Do you want to swim in a crystal clear underworld of turquoise pools?
Cenotes are natural swimming holes resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. There over 2400 cenotes that have been studied and registered in the Yucatan Peninsula but there are thousands more to be found. The name cenote means “sacred well”. Mayans used these magical cenotes as a water source for sacred rituals. They would throw valuable items in the water as a sacrifice and yes, some tribes did use them for human sacrifice as well. Mayans believed that these sacred wells were the gateway to the afterlife so settled many tribes surrounding the cenotes to be closer to the gods.
Today, cenotes are a great place for a day of swimming, snorkeling or even cave diving. Cave Diving is underwater diving in water-filled caves which requires extra certification than your basic PADI Openwater Certification. The cenotes are considered “caverns” so there quite a few that you do not need a Cave Diving certificate to be able to explore. Cave Diving in the cenotes has become a very popular activity and was the number one reason we came to Tulum. We had seen those Instagram photos of people swimming in the cenotes and once I found out we could dive in them, I booked the flights the next day.
Diving in the cenotes should always be done through a PADI dive shop with a local Dive Master guide. The caverns are well mapped out so if you’re an experienced diver, you could get away with doing it with a buddy but it is best practice to go with a Dive Master. We had a great experience diving with Infinity2Diving Tulum.
We purchased a 6 tank dive package which included transportation to the dive sites, all entrance fees into the parks, all equipment, a guide, lunch and water. The way it works is you do two dives a day so you can pick to do your dives back to back for 3 days or you can do what we did and spread them out a bit during our week long stay. We chose to do our dives every other day so we could rest up and explore the other sites around Tulum.
We dove in 3 different cenotes: Casa Cenote, Cenote Carwash & Cenote Dos Ojos. We also did a reef dive which was stunning with beautifully healthy coral reefs and fish but we’re talking about cenotes so let’s get back to it.
Casa Cenote was our first ever cenote dive and it was a great experience. Casa Cenote is one of the cenotes that is not pure freshwater. A fun fact about this cenote is that there is a place where saltwater meets freshwater. There is a multitude of mangroves where in the depths of the water you see roots intertwining underwater and it is magical. There is a special visitor you may also get the opportunity to dive with in Casa Cenote, a shy crocodile that calls this cenote his home. A unique feature about this dive is halifax that is created underwater which causes a drastic temperature change and creates blurred visibility in the water. It was a surreal experience to be diving in crystal clear waters and all of sudden lose sight of the person 3ft in front of you. It was something I most definitely will never forget.
Cenote Carwash is a large open cenote filled with an underwater garden, turtles and if you’re lucky, a crocodile. Cenote Carwash is great for photographers. It has a massive cavern with lots of light coming through. This cenote was different than the others since the light was almost always shining through. The colors you saw were unlike anything I’ve ever seen. We spent our dive time marveling at the beautiful light reflections throughout the cavern. It is also a great swimming spot with a platform for adventure seekers to jump off of into the cenote. We could’ve spent hours here just relaxing and swimming.
Cenote Dos Ojos
Dos Ojos, otherwise known as “Two Eyes”, is a cenote with two varying pools of water. One pool is blue and clear where the other pool is dark and filled with caverns. This cenote by far has the most magical entrance of the 3 that we visited. The light radiating through the water makes the water so blue and crystal clear that you could stare at it for hours. This made us that more excited to hop in and dive the cenote. One of the most interesting parts of this dive was the stalactites. There were thousands of them throughout the cavern that you could use your flashlights to see. There was a special part of our second dive where we were able to ascend into a bat cave and see the stalactites coming down from the celing and the hundreds of bats napping in them. We loved our dive at Dos Ojos and would go back in a heartbeat!
If you are PADI Openwater certified or higher, plan a dive trip to experience these exquisite cenotes. If you aren’t scuba certified, come to the cenotes for a beautiful snorkel or to catch that Instagram worthy photo. Either way, seeing and swimming in these cenotes in Tulum is a bucketlist experience. Don’t delay your trip to the Yucatan any longer!
If have questions or you’ve traveled to cenotes you think are worth visiting other than the ones I’ve mentioned above, please let me know in the comments below.