When in Mexico, going for a cenote snorkeling in Tulum is something that you shouldn’t miss out on! Make sure your travel itinerary includes not only visiting the Mayan Ruins, and 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! If you are interested, then let’s see what places we recommend checking out!
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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 natural 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 and 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.
Swimming in these unique places is like being in a different universe, therefore you shouldn’t miss cenote snorkeling in Tulum! 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!
What is the water temperature in the cenotes?
Since the cenotes are fed by underground rivers and their surface receives little to no sunlight, their water is cooler than the sea. Typically, the average cenote water temperature is 70-75℉/21.1-23.8℃, which may seem to be a bit cold for those who are used to tropical waters, but it will feel refreshing especially if you arrive during summer when the weather is hot and humid.
Wearing a wetsuit may be a good idea if you are sensitive to cold water or if you are visiting the area in the winter months when the air temperatures are some of the lowest of the year with daytime averages around 80℉/26.6℃ and night temps around 70℉/21℃.
In my opinion, April is the best month to visit Tulum. Winter crowds have left, there is little rain, lots of sunshine and more than 12 hours of daylight per day; these make it an excellent period for exploring Tulum and for snorkeling in cenotes too.
Best 5 Tulum cenotes
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, but here we feature 5 that are not only the most attractive ones but also excellent for swimming.
Dos Ojos Cenote
Dos Ojos is one of 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.
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 spot bats too in the caves!
It is 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, swimming and little snorkeling too!
Le Jardin del Eden
Surrounded by lush vegetation you will feel like being in the middle of the jungle when visiting Eden Cenote. A popular place that is great for snorkeling and for cliff jumping too. See the detailed description below!
This large cenote is highly recommended for novice snorkelers or first-time underwater explorers too! Keep reading for more info!
Note: Cenotes are on private grounds and managed and maintained by the owner/locals. They have opening times, 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!
Top 3 spots for Cenote snorkeling in Tulum
While in Tulum, we realized that the most popular Cenotes are almost super busy with visitors, therefore we decided to search for smaller, less-visited places to avoid the crowd.
Therefore, we picked up three smaller spots to experience how Cenote snorkeling in Tulum is (Casa Cenote, Carwash Cenote, and Eden Cenote). It seemed to be a wise choice because we don’t find it enjoyable being packed like sardines and as the icing on the cake we ended up snorkeling with a crocodile too! Exciting, isn’t it? Keep reading to know what the best Tulum Cenotes are we think you should visit!
Carwash Cenote (Aktun Ha)
Although Carwash Cenote is quite small, you will fall in love with it as soon as you arrive and we think this is one of the best places to go for a Cenote snorkeling in Tulum. It is located just 8 km from Tulum center next to road 109, the entry fee is 50 MXN.
Thanks to the easy entrance, this spot is great for kids and for elderly people too. Snorkelers and swimmers can enjoy floating over water lilies and searching for small turtles that are hiding between them.
The shallow, clear water and underwater tree roots make Carwash Cenote popular among underwater photographers too. Cave divers can join guided tours through a cavern. On top of this, you might spot a small crocodile too!
In order to experience how is it snorkeling with a 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).
Tip: it is very close to Gran Cenote but smaller and less visited. When arriving at Gran Cenote you find a 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 saltwater that makes the ecosystem unique with some special fish species that you don’t see in other places, and thanks to this unique feature, this place offers the most interesting Cenote snorkeling in Tulum.
This 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 crocodiles in Casa Cenote too. It was a big surprise for us too. 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.
The best time to visit this spot is early in the morning before bigger groups arrive. Divers sometimes stir up the sand which makes the visibility bad. 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.
Casa Cenote can be found about 11 km from Tulum center. If you have a car, drive on the 307 road direction of Playa del Carmen until you see the sign Tankah Inn. Then just follow the dirt road and you will find the 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, and the rest you need to walk on the dirt track (15-20 mins walking, don’t forget to take drinks with you).
The entry fee is 120 MXN and there is a special rule for cameras. You need to pay an extra 500 MXN if you want to bring a bigger 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 the Cenote and head to Akumal in the afternoon where you can snorkel with sea turtles as well as have lunch at one of the beach restaurants.
Cenote Eden is a bigger open sinkhole that is usually busy due to its location, but thanks to the big size you won’t feel crowded. It is a 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.
It is a very interesting spot with iguanas and plenty of birdlife around, as well as attractive formations underwater created by roots and water plants. Eden Cenote is a popular place for cave diving too.
Eden Cenote is 40 km from Tulum next to highway 307. If you come by 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 by bus or taxi, ask your driver to stop at the Eden Cenote sign and walk the rest. You need to pay 100 MXN to enter and the cenote is closed on Saturdays.
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.
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