One of the best things to do in Yucatan is swimming in cenotes, and some of the best cenotes in Mexico are located at easy distance from the lovely Valladolid, an incredibly chilled colonial town from where you can easily access the ruins of Chichen Itza – but also so much more!
With so many cenotes near Valladolid, picking which one to visit can be quite a task. So I thought I’d help select the best Valladolid cenotes and help you narrow down the choice. But why are there so many cenotes near Valladolid?
Why Are There So Many Cenotes Near Valladolid?
The area around Valladolid is a particularly good spot for cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula. That’s because of the Chicxulub Crater. This huge impact crater was formed when an enormous asteroid hit the earth more than 66 million years ago.
It’s theorized that this is the meteor impact that caused the mass extinction of 75% of Earth’s plant and animal species, including the non-avian dinosaurs.
The Anillo de Cenotes – or “Ring of Cenotes” – is the result of that massive impact. Many of the cenotes are thought to have been caused by subsidence following the huge impact.
To see many protected examples of these cenotes, head to the Reserva Estatal Geohidrológica Anillo de Cenotes.
The Best Valladolid Cenotes
Cenote Zaci is by far the easiest cenote to reach in Valladolid – and that’s because you’ll find it almost in the middle of the city itself! In fact, Cenote Zaci is just two blocks from the main square in the city, so it’s super easy to reach on foot or by bicycle.
Popular with locals and visitors alike, this cenote is actually quite large – 80 feet (24 meters) in diameter (and 330 feet -that’s 100.5 meters- deep) – so there’s room for everybody. It’s perfect for when you want to cool off after a hot day of exploring Valladolid. Trust me: if you’re in Valladolid, you’ll probably want to go more than once.
Cenote Zaci is a lush spot, a semi-open cenote with the benefits of both jungle scenery and stalactites. There’s even a restaurant and terrace to hang out on.
Cenote X’keken is probably one of the most famous Valladolid cenotes. It’s very close to the city, and reachable via car in about 15 minutes (or by bike in 45). Translated as “pig”, X’keken is a cave cenote with amazing rock formations and stalactites that create an otherworldly landscape deep underground.
One of the most eye-catching parts of this cenote is the hole in the roof, which allows light to filter through, creating an eerie atmosphere with the gleaming turquoise water. It’s also illuminated by lights, so even though it’s deep underground (accessed via a narrow, winding staircase), you’ll be able to see what you’re doing!
For a guided tour of Cenote Xkeken click here.
Next door to Cenote X’keken is Cenote Samula – a smaller, but still stunning, cave cenote. Like its neighbor, Samula also has a hole in the roof, though it’s larger, allowing not only light to filter through and dance on the blue water, but also letting vines from the jungle droop down. With rock formations and stalactites, too, it’s an eye-catching scene.
With a combination ticket you can visit both Cenote X’keken and Samula (costing slightly more than a single ticket), making for a fantastic day trip from Valladolid. Cenote Samula is fairly shallow, so you can easily see fish swimming around your feet as you float in the turquoise waters.
For a guided tour that goes, among others, also to Cenote Samula click here.
This cenote is situated on the grounds of Hacienda San Lorenzo (sometimes called Hacienda Cenote Oxman because of the sinkhole pool itself) and it’s one of the most beautiful cenotes near Valladolid. It’s an underground cenote with a magical mix of jungle scenery dripping into the cave from a large opening.
Located a short drive north from Valladolid, the hacienda is also stunning – a pastel pink 18th-century building, once home to the owners of an agave plantation that was situated here. On its grounds is Cenote Oxman.
Enter the cenote via a winding staircase and you’ll be deep underground at the edges of this bright blue swimming hole. As the roof is open to the sky, it’s filled with natural light. For extra fun, you can use the swing rope here and jump right into the water!
For a guided tour of cenotes Oxman and X’keken click here.
Another underground cave cenote, this one is situated between Valladolid and the Ek Balam Mayan ruins. Because of its location, Cenote Hubiku is a popular stop-off for those traveling between the city and the ancient ruins. Don’t let that put you off, though – this is a large cenote, and there’s plenty of room for everyone to swim.
Though mostly closed to the elements, apart from one sizable hole in the roof of the cavern, there’s also a small waterfall that gushes into the pool, making for a dramatic, eye-catching cenote. The limestone cave has facilities, such as lockers, changing rooms, concrete steps and platforms, and even a restaurant, too.
Cenote X’canche, also known as Ek Balam Cenote, is situated one and half miles to the northeast of Valladolid, at the entrance to the Ek Balam Ruins. This beautiful open cenote is a popular getaway from the city, and the perfect pairing for a hot day exploring the archaeological site itself.
The cenote is a fairly quiet swimming hole, and feels very natural when compared with others. The staff here make sure that everybody has a shower before entering the water, so as not to contaminate the ecosystem with chemicals (such as from sunscreen).
Cenote X’canche actually belongs to the local community, so visiting here means you’ll be supporting local people. It’s fun here, too, with a series of walkways and wooden steps that lead down to the water’s edge. You can enjoy rappelling, ziplining and swings here, making for a surprisingly active cenote.
Cenote Sac Aua
Located only a 10 minute drive from Cenote X’canche, Cenote Sac Aua is a particularly attractive sinkhole swimming spot only 18 miles from Valladolid. Uniquely, it appears as though this former cave cenote has partly collapsed in on itself, creating an island in the center – complete with trees!
With the stalactite-ridden cave setting, the gleamingly clear aquamarine waters, the natural light filtering in through the hole in the roof, and the island with its trees, the supremely picturesque Cenote Sac Aua is like something from a fantasy novel.
Those who like exploring will love it here; you can actually embark on a cave tour with a guide through the attached cave system, where you’ll discover Mayan pottery and human remains among twisting tunnels.
For those who don’t like the thought of small spaces, you can always simply swim with the fish in the cenote, or rent a kayak and paddle around. And at only 45 feet (13.7 fee) deep, you can see right to the bottom!
You may have already seen pictures of Cenote Suytun on Instagram. It is, after all, a super popular spot for those looking for that perfect photo opportunity for their social media feed.
That’s because of the decorative concrete walkway that winds down from the surface and ends in a circle at the center of the cenote itself, looking like an otherworldly temple.
The cavern here is particularly large, and the ceiling is covered with stalactites, so it’s really one of the most impressive Valladolid cenotes to visit. It’s no wonder people can’t help but take pictures of themselves in this beautiful spot. However, because of its popularity, Cenote Suytun can get rather busy.
But if you want the best shot of yourself on the platform, here’s a tip: the light from the small hole in the roof is best when it hits the central platform in the late morning.
For a guided tour that goes, among others, also to Cenote Suytun, click here.
Agua Dulce – meaning “Sweet Water” – is a fittingly attractive cenote near the town of Yalcoba, around 35 minutes by car northeast of Valladolid. This stunning cenote is an adventurous location to visit; it’s a cave cenote with thin stalactites that hang down from the ceiling.
The views from up high when you first enter the cave, before descending, are particularly impressive.
Then, after treading down a winding staircase, you’ll be at the edge of the bright blue water itself. Although it’s mostly enclosed, there are five small holes in the roof that allow some rays of natural light to flow into the cave.
The cenote is actually only around 50 feet (15 meters) deep, which is definitely shallow compared to some other cenotes, and is so clear that you can see all the way to the bottom.
For an extra bit of adventure, you can rent a kayak in the cave to paddle around on the water!
On the same property, just 200 yards away from Agua Dulce, you’ll find Cenote Palomitas. Another beautiful place to enjoy a refreshing swim, this cenote is also enclosed in a cave – but it’s much deeper, clocking in at nearly 200 feet (almost 61 meters) in depth.
Also, unlike Agua Dulce, there’s just one small hole in the roof at Palomitas, so the natural light is dimmer.
That doesn’t mean you can’t still be awed by the striking stalactites in the cave. Aside from the geological wonder of Cenote Palomitas, because of its depth you can also safely jump into the pool, but unlike Agua Dulce there’s no kayaking here.
Cenote Ik Kil
Visiting Cenote Ik Kil feels like you’re on an intrepid adventure. This stunning cenote is probably one of the best known cenotes near Valladolid. Though sunk deep into the ground, it’s fully open to the elements, with jungle flora spilling down through the opening and into the turquoise water itself.
It’s a very well developed cenote; in fact, there’s even a hotel on-site where you can stay if you feel like making full use of the cenote. Located around 40 minutes’ bus ride from Valladolid, Cenote Ik Kil features lockers, changing rooms and lifeguards, and all visitors are required to wear a life jacket, regardless of swimming ability.
Once you’re in the cenote, you’re free to relax and enjoy the serenity of this natural wonder – but note that it is forbidden to touch the vines that hang into the pool.
You can visit Cenote Ik Kil on guided day trips departing from Cancun that also go to Chichen Itza and Coba. For more information, click here.
Cenote Kikil is certainly a lesser known cenote near Valladolid. It’s situated around 40 miles (64.3 km) from the city on the route to Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve (home to flamingos and pink lakes at Los Coloradas). It’s a popular stop along the way, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make a dedicated day trip to this cenote.
The community-owned Cenote Kikil, with its emerald green water, is cool and refreshing, and feels very natural compared to some more developed cenotes in the area.
You may find yourself swimming alongside a local family, or a handful of other visitors – it’s not very busy. This open-air cenote is surrounded by nature, but there’s also a restaurant handily located here so you can stop for some lunch after your swim.
Unlike many cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, it’s not possible to swim in the Sacred Cenote. This is because this limestone sinkhole is actually part of the Mayan archaeological site of Chichen Itza. Still very beautiful to look at, the Sacred Cenote was used for religious purposes by Mayan people.
In fact, human bodies and other objects have been discovered in the cenote when it was excavated in the early 1900s. It’s thought that these were sacrifices to the rain god, Chaac. Some discoveries dredged up from the waters include a knife with a gold scabbard, a jade and turquoise mosaic, various pottery, and a bone sheathed in gold.
Once an important place for pilgrimage in the ancient Maya world, the Sacred Cenote is reached via a sacbe (ancient Maya raised pathway) that runs for 300 yards from Chichen Itza’s civic precinct. To be honest, with all the association with sacrifice, you probably won’t want to swim in this one anyway!
Make sure to read my other posts about Mexico:
- The Best Things To Do In Valladolid
- The Best Cenotes In Merida
- The Best Cenotes In Tulum
- The Best Travel Tips For Mexico
- How Not To Get Sick In Mexico
- The Best Itinerary For 3 Days In Mexico City
- The Best Mexico Itinerary
- The Best Beaches In Mexico
- What To Eat In Mexico