Complete and updated visitor’s guide to the Gran Cenote Tulum, Mexico. Find out everything you need to know including how to get here, the cost, what you can and cannot bring, and what to expect at one of Tulum’s best blue-water cenotes!
The Yucatan Region of Mexico is known, among other things, as the cenote capital of the world. In fact, there are over 6000 cenotes, or natural, fresh-water filled sinkholes to explore! One of the most famous and well-known is known as the Gran Cenote, located close to the tourist hub of Tulum.
While there are already loads of travel guides to the Gran Cenote Tulum, I noticed that many were outdated with incorrect prices and information. Therefore, I’ve compiled this useful travel guide outlining absolutely everything you need to know about visiting this awesome natural, clear-water sinkhole from Tulum, Mexico.
Featured in: Best Cenotes in Tulum
How to Get to Gran Cenote From Tulum
The first thing you’ll need to know about visiting Tulum’s Gran Cenote is how to get here. Below are your options with prices for each.
Best Gran Cenote Tulum Tour: Triple Cenote Tour (includes entry fees)
One of the best ways to get to Gran Cenote is to book this guided trip from Tulum. This is one of the most-booked and highest rated tours in Tulum 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 $40 USD alone and are included in your ticket.
The second option is to simply pay for a taxi from downtown Tulum (Pueblo). The price should be about $100 MXN each way. The only problem with this option is that there aren’t always taxis waiting at the Gran Cenote and you might need to walk the road or wait a while to catch one coming back from Coba.
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.
Booking a rental car through an online comparison site like this is usually cheaper and means you won’t have to leave your passport with a local shop.
Where Is it?
The Gran Cenote is located approximately 3.1 miles (5 kilometres) from Tulum Centro (Pueblo) on the QROO 109 (road to Coba). You’ll spot signs and a large parking lot on the right side of the road as you approach it. It’s very difficult to miss.
Expect a 10-minute drive if you’re on a scooter, motorbike or in a car. If you’re riding a bicycle, it should take roughly 30 minutes.
Below I’ve pinned the exact location which is accurate.
About the Gran Cenote – Tulum’s Most Popular Natural Sinkhole
The Gran Cenote is part of the Sac-Aktun system, which is the largest known system in the world. The max depth in this particular underwater cave is 33 feet (10 meters).
The Gran Cenote in Tulum is mistakenly referred to as the “grand cenote” or the “grande cenote”. As you might expect, this site is very big. However, what you probably don’t know is that the accessible parts (swimming areas) is not actually that big, with only about 1500 square feet (140 square meters) of swimming space. That’s because the majority of the cenote is actually underground.
Therefore, being the most popular Cenote in Tulum, it can often feel a little crowded.
Cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula hold significant cultural and religious value for the ancient Mayan people. They believed that the cenotes were the passage ways to the underworld and performed sacred rituals within them. Please respect both the cultural and ecological significants of these sites.
Gran Cenote Map
Below is a Gran Cenote map from ProDive which will give you a good idea of what to expect. If you’re only visiting to snorkel or swim, then you’ll be limited to the two main snorkel areas and the two swim-through caves featured in the map below.
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.
Gran Cenote Visitors Information & Price (2022)
Gran Cenote Tulum Price
The entrance fee used to be $180 MXN but this has now increased to $300 MXN per person in 2022. However, you no longer need to rent a life jacket as they are included in the entrance fee.
Gran Cenote hours
The Gran Cenote in Tulum is only open from 8 AM to 4:45 PM, 7 days a week. However, I’d recommend getting here early to avoid the crowds.
There are change rooms, outdoor showers and toilets near the entrance. You will be instructed to grab a lifejacket near the Cenote (compulsory). Once you take the short stairway down to the cenote, you’ll also find a gear hire hut where you can purchase snorkel equipment for $80 MXN and hire a locker for $30 MXN. The worker will need to take your license as a “deposit” for both.
Showering before swimming
To protect the sensitive environment within the Gran Cenote (and all others in the Yucatan), it is a requirement that you rinse off before swimming.
Sunblock or suncream (sunscreen) is prohibited and the guards will yell at you if they see you putting it on. This is to protect the ecosystems within the Cenote.
What to Expect at the Gran Cenote Tulum
As you enter, you’ll notice a large, cleared grass area which is a popular spot to relax and warm up after swimming in the Gran Cenote, which often gets cold if you’re in there for a while.
As we were eager to get in the water and explore the freshwater caves and sinkholes, we went straight down the stairs. There’s a large decked area which connects the two main swimming and snorkeling spots in the Cenote. You can swim all around this decked areas, besides the prohibited “turtle” areas beside the stairway.
The First Cave
To the right, you’ll find a large swim-through cavern connecting you to another large space. There’s a rope connected with bouys that make it easy to get through, even if you’re not a strong swimmer. There are a few bats circling about in the cave.
The second open-air cavern is a popular spot where you’ll find a famous wooden bridge and rail leading into the crystal-clear blue waters. This is a popular spot for people to take photos.
The Second Cave
The second cave in my opinion, is more impressive and fun to explore. It’s deeper and unlike the first cave, it only leads to a large, dark cavern. If you brought or rented a mask, you’ll discover incredible cave formations beneath you.
I was getting a little sick of the lifejacket so I decided to take it off where the lifeguard couldn’t see me. This way, I could free dive trough some of the narrow cave sections and get a closer look. I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re not a strong swimmer.
Scuba Diving At the Gran Cenote
Due to the beautifully decorated caverns and accessibility, the Gran Cenote is one of the best for scuba diving.
Diving at the Yucatan cenotes is one of the best and most exhilirating experiences you can have in Mexico. You can book a cenote dive trip on GetYourGuide which is rated 5-stars and one of the most affordable options from Tulum.
Wildlife at the Gran Cenote
Something I didn’t expect when visiting the Gran Cenote from Tulum was just how much wildlife I’d find here. We spotted plenty of freshwater turtles, both basking and swimming in the water, blue crabs, cave bats and even a large iguana near the grassed area.
Is Gran Cenote The Best cenote in Tulum?
This is something that many visitors and travelers to Tulum ask. In terms of popularity, I’d say that the Gran Cenote is probably the most popular. This is because it really is super “instagramable” with insanely blue water. However, due to that fact, it’s not necessarily the best.
Tip: If you’re not ready for cave diving but you’ve always wanted to try scuba, make sure to check out Casa Cenote (the best for beginners).
Don’t Miss: Cenote Cristal
Bringing Cameras & Drones to Gran Cenote Tulum
Unfortunately, you’re not able to bring “professional cameras” or drones to the Gran Cenote. If you did bring either one, you’ll have to keep it in your bag as the guards will yell at you if you get it out.
I’m not sure why this is, perhaps it’s because they don’t want this place to become a “photo spot” where people are lining up for an Instagram photo. However, you are able to bring a GoPro or take photos with your phone.
Most of the photos on this blog post were taken with a GoPro Hero 10 in a Dome Port. To try to get some more photos for this blog, I sneakily got out my R5 mirrorless camera when the guards weren’t looking.
Don’t Miss: Cenote Dos Ojos
Best Time to visit Gran Cenote Tulum
The best time to visit the Gran Cenote in Tulum is either early in the morning or later in the afternoon. The opening times are 8 AM to 4:45 PM, so if you’re planning a visit, try to get here when it opens or an hour or so before it closes.
We spent close to 2 hours exploring the caves, snorkeling and relaxing on the deck and on the grass area. However, you can easily spend half a day here if you’re looking for a place to relax.
What to Bring to the Cenote
Here are a few things that I recommend to bring when visiting the Gran Cenote in Tulum.
- Mask & snorkel – will save you money having to rent one
- Quick-dry reef or water shoes – the rocks can get a little sharp
- 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
Things You Can’t Bring
- Large cameras
Extra Travel Tips
Ready to head out and explore the Gran Cenote 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!
- Avoid touching the sandy bottom – this kicks up white silt and makes visibility poor for everyone else
- Visit early – this is one of the most popular tourist spots in Tulum and gets crowded. Try to get here at 8 AM when it opens
- Pack a small bag – 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 or a locker
- Don’t swim in the turtle area – avoid swimming here so that the turtles have a place to bask and relax.
- Avoid swallowing the water – bat-poo is the last thing you want in your body
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!
More Photos from the Tulum Gran Cenote
More Mexico Travel Guides & Adventure Inspiration
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this comprehensive travel guide to visiting the famous Gran Cenote Tulum, Mexico. While you’re here on my blog, make sure to check out some of my other popular (and updated) guides to traveling in the Yucatan and Mexico.
Keeping my guides up-to-date and relevant is important to me. If you have any updates for this blog, please leave a comment below or contact me.