Fresh, fun, and well worth a getaway in nature, these are some of the things that come to mind when we think about cenotes. They’re not lagoons or ponds. Cenotes are marvelous subterranean spaces that have been naturally flooded with limestone-filtered water. Some, if not most, are connected and yes, they also have subterranean currents.
You’ll find that they come in many colors, shapes, and conditions; no two are the same. Traditionally, there are three types of cenotes: open (exposed, not enclosed in a cave), semi-open (partially exposed), and closed. Some are very touristy, others are more rustic. Whichever you choose, cenotes are enigmatic, beautiful, and a window into another aspect of Maya culture: the underworld.
Cenotes and Xibalbá
The Maya believed that cenotes and caves were the entrance to the underworld, Xibalbá. Some have been studied for their archaeological remains – for example, the Sacred Cenote at Chichén Itzá – and others still have sculptures of their guardians. If you want to learn about myths and legends, a guide or the community’s locals can tell you magnificent stories. You’ll be amazed by what you’ll discover.
How to Pick the Right for You?
Now…where to go? Perhaps the most complicated question to answer, there are so many cenotes! And each one is more beautiful than the last. Some local favorites for their sheer beauty are Suytún with its central platform, Ik-Kil for its exuberant vegetation, the green corridor at Hacienda Mucuyché, and the cenote at Hacienda Oxmán with roots that descend into the water. The cenotes of Homún and Cuzamá are also known for being beautiful and as an ideal spot to play and have fun; Santa Bárbara has good access down sturdy stairs and a rest platform, making it ideal if you’re visiting with kids and seniors.
To shed some light on where to go, start by selecting a handful based on their location, accessibility, and how wild you’d like for them to be (are you looking for a cenote with amenities, or a more rural experience?). There are so many to choose from! Some have lockers, restrooms, and restaurants, which comes in handy when swimming works up an appetite.
The reality is that there are hundreds of cenotes in Yucatán, many have flirty signs on the road to show you where they are. Wherever you decide to go, explore with care, have as much fun as possible, and please enter the water free of sunscreen or insect repellent to protect the growing stone formations.
Homún and Cuzamá:
- Homún and Cuzamá are 15 minutes away from each other
- There are over 30 cenotes in Homún
- You can visit 3 to 5 in one day
- Get to know them by mototaxi, buggy, or ATV
- They are all beautiful and fun and for all skills
- Parador Santa Bárbara is especially good for small children and older adults as it has sturdy stairs and a rest platform at the base
- Hacienda Mucuyché, one hour south from Mérida
- Hacienda Oxmán, Valladolid
- Suytún, Valladolid
- Ik-Kil, by Chichén Itzá
- Hacienda Selva Maya, Valladolid
- Chichikan, Valladolid
- Hacienda Sotuta de Peón, one hour south of Mérida
Less busy options from Valladolid:
- You can visit 2 or 3 in one day, they are within 30 min. from each other
- Palomitas and Dos Aguas
- Sac Aua
Less busy options from Uxmal:
- Trio: Noh Mozón, Nah Yah, and Suem
Night tours available:
- San Ignacio, one hour west of Mérida
- Zazil Tunich, 30 minutes northeast of Valladolid
Within the city:
- Costco (Mérida)
- Zací (Valladolid)
At archaeological sites:
- Xlacáh (Dzibilchaltún)
- X’Canché (Ek Balam)
- Cenote Sagrado (Chichén Itzá, not swimmable)
Editorial by Olivia Camarena
Yucatecan communicologist. Your favorite Assistant Editor. Writer, blogger, and bookstagrammer in her spare time. She also experiments with TikTok.
Photography by Yucatán Today, Arturo Sánchez, Cenote Suytun, Melissa Trejo, Violeta H. Cantarell, Zazil Tunich, and Co’ox Mayab for its use in Yucatán Today.
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