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  • Writer's pictureMarielle Velander


Updated: Jul 14, 2022

Dive into the cool depths of Mexico's best hidden gems: the cenotes of Yucatan. I will share exactly how and why to find five magical cenotes to visit on your next adventure.

Last April I got to explore a new part of one of my favorite countries to visit, Mexico. The immense flavor of the food, the kindness of the people, and the diversity of landscapes makes it a fantastic adventure every time. This time I explored the Yucatan peninsula, and was especially excited to experience a cenote.

What is a cenote?

The word cenote comes from the wrong Spanish pronunciation of the Yucatan Mayan word ts’ono’ot (dzonot) which means “well with water

Cenotes are sinkholes developed naturally due to the soft limestone foundation of the Yucatan peninsula. This means that you get incredibly cool, fresh, clear water, surrounded by beautiful nature. While these sinkholes are called differently around the world, only in Yucatan are they called cenotes, drawing on the Mayan word “dzonot”, for water well. You can read more about their history and geology here.

Here are my top 5 cenotes that I visited on the trip:

💦Cenote Zaci💦 was one of my favorites - accessible, affordable, thrilling, beautiful. It has it all! Right in the center of the charming town of Valladolid, a few steps from the municipal market, I plunged into the depths from a 8-9m high cliff, swimming out to where the waterfalls looked like diamonds in the sunshine. After leaving to get some panuchos and sopa de Lima for lunch in the market, I went right back for more blissful swimming. Price: MXN 30.

🍃Cenote Hacienda Oxman🍃 was the first cenote I ever swam in, and it was a good one to start with. It was so much fun swinging into it on the rope that I returned the next day on my own, right when the sun was shining right into its depths, and refracting the light in the most magical way. Cost: 150 MXN

🗿Cenote Xcanche🗿 is really close to the impressive Mayan ruins of Ek Balam, which you can still climb (unlike Chichen Itza). For a package price I was able to rent a bike for the 10-15 min ride to the cenote from the ruins, zip line twice over the cenote, rappel into the water, and zip line twice into the water. Since it was right before it closed, I had it almost to myself. Cost: 300 MXN (all activities and bike included)

🌺Cenote Nicte-Ha🌺 was one of the most strikingly beautiful, which I visited with my friends from Tulum. It was like an underwater garden and we did some great snorkeling into some caves here. Cost: 200 MXN

🌱Cenote Selva Maya🌱 was the first cenote I ever saw, when it was full of tour buses returning from Chichen Itza. I returned early the next day though and had the whole beautiful thing to myself for a full hour. Cost: 150 MXN

Have you experienced the cenotes in Mexico? Which was your favorite?

Finally, here is some useful info for traveling to Yucatan:

  • Language: Spanish (try Babbel to learn Mexican Spanish specifically)

  • Currency: Mexican peso (when I was there exchange rate was 20 MXN = 1 EUR)

  • Tipping: tipping here is similar to as in the US, tip 10-20% depending on the service

  • Tap water: stick to bottled water

  • Local dish to try: panuchos de cochinita pibil

  • Local drink to try: agua de chaya

  • Local song to listen to: pair a stroll through the charming towns, beautiful beaches, and stunning nature of Yucatan with some romantic boleros, ideally while holding the hand of tu amor

  • Fun fact: According to Mayan beliefs, cenotes are considered the door to the underground world, the so-called underworld, which is just as much a place of life and rebirth as it is about death and loss. Mayans still hold ceremonies in the sacred cenotes, which is an important reason why you should use them respectfully and not leave any trash behind.

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