With some of the bluest waters you’ve ever seen, schools of fish, and an abundance of fun and exciting outdoor activities, Cenote Azul is one of the most popular attractions in the Yucatan Peninsula. In English, Cenote Azul is translated to Blue Cenote (sinkhole), and it gets this name for its stunning blue color with white limestone rocks just below the surface.
Although Mexico is home to numerous swimming holes and cenotes (the Yucatan itself has anywhere between 6,000 and 7,000), Cenote Azul is relatively unique. Instead of being tucked inside a dark cave or covered by towering stalactites and stalagmites, the top of Cenote Azul is completely open, which makes it more accessible for first-time swimmers and families. At 600-feet wide, it’s also believed to be one of the largest cenotes in Mexico.
Situated south of Puerto Aventuras (which is 20 minutes from Playa del Carmen and 30 minutes from Tulum), Cenote Azul is an easy day trip for many travelers visiting the Riviera Maya.
What Makes Cenote Azul Unique?
Despite having a large opening, there are still places where you can find shade if you need a break from the sun. The lush scenery surrounding the cenote has many vines and trees where you can rest and retreat for a few hours.
You’ll also find multiple pools of different depths. Which makes it one of the best cenotes for kids in Mexico. The shallow pools are great for kids or people who just want to chill and hang out without worrying about swimming. The deeper pools are better suited for more adventurous activities, like snorkeling or diving.
Because of its exposed opening, you’ll also have the possibility to go cliff jumping. There’s a platform where you’ll see thrill-seekers and risk-takers lining up to dive into the cool, refreshing waters below.
Cenote Azul is also known for its spectacularly clear waters, which are supplied by both rainfall and underground river. The waters are so translucently blue that you’ll quickly see how this cenote got its name (Cenote Azul translates to Blue Cenote). With conditions like these, “Blue” Cenote is the perfect place to go swimming, snorkeling, or diving during your trip to the Yucatan Peninsula.
History of Cenote Azul
Cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula play an important role in the area’s history. There are over 6,000 individual cenotes, many of which have existed for thousands, if not millions, of years.
Many archeologists believe that the cenotes were actually formed (in part) by the same asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. Over time the fractures in the limestone created underground rivers and through erosion, they formed caves and sinkholes, known locally as cenotes.
During the rule of the Mayans, these cenotes were used as a vital source of water. Other cenotes held more of a religious significance, and they were used for burials, sacrifices, and other worshiping ceremonies.
Reasons to Visit Cenote Azul
With so many different cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, it might be hard to figure out which cenotes are worth visiting. However, there are a few main reasons why you should add Cenote Azul to the top of your itinerary.
1. Easy to Reach
One of the biggest perks of Azul Cenote is its accessibility to the best places in the Riviera Maya, where most tourists stay. It’s located right off the main highway, which means it’s possible to visit for a few hours on your way to your hotel or another destination in the Yucatan. We always rent a car in Mexico and drive ourselves, make sure to read our Mexico car rental tips here.
If you’re staying in Tulum, Cenote Azul is just 30 minutes north. It’s a short and easy drive up the 307 highway until you reach Puerto Aventuras. Cenote Azul will be on your left once you arrive. From Playa del Carmen, Cenote Azul is only a 25-minute drive away along the 307, making it one of the closest cenotes to Playa del Carmen. Here is our Playa del Carmen car rental guide. We always rent a car!
There are also many other cenotes within driving distance, so you can check a few other places off your bucket list while you’re out. Cenote Chaak Tun, Cenote Chac Mool, Cenote Cristalino, and Cenote Jardin Del Edin are all within a mile or two of Cenote Azul.
There is also a Cenote Azul in Bacalar, which is worth the visit but two hours south of Tulum. If you are looking for an up-and-coming destination, we highly suggest spending a night in Bacalar.
2. Open Layout
Another reason to visit this cenote is because of its open layout. Unlike other cenotes tucked inside dark and mysterious caves, Azul is located in a large open space. If you visit a cave cenote, you’ll need to spend most of your time swimming or snorkeling rather than relaxing. However, the wide opening of Cenote Azul makes it more laid-back, so you can spend time lounging in the sun or hanging out with friends and family during your visit.
The large opening also makes it more accessible to kids, as there are many shallow pools where they can feel comfortable swimming. Even if you aren’t a big swimmer, you can still have a great time during your visit.
3. Tons of Outdoor Activities
Besides swimming, outdoor enthusiasts will have numerous activities to participate in during their visit. The varying water levels in the pools mean Cenote Azul is a popular place for snorkeling, diving, or just hanging out.
The snorkeling and diving opportunities at Azul cater to both first-timer, beginners, and experienced swimmers. With varying levels of water and many different pools to explore, there’s something for every skill level of snorkeling or diver in Cenote Azul.
4. Striking Scenery
The lush, tropical surroundings also make Cenote Azul a desirable place for a relaxing escape. The dense, green forest and rugged limestone rocks will make you feel as if you stumbled upon a hidden gem in the middle of the jungle (even if the cenote is located just a few feet from the freeway).
Although Azul can get crowded with both locals and tourists, it’s large enough that you should have no problem finding a private place to relax. With so many different pools and a seemingly endless number of possible activities, there’s always a place where you can hang out.
5. Natural Fish Spa
Some of the coolest things to see when visiting are the nibbling fish swimming around the waters. The cenote is teeming with small freshwater guppies, who will happily swarm your feet and nibble off the dead skin for you.
While their little bites may feel too ticklish for some people, the fish will leave your toes and heels feeling incredibly smooth. If you prefer not to have nibbling fish at your feet, then keep moving (they usually only start to nibble when you are standing still). Think of it like a fish pedicure – for free!
6. Cliff Jumping
As soon as you arrive, one of the first things you’ll notice is the group of people lining up on the platform to jump into the water. The main pool in the middle of the area is perfect for cliff jumping, as the waters are clear, deep, and refreshingly cool. The cliff is about 20 to 25 feet high, so it’s a thrilling jump for kids and adults. Even if you’re afraid of heights, you’ll love the excitement of soaring off the cliff and plunging into the deep waters below.
7. Family Friendly
Many other cenotes in the Yucatan are located inside intricate cave systems. That means you’ll swim in very deep waters in a dark setting. While these types of cenotes are mysterious and fun to explore, they aren’t suitable for kids or people just learning how to swim.
On the other hand, Cenote Azul has many different types of pools. Some are deep and suitable for snorkeling and diving, while others are more shallow, which is better for kids. If you’re looking to take your family to a cenote where you’ll feel safe letting them swim, then consider taking them to the tranquil Cenote Azul during your visit.
- Hours: Daily 8:30 to 17:30
- Admission: 120 Pesos per guest
- Get Directions Here
Snorkeling in Azul Cenote
Although many people come to Cenote Azul for swimming, it also happens to be one of the best cenotes for snorkeling as well. The large opening lets in a lot of light, which illuminates the crystal-clear waters, allowing you to see right through to the bottom of the pools.
While Cenote Azul has several pools of different depths, the shallow ones towards the edges of the limestone cliffs are best for snorkeling.
There are a few different types of fish that live in the waters of the Cenote. While snorkeling, you’ll likely see fish of all sizes, especially small guppies. Since this is a freshwater pool, don’t expect to find many rare species that live in the ocean. However, there is still plenty to look at while you go snorkeling.
If you’re planning on spending any time in the water, you should consider bringing water shoes with a good grip. The rocks leading into the pools can be covered in algae, which makes them very slippery and potentially dangerous.
Diving in Cenote Azul
Cenote Azul is one of the largest cenotes in Mexico, which means it’s the perfect place to go diving. Diving in a cenote is a very unique experience and offers many unique advantages over open sea dives. For this reason, many avid divers flock to the cenotes in the Yucatan.
Since there are several different pools of varying depths, it is a great place if you’re just learning the ropes of scuba diving. The maximum depth of the shallow pools is roughly 16 feet (five meters), so it’s perfect for beginners or intermediate divers. In terms of certification, you only need a level one Open Water (or equivalent) in order to dive in Cenote Azul.
In the shallow basin, divers can see a variety of fish, including catfish, cichlids, and Mollys. There’s also a very healthy and thriving plant life that is interesting to look at, including underwater vines, green moss, and algae-covered rocks.
More experienced divers can try the deeper pools, which are approximately 32 feet (10 meters) deep. Even at this depth, you’ll have clear visibility of 20 to 30 meters. There are some fascinating things to see at the bottom of the deeper pools, especially the intricate cave systems.
While snorkel equipment and life vests can be rented on-site, diving equipment is not available. That means you’ll either need to bring your own gear or rent it beforehand from a diving center. You can also book a cenote diving tour with a guide to take you around the different cenotes in the area (diving equipment and wetsuits are usually included with your tour price).
Equipment Rental Prices at Cenote Azul
To make the most of your trip to Cenote Azul, we recommend bringing your snorkel or swimming equipment with you. That way, you can spend less time (and money) trying on gear and more time exploring the breathtaking underwater scenery. However, if you do happen to arrive at Cenote Azul without any equipment, then you’ll still be able to rent gear on-site at the small shop.
If you want to rent a snorkel mask, then it’s around 40 pesos per person. While life jackets are not required for adults, they are recommended for younger or more inexperienced swimmers. If you do not bring your own life jacket, you can also rent these from the rental shop for 40 pesos each.
When you purchase equipment or life jackets, you will need to leave some form of ID with the shop as a deposit. If you do not have anything on you, then you’ll be required to pay a refundable fee of an additional 400 pesos (which you’ll get once you return the equipment).
Cenote Azul Rules
- You must shower before you enter the cenote. Someone is usually checking that you are wet before letting you pass to the swimming area. The shower water is pretty cold, be prepared.
- Wearing sunscreen is prohibited here. We suggest wearing a t-shirt while in the cenote and taking breaks from the sun.
- Drones are not allowed at this cenote
- Fins for swimming/snorkeling are not allowed
- No pets, No glass, No drinking alcohol, no smoking