A complete travel guide to the best cenotes in Tulum. Discover hidden gems and well-known icons for swimming, cliff jumping, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
Tulum on the Yucatan Peninsula, was once a sleepy backpacker town but is quickly becoming one of the most popular travel destinations in Mexico. Here, on this thin slice of paradise wedged on the Caribbean Coast, you’ll find amazing white-sand beaches, rich history and culture, and of course, incredible tacos and street food.
However, what many people don’t know is that Tulum is also home to some of the best cenotes in all of Mexico!
While there are over 6000 in the Yucatan Peninsula alone, I’ve outlined the very best cenotes in Tulum in this round-up of the top twenty. This list is based on my personal experience traveling in Tulum and visiting these amazing natural sinkholes.
About the Cenotes in Tulum & Mexico
Cenotes (pronounced seh-no-tays) are natural sinkholes that have formed over time as groundwater slowly erodes the limestone bedrock. They can be found all throughout Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula but are especially concentrated in Tulum and the Riviera Maya, where the sea often connects to these freshwater underground passageways.
There are three different types of cenotes in this region, including
- Cave Cenotes – also known as “underground cenotes”. These dark freshwater systems are located underground with a cave roof and as a result, offer little light. These cenotes are great for exploring or cave diving with a torch.
- Open Cenotes – these are the most common cenotes you’ll find in Tulum. They are remnants of a cave that has collapsed to form an open pit, which when filled with rainwater, creates a fresh water pool. These are the best for soaking in the Riviera Mayan sun and cooling off.
- Semi-open cenotes: as the name suggests, semi-open cenotes are mostly underground cave systems but feature a large, exposed hole in the roof where it has partially collapsed. Great for exploring and for photos, where the contrast from the light rays can be quite spectacular
Cenotes make for a perfect swimming hole on a hot day, and many are also great for snorkeling, cliff jumping, and diving.
However, just remember that many of the cenotes in Tulum have long been a spiritual place for the Mayans, where they would perform sacrifices and other rituals. These systems are also very delicate, so take care to preserve the natural environment while still enjoying these epic freshwater sinkholes.
How to get to the Tulum Cenotes
Going cenote-hopping is one of the best things to do in Tulum! The easiest way to get to the cenotes near Tulum is by renting a car. This will give you the freedom to explore at your own pace and make stops along the way for photos, swimming, or lunch.
If you’re still planning your trip, then I highly recommend you compare prices on DiscoverCars first. This is a rental “search engine” that lets you compare all the best cars and prices across dealerships. The best part is you’ll avoid getting ripped off or having to leave your passport as a deposit.
If you’re not comfortable driving in Mexico, there are also plenty of tours that can take you from Cancun or Playa del Carmen. Below I’ll outline the best one.
Best Cenote Tour From Tulum
Book the Best Cenote Tour: Triple Cenote Tour (includes entrance fee)
This is one of the most-booked and highest-rated Tulum cenote tours in the region and includes a stop at the three best ones in the area (with variety).
- Hotel pickup/drop-off
- Multi-lingual guide
- Visit Gran Cenote, Calavera Cenote & Casa Cenote
- Includes all entry fees
This offers 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.
Best Scuba Diving Cenote Tour: Casa Cenote Scuba (for beginners).
Ever wanted to try diving or want to tick off a cenote dive from the bucket list? The link above is the best deal for beginners and those needing a refresher as it is a relatively shallow dive in a wide, crystal-clear sinkhole.
If you have more experience, then the absolute best cenote diving experience is a double-dive at Dos Ojos (number 4).
20 Best Tulum Cenotes
After a month of exploring Tulum and its amazing cenotes, here is my round-up of the best twenty!
I’ve split this into two sections. The first 17 cenotes are within easy reach of Tulum pueblo, or even Playa Del Carmen (broader Quintana Roo). However, the last three are a little further out but I’ve included them as they are usually combined with popular day trips from Tulum like Chichen Itza.
1. Gran Cenote
The Gran Cenote (Grand Cenote) is part of the Sac-Aktun system, which is the world’s largest known underwater cave system.
Gran Cenote is the most famous and arguably one of the most beautiful. It’s a semi-open cenote, which features fun cave swim-throughs and partially collapsed areas.
The water here is an insane fluorescent blue that is crystal-clear. As a result, this makes for a good cenote for snorkeling, swimming, and taking vacation photos.
However, a very famous cenote, this one can get quite popular and crowded. You’ll also need to wear a life jacket at this one as it’s compulsory. This is a little annoying if you prefer to explore deeper in the caves, but a benefit for those who are a little less confident in the water.
To get here, you can book the triple cenote tour above, or make your way down the main road to Coba (approximately 3.1 miles from Tulum Centro).
2. Cenote Calavera
This next Yucatán Peninsula cenote is closer to the Tulum Pueblo on the main road to Coba (same as the Gran Cenote).
As a result, it’s one of the closest cenotes to Tulum town, especially if you’re staying in the Centro!
Its name, Cenote Calavera, literally translates to “skull cenote” in Spanish, but it also has another name too, the Temple of Doom Cenote. This comes from the ancient human skull found at the bottom of the sinkhole!
However, these days there’s nothing grim about this adventure playground. This semi-open cenote offers cliff jumping, an idyllic wooden swing, and picturesque steps leading into deep, crystal clear waters.
Visitors are also free to explore the cave by swimming through the large covered cavern. If you’re brave enough, you can also try to jump through the tiny collapsed entrances into the pit as you’ll see in the video below.
3. Casa Cenote (Cenote Manati)
Casa Cenote is a stunning cenote that’s great for swimming and snorkeling. This one is located just outside of town in a new luxury development area called Tulsayab, on the main highway towards Playa Del Carmen.
This open cenote is situated amongst beautiful, natural forest surrounds and actually links up to the ocean via an underground river. As a result, the blue waters are a mix of salt and freshwater.
The water again, is a ridiculously beautiful shade of vibrant blue, which contrasts magnificently against the lush floral greens. Just check out the drone shots I was able to capture below!
There are several spots where you can jump off into the deep end or climb up for some cliff jumping. Also, since Casa Cenote is wide and not too deep, it’s one of the most popular places for scuba diving, especially for beginners or those needing a refresher!
4. Cenote Dos Ojos
Dos Ojos cenote is one of the most popular cenotes near Tulum, arguably my favorite of all the cave cenotes. This large cenote has two distinct sections or “eyes”, (its name translates to “two eyes cenote”) each offering amazing cave swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
Although this one is a little stretch from town, I highly recommend making a visit. In fact, I’d say this is my favorite cenote in Mexico!
The reason is that this magical cave cenote system is incredibly picturesque. The small cracks in the cave entrance result in magical light rays piercing into stunningly clear water. Actually, it’s so clear that you can see all the way down to the bottom even when standing at the edge!
Unfortunately, due to its beauty and world-renown, Cenote Dos Ojos can get a little busy. You’ll also need to wear a life jacket if you’re swimming, which I find really annoying!
However, I highly recommend visiting, and if you make the trip, try to get here early to beat the crowds!
Book: Cenote Dos Ojos cave diving experience (two dives)
5. Cenote Azul
Cenote Azul is one of the most popular cenotes in the entire Riviera Maya. This might be due to its alluring name, or the fact that this “L-shaped” cenote has some of the clearest water in the country!
If you’re coming from Tulum, expect quite a long ride, since this one is found just outside of Puerto Aventura, and is popular with tourists making day trips from Playa del Carmen.
There are two wide pools here, each perfect for swimming. Additionally, if you bring your snorkel, you can spot abundant fish and even freshwater turtles.
6. Cenote Cristalino
Cenote Cristalino is another gorgeous cenote that is located near Playa del Carmen. As a result, if you’re planning to explore the Mayan Riviera on a day trip, add this one to your list!
Not to be confused with Cenote Cristal (close to Tulum), Cristalino is more of an adventure cenote, and one of the most popular places to have a bit of fun outside of Playa. What I mean by this is that the vibe is much more active, with lots of areas for swimming, a cliff jump spot, and even a swing!
While this is mostly an open cenote, there is also a cave to explore as well, which is great if you want to get out of the sun.
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.
7. Cenote CarWash (Cenote Aktun Ha)
This next cenote with a rather strange name is located just a few minutes from the famous Gran Cenote (number 1), on the road to Coba. The Carwash Cenote gets its name from the fact that, since it’s just off the road, locals would come here to wash their cars and motorbikes!
Thankfully, this doesn’t happen anymore, and the cenote is now a pristine oasis where you can enjoy snorkeling, swimming, relaxing, and jumping off a wooden platform.
There is a slight current here, which is caused by the freshwater flowing from the underground streams of the Sak Aktun system. Also, if you ask the locals, there is a small crocodile living here. Don’t worry though, he’s harmless, and just a baby!
I searched for a good hour to try to find him with little luck. Let me know if you are able to spot him!
8. Cenote Escondido
This next cenote is aptly named Cenote Escondido, or “Hidden Cenote”. It’s located down a long and bumpy dirt road, just a few minutes from Tulum.
As the name suggests, this cenote is relatively hidden and certainly not visible from the road. In fact, you’d have a hard time even spotting it if it wasn’t for the popular Cenote Cristal just across the road.
As a result, even though this spot is very close to town (on the way to Muyil Ruins) it isn’t frequented by many tourists. This makes it the perfect spot to enjoy some peace and quiet.
There are several small entrances into the cenote which opens up into a large pool, which almost looks like a river. The water is crystal clear and amazing blue color.
10. Cenote El Pit
Similar to Cenote Zac Actun (number 17 below), the Pit Cenote is located within the Dos Ojos Park. This one is found just a little bit further up the road from the more famous Dos Ojos Cenote.
Popular with divers, El Pit is a roughly 10-meter wide cavern opening, which expands into a much broader cylindrical underwater cave.
If you’re a fan of scuba diving and underwater photography, you’ll discover some of the most magnificent rock formations here. Due to the large opening, divers can also witness amazing light rays and excellent visibility.
Tip: The Pit is also the deepest cenote in Quintana Roo, with a total depth of over 119 meters (390 feet)!
11. Cenote Yaxmuul
You probably won’t find Yaxmuul featured on most roundups of cenotes near Tulum.
That’s because to get here, you need to get down a fairly long dirt road near the Jungle Maya Park. In fact, most visitors don’t make the trip out here independently, since the best way to reach it is to book an ATV tour. These usually include a guided experience of the cenotes.
Cenote Yaxmuul, also known as Parque De Cenotes Yax-Muul, is a series of cave cenotes with pools for swimming and snorkeling. There is also zip-lining you can do in this area as well.
12. Cenote Jardin Del Eden (Ponderosa)
The Cenote Jardin Del Eden (Garden of Eden Cenote) is a large open cenote with crystal-clear water and plenty of areas for swimming, sunbathing, and cliff jumping.
The ambience here is fairly calm but it is good to know that it can get quite crowded in the middle of the day, especially on weekends or public holidays.
However, the natural atmosphere here is extremely beautiful, with green forest and beautiful rock formations surrounding the edge of this amazing swimming pool style cenote.
You’ll discover this cenote on the road between Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
13. Cenote Encantado
Looking for an awesome fresh water cenote right on the Tulum hotel strip? I’ve got just the hidden-gem for you.
Cenote Encantado is a wide, open air cenote surrounded by green mangroves and forest. There’s a wooden jump tower, which is one of the biggest in this roundup.
While being located very close to the hustle and bustle of the hotel zone, this place is very quiet, and you’d probably pass it if you’re riding down past the famous Ven a la Luz sculpture or the Follow That Dream Sign. It’s also one of the cheapest, and there usually isn’t even a person at the front to take your money!
Similarly to the Car Wash Cenote, there is a resident crocodile living here! Again, this one is also harmless. You can paddle out on the kayaks resting up on the banks (free) to try to find him!
14. Cenote Cristal
As mentioned, Cenote Cristal is the second cenote on the road to Muyil Ruins and is located just opposite Cenote Escondido (the Hidden Cenote).
This is another serene and very peaceful spot where few visitors come, even though it is reachable from Tulum town by bicycle!
This cenote is a large open pool with crystal clear water and several wooden board entrances. There is a small wooden platform to jump off, as well as picnic tables and even hammocks to relax in.
If you haven’t caught onto the vibe yet, this is a very chill spot. It’s a great cenote to visit if you’re trying to get out of the hustle-and-bustle of Tulum Centro and to recover from the likely hangover!
15. Cenote Zacil-Ha
This next cenote is not much of a tourist spot, but popular with locals, again on the road to Coba just north of Tulum. You’ll find it literally right next door to the famous Car Wash cenote!
This one is quite small and roughly the size of a 20-meter swimming pool. However, it is quite deep and even features a zip-line. Additionally, you’ll find a small snack bar/small restaurant right next to it where you can buy some food or even a cold cerveza!
16. Cenote Nicte-Ha
Cenote Nicte-Ha is another one of the small open cenotes and is located just past Cenote Dos Ojos on the road to Playa del Carmen.
This place looks exactly like what you would imagine when picturing a Quintana Roo Cenote in your head, with a small hole in the ground and crystal clear water in the middle.
You can swim here, and it’s a great option if you’re looking for a super quiet cenote off-the-beaten-track, especially on a road trip from Tulum to Playa.
However, if you’re short of time in Tulum and looking for the absolute best cenote experience, I’d give this one a miss, simply because it is quite small.
17. Cenote Sac Actun (Cenote Pet Cemetery)
Cenote Sac Actun is named after the aforementioned Sistema Sac Actun, which is the longest underwater cave system on earth! You’ll discover this underground cave cenote right near Dos Ojos, and it offers a similar experience without the crowds.
Unfortunately, the downside to visiting this cenote is that a guide is required. However, you can hire a guide at the entrance when you arrive at Dos Ojos.
If you’re a lover of history and archaeology, this is a cool cenote to visit in Tulum, since it’s the site where the oldest human skeleton discovered in America was found (13,000 years old).
Awesome Cenotes Worth Visiting on a Day Trip From Tulum
The next three options on this epic roundup of Tulum Cenotes are located within a day trip distance from town.
Although people don’t usually make the drive out to these cenotes for the day, they’re usually visited alongside unmissable Mexico attractions like Chichen Itza and the beautiful city of Valladolid.
18. Cenote Ik Kil (Near Chichen Itza)
While a little busy thanks to its close proximity to Chichen Itza, Cenote Ik Kil is one of the most epic and fairy-tale-like cenotes in Mexico.
Picture a huge crater dropping into a huge sinkhole with an extremely deep pool at the bottom. There are vines and lush green jungle flora hanging down from the lip and reaching all the way to the water’s edge.
Yes, Cenote Ik Kil is one of the most popular cenotes in Mexico, but this place is simply stunning.
Book: Chichen Itza and Ik Kil Cenote Day Trip (from Tulum)
19. Cenote Xcanche at Ek Balam Ruins
Cenote Xcanche is located right next to the famous Ek Balam Ruins, which is an archeological site that is commonly visited on a day trip from Tulum or Playa del Carmen. In fact, this cenote is often called “Cenote Ek Balam” for this reason.
This cenote is another wide, circular open cenote located within the jungle. There is a rope swing here, as well as a wooden platform that runs around its circumference.
If you’re planning a visit to the Ek Balam Ruins (commonly referred to as the little brother of Chichen Itza), then it’s worth making a stop here. Otherwise, I’d visit one of the cenotes closer to Tulum.
20. Cenote Suytun (Valladolid)
Ahh, the famous Instagram Cenote. Some say that if you didn’t return with a photo from this cave cenote, did you even go to Mexico at all?
Cenote Suytun is located a short drive from the city of Valladolid, and similarly to Cenote Ik Kil (number 18), is a common addition to tours running to Chichen Itza from Tulum.
This cenote is located deep underground, and you’ll navigate down a steep set of concrete stairs to reach it. Once you arrive, you’ll discover a huge cavern with a man-made concrete path leading out into the shallow water. In terms of swimming and exploring, this probably isn’t the best cenote to visit. However, it does make for a great photo spot! Just remember that there is usually a line to get “the famous shot”.
Practical Tulum Cenote Guide
I’ve created this huge cenote travel guide to help adventure travelers find a one-stop shop for visiting cenotes near Tulum.
Therefore, now that you’re aware of all the best spots, lets dive into some recommendations, depending on what kind of activity or vibe you’re chasing.
Closest Cenotes to Tulum
Feeling a bit lazy? Perhaps a bit hungover? Alright, if you’re wondering which cenotes are closest to Tulum and actually worth visiting, here’s your answer.
- Cenote Escondido – 2.8 miles (4.3 kilometeres)
- Cenote Cristal – 2.8 miles (4.3 kilometeres)
- Cenote Calavera – 1.9 miles (3.1 kilometers)
- Cenote Encantado – 6.5 miles (10.5 kilometers) from the Pueblo. This one is much closer to the Hotel Zone if you’re staying on along the Tulum beach strip.
You can technically walk to all of these cenotes, or better yet, rent a bicycle.
Best Cenotes for Snorkeling
Want to explore underwater caves, see amazing rock formations, stalagmites, stalactites, and even freshwater fish and turtles? Here are my best picks for the best snorkeling cenotes near Tulum, Mexico.
- Gran Cenote
- Cenote Escondido
- Cenote Dos Ojos
- Cenote Azul
- Cenote Car Wash
- Cenote Yaxmuul
Best Cenotes for Scuba Diving
The truth is, you can scuba dive at many of the cenotes in the Yucatan. However, the below options are going to be the best.
- Cenote Dos Ojos – experienced divers
- Cenote El Pit – experienced divers
- Cenote Calavera – experienced divers
- Casa Cenote – beginner divers
- Cenote Escondido – semi-experienced divers
Best Cenotes for Cliff Jumping
In an ideal world, if I had to pick the best cenote for cliff jumping, it’d be Cenote Ik Kil. However, jumping at this cenote is now banned as it’s super high (it was actually the site of a Red Bull cliff jumping event).
These days, the bodies governing cenote tourism have taken implemented the USA’s “helicopter mommy” approach to natural attractions and don’t really allow cliff jumping above 3 meters anymore.
With that said, if you want to get a quick thrill and maybe practice some flips, you’ll find fun little platforms and short jumps at the following cenotes near Tulum:
- Cenote Cristal
- Cenote Car Wash
- Cenote Calavera
- Cenote Cristalino
- Azul Cenote
- Jardín del Edén Cenote
Best Cenotes for Relaxing & Unwinding
Prefer to relax and avoid the crowds? The below options are going to be your best bet for the most relaxing cenotes near Tulum and surrounding Riviera Maya.
- Cenote Cristal
- Cenote Escondido
- Cenote Encantado
- Cenote Nicte-Ha
- Cenote Car Wash
Cenote Packing List: What to Bring
Need a quick packing list for what to bring when visiting cenotes in Mexico? I’ve got you covered.
- Mask & snorkel – bringing snorkel gear will save you money having to rent it
- Quick-dry reef or water shoes – the rocks can get a little sharp
- Waterproof phone pouch
- Travel towel
- GoPro – the only cameras allowed in the cenote
- Telekin GoPro Dome – for 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 – the lockers are quite small
What You Shouldn’t Bring
Yes, there are also some things that you should avoid bringing. In general, I’d recommend visitors avoid bringing large bags with too many valuables. This is because only a select handful of cenotes in the Yucatan offer lockers, and you’ll have to pay for the privilege of using them.
Here are some more things you shouldn’t bring.
- Cameras and drones – this one is subjective, and I brought my camera to several cenotes. However, you usually have to pay to bring “professional” cameras in. Locals will deem anything larger than a GoPro as “professional”. The price varies but it’s generally more than the entrance ticket!
- Sunscreen and lotions – the ecosystems within the cenotes are very delicate. As a result, sunscreen and creams/insect repellant is banned from all cenotes in Mexico. Locals will enforce this rule.
Related: Best Camera Gear for Travel
Where to Stay in Tulum For Cenote Trips
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!
Mexico Cenote FAQs
Yes, all cenotes in Mexico require that visitors shower first to avoid bringing in any chemicals left on your body from deodorants, perfumes, and lotions. This reduces your impact on the natural ecosystems
Cenotes are natural sinkholes filled with fresh rain water and are caused by erosion.
There are over 6000 cenotes. However, most of these are very small and/or hardly ever visited
The most convenient way to swim in cenotes is to book a day trip from Tulum. Otherwise, you can take local transport like taxi drivers or colectivos, or rent your own car or motorbike. There are even some cenotes within walking distance from the center of town.
No, you can visit most cenotes without a guide.
Avoid swallowing water as it is definitely not safe to drink. Also, as with any large body of water, you should also be a confident swimmer if you plan to swim without using life jackets.
The sinkholes near Tulum range from pond cenotes with shallow waters of just 2 meters, to 100 meter+ underwater caverns and tunnels.
The fresh water of the Mexican cenotes is usually fairly stable and sits between 25 and 27 degrees C (75 – 80 F)
Yes, there are plenty of small freshwater fish and even turtles who call the Yucatan’s cenote systems home!
This is difficult to answer as it’ll depend on what you’re interested in doing. My top three best cenotes in Tulum are Cenote Calavera, CEnote Encantado, and Cenote Dos Ojos.
Other Cenotes Near Tulum
Not satisfied with a huge list of 20 Tulum Cenotes? Okay, if you’re looking for even more, here’s another handful. I’ve not visited these ones personally, so I can’t comment much on them!
- Cenote Choo Ha
- Cenote Xunaan ha
- Cenote Tanka
- Cenotes Casa Tortuga
- Cenote Jaguar
- Cenote Angelita
More Travel & Adventure Inspiration from Mexico
I hope you’ve enjoyed this comprehensive travel guide to visiting the best cenotes in Tulum and the Yucatan Peninsula!
While you’re here on my blog, make sure to check out some of my other detailed guides. You’ll find loads more inspiration for your upcoming trip.