Here are some essential tips for visiting cenotes that will make your experience even better
Cenotes in Mexico are magical places. They are an excellent reprieve from the hot Mexican sun. They are also a great place to spend the day if the sargassum seaweed has taken over the beach. It can get pretty bad on some days, making it less than pleasant to spend the day on the beach.
During my last two visits to Mexico, there were days when the seaweed was awful. Instead of hiding out at the hotel pool, we ventured off to swim in cenotes. This is now one of my favourite things to do while in Mexico. Read on for ten essential tips for visiting cenotes to make the most of your visit.
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While there are tour companies that will take you to a cenote, unless you are doing an adventure tour that also includes zip-lining or riding an ATV, you can easily get to a cenote on your own. Visiting cenotes is one of my favourite cool things to do in Tulum and the Mayan Riviera area of Mexico.
There are hundreds of cenotes to visit so there will very likely be one close to where you are staying. We took a taxi to one as it was a 15-minute drive from our resort. You can always rent a car from a company such as Discover Cars if you know you want to drive around to several different cenotes.
10 tips for visiting cenotes
1. Bring Cash (preferably pesos) for the cenote entrance fee
The entrance fee for cenotes must be paid in cash. I haven’t yet come across one that accepts credit cards. The fee is always listed in pesos and it ranges from 100 pesos (~ $5 USD) to upwards of 350 pesos (~ $18 USD). Some of them will charge you extra to use a GoPro or fly your drone so be sure to bring enough cash with you.
You can research the entrance fees online, but I have found that the information online is not very reliable. I highly recommend bringing more pesos than you think you will need. One cenote cost 150 pesos to get in, plus another 150 for using a GoPro.
If you wanted to fly a drone they charged another 350 pesos. Needless to say, I skipped this cenote and went to another one. Most are simply 150 or 200 pesos for entrance, which is the equivalent of approximately $7.50 US or $10 CA.
2. Pack a picnic lunch
Cenotes are a great place to spend a hot afternoon, but most of them have no services and nothing to purchase. Since you likely want to spend a few hours here after paying to get in, I recommend bringing a picnic lunch with you. At the very least, bring snacks in case you get hungry.
Pro tip: if you are staying at an all-inclusive resort, my recommendation is to swing by the buffet and put together a few sandwiches before you head off. Grab some fruit and cookies while you’re at it. You can never have too many snacks.
3. Bring snorkel gear for swimming in the cenote
You can rent snorkel gear at some of the cenotes, but not all of them. The first time I visited a cenote I did not bring a mask or goggles with me and I really wish that I had. They didn’t have any to rent so I was out of luck.
There is so much to see in a cenote that you will miss if you don’t have a mask. I don’t travel with fins, but every time I visit Mexico I make sure to bring my mask and snorkel with me. One of the last times I went snorkelling in a cenote I saw tons of fish and two turtles!
4. Wear water shoes to protect your feet
This is a very practical tip for visiting cenotes that your feet will thank you for! Cenotes are sinkholes that are the result of the collapse of limestone bedrock. As a result, walking around cenotes can be very slippery. Wearing water shoes will improve your cenote experience 10-fold!
I forgot mine once and ended up buying a pair at the little store they had. My mistake cost me $29 USD but it made the day 10 times better. I have zero regrets buying them as I was able to fully enjoy my day at the cenote. Having made this mistake once, I try to always remember to bring a pair with me.
While swimming in them, the bottom can be rocky and it’s much nicer on your feet to be protected. Inside most cenotes, you will find ropes. These are to stand on so you can enjoy the views. These are another reason to wear water shoes.
5 More Tips for Visiting Cenotes
5. Use reef-friendly, biodegradable sunscreen
This is one of the tips for visiting cenotes that is entirely environmental and for the protection of the cenote and its wildlife. The ecosystem of a cenote is fragile and the chemicals in standard sunscreens are harmful to the wildlife species that live in cenotes.
You can purchase biodegradable sunscreen before you go, or at most stores in Mexico upon arrival. As most cenotes don’t have stores or stands that sell any, be sure to get it before you head there. Please respect the ecosystem and don’t use your regular sunscreen. It’s up to us to be responsible tourists.
6. Research the cenote beforehand
Some cenotes are above-ground, while others are inside caves. You can walk right into some, while others require jumping in or walking down a large staircase.
If you are claustrophobic, you should make sure to research the cenote so you know it’s above ground. Whereas if you love adventure as I do, then you’ll love joining a tour and belaying down into a hidden cenote.
On my last trip to Mexico, I booked my boyfriend and me on a Zipline, ATV, and Cenote Tour without looking into what type of cenote it was. It turned out to be one that was inside of a cave.
Let’s just say that I took my boyfriend out of his comfort zone that day! He reluctantly swam in it with the group, but it certainly wasn’t his favourite part of the day.
7. Leave your valuables at home
While some of the cenotes do have lockers, most don’t. Since you will likely be spending a lot of time in the water and not guarding your stuff, please leave anything of value at home, or locked in the safe at your hotel.
I always advise people to leave valuables at home and not travel with them, but if you have something of value with you, leave it in your hotel room.
9. Bring an underwater camera or waterproof pouch for your phone
If you have a GoPro, this is the place to bring it! Just be sure to use a wrist strap or mount it on a floating handle so you don’t lose it. I am constantly amazed by the video and image quality that comes from such a tiny camera. It’s honestly the ideal travel camera.
If you don’t have a GoPro or other waterproof camera, don’t fret, you can still capture great underwater photos with your phone. Most phones today say they are water-resistant or even waterproof, place your phone in a waterproof case.
8. Bring water with you to stay hydrated
As I’ve mentioned already, most cenotes do not have any services or items for purchase. Since you probably can’t buy any, bring lots of water with you so you don’t get dehydrated. When swimming in cool water, you may not feel thirsty, but you should drink water to stay hydrated.
When travelling, I always carry my refillable water bottle. Not only is it better for the environment than single-use water bottles, but it also keeps my water very cold. Personally, I love filter water bottles because you can add water from fountains and taps and it gets filtered as you drink it.
With this Lifestraw collapsible water bottle, you could fill it with cenote water! And since it’s collapsible, it’s the ideal travel water bottle. I love my LIfestraw bottle, but it’s not collapsible and now that I’ve seen this version I want this one too.
10. Don’t forget your swimsuit and a towel
Even if you aren’t a huge swimmer, you are going to want to dip your toes in and get wet. Some of the cenotes have tiny fish that will give you a free pedicure, lol! I couldn’t stop laughing when they were nipping at my toes.
If you really aren’t into swimming, I’d still recommend bringing a towel or blanket to sit or lie on to make your stay more enjoyable. Often, there isn’t anywhere else to sit other than the ground. If you are someone who gets cold easily, you may wish to bring two towels as the water in cenotes can be rather chilly.
Want to see more? Check out this reel I made after visiting Cenote Cristal and Escondido in Tulum. It will give you a good idea of what cenotes look like and what you might see swimming in the waters.
There are tons of cenotes in the Mayan Riviera, specifically around Playa del Carmen and Tulum. If your travels take you to Tulum, be sure to check out my helpful Tulum travel tips that are specific to this region in Mexico. I’ve also created an outfit guide for what to wear in Tulum.
If you’re the adventurous type, which I assume you are because you’re reading this post, then be sure to check out the Tulum Jungle Gym. This real-life Flintstone gym is the most fun and unique place I have ever worked out.
And there you have it, my ten essential tips for visiting cenotes. I hope you’ve learned a thing or two. Have you ever swam in a cenote? Let me know in the comments below which one and if you liked it.