Cenotes of the Yucatan

The Mayans referred to Cenotes as sacred wells and believed that they were gateways into the underworld. Mystic, surreal, and other worldly is how I would describe them. There is an estimated 6000 cenotes in Mexico and I want to explore them all.

The Mayans referred to Cenotes as sacred wells and believed that they were gateways into the underworld. Mystic, surreal, and other worldly is how I would describe them. There is an estimated 6000 cenotes in Mexico and I want to explore them all.

Dos Ojos was the first cenote I visited. The name means two eyes, each of which represents one of the swimming pools found there. One is crystal clear, bright blue, and filled with sunshine. The other is dark, cavernous, and filled with bats.

Dos Ojos was the first cenote I visited. The name means two eyes, each of which represents one of the swimming pools found there. One is crystal clear, bright blue, and filled with sunshine. The other is dark, cavernous, and filled with bats.

We hired a private guide (there is also a group option) to lead our excursion. Wetsuits (wear it - the water is cold), masks, fins, and lockers were provided to us. Our guide, Elizabeth, led us through a system of stalactites/stalagmites that connect the two pools. Without our flashlights we would have been swimming in complete darkness. For those who are claustrophobic or nervous being in a confined space, snorkeling or diving Dos Ojos is not for you. Some of the tunnels allow limited movement and the ceilings can be rather low with stalactites dipping down into the water. Remember to surface with caution and watch your head!

We hired a private guide (there is also a group option) to lead our excursion. Wetsuits (wear it - the water is cold), masks, fins, and lockers were provided to us. Our guide, Elizabeth, led us through a system of stalactites/stalagmites that connect the two pools. Without our flashlights we would have been swimming in complete darkness.

For those who are claustrophobic or nervous being in a confined space, snorkeling or diving Dos Ojos is not for you. Some of the tunnels allow limited movement and the ceilings can be rather low with stalactites dipping down into the water. Remember to surface with caution and watch your head!

My visit to Dos Ojos was surreal and dream like. It was the perfect blend of beauty and adventure. I hope to revisit again someday.

My visit to Dos Ojos was surreal and dream like. It was the perfect blend of beauty and adventure. I hope to revisit again someday.

When leaving Dos Ojos ask for directions to Cenote Nicte-Ha, access is included in your Dos Ojos entry price and it is well worth a visit.

When leaving Dos Ojos ask for directions to Cenote Nicte-Ha, access is included in your Dos Ojos entry price and it is well worth a visit.

Nicte-Ha is a serene oasis in the middle of the jungle. The water is a bright crystalline blue with vibrant lily pads floating throughout. As the only visitors, we were able to enjoy a refreshingly quiet afternoon swim. The only thing missing was a bottle of rosé!

Nicte-Ha is a serene oasis in the middle of the jungle. The water is a bright crystalline blue with vibrant lily pads floating throughout. As the only visitors, we were able to enjoy a refreshingly quiet afternoon swim. The only thing missing was a bottle of rosé!

Escondido means hidden and is a well kept secret at that. This beautiful cenote is located off highway 307 just past Tulum. Your entry fee is paid at the adjacent Cenote Cristal (see notes below). When you leave Cristal's parking lot go directly across the highway. There you will find an unmarked dirt road with a closed metal gate. Open the gate and drive through the jungle for about a mile and you will reach Escondido.

Escondido means hidden and is a well kept secret at that. This beautiful cenote is located off highway 307 just past Tulum. Your entry fee is paid at the adjacent Cenote Cristal (see notes below). When you leave Cristal's parking lot go directly across the highway. There you will find an unmarked dirt road with a closed metal gate. Open the gate and drive through the jungle for about a mile and you will reach Escondido.

Beautiful, lush, and quiet. Escondido is perfect if you are looking for a nice place to relax. It is also dog friendly for those with pups who like to swim.

Beautiful, lush, and quiet. Escondido is perfect if you are looking for a nice place to relax. It is also dog friendly for those with pups who like to swim.

There is 10-12 foot cliff jump and a rope swing, if you want to take a dive. This handsome fellow loved jumping off the cliff.

There is 10-12 foot cliff jump and a rope swing, if you want to take a dive. This handsome fellow loved jumping off the cliff.

Casa Cenote also known as Cenote Manatee is quite unique. It is a bright greenish blue lagoon surrounded by mangroves. The cenote is directly linked to the Caribbean Sea where a mixture of salt and fresh water creates interesting light effects.

Casa Cenote also known as Cenote Manatee is quite unique. It is a bright greenish blue lagoon surrounded by mangroves. The cenote is directly linked to the Caribbean Sea where a mixture of salt and fresh water creates interesting light effects.

In order to fully appreciate Casa Cenote you need at least a snorkel and mask (there are some for rent) as much of the beauty is found beneath the surface. It is also quite deep so if you are not confident in your swimming skills there are life vests available as well. Watch this video! Why didn't I rent a paddle board here?

In order to fully appreciate Casa Cenote you need at least a snorkel and mask (there are some for rent) as much of the beauty is found beneath the surface. It is also quite deep so if you are not confident in your swimming skills there are life vests available as well. Watch this video! Why didn't I rent a paddle board here?

I hope to come back and dive Casa Cenote one day. The underwater mangrove world looked magical and I only wanted to swim deeper.

I hope to come back and dive Casa Cenote one day. The underwater mangrove world looked magical and I only wanted to swim deeper.

 

Practical Information:

Cash is king. Small entry fees are required and cards are not accepted.

Invest in a snorkel and mask. Most places will have equipment rentals but it is nice to have your own.

Having an underwater camera or case makes all the difference. They are invaluable and worth the initial investment.

Biodegradable sunscreen and eco-friendly bug spray are a requirement at most cenotes. This is to preserve the natural environment and ecosystem.

Water shoes, although they are not chic, are practical. If you can stomach wearing them it will give you the ability to jump off cliffs, climb on rocks, and keep your pedicure perfect.

Go early or late because mid-day is peak time and will be busy.

Two cenotes to miss:

Zazil-Ha is located in the vicinity of Tulum. I found it to be over developed and way too crowded.

Cristal is also located a short drive from Tulum. It is included in the price of Escondido's entry (mentioned above) and located directly across the street. The water was stagnant and filled with algae. If I had known this prior to purchasing our tickets I would have requested Escondido only.