One of our favorite cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula is Cenote Calavera near Tulum. This unique cenote is great for both swimming and diving and is an easy day trip if you are staying in Tulum or Xpu Ha areas and even Playa del Carmen.
With names like Calavera (Which means Skull in Spanish) and “Temple of Doom” we had to check this place out on our last visit to Tulum. This cenote did not disappoint! A short walk from the parking lot located on the main highway, we found our new favorite cenote – and the best part is it starts with a cliff jump to get in!
Related Article: Your Guide to the Best Cenotes in Mexico
Calavera Cenote is located right outside Tulum on the road to Coba. It is one of the closest cenotes to the town of Tulum, yet it is still under the radar and quiet. If you’re renting a car in Mexico and driving yourself, it’s super easy to find, and there is a gravel parking lot out front.
We always got a rental car for under 20 a day and visited as many beaches in the Yucatan and attractions as possible. The freedom of a rental car adds to your trip. Click here to check rental car rates. We always book with DiscoverCars.com as they have the best rates and free cancelations.
*When looking for the best price and the biggest selection of hotels in Tulum, check prices on Booking.com. They are the best option and have a great cancelation policy.*
Hours and Cost to Visit Cenote Calavera
- Cenote Calavera Hours Open: Monday-Sunday 9:00am – 4:00pm
- Cenote Entrance Cost: 100 Mexican Pesos
- Calavera Cenote Dive Cost: 200 Mexican Pesos
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.
About the Cenote
Cenote Calavera is a ‘Cántaro’ or jug type of cenote where the roof of the cenote has broken away, revealing the water below, and the opening is narrower than the main cenote.
There is no dry place to stand inside Cenote Calavera. Once inside, it is full of water, and you must swim. The depth directly under the hole is around 15-20 feet (5-6 meters). To get out, they have installed a long ladder that brings you back out of the cenote.
Snorkeling in Calavera Cenote
Snorkel gear can be rented at Cenote Calavera if you don’t have your own. We suggest buying a cheap snorkel set like this for $15, as you’ll use it for snorkeling in cenotes, snorkeling with the sea turtles in Akumal, and snorkeling in the Yucatan.
Besides jumping into the cenote to cool off, you can explore the cavern’s ceiling and get a glimpse of how the cenote looks beneath the surface with a snorkel. Take care not to drop any of your gear because the bottom is deep; if you lose something, you’ll probably need a diver’s help to get it back.
We suggest using the GoPro floating handle if you’re jumping in with a GoPro. You can get them for under $10 on Amazon. If you let go of your GoPro, it will float to the top. This is what I used when getting the below photo. Another of our favorite accessories is a GoPro dome for those fun over/under shots.
Cliff Jumping in Cenote Calavera
Another fun aspect of this cenote is there are several naturally formed places to jump in from. There is one main large hole that opens up into the cenote and two smaller holes only big enough for one person at a time to jump in.
The main hole of the cenote is about 8-10 feet (2-3 meters) above the water line, making it a fun jump. The two smaller holes are just slightly higher and a bit more intimidating because you have to do more of a pencil jump to fit in the narrower hole. The smaller holes are still quite big and safe to jump into. Just watch out for divers surfacing and others swimming below.
Diving Cenote Calavera
While this cenote may look small from the surface, it opens up considerably below the surface. Arms of this cenote stretch deep under the surrounding Mayan jungle; however, most of the permanent dive lines run only the perimeter of the main cenote body.
Typically his cenote is dived in a series of loops around the main perimeter of the cenote, starting at the deepest level, around 16 meters, and working your way up with each loop.
One of the coolest features of this cenote is the very clear water, especially below the halcyon layer, which is very dense and defined. The halcyon layer is the point where the fresh and salt waters mix, and here in Calavera, it is very dense, making clear visible layers.
If you’re diving with a GoPro Hero 5 or 6, you’ll need to purchase a GoPro super suit. The new GoPro’s are waterproof up to 10 meters/33 feet, and diving in Calavera, the max depth for most divers, is 53 feet. We also suggest the SANDMARC prolight to add some extra light for better pictures.
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In addition to the halcyon layer, you also get some great light beams coming in from the holes into the cenote. Some of the best times to get light beams are from mid-morning until mid-afternoon when the sun is not obstructed by the trees surrounding the cenote.
Another thing you’ll notice when diving in Calavera Cenote is that the water appears green, especially in the area around where the cenote holes are. At the end of the dive, during the safety stop is a great time to get some photos of the light beams, which on a sunny day are very strong and pronounced.
Don’t miss the small ledge where there are bones and Mayan pottery inside the cenote. Toward the end of the dive, there is a small altar-looking ledge where bones and a few pieces of pottery have been left. Some say this is part of why they call it the temple of doom, although there are other stories.
Cost to dive Calavera Cenote: 200 pesos
The nuts and bolts of diving Calavera:
There are no tables for divers to assemble gear at Cenote Calavera. Most divers walk 200-300 feet (100 meters) from the dive parking to the opening of the cenote fully equipped and jump in from the rim of the cenote.
There are some rudimentary ropes to retrieve tanks and dive gear from the cenote. However, most divers climb the ladder with their gear. This dive is frequently paired with Carwash Cenote. On my two-tank dive, Calavera was my second dive of the day.
Recommended Dive shop to dive Calavera Cenote
I dove with Koox Diving and had a great dive. Most shops dive this site in the morning only, Koox makes multiple trips here, and we dove in the afternoon and had the site just about all to ourselves. My guide/divemaster was knowledgeable, and the equipment was in good shape.
Koox Dive shop is right in the heart of Tulum, we recommend them, and I’ll definitely do another cenote dive with them on our next Yucatan trip.
Related Article: Tipping in Mexico Guide
Calavera Cenote FAQ
Q: Why do they call it Cenote Calavera?
A: This cenote gets its name from the three holes in the roof of the cenote. When swimming in the cenote, looking up you see three holes that resemble a skull. Some imagination is required, but it looks super cool regardless of what shape you see.
Q: Why do they also call cenote Calavera the temple of doom?
A: Besides resembling a skull, there is a small ledge in the cenote you can see while diving that looks like an altar or small temple. There are animal bones and a few pieces of Mayan pottery on this ledge.
Q: How deep is Cenote Calavera?
A: The max depth for most divers is 53 feet / 16 meters. However, this cave system is huge, but further training is required to access other parts of the cenote system.
Q: Can you dive Cenote Calavera?
A: Yes, divers frequently dive Calavera Cenote. This cenote is among my favorites so far, with The Pit cenote being my second favorite.
Places in Mexico to Visit Before or After Cenote Calavera
There are more amazing cenotes to swim at and dive. If you want to get the full experience of a cenote, you should really consider diving them. A few of our favorites are Cenote Angelita for a one-of-a-kind dive through a cloud of poison (seriously). Or check out the amazing dancing light beams of Cenote El Pit!
If you’ve got more time to explore Mexico, there are some amazing places nearby you should check out. If you can’t make it on this trip, consider them on your next trip. Check out some of our other Mexico articles to fuel your wanderlust.
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Monday 5th of March 2018
This looks like an adventure, thanks for the info guys. I've yet to dive a cenote and think it would be interesting.