Complete guide to visiting Cenote Calavera in Tulum, also known as the Skull Cenote, or Temple of Doom. Includes up-to-date practical information, photos, and a basic rundown of what to expect.
While the Tulum Cenote Calavera, or Skull Cenote in Spanish was once a hidden gem of sorts, 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 undergound cenote. It’s a truly picturesque site. But there are plenty more reasons why you should visit Cenote Calavera from Tulum. From cliff jumping to diving, let me break down everything you need to know about The Temple of Doom Cenote.
- About Cenote Calavera Tulum – The Temple of Doom
- Where is Cenote Calavera
- How to Get To the Cenote From Tulum
- What to Expect at Cenote Calavera
- What to Bring to the Calavera Cenote in Tulum
- Best Time to Visit The Temple of Doom Cenote
- Where to Stay in Tulum – Best Accommodation
- Cenote Calavera FAQ
- More Tulum Adventure Guides & Blogs
About Cenote Calavera Tulum – The Temple of Doom
- Cenote Calavera Opening Hours: This cenote is open 7 days a week from 9 AM until 5 PM.
- Cenote Calavera 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 entrpreneurs to create a brand new, flashy entrance. There’s 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).
Best Cenote Calavera Tour from Tulum
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.
Best Calavera Cenote Tulum Tour: Triple Cenote Tour (includes entry fees)
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.
- 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 $40 USD alone and are included in your ticket.
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.
How to Get To the Cenote From Tulum
If you don’t want to book the recommended tour, you could also get to Calavera Cenote from Tulum quite easily.
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-$40 USD in Tulum from one of the many rental shops on the main road.
Conversely, a 24-hour rental of a bicycle costs $130-$150 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 or Rentalcars.com.
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
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.
Tip: Exploring Cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula offers some of the best adventures in Mexico! But, before you head out, make sure you’re covered for accidents and mishaps. I swear by WorldNomads for shorter adventure trips and SafetyWing for longer backpacking stints.
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 at the Cenote Calavera. However, they are thankfully not mandatory unlike several others near Tulum.
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 actually 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 meters or so). While there is a wooden stepladder, this option is probably more dangerous than just jumping in, as it is very slippery.
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.
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.
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.
Snorkeling at Cenote Calavera
Like most of the cenotes in the Yucatan, the fresh water reservoir is amazingly clear! Even with dozens of people jumping and splashing, you can see at least 30 feet in front of you.
Tip: If you’re set on snorkeling at the Cenote Calavera, it’s a good idea to bring your own mask and snorkel.
Diving at cenote Calavera
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 for hundreds of miles. The Skull Cenote opens up quite dramatically once you take a look below.
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 meters) 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 meets. 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.
Facilities at Cenote Calavera, Tulum
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.
What to Bring to the Calavera Cenote in Tulum
Here are a few things that I recommend to bring when visiting the Calavera Cenote in Tulum.
- Mask & snorkel – will save you money having to rent one
- Travel towel
- GoPro – the only cameras allowed without a fee (more below)
- Telekin GoPro Dome – for unique half-in-out photos
- Grayl Bottle – to filter tap-water on the go (free clean drinking water without the plastic)
- Hat – no sunblock allowed
- Clothes for swimming
- Small travel backpack
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 to the Temple of Doom CEnote?
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.
Related: Camera Gear for Travel
Ready to head out and explore the epic Calavera Cenote in Tulum? Here are some more tips to make your visit more enjoyable. I’ve already mentioned some of these– 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.
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 (3-5PM). Most of the crowds arrive at round 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!
Where to Stay in Tulum – Best Accommodation
Generally speaking, there are two areas to stay in Tulum. This is the Tulum Town (Puebla), or the Tulum Hotel Zone.
Tulum Town has loads of hotels, guest houses, hostels, restaurants, bars, and everything else you could imagine. This is a great place to stay if you want to explore the surrounding region since it’s also close to the ADO bus station.
Closer to the beach, the Tulum Hotel Zone is more of a luxury accommodation area with high-end resorts, spas, restaurants, and nightclubs.
Below are my three recent and updated top picks for where to stay in Tulum.
- Casa Malca – Perfect for couples searching for a luxury, private and relaxing resort. It’s situated on a private beach surrounded by palm trees and offers luxury spa treatments, and a large outdoor swimming pool.
- Mamasan Treehouses & Cabins – Stay in an epic tree house just 100m from South Tulum Beach! Features an epic root-top jungle bar with rooms overlooking the ocean.
- Mama’s Home – By far the best hostel for a vibe and making lifelong friends. They run daily and nightly activities that are super fun. This place was the highlight of my time in Tulum!
Cenote Calavera FAQ
The entrance fee is curently 250 MXN (pesos) as of 2022. No, entrance is not free. You’ll find loads of different answers online. That’s because prices fluctuate and they sometimes change it during the peak season.
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.
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.
Yes, you can dive, and it’s a great one too since it’s a unique halocline dive.
Yes, and you should if you have one. You’ll get some fun footage of the cliff jumps.
More Tulum Adventure Guides & Blogs
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.