Most people come to the Riviera Maya for the white-sand beaches. They think of their holidays and picture themselves swimming in the clear blue waters of the Caribbean. However, the Riviera Maya has one of the most complex and exciting underground river systems in the world. And it is worth it to swim in these cool, fresh waters for a change. Cenotes offer a special, sometimes secluded, and certainly refreshing, spot to cool down. These are sinkholes that form when limestone collapses and leaves a hole, often filled with incredible turquoise water.
Cenotes: Mayan History
These natural features were important in Mayan history. Villages were often built around cenotes because they offered a source of water. The Mayans believed they were a gateway to the underworld gods and the afterlife. Today, they offer a beautiful sport to take a swim or dive, beat the hit, and explore underwater worlds that you can only imagine.
There are thousands – perhaps even millions – of cenotes, underwater rivers and systems in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. However, here are Top Mexico Real Estate’s top 5 favorites.
Cenote Zaci, Valladolid, Yucatan
Found right in the heart of the city of Valladolid, this cenote is a great option for anyone traveling back from Chichen Itza or Merida. While many cenotes are inside mostly covered caverns, this particular one is mostly open. The entrance fee is $30 Mexican pesos. However, if you decide to enjoy a delicious Yucatan meal in the attached restaurant, your entrance is free. And if you do, make sure to try the chocinita pibil.
Dos Ojos, Riviera Maya
If you are more interested in cave diving, then this cenote is an amazing option for you. However, it is also a perfect place just for snorkeling or dipping your toes. Does Ojos is named like that due to the two sinkholes that are connected via a 400-meter-long underwater passageway. These sinkholes resemble two eyes. It is located just 3 kilometers off the Highway 307, 22 kilometers north of Tulum and 50 km south of Playa del Carmen. Because it is one of the most popular cenotes in the region, it is slightly more expensive and its price varies depending on season.
Cenote Cristalino, Riviera Maya
This is one of those hidden gems in Playa del Carmen. While it has a large sign outside, it is rarely as populated as other cenotes on this list. Cenote Cristalino is a 20-minute drive south from Playa del Carmen on the Highway 307. The cenote is entirely open and does not have a cavern. However, the water is 6 meters deep, allowing enough to jump off the wooden platform located next to it. The entrance here is 150 pesos.
Cenote Jardin El Eden, Playa del Carmen
Just next to Cenote Cristalino, you will find a tourist-favorite: Cenote El Eden. Its name translates to the Garden of Eden, and it lives up to it. The cenote is open and its clear waters create the perfect place for snorkeling. The middle of the cenote features an area made of old bricks for people to rest. If you sit still, little fish will come and clean your toes of dead skin. These are the same that you would pay $20 USD for on Fifth Avenue. Except here you’ll pay 200 pesos and enjoy one of Mexico’s most beautiful natural wonders.
Gran Cenote, Tulum, Coba
Last, but not least, is El Gran Cenote, located near Tulum on the highway towards Coba. This is one of the top diving spots in the Riviera Maya. Although the name suggests it is quite large, it is actually made up of several smaller cenotes that are all connected by wooden walkways. The water here is so clear you can see fish swimming without even needing a snorkel. The entrance fee is 180 pesos, and you can rent equipment for an additional fee.
Cenotes truly are the door the Mayan underworld. They can open your eyes to the culture and help you understand why they settled in this region. Moreover, they are the perfect place for a refreshing cool-down after exploring the Riviera Maya. Today, there are thousands of cenotes in the region – big and small. Some are privately-owned, others are still up for grabs. But the truth is, everyone must visit a cenote at least once.
Especially if you’re living your retirement out in the area, it is the perfect way to spend your weekends and explore the area. If you’re just considering the Riviera Maya as your retirement home, start by contacting one of our expert Buyer’s Representatives who will guide you through the process so you can start enjoying these adventures as soon as possible.
And remember, at Top Mexico Real Estate…we make it happen!