Local knowledge mixed with visitor feedback has led to this selection of the best cenotes in Mexico being listed together. You may have visited cenotes before or you may just be looking to go for the first time, either way, this bit of information will help take your experience to the next level.

You might be reading this wondering what on earth a cenote actually is. What better place to start than with an explanation to clear things up for everybody?

What Are Cenotes?

Cenotes is the Mexican name for naturally occurring and naturally formed swimming holes. Typically formed by the collapse of the very porous bedrock, limestone, these holes make idyllic holiday locations and provide a beautiful place for people to swim and get back to nature.

When the rock falls away to reveal a cenote, a hidden world of subterranean groundwater pools are unlocked, almost as if you’ve found a new level on a videogame.

Most cenotes that are found in caves are home to fresh water that has been filtered to purity by the earth itself, meaning that the water has a superior clearness and wonderful purity.

Many of these cenotes are so clear that you can actually see the small fish rushing about beneath the rocks on the bottom and the plants that reach upwards.

Alone Or With A Group?

This question is one that you can only really answer for yourself, as it comes purely down to preference. There are many cenotes in Mexico that are easily accessible for the public, and so these could be good places to venture alone or with friends.

That said though, the security of going with a tour group is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Tour guides will be familiar with the best cenotes around and also with the safety guidelines at each of these cenotes.

If you’re a thrill seeker, maybe go it alone, but to be on the safe side, a group can offer an experience that is just as memorable.

What Should I Pack?

It should really go without saying that anyone visiting a cenote should bring swimwear, sunscreen and a towel with them. You might also want to bring some cash as some cenotes do charge for entry.

Don’t bring any jewelry or valuables though, lockers aren’t exactly strewn all over the place. Maybe consider investing in a cheap disposable camera so you can capture great photos of your trip.

Best Cenotes

What makes a good cenote for one person might not necessarily appeal to the next person, and so here are a few examples of the best cenotes that people can visit in Mexico.

limestone swimming hole

Gran Cenote

With snorkeling as the major attraction here, Gran Cenote in Tulum resembles a tropical beach straight out of a magazine. The only difference is that you are underground! The white, sandy shoreline leads you to descend through some gorgeous tropical foliage, making the out of water scenery and activities just as enjoyable as the time spent swimming.

If you’re only going to visit one cenote while visiting Mexico, you should definitely Gran Cenote at the top of your list.

great cenotes in Cancun area

Cenote Azul

The charm and allure of Cenote Azul, located in the Riviera Maya just south of Playa Del Carmen, has been compared to that of an old theme park. Tropical fish are easily noticeable, darting beneath your feet and for this reason bringing your own snorkel gear can lead to amazing sights and can be a great idea to ensure you don’t miss out on all the underwater magic.

For those people seeking a little more adventure, there is a small cliff that serves as an ideal natural diving platform. You’ll see people diving, somersaulting and backflipping their way into the crystal clear waters from here. While this cenote is definitely not one of the biggest in Mexico, it tends to stay on the quiet side of busy, even at peak tourist times.

It really is one of the best cenotes in all of Mexico, largely due to the fact that it is much less frequented than other larger cenotes, such as Gran Cenote for example.

top cenotes to visit near cancun

Cenote Samulá

With a reputation that reaches beyond Mexico, this cenote is regarded by some as being up there with the best cenotes in not just Mexico, but the world. Located in the town of Dzitnup, this cenote is incredibly photogenic and well recognizable.

The colored lights that pulsate throughout the enclosed cavern make this as much of a light show as it is a natural swimming experience. A sensory feast for sure!

Variety

There are so many cenotes in Mexico that there is bound to be a cenote that suits even the pickiest of people. Whilst they are usually found within enclosed caverns and caves, there are some cenotes which are nestled into areas that are a little less claustrophobic.

It can take a little more research, but for people who prefer to take the road less traveled, there are cenotes throughout Mexico which aren’t regularly visited, either by tourists or locals.

This is usually due to the location and accessibility issues, as well as occasionally due to safety concerns, and so any outing to some of these farther-flung cenotes should be done so with a lot of prior research and even a little local knowledge. Always make sure to put safety first.

Some people prefer the convenience afforded to them by some of the more popular cenotes. Indeed, some of these cenotes have become such big tourist attractions that their facilities have begun to resemble those of a man-made water park. We’re talking about things like changing rooms, refreshment stations and even places to charge your phone.

Safety

It’s always a good idea when swimming to follow a few basic guidelines. These guidelines are generally transferrable from one swimming location to another, but there are a few recommendations for cenote swimming specifically.

Given the remoteness of many of these locations, it is always a good idea to inform someone who is not with the swimming party of your destination and your expected time of arrival back home or back at the hotel. It is important to take things like insect repellent and a fully charged phone, as well as sunscreen and a change of clothes.

Finally, if you struggle to swim in a regular pool, cenote swimming is not something you want to jump into without getting the experience first. Even if you don’t plan on swimming in the cenotes, you can still have a great time. You can walk around and marvel at the beauty and be the designated photographer for your group.

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