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How to Visit the Gran Cenote in Tulum (2024)

How to Visit the Gran Cenote in Tulum (2024)

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.

Discover Gran Cenote, the most popular cenote in Tulum. Learn how to get here, the (updated) costs, what you can and cannot bring, and what to expect!

The Yucatan Region of Mexico is known, among other things, as the cenote capital of the world. In fact, there are over 6,000 cenotes, or natural, fresh-water-filled sinkholes to explore! One of the most famous and well-known is the Gran Cenote, located close to the tourist hub of Tulum.

There are loads of travel guides to the Gran Cenote but many are outdated with incorrect prices and information. Therefore, I’ve written this useful travel guide on everything you need to know to visit this awesome natural, clear-water sinkhole yourself.

Key Points & Things to Know

Before I get into the detailed guide, here's a quick overview.

  • 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).
  • Location: Roughly 3.1 miles (5 kilometers) from Tulum Centro on QROO 109.
  • Best Tour: The Triple Cenote Tour including Gran Cenote, with hotel pickup, guide, and all entry fees included.
  • Transport Options: Taxi (approximately 150 MXN each way), scooter rental ($30-$40 USD/day), or car rental (I recommend in Tulum).
  • Entry Fee: 500 MXN per person (roughly $25 USD) life jacket and snorkel equipment included.
  • Opening Hours: Daily, 8 am to 4:45 pm, 7 days a week. I recommend visiting early or late to avoid crowds.
  • Facilities: Change rooms, outdoor showers (mandatory), toilets, gear hire for snorkeling, and lockers.
  • Vibe: Very scenic but being the most popular Cenote in Tulum, it can often feel a little crowded. Read my guide to more cenotes in Tulum for alternatives.
  • No sunblock: 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.
  • No ATMS: You need to bring cash with you for the entrance fees and fee for the locker (30 MXN) if you want to use them.

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 1,500 square feet (140 square meters) of swimming space. That's because the majority of the cenote is actually underground.

Mexico gran cenote tulum
Finding a quiet area of Gran Cenote to relax away from the crowds (location below)

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.

By Taxi

The second option is to simply pay for a taxi from downtown Tulum (Pueblo). The price should be about $150 MXN each way. You can hail one down anywhere in downtown very easily.

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.

Gran cenote tulum mexico

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 about $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.

Tip: 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.

Gran cenote mexico

Where Is the Gran Cenote?

The Gran Cenote is located approximately 3.1 miles (5 kilometers) 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.

Google Pin: "Big Cenote"

Big cenote map tulum
Tulum cenote

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My Experience Visiting Gran Cenote Tulum

As we entered, we noticed 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.

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 rent snorkel equipment and hire a locker for $30 MXN.

The worker will need to take your license as a "deposit" for this.

Gran cenote facilities
Entrance areas where you will pick up your life jacket (unfortunately compulsory)
Showers at gran cenote tulum
Outdoor shower near the entrance, also compulsory.

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 that 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.

Did you know? Cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula hold significant cultural and religious value for the ancient Mayan people. They believed that the cenotes were the passageways to the underworld and performed sacred rituals within them. Please respect both the cultural and ecological significance of these sites.

Turtle zone
Non-swimming area: Turtle Zone
Stairway down to the cenote
Gran cenote tulum
Gran cenote blue water pool

The First Cave

To the right, we found 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.

Swim-through cave at the gran cenote
Sinkhole cave in mexico

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.

Tulum instagram spot at gran cenote
Swimming at the gran cenote
Visiting mexico sinkholes

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 freedive through some of the narrow cave sections and get a closer look. I wouldn't recommend this if you're not a strong swimmer.

Underground cave at the gran cenote tulum
Second cave at the tulum cenote

Review: 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.

I had a great time here and I would recommend it, especially if you're willing to get up early to beat the crowds. In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful, after Dos Oyos Cenote.

However, if you'd prefer to swim in and explore a Cenote with less people, then others close to Tulum might be a better option for you. I recommend Cenote Car Wash, Cenote Calavera, and Cenote Escondido.

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).

Gran cenote cave tulum

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 exhilarating 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.

Scuba diving cenotes

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.

Iguana in mexico
Freshwater turtles basking
Freshwater turtle in mexico

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.

Gran cenote tulum blue water sinkhole

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.

Gran cenote map

Best Time to Visit Gran Cenote

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 8:10 am to 4:45 pm (the last entry is now at 4:15 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 Gran Cenote

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

Things You Can't Bring

  • Sunblock
  • Large cameras
  • Drones

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

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.

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.

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.

Tulum gan cenote cave1 1
Gran cenote tulum
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.