Discover the magical world of Tulum cenotes! When in Mexico, make sure your travel itinerary includes not only visiting the Mayan Ruins, lying on the breath-taking white sandy beaches, but also some underwater exploration like snorkeling Tulum Reef and swimming in these natural sinkholes filled with the clearest water you have ever seen!
The best Tulum Cenotes to visit
Cenotes are common geological forms in low altitude areas like the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The cenotes around Tulum are some of the best ones! It is difficult to decide which one to visit because they are all unique and magnificent. With our post, we help you to decide which are the best cenotes for snorkeling around Tulum!
What is a cenote?
Cenotes are natural sinkholes formed by the collapse of porous limestone bedrock. Tulum Cenotes are attracting many tourists, photographers, and scientists who wish to explore these nature wonders.
The word “cenote” comes from the Mayan “tz’onot” and means abyss. Mayans believe that these natural wonders give people a gift: water, a vital element of life, therefore they consider them sacred places and the Mayans built temples around them. Today cenotes are more “commercial” than sacred places where locals and tourists gather, but they are still magical. Each cenote has its own characteristic, ecosystem, they are all different but connected at the same time. Most cenotes have fresh water which is not only very clean but also rich in minerals that are good for your body and skin.
Snorkeling or diving in cenotes is like being in a different universe. The amazingly clear water, underwater rock formations, and caves will mesmerize you for sure. For those who use to snorkel in the ocean only, cenote snorkeling is a great way to discover something new and observe freshwater species.
Note: don’t use chemical sunscreens in the cenotes! Some places already banned them because ingredients like oxybenzone have a negative impact on these fragile ecosystems. Respect nature, use eco-friendly mineral sunscreen and/or wear UV protection clothing instead!
Best 5 Tulum cenotes for snorkeling
- Dos Ojos Cenote: one the most famous cenote in Mexico. Snorkelers can explore the shallow area but it is perfect for divers too who can discover the deeper part.
- Gran Cenote: a very popular place just a few kilometers from Tulum. A good place for those who just want to sunbathe and swim, but once you are here why wouldn’t you try cenote snorkeling? Discover this unique system of underwater caves while observing fish and turtles! Keep your eyes open and you might spots bats too in the caves!
- Cenote Calavera: a semi-open cenote in the jungle that is visited by divers mainly, but its special characteristic makes it a great spot for a picnic, swim and little snorkeling too!
- Eden Cenote: surrounded by lush vegetation you will feel yourself than being in the middle of the jungle. A popular cenote that is great for snorkeling and for cliff jumping too. See detailed description below!
- Casa Cenote: Large open area, highly recommended for novice snorkelers or first time underwater explorers too! Keep reading for more info!
Note: Cenotes are on private grounds and managed, maintained by the owner/locals. They have opening time, usually from 8-9.00 am to 4-5:00 pm and some of them are closed on Saturdays or Sundays. Plan your trips accordingly!
Tulum Cenotes tour
While in Tulum, we realized that the best Tulum Cenotes are almost super busy with visitors, therefore we decided to search for smaller, less visited places to avoid the crowd. From the Best 5 Tulum cenotes list, we picked up three smaller ones (Casa Cenote, Carwash Cenote, and Eden Cenote). It seemed to be a wise choice because we don’t find enjoyable being packed like sardines and as the icing on the cake we ended up snorkeling with crocodile too! Exciting, isn’t it? Keep reading to know what Tulum Cenotes we visited and where we met crocodiles!
Carwash Cenote (also known as Aktun Ha)
Although Carwash Cenote is quite small, you will fall in love with it as soon as you arrive. We liked this place a lot! Thanks to the easy entrance, this spot is great for kids and for elderly people too. Snorkelers and swimmer can enjoy floating over water lilies and search for small turtles that are hiding between them. The shallow, clear water and underwater tree roots make Carwash Cenote a popular among underwater photographers too. Cave divers can join guided tours through a cavern. On the top of this, you might spot a small crocodile too! To do snorkeling with crocodile, you must be lucky since most of the time he is too lazy to get into the water! Search him chilling on the rocks (we found him just behind the water lily corner).
How to get to Carwash Cenote: located just 8 km from Tulum center next to road 109
Entry fee: 50 MXN, open daily
What to see: water lilies, fish, pond turtle, small crocodile
Tip: it is very close to Gran Cenote but smaller and less visited. When arriving to Gran Cenote you find lot of cars in the parking and suspect that it is too crowded, drive further on the road 109 approx 4 km to reach Carwash Cenote which might be less busy.
Casa Cenote is not an ordinary one since it is connected to the sea through a tunnel. Therefore it is a mix of fresh and salt water that makes the ecosystem unique with some special fish species that you don’t see in other Tulum cenotes. Big, open cenote, looks like a river indeed.
We really enjoyed observing baby fish hiding between mangrove roots and the best was that we spotted a small crocodile too! We didn’t know that there is a chance to see crocodile in Casa Cenote. It was a big surprise for us and also our first snorkeling with crocodile experience! Don’t worry, he is small and won’t be interested in you. Usually just lying on the rocks, but keep a safe distance for your own safety. Lucky ones might spot him underwater too when he is on a swim.
Best time to go early in the morning before bigger groups arrive. Divers sometimes stir up the sand resulting bad visibility. Since the Casa is connected to the sea, it is not recommended to visit when the sea is very rough because the current can be strong.
How to get to Casa Cenote: it can be found about 11 km from Tulum center. If you have a car, drive on the 307 road direction Playa del Carmen until you see the sign Tankah Inn. Then just follow the dirt road and you will find Casa Cenote. Of course, you can take a taxi too or use the local collectivo buses. The public bus will leave you on the Federal route 307, the rest you need to walk on the dirt track (15-20 mins walking, don’t forget to take drinks with you).
Entry fee: 120 MXN, open every day
What to see: mangroves, moray eel, fish, small crocodile
Special rules: extra 500 MXN for underwater camera, but GoPro and compact waterproof cameras are free
Tip: Casa Cenote is just 20 km far from the famous Akumal Turtle Beach and visiting these two places is absolutely manageable in one day as we did it. Spend the morning exploring Casa Cenote and head to Akumal in the afternoon where you can snorkel with sea turtles as well as having lunch at one of the beach restaurants.
A bigger open sinkhole which is usually busy due to its location, but thanks to the big size you won’t feel crowded. Nice laidback place to walk around and relax. Small snacks are available on site. Brave ones can jump from the cliffs, but stairs and decks are also available to enter the water. Lots of life to see while snorkeling among the algae covered limestone blocks. Eden Cenote is a popular place for cave diving too.
How to get to Eden Cenote: located 40 km from Tulum next to the highway 307. If you are with car, follow the signs and drive on the dirt track until you see a fence and a small building where you can purchase your tickets and drive further. If you arrive with bus or taxi, ask your driver to stop at the Eden Cenote sign and walk the rest.
Entry fee: 100 MXN, closed on Saturdays
What to see: iguanas and plenty of bird life around the place, interesting formations underwater created by roots and water plants, some fish of course
Tip: if you would like to explore more Tulum cenotes, you find two more very close, within walking distance to Eden Cenote: Cenote Azul and Cenote Cristalino.
We wish we had more time to explore more Tulum cenotes for snorkeling! Have you been to Mexico too? Tell us which cenote you liked to most!
Anett fell in love with the ocean immediately when she put her head underwater in the Red Sea back in 2010. Discovering megacities is not her style but getting lost in tiny coastal villages, capturing the beauty of the sea while snorkeling. Wherever she goes, she takes her mask, fins and underwater camera with her. She has a big interest in exploring the world’s last hidden underwater paradises and marine conservation. She hopes to inspire people to protect our oceans by sharing her underwater stories. Find her photos on @anett.szaszi Instagram too!