This month I’m sharing my family’s absolute favorite day trip with you. It combines the chance to explore a magical Maya archaeological site with the opportunity to swim in a cenote.

Because Mayapán isn’t a big name like Chichén Itzá, it doesn’t attract anywhere near the crowds of some sites. Truth be told, it barely attracts anyone, which is part of its charm. Here, your kids can run, climb and explore to their hearts’ content. This is the ideal place to let them discover their inner Indiana Jones, and let’s face it, shouldn’t every kid get to play at discovering an ancient world?

Once they’ve exhausted themselves, find a shady spot and enjoy a picnic (bring it with you, as there is nothing available on site). We often also take a cooler and some ice, available at all supermarkets and convenience stores for about $20 pesos per bag. That way when we’re done we have wonderfully cold ice to suck on and drop down our backs. You may think I’m mad but trust me! It’s a genius plan.

It is possible to reach Mayapán by bus, but to combine it with visiting a cenote, I recommend driving, or hiring a car and/or driver, as the cenotes aren’t within walking distance. You can grab a bus on the corner of Calle 50 and 67 in Centro, Mérida, or a “colectivo” on Calle 65 between 48 and 50, Centro, Mérida. You’ll need to flag down a passing bus to get home again.

Important note: If you’re driving yourselves to Mayapán, be sure to type in “archaeological site Mayapan” and not just “Mayapan” into your GPS, as the two aren’t the same thing. You don’t want to get that detail confused, trust me.

As far as cenotes go, you have plenty to choose from in this area. My kids are 6 and 4 and love cenotes . They are confident in the water and experienced cenote swimmers, and yet I would never let them near one without a life-jacket. Arm-bands or rubber rings are absolutely not OK. Cenotes can be incredibly deep. Both the deep cenotes I mention below have life-jackets to rent.

For the uninitiated, the small cenote in Telchaquillo could be a good first option. It’s five minutes from Mayapán, opposite the village church. It costs $5 pesos per person and is shallow and small. However, it isn’t a truly impressive cenote like Noh Mozon ($30 pesos per person), in the next village of Pixya, or Yaal Utzil ($20 pesos per person), 15 minutes in the other direction. Both of these cenotes are accessed via steep and rickety staircases down to small ledges just above the water. Hold those little hands tightly but don’t miss this experience!

Reaching Noh Mozon is an adventure in itself. Head to the village of Pixya and drive on through it. At some point you’ll need to accept a guide as you won’t find the cenote without one. People will approach you as soon as you get to the village. Follow the guide off the road and through the jungle for 20 minutes until you reach a guy taking fees and renting life-jackets. Now, drive a little further until you finally arrive at the cenote.

Yaal Utzil is on the way to Abalá. It isn’t as difficult to find.

If you’re cake lovers, take a detour on the way home to hit up Pavoni Cool Cakes in the north of the city for a little something to recover your energy levels!

Editorial and photos by Cassie Pearse for Yucatán Today’s use

 

Download the map of the Yucatán Peninsula:

 

More adventures for kids: