Cenotes are one of the coolest features of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Dotted all throughout the region, there are thousands of cenotes open for tourists to visit. Since no person could ever visit every cenote in the Yucatan Peninsula themselves, we’ve done the legwork to put together the list of the 7 best cenotes in Mexico to help you plan a visit on your next trip to this beautiful country.
What Are Cenotes?
Cenotes are natural sinkholes that have filled up with water over time. Many of them date back thousands of years and were used for various purposes and rituals by the local Mayan people. Cenotes come in all shapes and sizes. Some are completely closed, like underground caves, some are partially closed and partially open, and others are entirely open like a lake or a pool.
While there are cenotes all over Mexico, the vast majority of swimmable cenotes can be found in the states of Quintana Roo (where Tulum, Cancun, and Playa del Carmen are) and Yucatan (where Merida, Chichen Itza, and Valladolid are). These two states combine to form the Yucatan Peninsula, which is one of the most-visited regions in Mexico.
1. Cenote Zaci
Cenote Zaci is our favorite cenote, and putting is at the top of the list of the best cenotes in Mexico was an easy choice. Cenote Zaci is located right in the heart of Valladolid, in the state of Yucatan. We love Cenote Zaci for its large swimming area, its beautiful waterfall, and its semi-closed cave-like feel.
One of the best things about Cenote Zaci is its location. Located right in the heart of Valladolid, this cenote is extremely accessible, and even walkable if you’re staying in Valladolid. If you’ve planned on visiting Chichen Itza, Valladolid is a great place to spend the night, anyway. If you decide to visit Cenote Zaci, be sure to grab lunch at the restaurant first! If you buy a meal at the restaurant, entry to the cenote is free of charge. The food is good, too!
If you haven’t heard of Valladolid, you should check out my Valladolid Travel Guide. Valladolid is one of the cutest and most welcoming towns we’ve visited in Mexico and deserves at least a day of exploring!
2. Cenotes Casa Tortuga
If you’re looking for some bang for your buck, Cenotes Casa Tortuga is about as good as it gets. While the price may appear steep at 500 pesos, or about $25, there is a lot of value behind that ticket price. With your entry fee, you get a guided tour of four different cenotes and then access to the entire complex after your tour. The tour is really cool, and the cenotes range from dark caves to open pools with swings and ledges to jump off of.
The grounds of this cenote complex have a hotel, a restaurant, and a long strip of vendors selling both artisan goods and street foods. The water in each of the open cenotes is crystal clear and you could spend a whole day here! Also, this cenote is located only a short drive from Tulum, making it extremely accessible. One of the best things to do in Tulum is going cenote hopping, and this is one of the places you absolutely must hit. For more tips for planning a trip to Tulum, check out my Tulum Travel Guide!
3. Cenote Calavera
Cenote Calavera is extremely unique, and was the first cenote we ever went to. In Spanish, calavera means “skull,” and the cenote is aptly named.
The cenote is entirely enclosed except for those three holes, and you can jump in through any of them.
The uniqueness of this cenote isn’t the only thing putting it on our list of the best cenotes in Mexico; the effort that the owners have put into the property really deserves some recognition. When we first visited in 2020, it was a very raw property that charged a lot of money and offered nothing but the cenote. When we visited again a little bit later, nothing had improved but the price had almost doubled!
We went back a third time in the summer of 2021, and the transformation was incredible. Beautiful paintings and designs lined the entire walkway, there is now a full-service snack bar and several lounge chairs around the cenote. Best of all, they lowered the price! The new management of the property has done a lot of good, and their efforts have made this Tulum cenote one of the best cenotes in Mexico.
4. Cenote Oxman
The next cenote on our list of the best cenotes in Mexico is back up toward Chichen Itza; in fact, it’s pretty darn close. Just about 20 minutes down the road from the holy city of Chichen Itza is Hacienda Oxman, a complex with hotel rooms, a pool, a cenote, a bar, and a restaurant.
We had heard good things about this place but had never actually been. Then on our second trip to Valladolid, Cenote Zaci was closed for reconstruction and we had to find a backup plan. Our driver recommended Cenote Oxman, and we were certainly glad that he did!
This is a really relaxing place to spend the afternoon in Valladolid, although it is located a bit outside of the town. I think it’s best paired with a morning at Chichen Itza. While the food at the restaurant isn’t world-class, it will definitely fill an empty belly. The cenote itself is really cool, as it’s located underground with just a little bit of light shining in.
To enter Hacienda Oxman, you can choose between different packages. You can either purchase just an entry to the cenote for a certain price, or you can purchase entry packages that include different amounts of restaurant credit.
5. Cenote Suytun
Cenote Suytun is one of the most Instagrammed places in all of Mexico, and its Instagram fame is what put it on this list of the best cenotes in Mexico. Kind of like what I mentioned about Cenote Calavera, the owners have done a great job building this place up and turning it into more than a pitstop for an Instagram picture.
Cenote Suytun is most widely known for the beam of light that passes through the ceiling of the cave and makes for beautiful pictures on the platform that juts into the water.
While that may seem like a long amount of time to wait in the cenote, the clouds come and go, disrupting the beam. Additionally, there tends to be a line extending far up the staircase filled with people waiting to take a picture. I have seen more than a few angry Instagram stars angrily waiting their turn.
Cenote Suytun can be a bit chilly to swim in, but it’s a refreshing exit from the heat of the Yucatan sun. This is another cenote right outside of Valladolid and is really a beautiful one to visit if you have the time. I’d personally recommend making sure that you do Cenote Suytun and then pick between either Cenote Oxman or Cenote Zaci for your second cenote of the day. I think three is a bit too many – you want to relax!
6. The Gran Cenote
The Gran Cenote is one of the busiest cenotes in all of Mexico and tends to be very crowded, but for good reason. The size and beauty of this cenote are what make it deserve a spot on this list of the best cenotes in Mexico. In recent years its popularity has begun to fade, as people have discovered the other really cool cenotes that Mexico has to offer. What made the Gran Cenote famous was the fact that it was the first cenote to be commercialized and become popular.
Even still, the Gran Cenote is very cool and very beautiful. It’s also a very well-designed place with great amenities on offer, making it a really great place to spend an afternoon without too much worry.
This is another Tulum cenote, and it’s located just a bit further up the road past Cenote Calavera. I wouldn’t put it at the top of the list of the best cenotes in Mexico as many other people do, but it definitely does deserve a spot on the list
7. Cenote Carwash
Cenote Carwash is another really nifty cenote that belongs on the list of the best cenotes in Mexico, if only for its relaxing qualities. This Tulum-located cenote isn’t nearly as busy as the rest of the popular Tulum cenotes and is a great place to just relax for an afternoon without too much hustle and bustle of other tourists. Cenote Carwash gets its name from local taxi drivers who traditionally used the water of the cenote to wash their cars over the years.
A unique feature of Cenote Carwash is actually the type of water in it – it’s brackish! This means that the water in Cenote Carwash is a blend of fresh water and salt water coming in from the Caribbean, creating a really interesting mix of marine life. If you have extra time on your Tulum trip, I’d definitely recommend checking out Cenote Carwash!
Thanks for reading my post on the 7 best cenotes in Mexico! I hope you have a great time visiting these extremely refreshing places. If you decide to go, let us know! Drop a comment below!