Cenotes in Mexico

Mexico is home to some of the most unique and mesmerizing natural wonders in the world, and cenotes are no exception. These natural swimming holes are formed when the limestone bedrock collapses, revealing a hidden world of crystal-clear water and stunning rock formations.

Cenotes can be found throughout Mexico, but they are particularly abundant in the Yucatan Peninsula. The Mayans considered cenotes to be sacred and believed that they were gateways to the underworld. Today, cenotes are popular tourist attractions and offer visitors a chance to cool off and explore the natural beauty of Mexico.

Whether you’re an avid swimmer, a nature enthusiast, or simply looking for a unique experience, Mexico’s cenotes are not to be missed. From the famous Gran Cenote to the lesser-known Cenote Dos Ojos, each cenote offers its own unique charm and beauty, making it the perfect destination for anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and immerse themselves in the natural wonders of Mexico.

What are Cenotes?

Cenotes are natural sinkholes that are found in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. They are formed when the roof of an underground cave collapses, exposing the groundwater below. The word “cenote” comes from the Mayan word “dzonot,” which means “well.”

These sinkholes are filled with crystal-clear water, making them a popular destination for swimming and snorkeling. Some cenotes are open to the sky, while others are partially or completely enclosed by cave walls.

Cenotes are not only beautiful natural wonders, but they also have cultural significance. The ancient Maya considered cenotes sacred and believed that they were gateways to the underworld. They used them for both practical purposes, such as a source of fresh water, and for religious ceremonies and sacrifices.

Today, cenotes are a popular tourist attraction in Mexico. Visitors can swim, snorkel, and even scuba dive in these unique natural pools. Some cenotes are easily accessible, while others require a bit of hiking or even rappelling to reach.

What Is The History of Cenotes in Mexico?

Cenotes are natural sinkholes that are found throughout the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. These unique geological formations have been an important part of the region’s history for thousands of years. The Maya people believed that cenotes were sacred portals to the underworld and they played a significant role in their religious practices.

For the Maya, cenotes were not only a source of freshwater, but they also served as a gateway to the afterlife. The Maya believed that the god Chac Mool lived in the cenotes and they would often make offerings to him in hopes of receiving his favor. The cenotes were also used for sacrificial offerings, with many human remains being found in and around these natural wonders.

The importance of cenotes continued even after the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. The Spanish recognized the importance of the cenotes as a source of freshwater and used them to establish towns and cities throughout the region. The city of Merida, for example, was built on the site of a cenote and still relies on cenotes for its water supply to this day.

Today, cenotes continue to be an important part of the culture and economy of the Yucatan Peninsula. They are a popular destination for tourists who come to swim, snorkel, and dive in the crystal-clear waters. Many cenotes have been developed into eco-parks, with facilities for visitors to explore and learn about the history and ecology of these unique natural wonders.

What Are The Types of Cenotes?

Cenotes are natural sinkholes formed when the limestone bedrock collapses and exposes groundwater. There are five types of cenotes, each with unique characteristics. In this section, we will discuss the three main types of cenotes: Open Cenotes, Semi-Open Cenotes, and Closed Cenotes.

Open Cenotes

Open cenotes are the most exposed type of cenote, and they are open to the sky. These cenotes are usually shallow and surrounded by lush vegetation. Open cenotes are perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Some popular open cenotes in Mexico include Cenote Ik Kil and Cenote Xcanche.

Semi-Open Cenotes

Semi-open cenotes are partially covered, and they usually have a small opening that allows sunlight to filter in. These cenotes can be either shallow or deep, and some of them are connected to underground cave systems. Semi-open cenotes are ideal for diving and exploring. Some popular semi-open cenotes in Mexico include Cenote Dos Ojos and Cenote Chaksikin.

Closed Cenotes

Closed cenotes are completely covered, and they are located underground. These cenotes are usually accessed through a small opening, and they can be very dark. Closed cenotes are perfect for cave diving and exploring. Some popular closed cenotes in Mexico include Cenote Calavera and Cenote Nohoch Nah Chich. In conclusion, cenotes are unique and fascinating geological formations that offer visitors a chance to explore and enjoy the natural beauty of Mexico. Whether you prefer swimming, snorkeling, diving, or exploring, there is a cenote that will suit your interests.

Ik Kil Cenote

Ik Kil Cenote is one of the most popular cenotes in Mexico, located near Chichen Itza. It is a natural swimming pool with crystal clear water, surrounded by lush greenery and hanging vines. The cenote is 60 meters wide and 40 meters deep, making it a great spot for diving and snorkeling. Visitors can also enjoy the nearby restaurant and souvenir shops.

Gran Cenote

Gran Cenote is another popular cenote located near Tulum. It is a large, open-air cenote with crystal clear water and an abundance of underwater caves and tunnels. Visitors can swim, snorkel, or dive in the cenote and explore the unique rock formations and marine life. The cenote is also surrounded by lush jungle and offers facilities such as showers, restrooms, and equipment rental.

Dos Ojos Cenote

Dos Ojos Cenote is a unique cenote located in the Riviera Maya, known for its two interconnected sinkholes. The cenote is a popular spot for diving and snorkeling, offering visitors the opportunity to explore the underwater caves and tunnels. The water is crystal clear, and the surrounding jungle provides a serene and peaceful environment. Visitors can also rent equipment and explore the nearby ruins.

Suytun Cenote

Suytun Cenote is a stunning cenote located near Valladolid. It is a partially covered cenote with crystal clear water and a unique rock formation that resembles a natural skylight. Visitors can swim in the cenote, explore the nearby caves, or simply relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. The cenote also offers facilities such as changing rooms and restrooms.

How to Visit Cenotes?

Entrance Fees

Most cenotes in Mexico charge an entrance fee to help maintain the area and provide amenities. The entrance fees vary depending on the popularity of the cenote and the facilities they offer. It is recommended to bring cash as not all cenotes accept credit cards. The entrance fee usually ranges from 100 to 500 Mexican Pesos, which is approximately 5 to 25 US dollars.

Guided Tours

Guided tours are available for those who want to learn more about the cenotes and their history. These tours are usually led by experienced guides who can provide valuable information about the cenotes, the surrounding flora and fauna, and the local culture. The cost of these tours varies depending on the length of the tour and the number of people in the group. Some cenotes offer guided tours in different languages, so it is best to inquire beforehand.

Swimming and Diving Rules

Most cenotes allow swimming and snorkeling, but some may have specific rules and regulations that visitors must follow. It is important to read and follow these rules to ensure the safety of both the visitors and the cenote. Some cenotes also offer diving opportunities, but visitors must have a valid diving certification and follow the diving rules and regulations. Visitors are not allowed to use sunscreen or other chemicals that can harm the cenotes, so it is best to use biodegradable sunscreen or wear protective clothing.

Overall, visiting cenotes in Mexico can be a unique and rewarding experience. It is important to respect the natural environment and follow the rules and regulations to preserve the beauty and integrity of these natural wonders.

Preservation of Cenotes

Cenotes are an essential part of the Yucatan Peninsula’s ecosystem and cultural heritage. The sinkholes provide a source of fresh water for the region and are also home to many endemic species. However, the increasing tourism and urbanization in the area have put the cenotes at risk.

There are various efforts underway to preserve the cenotes and their surrounding ecosystems. One such effort is the Yucatec Cenotes Project, which aims to develop sustainable and interactive educational programs that explore the geomorphology, oral history, cultural, and archaeological significance of the cenotes. The project also works to promote conservation and responsible tourism in the region.

Local communities are also taking steps to protect the cenotes. In some villages, cenote conservation mostly involves protecting the pools from animals, while in other areas, efforts are being made to reduce pollution and limit the impact of tourism on the cenotes.

The Mexican government has also taken steps to protect the cenotes. In 2017, the government declared 57 cenotes as protected natural areas, and in 2019, the government launched a program to monitor and regulate tourism activities in the cenotes.

Preserving the cenotes is crucial for the region’s environmental and cultural sustainability. By working together, local communities, government agencies, and conservation organizations can ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the beauty and benefits of these natural wonders.


Mexico’s cenotes are truly one of a kind and offer visitors a unique and unforgettable experience. From swimming and snorkeling in crystal-clear waters to exploring ancient Mayan ruins, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

With over 6,000 cenotes scattered throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, it can be overwhelming to choose which ones to visit. However, some of the most popular and highly recommended cenotes include Cenote Dos Ojos, Cenote Ik-Kil, and Gran Cenote.

It’s important to note that while cenotes are beautiful and alluring, they are also fragile ecosystems that must be protected. Visitors should always respect the environment and avoid using any harmful products such as sunscreen or insect repellent that can harm the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

Overall, a visit to Mexico’s cenotes is a must-do for any traveler seeking a unique and unforgettable experience in one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders.

Mateo Sibila

Content Writer