and Cenotes is to rent your own transport. You can pick up a scooter for $30-$45 USD in Tulum from one of the many rental shops on the main road.

Conversely, a 24-hour rental of a bicycle costs $145-$160 MXN. Alternatively, many travelers choose to rent a car instead, which can be equal to or cost just a little bit more than a motorbike.

I always compare the best rates and prices at DiscoverCars.com

By Colectivo

Another budget option is to take a colectivo, or shared taxi to the cenote. You'll want to find one going to Coba, and just hop out early. This shouldn't cost more than $20 pesos.

The Cenote is located on the right side of the road heading towards Coba. There is a new sign that reads: Temple of Doom, and another that reads CENOTE. It's hard to miss.

If you take the independent route, expect the following times from Tulum Town.

  • Drive: 10 minutes
  • Bike Ride: 20 minutes
  • Walk: 50 minutes
Calavera cenote wooden ladder
Tulum cenote

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What to Expect at Cenote Calavera

So, enough with the logistics, what can you actually expect at Cenote Calavera in Tulum?

Once you arrive, you'll need to pay the fee, then continue on to the outdoor showers.

  • Showers: Like all Yucatan cenotes, you are required to shower before entering. This is to protect the delicate ecosystem.
  • A deer? Yes, for some strange reason, there was a deer in a wooden fenced area next to the bicycle and motorbike parking. I'm not sure what a deer is doing here, but yeah, it's there, or at least was when I visited.
  • Life jackets: Life jackets are offered. However, they are thankfully not mandatory, unlike several others near Tulum.
Calavera cenote in tulum, mexico

Cliff Jumping

Perhaps the funnest part about this Cenote is that you have to get in via a cliff jump! This is a stark contrast to other cenotes like the Car Wash Cenote, that charge to use a diving platform.

In total, there are three entrances to the Cenote.

The main entrance is the large, obvious cratered hole leading into the clear water. This jump is only a small one, but still fun, at around 8-10 feet (2.5 m or so). While there is a wooden stepladder, this option is probably more dangerous than just jumping in, as it is very slippery.

Cliff jumping at calavera cenote in tulum
Temple of doom cenote cliff jump

The second and third entrances are much smaller holes that make for a more exciting jump. This looks a bit intimidating at first, but realistically it's the same as jumping in the larger hole. Just step in and pin-drop into the black abyss, it's a good time.

Hole cliff jump at skull cenote
Hole rope ladder at skull cenote

The water depth at Tulum's Calavera Cenote is around 25 feet. Additionally, directly below the entrances, it's at least 20 feet deep. So, there's no way you'll touch the bottom meaning you can jump, back flip, front flip, or dive your heart out.

Cliff diving in mexico cenote

The Famous Wooden Ladder & Swing

For me, the cliff jumping was the funnest part about visiting Cenote Calavera. However, I'm sure for many, the biggest draw will be the insanely Instagrammable wooden ladder and swing.

This is a pretty iconic shot that most people want from their Tulum vacation. If this sounds like you, I'd suggest getting here early before the crowds. The only drawback to this is that the sun will be lower on the horizon, meaning it won't light up the turquoise water below.

Tip: For the sunlight to be over the cenote you should visit during midday however the crowds can be chaotic at this time. Visiting on a weekday is another great option for less crowds.

Lady swinging with life jacket in the temple of doom
Haylea sitting on the cenote rope swing, temple of doom

Snorkeling

Like most of the cenotes in the Yucatan, the freshwater reservoir is amazingly clear! Even with dozens of people jumping and splashing, you can see at least 30 feet in front of you.

In saying that, there are several cenotes that are better for snorkeling than Skull Cenote in close proximity to Tulum. These include Car Wash Cenote, Cenote Cristal, and the Cenote Escondido.

Tip: If you're set on snorkeling at the Cenote Calavera, it's a good idea to bring your own mask and snorkel.

Calavera cenote in tulum, mexico

Scuba Diving

Of course, you can dive here too! Diving at the Cenote Calavera offers a real opportunity to learn why this is called the Temple of Doom.

At first glance, you'd be excused or thinking this was a small cavern. However, the underground network of cenotes in the Yucatan spans hundreds of miles. The Skull Cenote opens up quite dramatically once you take a look below.

Cenote calavera map
Image Source: Agua Clara Diving

As you can see from the map above, the dive is generally a large loop around the underground cavern. The deepest depth is roughly 52 feet (16 m) with several cavern limits where you can check out the inner depths of the cenote system.

What makes this dive unique is that this site offers a halocline dive. This means that you can experience the site where freshwater and saltwater meet. This water doesn't mix but has a distinct difference in appearance.

At the end of the dive, there's also a ledge where you can spot some ancient Mayan pottery and the remains of a skull (the jaw and teeth).

If diving at the Calavera Cenote sounds like something you want to experience, there are several great dive shops in Tulum. I'd suggest walking around to find a good price.

Yucatan cenote scuba diving group

Facilities at The Temple of Doom Cenote

As mentioned, the Calavera Cenote has recently been rebranded as the Temple of Doom. Along with that rebranding came a lot of investment into tourist facilities.

You'll now find colorful sun beds, seats, chairs, bathrooms, and even a restaurant and bar where you can buy snacks and drinks.

There are no lockers or safe places to leave your belongings. As a result, I suggest bringing a padlock to lock your bag if you have valuables.

Calavera cenote

What to Bring

Here are a few things that I recommend to bring when visiting the Calavera Cenote in Tulum. 

What Not to Bring

I'd suggest not bringing expensive items and valuables as there are no lockers available at the Skull Cenote. Also, it's important not to bring sunscreen as this is not permitted.

What About Bringing Cameras & Drones?

This is something that I really dislike about tourism in the Yucatan, especially around Cenotes near tourist areas like Tulum and Playa Del Carmen.

They charge you to bring a camera in! Yes, it is what it is.

Currently (this fluctuates all the time), it costs an additional 200 pesos to bring in a DSLR, Mirrorless or "professional camera" into the grounds. Thankfully, GoPros and super tiny point-and-shoot cameras are free.

If you'd like to bring a drone, they will charge you 300 pesos. I don't recommend bringing a drone, since it's only a small cenote and there are plenty of people around.

In protest of the fees, I snuck in my mirrorless camera to capture some shots to share with you guys. They're not great, since I was slyly trying to avoid the bartender seeing.

Calavera cenote rope swing, tulum, mexico

Best Time to Visit The Temple of Doom Cenote

The Temple of Doom complex is open year-round, 7-days a week.

If I had to pick the best time to visit, I'd say get here early or in the last hour or two (3-5 pm). Most of the crowds arrive at around 10 am, with the peak time being 1 pm.

Again, this isn't to have the whole place to yourself, just to avoid having to line up to jump in!

Looking for More Epic Cenotes Nearby?

If you're looking for even more cenote adventures check out more below!

  • Gran Cenote – one of the most popular but most beautiful cenotes in Tulum
  • Cenote Escondido - laid-back cenote that is great for snorkeling
  • Cenote Cristal - right next to Cenote Escondido and features an awesome diving platform
  • Cenote Dos Ojos - epic cave Cenote with some of the best snorkeling and cave diving in Mexico
  • Casa Cenote - an awesome hidden gem that is one of the best Tulum sinkholes for scuba diving.
Calavera cenote tulum ladder

Best Accommodation Nearby

Wondering about where to stay in Tulum? Generally speaking, there are two areas, Tulum Town (Pueblo), and the Tulum Hotel Zone (Tulum Beach).

Tulum Town is a laid-back town close to the ADO bus station and has loads of hotels, guest houses, hostels, restaurants, bars, and everything else you could imagine.

The Tulum Hotel Zone is located closer to the beach, where you'll find more high-end hotels, beach resorts, restaurants, and nightclubs. Here are the 3 top picks from both neighborhoods.

Casa malca tulum accommodation

1. Casa Malca Luxury

Perfect for couples searching for a luxury, private, & relaxing resort. Situated on a private beach surrounded by palm trees and offers luxury spa treatments with a large outdoor swimming pool.

Mamasan treehouses cabins outdoor seating area

2. Mamasan Treehouses & Cabins Unique

Stay in an epic tree house just 100m from South Tulum Beach! Features an epic root-top jungle bar with rooms overlooking the ocean.

Mayan monkey tulum bar and outdoor area

3. Mayan Monkey Budget

The best hostel for a party vibe where you can make lifelong friends. Just a short walk to Tulum Center where you can find many restaurants and bars.

FAQs About Cenote Calavera

How much does the Calavera Cenote Cost?

The entrance fee is currently 250 MXN (pesos) as of 2023. No, entrance is not free. You'll find loads of different answers online. That's because prices fluctuate and they sometimes change during the peak season.

Why is it called the Temple of Doom, or Skull Cenote?

Calavera Cenote is called Skull Cenote because this is the exact translation in Spanish. Nobody really knows why it's called the Temple of Doom, but it could be due to the human remains found at the bottom.

How Deep is the Cenote?

The deepest part of the cavern is roughly 52 feet (16 meters). However, the depth directly below the cliff jumping entrance is roughly 25 feet.

Can you dive at the Calavera Cenote?

Yes, you can dive, and it's a great one too since it's a unique halocline dive.

Can I bring a GoPro to the Skull Cenote?

Yes, and you should if you have one. You'll get some fun footage of the cliff jumps.

I hope that you've found this up-to-date travel guide to visiting the Calavera Cenote in Tulum useful!

While you're still here on my blog, make sure to check out some of the other adventure guides for inspiration for your trip to Tulum in Mexico.

Bike on the beach in tulum

Plan Your Tulum Accommodation

Still in the planning stages of your trip? Perhaps you're booking on the fly. The below accommodation guides will help you plan where to stay in Tulum.

Alternatively, stay in Playa del Carmen.

Cenote calavera
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.