The geography of the Yucatan Peninsula is like a large flat pancake made up of mostly porous limestone. This flat karst landscape is near devoid of ground water sources until one gets further south where rivers and lagoons begin to populate the land.

This geology lends itself to the prevalence of a multitude of sinkholes or cenotes. These are spots where the ceilings of limestone caverns have collapsed, exposing the underground fresh water systems.

A cenote can be little more than a narrow cave like opening providing access to the underground water or may be a large crater like aperture open to the sky. Cenotes have traditionally been a freshwater source for the Maya and are still in use today by Yucatecans for this precious resource. Cenotes also hold a spiritual purpose to the Mayan people.

There are thousands of cenotes across the Yucatan Peninsula with many accessible to the traveler for exploring, swimming and scuba diving. The water is remarkably clear because it has been filtered through the limestone and contains little or no sediment. As a result the water is very turquoise in colour. They are a wonderful place to visit picnic and swim, while finding cool relief from the heat of the tropical sun.

Azul, Cristalino & El Jardin de Eden (Quintanna Roo State)

Just south of Playa del Carmen is a trio of Cenotes right beside Highway 307. They are all very beautiful with clear azure water and very un-commercialized. Azul is very popular with the local Mexican people who frequent it with their families, especially on Sunday while Eden is popular with divers because of its extensive underground cave system. All three are a wonderful place to spend the afternoon splashing in the cool water and resting in the surrounding jungle.

Yax-Kin (Quintana Roo State)

South of the Xelha adventure park there is a small palapa type hut on the right side of Hwy 307 which is the entrance for this beautiful cenote. A short drive down a dirt road brings you to the trailhead for access to this cenote. The grounds are very well kept and have been naturally developed to provide access to the water with areas to relax and lounge at the water’s edge. It reminds one of a tropical lagoon or oasis. There are areas to bbq and picnic.


Xunaan-Ha (Quintana Roo State)
South of Akumal there is a small, out of the way cenote near the village of Chemuyil. Take the exit for Chemuyil and drive through the quaint village until the pavement turns to dirt and shortly you will find the turn for Xunaan-Ha cenote. It is a quiet peaceful spot in the jungle where the clear blue waters are surrounded by ferns. There is a platform for jumping off and ladders to get out.

Zona de Cenote (Quintana Roo State)

On the west side of Highway 307 from Puerto Morelos traveling towards Vallarta is the Zona de Cenotes. Along this secondary road are several remote and lesser visited cenotes. At the time of writing only one has been visited by the writer. Stay tuned for more updates.

Rancho La Noria

This cenote is off the highway and down a rather bumpy and undulating road through the jungle which is passable by car, albeit at a very slow speed. The cenote is located on a private farm but is open to the public for a small fee. There is a covered area for lunching and the owners are very pleasant and polite (no English spoken). One enters the cenote through a small cave like opening in the ground and after descending via a ladder to a platform below it opens up into a rather large cavern. There are stalactites hanging from the ceiling and with birds and bats circling around one can swim in the cool waters. It is quite a unique swimming experience and very authentic. Check out the tree house beside cenote entrance.

Ik Kil (Yucatan State)

Just East of the the entrance to Chichen Itza is the cenote of Ik Kil. Wow what a swimming Hole! With vegetation growing around the rim of the cenote sending roots and creepers down into the opening below,  along with streams falling into the water below it is quite unreal. There are ledges to jump off of into the beautiful water.

This is a fairly developed cenote, with change rooms, restaurant etc, but is well worth the experience. Get here early to avoid the crowds pouring off the bus tours from the ruins.

Xlakah (Dzilbilchaltun Ruins, Yucatan State)

Just north of Merida, within the Archaeological site of Dzilbilchaltun, is the Xlakah cenote. This is lovely spot where one can cool of in the shade and water while exploring the ruins under a hot Yucatan sun. There a many little fish that love to ‘nibble’ on your toes and worn skin, quite therapeutic and ticklish!