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Ultimate List Of The Best Cenotes in Mexico

Ultimate List Of The Best Cenotes in Mexico

When you think of Mexico, you instantly think of the gorgeous white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. But what if we told you there is even somewhere cooler to swim and snorkel in Mexico?

Put visiting a few of the best cenotes in Mexico on your bucket list. After lying on the beach in Playa del Carmen or Tulum for a few days, you’ll be ready for an adventure. There are over 6,000 cenotes in Mexico. Most cenotes are located in the Yucatan.

This cenote guide will go through some of the best cenotes in Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Merida, etc. We’ve included the entrance fees and address with linked maps to help you find all of these amazing cenotes.

Jump to info on Cenotes:

Mexico Cenote Facts

Wide Photo of Cenote Suytun near Valladolid Mexico - Large open cave with formations and large but shallow pool of water

Q: What is a Cenote?

A: The Yucatan Peninsula is home to more than 6,000 cenotes or sinkholes, thought to be formed by the meteor that killed the dinosaurs. These ancient cenotes have been a special place for many millennia. They were a source of fresh water and were considered sacred places for the Mayan People.

The Mayans thought these cenotes were the doors to the underworld and would often make animal and even human sacrifices here. Thankfully, the sacrifices have stopped today, but now the cenotes are a super unique geological and historical place to explore.

A cenote is an underwater sinkhole that is revealed after the cave roof of limestone bedrock collapses. Some cenotes are completely open while others are partially collapsed, leaving some of the cenotes underground like Calavera Cenote, and some even require several steps walking underground to access.

These sinkholes are very similar to small ponds. The water in cenotes is super clear and clean. It comes from rainwater that is filtered through the ground. Each cenote is different, so we suggest visiting more than one.

Q: How Many Cenotes Are there in Mexico?

A: There are over 6,000 cenotes in Mexico. The best cenotes in Mexico are located in the Yucatan.

Q: What caused the Cenotes in Mexico to form?

A: Cenotes are formed by underground rivers carving out the limestone caves. The open-topped cenotes are generally caused by trees breaking the thinned-out layer of stone with their roots.

While cenotes exist in other parts of the world, scientists believe the same asteroid that killed the dinosaurs created the extensive system of cenotes in Mexico. There is a visible ring of cenotes that corresponds with the impact of the Chicxulub Crater impact that started the mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs.

**Please make note that only biodegradable sunscreen should be worn. Do not apply any lotions or regular sunscreen if you’re going to visit a cenote. These lotions can be poisonous to fish and plant life. Many of the cenotes in Mexico will have signs reminding you. It’s best to bring biodegradable sunscreen with you, get it here on Amazon.

Best Cenote Tours

If you aren’t renting a car in Mexico and cannot drive yourself to several of the best cenotes in the Yucatan, the next best thing is a cenote tour. Several cenote tours in the Yucatan visit a handful of cenotes in one day.

If you’ve never been to some of the famous Mayan ruins, you should consider a cenote tour that combines Coba Ruins, Tulum Ruins, or Chichen Itza.

View from the viewing platform of Cenote Il Kil - perfectly circular and lush cenote in Mexico
#1 – Chichen Itza, Cenote and Valladolid 
Essential Experience
There is no better way to visit Chichen Itza, a cenote, and Valladolid (one of our favorite towns).
woman climbing out of Cenote Calavera on a ladder - One of the best Cenotes in Tulum and Mexico
#2 – 3-in-1 Discovery Combo: Tulum Ruins, Snorkeling, and Cenote & Caves 
Visit Tulum Ruins, go snorkeling, includes lunch buffet, swim in a cenote, and visit Xtun Cave. This is an action-packed day!
View from the entrance of Suytun Cenote with stalactites hsnging from the cave cenote ceiling
#3 – ATV Tour, Ziplines, and Cenote Swim 
Explore the Mayan jungle by ATV, then jump in a cenote for a little swim before heading off to the zipline!

How to Get to the Cenotes

woman standing next to a rental car in Cancun after picking it up from the airport

By Rental Car: 

The best way to visit the cenotes in Mexico is by renting a car. These aren’t really places you want to visit with a large group; they are best explored independently. Renting a car in Mexico can sound intimidating, but in the Riviera Maya, it is easy.

a couple sitting on the roof of a rental jeep in Aruba during a honeymoon
Explore on your own
#1 Tip – Rent a car in Mexico
Have ultimate freedom and save tons of money on tours with your own rental car! Don’t worry – It’s safe (we’ve rented 20+ times), the roads are good, and it’s easier than you think! We always rent from Discover Cars, it’s easy & they have the best prices.

We have a complete guide to walk you through the process. Our Mexico Rental Car Guide can be found here. For the best prices and free cancelation, we always book online here with

Having a car gives you the freedom to visit other nearby Riviera Maya attractions before or after a cenote.

By Taxi or Collectivo:

There are also several cenotes right off the highway near Tulum and Playa del Carmen, to which you can easily take a shared taxi.

By Guided Tour:

If driving in Mexico isn’t your thing, you can hire a private driver for the day for reasonable prices. It’s best to negotiate in person for the best prices. Another option is to join a group tour that is visiting cenotes. Many organized tours visit a cenote or two with a famous Mayan ruin like this  Chichen Itza, Il Kil cenote, and Vallodid lunch tour.

See more cenote tour options here 

Top 5 Must-Visit Cenotes in Mexico

1. Cenote Calavera

2. Suytun Cenote

3. Azul Cenote

4. Gran Cenote

5. Ik Kil  Cenote

Best Cenotes in Mexico

woman cliff jumping at Calavera Cenote - Tulum Mexico

Best Cenotes in Tulum

The town of Tulum along HWY 307 in the Yucatan has some of the highest concentrations of Cenotes in Mexico. The popularity of both Tulum and the cenotes has led to many of the cenotes being opened for visitors.

We’ve been to just about all of the best Tulum cenotes. Here is our mini guide to our favorites and all of the details.

Related Article: Things to do in Tulum

divingin Dos Ojos Cenote - Best cenotes in Tulum - Diver swimming with a flashlight during a cave dive

Dos Ojos Cenote

Dos Ojos is a must-visit cenote in Tulum. The entrance fee is rather steep, but there are actually several cenotes in the Dos Ojos complex. Some require an additional payment. If you’re a diver, this is a must-dive cenote.

two diver swim through a light beam in the El Pit Cenote near Tulum - Best cenotes in Tulum

El Pit Cenote

If you are a diver, you need to get to El Pit. It is frequently rated as the dive master’s favorite in Tulum and the Riviera Maya. This is one of the deepest known cenotes in Mexico and the deepest in the area.

What makes this cenote such a treat to dive in are the stunning beams of light that come into the narrow cave opening and penetrate deep into the cenote. Every time I visit Tulum, I am torn between diving into new cenotes or jumping back into Cenote El Pit. If you love underwater photography, you have to dive into this cenote.

El Pit is part of the Dos Ojos complex, and you enter via the same road as that cenote. There is no snorkeling in El Pit. This cenote is for divers only. This is because there is no shallow area of this cenote, and there wouldn’t be much to see for snorkelers in El Pit.

*When looking for the best price and the biggest selection of hotels in Tulum, check prices on We’ve found they are the best option and have a great cancellation policy.*

woman climbing out of Cenote Calavera on a ladder - One of the best Cenotes in Tulum and Mexico

Calavera Cenote

If you ask us, this is the best cenote in Tulum. After many trips to the Yucatan and visiting tons of other cenotes in Mexico, we love Calavera. This cenote is located just outside of Tulum. You could easily ride a bike there from Tulum Town.

It’s not on most tourists’ radar YET. None of the cenote tours stop here, so you will likely have it to yourself if you come early or in the late afternoon. We love the two holes you can jump in to access the cenote!

Snorkeling in Cenote Calavera is good, but there is also some fantastic diving. Calavera Cenote is also known as the “Temple of Doom,” as several animal skeletons can be seen if you are diving.

In addition to the historical artifacts, this cenote has an amazingly defined layer separating fresh and saltwater levels. Behind El Pit cenote, this was my favorite cenote I have dove.  Read more on Cenote Calavera. 

Tulum Packing List – Pack This & Not That

two divers swimming among the vegitation in carwash cenote near tulum mexico

Carwash Cenote

woman sitting on the deck of Gran Cenote near Tulum Mexico - One of the top cenotes in Mexico

Gran Cenote

Best Cenotes in Playa del Carmen

Located halfway between Cancun and Tulum, Playa del Carmen is a popular tourist beach town with its proximity to many of the top cenotes in Mexico. The best way to reach these cenotes from Playa del Carmen is to self-drive. Renting a car in Playa del Carmen is easy and the best way to explore the cenotes.

Many of the same cenotes near Tulum can easily be visited from Playa del Carmen as well. Here is the list of Cenotes that are close to Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Woman swimming in Cenote El Jardin near Xpu ha

Cenote Azul

Before or after visiting Cenote Azul, head over to Xpu Ha Beach. It is right down the road. It is one of our favorite beaches in the area. The beach is gorgeous and not too crowded.

woman with her feet in the clear waters of Cenote Jardin del Eden near Palay del Carmen and Tulum Mexico in an over/under photo via a gopro dome

Cenote Jardin del Eden

A favorite of many locals and ex-pats, Cenote Jardin del Eden is a large, clear water cenote. It’s the perfect place to cool off during a warm day in Playa del Carmen, with lots of shady trees surrounding the cenote. Here, you’ll also find a large deck and even a platform to jump in from.

However, we prefer the opposite side of the cenote because there are generally fewer people over here, and it’s very peaceful. In the middle, large rocks sit only a few feet from the surface of the water, which is fun to play around on.

Once you arrive here, you’ll see why it is called the Jardin del Eden or Garden of Eden in English. This idyllic setting with lush jungle surrounding this crystal clear turquoise-colored water is surely reminiscent of the biblical version of Eden.

Bring your snorkel, mask, and fins to explore this beautiful cenote. Also, do your part to keep this cenote clear and nature healthy by using biodegradable sunscreen or avoiding using sunscreen while in the water.

Cenote Chaak Tun

panoramic view of the open topped cenote and swimming area of Cenote Cristalino

Cenote Cristalino

Cenote Cristalino is right next door to Cenote Azul. If you have time, visit both!

dining table in Alux restaurant in Playa del Carmen - Cenotes near Playa del Carmen

Alux Cave Cenote Restaurant

You can even eat dinner in a cenote in Mexico in the popular tourist town of Playa del Carmen. This is a dry cave that has been converted into a restaurant. It’s one of the best restaurants in Playa del Carmen.

Woman standing in front of Chichen Itza in an orange dress

Cenotes Near Chichen Itza

inside of cenote Il Kil with light filling the catherdal style cave area of the cenote

Ik Kil Cenote

Several tour companies sell a combined tour of Chichen Itza and visit Il Kil cenote at the end of the day.

woman standing at the end of a pier inside Cenote Suytun near Chichen Itza Mexico

Suytun Cenote

Suytun is the best cenote near Valladolid, a quick ten minutes from town.  If you’re looking for the best cenote near Chichen Itza, definitely head to Cenote Suytun. It’s 45 minutes away.

Most tourists go to Il Kil Cenote and don’t even realize how close Suytun is. If you are renting a car in Mexico and driving yourself, we would suggest visiting both cenotes

Cenote X’keken

Cenote Samula

Similar to Suytun in style and a cracked top portion. However, there is no platform or pier to walk out on now, and it remains more natural-looking.

Cenote Hubiku

Cenote Zaci

Cenote Zaci is located right in Valladolid. We always suggest having lunch in Vallodid after visiting Chichen Itza, and you could easily walk over and check out Cenote Zaci while in town. This isn’t the most impressive cenote, but it is super easy to get to.

The Best Cenotes in Merida

Cenote Xlacah

Los 7 Cenotes

Los 7 Cenotes isn’t just one cenote.  Los 7 Cenotes is a whole-day adventure and experience located 80 minutes outside of Merida. Click here for more about Los 7 Cenotes and reviews.

Cenote Yax Bacaltun


Cenote Sambulá

Cenotes are only a small part of all the amazing things there are for tourists visiting Merida. Tourists sometimes overlook this up-and-coming city, but for those looking for a more authentic side of the Yucatan, head over to Merida. Check out our Merida guide here. 

Cenotes on Cozumel

If you’re vacationing in Cozumel or on a cruise that stops in Cozumel for the day, you’ll have to take the ferry from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen. Once in Playa del Carmen, you can book a cenote tour or rent a car in Cozumel. They are super cheap if booked in advance here. We used to live in Playa del Carmen and never paid more than $10 a day.

There are several cenotes near Playa del Carmen and even more cenotes in Tulum, only 45 minutes away. You could make a whole day trip from Playa del Carmen to visit some of the best cenotes in Mexico.

Best Cenotes near Cancun

Most of the cenotes in the Yucatan area are between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. We would not recommend many cenotes in Cancun. The best thing to do is rent a car in Cancun for the day or your entire trip and spend a day visiting the best cenotes in Mexico.

woman with her feet in the clear waters of Cenote Jardin del Eden near Palay del Carmen and Tulum Mexico in an over/under photo via a gopro dome

Things To Bring To a Cenote

Depending on the cenote, you don’t want to bring too much stuff as you’ll want to spend most of the time in the water. The most famous cenotes in Mexico, like Il Kil, will have lockers you can rent to store your belongings. If you come on a cenote tour or you rented a car in the Yucatan, leave unnecessary items in the car.

1. Biodegradable sunscreen

The number one thing to bring to a cenote is biodegradable sunscreen. Regular sunscreen is not allowed in cenotes. You’ll see signs posted all over the cenotes. Regular lotions are not healthy for plants and fish in the cenotes or the ocean. Wear biodegradable sunscreen in the cenotes (since it’s a small space) and, if you can afford it, also in the ocean.

2. Water Shoes

Having a cheap pair of water shoes for cenotes is always a good idea. Not all cenotes will use them, but you’ll be happy to have them when you do. Usually, the surface around the cenotes is rocky, uneven, and slippery. Some cenotes you jump in, while others you can walk in. Buy on Amazon Now.

3. Waterproof Dry Bag

A waterproof dry bag is great to have in general for any trip, whether it be the beach, cenote, hike in the mountains, etc. You never know when you’ll get caught in a rainstorm and need a place for your expensive camera, wallet, phone, etc.

A dry bag is great to just throw all that stuff in and then jump in the cenote. Buy on Amazon now. We have a backpack dry bag, so it’s easy to hike with and holds a lot of stuff.

4. GoPro

The best camera waterproof camera is a GoPro, and it should be in your bag for visiting cenotes. We also suggest a GoPro dome for fun over-under shots. Read our article on GoPro dome tips to get those epic shots.

5. Quick Dry Towel

Bring a quick-dry towel so that by the time you get to the next cenote stop of the day, it’ll be dry. If you’re like us, you’ll want to see several of the best cenotes in Mexico. This cheap quick-dry towel is also a sand-free towel!

two divers swimming among the vegitation in carwash cenote near tulum mexico

Diving In Cenotes

The best way to experience the cenotes is to dive in. Each cenote is very different, and most aren’t just a single sinkhole but connect to a vast underwater cave system full of chambers and swim-throughs. If you go with a licensed instructor, you only need a basic diving certification to dive in the cenotes.

A few cenotes to consider diving

Cenote Angelita – One of the most fascinating dives with a thick cloud of poison to swim through (seriously). Read More on Cenote Angelita

Cenote El Pit – A cenote you could dive over and over and always find something new and amazing. Dive into this cenote for out-of-this-world pictures of light beams and stunning cave structures. Read more on El Pit Cenote.

Cenote Calavera  – By far the most fun starts to a dive with a 15-foot high giant stride into an amazing cenote dive —one of the best haloclines with a razor-sharp line separating fresh and saltwater. Read more on Cenote Calavera 

Aerial view of the Canal de Los Piratas during a Bacalar Boat Tour

Places in Mexico to Visit Before or After Cenotes

If you’ve got more time to explore Mexico, there are some amazing places in Mexico nearby you should check out. We highly recommend Isla Holbox and Bacalar if you have time. It’s our new favorite. If you can’t make it on this trip, consider them on your next trip. Make sure to check out some of our other Mexico articles to fuel your wanderlust.

2024 Isla Holbox Ultimate Guide – Must KNOW Travel Tips

photo of three posts in the waters with text written over "Isla Holbox" - featured image for Isla Holbox Island Mexico Travel guide

Is Isla Holbox worth the trip? YES! Holbox Mexico is one of the best places in Mexico to visit. Skip Tulum! 2024 Complete Holbox guide with things to do in Holbox, best restaurants, where to stay, how to get to Holbox, and more.

5 Things To Know BEFORE Renting a Car in Cancun

Renting a car in Cancun Featured Image

Don’t rent a car in Cancun without reading this first! Cancun car rental guide: driving in Mexico tips, common scams, what to do if police pull you over, best rental car company, and more.

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woman sitting on tree branch in a cenote near tulum - pinterest pin for best cenotes in Mexico
pinterest pin for best cenotes in Mexico - woman standing on a ladder at Cenote Calavera
Pinterest pin for best Cenotes near Chichen Itza Mexico - Woman standing in Suytun Cenote


Monday 8th of February 2021

Where did you rent a car for $5/day? The cheapest I found was 600 pesos/day. Is it safe to travel as a solo lady? Thank you, Bridget


Thursday 11th of February 2021

You can still find cars for $5/day, it depends on the length of the trip and availability. For a short-term rental if it comes with insurance 600 pesos isn't terrible during high season. Traveling solo in the Riveria Maya is generally safe, as long as you take normal precautions it's totally fine. We are here now, it's great.

Kristin Anderson

Wednesday 3rd of February 2021

Hi, Thanks for all this fantastic info about the cenotes! I’m traveling with my parents, husband and brother and his wife later this month. We like hiking but with our parents along we won’t be doing anything strenuous. Can you recommend scenic, easy hikes near cenotes or Playa or Tulum? We will have a car! Thanks!


Thursday 11th of February 2021

There isn't a ton of hiking opportunities in the Riviera Maya. Much of the land is private or just large expanses of thick jungle. A few things come to mind though - Coba Ruins is an expansive site with many temples and even some cenotes that are nice to explore by foot or by bike. Second is the Sian Ka'an Bioreserve, there are trails here. One trail starts at the Muyil Mayan Ruins that might be nice to try.


Thursday 5th of September 2019

Hi! Are there any cenotes that you’d recommend to be suitable for elderly people? I’m taking my mum to Mexico in November and I’m worried about slippery rocks and steep ladders. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!


Monday 4th of November 2019

Most cenotes have at least some stairs to enter the water. However, some are a lot easier than others. A few that come to mind are Cenote Carwash near Tulum which has very minimal stairs. Dos Ojos isn't too bad with relatively level ground getting to the cenote and you enter from a large platform. Hope that helps and that you have a great trip and get to see some Cenotes!


Wednesday 15th of May 2019

We went to Riviera Maya 1 week ago, it was very safe to drive around. We rented a car we visited Tulum, Chichen-Itza, Valladolid ( beautiful town) , Coba. Cenote Ilki and a Cenote cerca de Coba.We Stayed in Playacar in Playa del Carmen. A lot of police. It felt very safe


Wednesday 22nd of May 2019

Great to hear! Glad you had a good trip and car rental experience! Valladolid is an awesome little town! Thanks for sharing!

Mary McCauley

Tuesday 2nd of April 2019

Hello, My husband and I will be going to Tulum in May. These is our first time visiting Mexico. My question is, what travel place would recommend for excursion...for seeing the ruins of Chichen Itza?

Thank you, Mary McCauley


Wednesday 10th of April 2019

Personally, I would rent a car and do it on your own. this way you won't be on a big tour bus on a rushed time frame. You can also use the car to visit some cenotes as well. Renting a car is much easier and safe than most people realize - here is how we suggest doing it -->

If you aren't up for that I would visit a few tour offices in whatever town you are staying in a try to get the best feel for how the tour will be run and if it fits what you are looking for.