Yucatan Cenotes Mexico: This article features our top picks of the best cenotes in Mexico around Yucatan state – which includes Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Merida cenotes, Valladolid cenotes and more. You can also grab free access to our Yucatan Cenotes Map below.
Get refreshed in the stunning crystal waters of the Yucatan’s most enticing natural wonders: The Cenotes. A system of underground rivers connects over 30,000 of these natural sinkholes across the Yucatan peninsula. Visit hidden subterranean cenote caves, go cenote snorkelling, cenote diving (Scuba), or just take a swim in a bright, open freshwater cenote.
We’ve spent over a year exploring the Yucatan cenotes – Below, we’ve chosen 24 of the best, stretching all across the state from Merida to Valladolid. If you’ll be staying in Riviera Maya (Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Tulum) the Yucatan is well worth a visit – but we’ve also put together an article on the 34 best cenotes Riviera Maya.
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Yucatan Cenotes: Table of Contents
|Yucatan Cenotes Map (Get Free Access)
Merida Hotels (opens in new window)
Cenotes Riviera Maya: Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Tulum (Opens in new window)
Cenote Scuba Diving (Opens in new window)
Ultimate Guide To Merida Mexico (opens in new window)
Yucatan Cenotes Map – Free Interactive Map of Yucatan & Riviera Maya
Our interactive Google map overlay lists the exact (verified) location of all the Yucatan cenotes from this article – plus all the cenotes from our other two cenote articles – as well as many other points of interest/restaurants etc. for visitors to the Yucatan & Riviera Maya.
What is a cenote?
A Cenote is a naturally formed Mexican sinkhole – most of which are in the Yucatan peninsula. The word Cenote comes from the Mayan word “D’zonot”. Cenotes are sacred in Mayan culture. Places where Mayans would make offerings to the Gods. Mayan artifacts are still found today in the depths of some cenotes.
But Cenotes are just a point of entry. Water arrives to the Yucatan cenotes through extensive cave systems connecting cenotes all the way to the sea.
The Yucatan doesn’t have rivers above ground. So these underground waterways provide all the fresh water for the locals. Almost every Mayan settlement, including the famous Chichen Itza, was built near a cenote.
Why does the Yucatan have so many cenotes? Scientists believe that the dinosaur-killing asteroid that hit Earth 65 million years ago, struck the North of what is now the Yucatan Peninsula, forming the Chicxulub crater. This impact helped form the cenotes, along with millions of years of erosion, plus rising water levels after the last ice age which causes the caves to flood.
Types of Cenotes
Every cenote has a distinct personality all of it’s own. But to keep things simple, I’ll be classifying each cenote below within one of the following styles:
- Cenote Cave – These subterranean cenotes have very little natural light (Perhaps a hole or two where the sun sneaks in). The dancing bolts of light shining in to the cave can be beautiful! Others cave cenotes might have artificial light. The caves can sometimes be very deep below the surface.
- Collapsed top Cenote Cave – These are similar to the cave cenotes but where the central dome of the roof has collapsed in leaving a larger opening with light coming in.
- Open Cylinder Cenotes – These are cylindrical and fully open to the heavens. They typically have steep sides going down many meters to the water level. Like a circular sunken swimming pool. Steep access ladders and/or stairs are normally used to reach the water to swim.
- Fully open cenotes – these cenotes could easily be mistaken for small lakes. Access to the water is at ground level and easily accessible.
The basic price to swim in Yucatan cenotes varies from 20 pesos ($1 usd) to about 100 Mexican pesos. Special cenotes, tours and adventure activities are normally more. Any prices mentioned below are in Pesos, but are often changing, so are just as a rough guide.
You can’t wear ordinary sunscreen in the cenotes!
Almost all cenotes have banned the use of ordinary sunscreen because it damages the local ecosystem. To protect your skin you will need to buy Biodegradable Sunscreen before arriving in Mexico – it’s hard to find here.
Chichen Itza Cenote
Chichen Itza is the most famous Mayan Ruin in the world – in fact, it is one of the 7 wonders of the world. If you are visiting the region, you’ll probably want to take a tour to Chichen Itza. While you are there, you should definitely visit one of the Chichen Itza Cenote.
Cenote Ik Kil – Cenote Near Chichen Itza
One of the most famous and popular Yucatan cenotes. Cenote Ik Kil is a very deep, but open top cylindrical cenote. It’s proximity to Chichen Itza, and it’s natural beauty, have made it a choice stop for the multitude of bus tours that visit the area. If you take a Chichen Itza with cenote tour, chances are this is the cenote they will take you too. It’s been very well developed to handle the tourism safely, so is also good for families. It’s certainly worth a visit, if you arrive before 11am you can beat the crowds.
Yokdzonot Cenote Near Chichen Itza
The old ladies of the town of Yokdzonot decided to bring revenue to the local people by cleaning up the cenote and catching traffic from the main road leading to Chichen Itza. About 25 minutes to the west of Chichen Itza, Yokdzonot Cenote is a glorious large open cylinder cenote with blue-green water. 80 Pesos.
Cenote Chihuán is 100% underground cave cenote that is accessible from a local farm. This is a very non-touristy option which you will likely have to drive to yourself if you visit. White lights illuminate the clear blue waters. The cave is so long that we never managed to swim all the way to the end until we were plunged into darkness. Cenote Chihuán is about 50 minutes drive west of Chichen Itza.
Cenote Sagrado de Chichen Itza (Sacred Cenote)
Image: Cenote Sagrado
This is the Chichen Itza Cenote and is commonly confused as being the same as Cenote Ik Kil above – which it is not. Cenote Sagrado de Chichen Itza is the sacred cenote of Chichen Itza within the archeological Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins Site. It is not for swimming, just for photos. It played an essential role in supplying water to Chichen Itza back when the site was occupied by the Mayans.
Take a Tour To Chichen Itza from Merida or Riviera Maya & visit a cenote
(Or, Browse Tour Options on Viator – a TripAdvisor company)
Valladolid Cenotes Mexico
Valladolid is a Spanish colonial city in the heart of the Yucatan peninsula – about 50 minutes east of Chichen Itza. It was founded in 1543 upon the old Mayan city of Zaci – a name still used for one of the cenotes below. The city is worth a visit, or an overnight stay, to explore the architecture and culture, as well as the Valladolid cenotes.
There are some great cenotes near Valladolid – including the famous cenote Zaci one right in the centre of the city!
Valladolid Cenotes: Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman
San Lorenzo Oxman is one of the best cenotes in Mexico! It’s one of our personal favourites because it is a perfect example of the open to cylindrical style cenotes. It has perfect blue water, rather than the greenish water the open to cenotes sometimes have. Plus it has many tree roots hanging all the way down to the water. Best of all, above the cenote is an old restored Hacienda…
The Hacienda even has an outdoor swimming pool and restaurant/bar serving some traditional yucatecan food. It’s a non-tourist location and only 40 pesos entrance fee. This Valladolid Cenote is about 5-10 minutes drive south of the city.
Cenote Suytun Valladolid
One of the best cenotes near Valladolid (10 minutes drive east) for a cool photo pose! Cenote Suytun is an epic cave cenote with a defined light beam coming through a hole in the ceiling, and a man-made platform in the centre. At the right time of the day and year, the light will shine directly on the platform – let me know in the comments if you know when that is.
This cenote is popular with bus tours – we arrived Thursday midday and a big bus was just leaving. Contact the cenote directly for best quiet times to visit. 70 pesos.
Cenote Zaci Valladolid
A Valladolid cenote that is right in the heart of the city. It’s an open top, sunken cenote with lots of facilities for tourists.
Stay at a beautiful Hacienda style hotel just one minute walk from the cenote – a great base to explore Valladolid and the other Valladolid cenotes too. For something more budget, try Hotel Zazil-Naj.
Valladolid Cenotes: Cenote Agua Dulce
Image: Valladolid Cenotes: Cenote Agua Dulce
Cenote Agua Dulce is a huge, deep underground cave cenote near Valladolid, with a long spiral staircase down. Many tree roots and stalactites hang down inside. About 30 minutes north of Valladolid.
Cenote Xcanche (This is the Ek Balam cenote – near the Mayan Ruins)
Entry to the cenote & ruins is separate. The cenote is 2 Km from the parking lot. You can hire a bicycle or a bicycle taxi.
50 Pesos for Cenote Xcanache. More for a combined ticket to visit Ek Balam Mayan ruins too. About 40 minutes north of Valladolid.
Cenote Dzitnup – Which Is Actually 2 Cenotes: Cenote Samula & Cenote Xkeken (Xquequen)
Dzitnup is the name of the nearby town but the 2 cenotes are often referred to as Cenote Dzitnup in many guides.
These include Cenote Samula Valladolid (above)– An impressive cave cenote that used to have giant tree roots dropping many meters from the surface to the water – they have now been damaged but are slowly re-growing.
And Cenote Xkeken (above) – An underground cenote with natural light beams from the ceiling.
Also, a short drive from Valladolid are the Mayan ruins of Coba – and some cenotes nearby.
Merida Cenotes Mexico
Merida is a beautiful Spanish colonial city, founded in 1542. It’s also the capital of the Yucatan and is about 2 hours drive west of Chichen Itza. It’s a vibrant city with colorful nightlife featuring Cuban/latin live music all over the city and a compelling restaurant culture. We’ve spent over a year in Merida – read our Ultimate Guide To Merida Mexico for a lot more information on having a great visit to the city.
There are actually a quite few cenotes in Merida city itself. Most of them are not great for swimming, and some are considered a little polluted. It’s best to get out of the city and explore the cenotes near Merida.
Make Merida your base to explore the Yucatan Cenotes. See our top picks of Merida accommodation from budget to luxury.
Cuzama Cenotes (Cenote Chelentun, Cenote Bolonchoojol, Cenote Chacsinicche, Cenote Tzapakal)
Cuzama is a small town south-east of Merida. There are many cenotes around Cuzama, and they are accessible by taking a ride on the old plantation railway lines that cut through the jungle. Jump aboard your horse pulled rail cart and get driven to the various Cuzama cenotes. There are 2 main routes, each with 3 different stops (though stops might vary, so it’s best to take the list of names below and ask which you will visit.
Both routes have 2 good cenotes and one that is sub-par (in my opinion). See the best cenotes below!
Route 1: From the station north of Cuzama:
Cenote Bolonchoojol (above) – An underground cave cenote with a small opening directly above the middle of the cenote. Light shines down illuminating the centre. Access is down a steep wooden ladder.
Cenote Chacsinicche (Chak-Zinik-Che) (above) – A semi-collapsed cave cenote. Head down the long, straight stairs to access the platform where you can leap into the cenote’s inviting water!
Route 2: From the center of Cuzama town (Start location on the cenote map):
Cenote Chelentun (above)– This is a long cave cenote with a collapsed dome at one end, instead of the middle. Light pours in over the substantial man-made stone steps, filling the cave with light and making the water glow blue. The cave is so long it gets dark at the far end though.
Cenote Tzapakal (above)– This tiny cave cenote has a thin body of water at the bottom of multiple wooden ladders. But don’t let that tiny pool fool you – it’s 45 meters deep under the surface.
Cenote Tours to The Yucatan from Merida or Riviera Maya
(Or, Browse Tour Options on Viator – a TripAdvisor company)
Homun Cenotes (Cenote Santa Rosa, Cenote Yax Bacaltun, Cenote Canunchen)
Homun proclaims itself as the cenote capital of the Yucatan. They have at least 15 cenotes and are opening more. In fact, they opened 7 in 2017. Quantity is not always quality though… I’ve listed 3 of the best of the Homun cenotes below.
Cenote Santa Rosa – A deep underground cenote with almost no natural light getting in. It’s been lit with artificial colored lights. Great for a swim. On-site restaurant. 50 pesos.
Cenote Yax Bacaltun – Massive collapsed top cave cenote with a rope swing. Watch out for the bats! 30 pesos. Follow a track from the main road about 1km to reach this cenote. Don’t be distracted by a sign for an alternative cenote on your left on the way along the track.
Cenote Canunchen – One of Homun’s newest cenotes that has recently been opened. This is an underground cenote with perfect crystal blue water. 30 pesos.
Merida Cenotes: Cenote Xlacah (The Dzibilchaltún Cenote & Mayan Ruins)
Cenote Xlacah is part of the Dzibilchaltún Mayan Ruins site just north of the city of Merida. This Merida cenote is the closest popular, public cenote to the city. It’s a full open cenote with stunning turquoise water and green lilies. Locals flock here during the hotter summer months to cool off. The cenote is only accessible if you purchase a ticket for the whole ruins site.
San Antonio Mulix Cenotes (Xbatun Cenote & Cenote Dzonbacal)
The combined 50 peso ticket for the San Antonio Mulix Cenotes gets you access to two blue water cenotes.
X’batun Cenote (above)– This open but shady cenote has great colour and amazing reflections for photography. For swimming, it’s not so exciting, but at least you stay out of the sun.
Cenote Dzonbacal (above) – This open fronted cave cenote is not particularly exciting, but you may have the whole place to yourself at least while everyone else is enjoying X’batun.
Cenote Kankirixche is a semi-collapsed cave cenote. You have to drive a dirt track for about 1km to reach it. It’s typically quiet and only costs 20 pesos.
Cenotes Hacienda Mucuyche
Cenotes Hacienda Mucuyche is a restored (or currently restoration in progress) with 2.5 cenotes… One natural open fronted cave cenote (image 3), a man made mini riverway (image 1 & 2) and a full underground cenote (not pictured). The cenotes and hacienda are on private property and only accessible as part of a paid tour which you need to book in advance by contacting them via their facebook page.
Guided cenote visit and hacienda tour cost 400 pesos (does not include transport to and from the hacienda). They can book some pretty large groups, so best to ask for a time when you will not be overrun by another tour.
Stay in a Hacienda!
Speaking of Haciendas? Many of these old out of town plantation mansions have been converted into hotels. It’s one of the quintessential Yucatan experienced to stay overnight at a Hacienda. Learn about some of our top choices: 10 Amazing Hacienda Hotels In The Yucatan.
Our interactive Google map overlay lists the exact (verified) location of every cenote from this article – plus all the cenotes from our other two cenote articles – as well as many other points of interest/restaurants etc. for visitors to the Yucatan & Riviera Maya.
MORE CENOTES In The Yucatan Peninsula!
34 Best Cenotes Riviera Maya: Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Tulum (Opens in new window)
Cenote Scuba Diving (Opens in new window)
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