Guide to Exploring Cenotes in Riviera Maya
It’s hard to picture a more idyllic way to spend a vacation than soaking in a cenote (say-NO’-tay). Though present in several regions of the world, these stunning landscape features are most closely associated with the Riviera Maya and the Yucatán Peninsula’s coastal aquifer system. Read our tips below to make the most of your time exploring cenotes in Riviera Maya.
What is a Cenote?
A cenote is a naturally occurring underground limestone cave filled with glimmering aquamarine. They’re formed as natural sinkholes when tropical rainwater mixes with saline groundwater, collapsing the surrounding bedrock, and creating a sunken, mineral-rich pond. These dreamlike pools, with their hazy, light-dappled effect, are very popular with locals and area visitors alike due to their beauty, and inviting cool waters.
A Lengthy History
There is ample paleontological evidence to suggest that cenotes were sacred landscape features to the ancient Mayans, and other tribal peoples of the pre-Columbian era. Not only were these pools some of the earliest sources of fresh, potable water, but many surviving archeological records of the era seem to suggest that cenotes were also ritually important, as they were seen as gates to the underworld by these early civilizations.
Choose Your Adventure
There are more than 6,000 stunning cenotes throughout the Yucatán Peninsula, so it’s helpful to begin your exploratory journey with some kind of a plan. For starters, it’s helpful to decide whether you’ll embark on a tour, provide your own transportation, or enjoy some combination of the two. There are several viable local tour companies in and around the Playa Del Carmen local area. Our team would be happy to help with recommendations.
Locate the Perfect Spot
Due to varying amounts of light, some cenotes are better for divers equipped with headlamps, while others are most popular among snorkelers and paddle boarders. Tulum’s Casa Cenote, for instance, typically draws those who wish to explore around the surface of the waters and surrounding jungle, while Dos Ojos and Gran Cenote appeal to divers who wish to see those fish who dwell among the deeper chambers and passages.
Also, it’s helpful to gather the necessary items before you embark. At all cenotes, it is recommended to wear shoes that adequately protect your feet, but are also waterproof. It’s advisable to make sure that you wear biodegradable sunscreen and/or insect repellent. If traveling with a camera, phone, or other device, remember to take a dry bag. If you forget to pack these items, many are available at local shops for affordable prices.
Avoid the Crowds
Cenotes have become quite popular attractions among visitors to the Riviera Maya, and for good reason. So we recommend that you pick your preferred spots based on the crowds they attract. Although it’s possible to circumvent the tour buses at the most popular cenotes (typically by arriving early or staying late in the day), you may wish to do a bit of advance research in order to plan visits to some lesser-known cenotes entirely.
Be Mindful of Nature
Cenotes represent nature at its most primitive and untouched. So as you prepare to experience the Riviera Maya, you should treat these natural attractions with the utmost respect. To whatever degree possible, avoid wearing non-biodegradable sunscreen. Follow camping rules, and “leave no trace” of litter, or other human impact. You may also be asked to keep down the volume, as loud or dramatic movements can startle the fish.
Where to Get Started
Looking to Explore some Cenotes? When staying at Mahekal Beach Resort, we recommend starting with Cenote Dos Ojos and Gran Cenote. Each is nearby to the resort, and offers visitors convenient tours. Other notable cenotes near to us you may want to consider visiting include Cenote Chaak Tun, Cenote Cristalino and Cenote Aktun Chen.
Reserve Your Stay at Mahekal
Ready to plan your cenote exploration escape? There’s no better place to stay than at Mahekal Beach Resort. We’re centrally located in Playa del Carmen just minutes from some of the area’s most popular cenotes. Plus, our exquisite accommodations, incredible service, on-site dining, spa and unbeatable location on one of Mexico’s most scenic beaches makes us an adventure unto ourselves. Take a look at our Special Offers page to check out our incredible travel packages. Then plan your getaway, and let the anticipation begin!