14 Must-See Playa Del Carmen Cenotes

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 Playa del Carmen, so if you are spending time relaxing in this fun city and enjoying the many beautiful beaches of the Riviera Maya, you should definitely make it a point to visit one – or more – cenotes near Playa del Carmen.

With so many cenotes at easy distance from the city, which one should you visit? Continue reading, as I will select the best Playa del Carmen cenotes for you, and share useful information to plan your visit.

Tulum cenotes

What Is A Cenote?

Simply put, a cenote is a sinkhole that has exposed groundwater, resulting in a natural reservoir. The term “cenote” is used exclusively for the Yucatan Peninsula, where cenote have not only been long known, but long utilized by the ancient Maya civilization, who used the sparkling pools for religious rituals.

There are various types of cenote. The main ones are open-air cenote, underground cenote, and semi-open cenote. Each has their own unique plus points, with rock formations or jungle surroundings to look forward to, and almost always home to abundant wildlife.

Cenote Cristalino

The Best Playa Del Carmen Cenotes

Cenote Cristalino

Located around 15 minutes out of town, Cenote Cristalino is a dreamy destination. As its name suggests, this particular Cenote boasts magnificently clear turquoise waters. It’s a popular spot to hit up for tourists, as it can be visited while on a trip to nearby Cenote Azul and Cenote Jardin del Eden.

Surrounded by lush jungle, the cenote is mainly open-air and fairly shallow. But with a maximum depth of 6 meters (19.6 feet), it’s also still good for swimming.

GETTING THERE: The easiest way to get to Cenote Cristalino from Playa del Carmen is by car. Drive south via Highway 307 following the directions to Puerto Aventuras – the cenote is about 4 minutes from there. If you don’t have a car, take a collectivo or taxi from Calle 2 in Playa del Carmen and tell the driver you want to get off at Cenote Cristalino.

OPENING HOURS: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

cenotes in Tulum

Cenote Nicte-Ha

If you are looking for lesser known Playa del Carmen cenotes, head to Nicte-Ha. This is a more off the radar cenote than other well-known watery hotspots, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. It’s located on the road between Playa del Carmen and Tulum (close to Cenote Dos Ojos), and it’s great if you want a quiet place to enjoy a tranquil swim in nature.

Particularly notable features of Cenote Nicte-Ha are its lily pads that grow on the surface of the cenote, making a striking contrast with the bright blue water. It’s an open-air cenote where you can listen to the sounds of the jungle as you float around.

GETTING THERE: Cenote Nicte-Ha is 20 20 minutes north of Tulum. Take a colectivo bound for Tulum and let the driver know you’ll be getting off at Cenote Nicte-Ha.

OPENING HOURS: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

For a guided tour that goes to Cenote Nicte Ha as well as Casa Cenote, near Tulum, click here.

Playa del Carmen cenotes

Cenote Chikin-Ha

This incredible place is one of the most beautiful cenotes near Playa del Carmen. Visiting Chikin-Ha (literally “Water from the East”) means the opportunity to dive down into a natural sea cave, with caverns and tunnels to explore. It is, therefore, popular with cave divers.

There’s the bonus of having two cenotes in pretty much the same location. Namely, these are Cenote X’tabay and Cenote Rainbow.

GETTING THERE: The easiest way to get to Cenote Chikin-Ha is to drive – it’s about 30 minutes from Playa del Carmen. Otherwise, you can opt for a taxi ride or a guided tour which you can arrange via your accommodation, also visiting other Playa del Carmen cenotes.

OPENING HOURS: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm

Cenotes near Playa del Carmen
Fraguando, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cenote Aktun Chen

National Geographic named this place as featuring one of the top 10 underground walks in the world, so it’s easy to see why it’s one of the most popular cenotes in Playa del Carmen. This emerald cenote, situated in a cavern, is a warren of underwater tunnels carved out by a subterranean waterway.

Located 16 km (10 miles) north of Tulum, Aktun Chen means “Natural Well Inside a Cave” and is part of the larger Aktun Chen Natural Park. It’s easy to spend a whole day here, enjoying other activities like jungle walks and ziplining, too.

GETTING THERE: Aktun Chen is situated around 25 minutes’ drive from Playa del Carmen – you can get there with your own car, or opt for a taxi or colectivo. There’s a free shuttle from the entrance of the park to the cenote itself.

OPENING HOURS: 10 am – 5:30 pm
ADMISSION FEE: MXN668 ($34 USD) for a tour of the underground river.

Casa Cenote

Casa Cenote

Another of the many cenotes near Playa del Carmen, Casa Cenote is situated on the road between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. This is a beautiful aqua swirl of water embedded in lush green jungle and mangroves.

Thanks to its generous 6 meters (19.7 feet) of depth, activities here include kayaking, snorkeling, and even diving down into the underwater cave system that connects to the ocean.

And after you’ve enjoyed floating around in this stunning cenote, you can also combine your trip with a stop off at the nearby beach.

GETTING THERE: Self-drive from Playa del Carmen along Highway 307 and look for signs near the entrance. Alternatively, opt for a colectivo from Calle 2 in Playa del Carmen (but be prepared for a 20-minute walk along a dirt road through the jungle).

OPENING HOURS: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

For a paddleboarding and snorkeling tour of Casa Cenote click here. If you’d like to dive there, you may want to check out this tour.

Zacil Ha Cenote

Cenote Zacil-Ha

If you only have time to visit one cenote during your trip to Playa del Carmen, you should consider hitting up the compact but family-friendly Zacil-Ha. More like a swimming pool than other cenotes, here you can enjoy lounging on deckchairs and snacking on refreshments from the onsite eatery.

Because it’s quite developed, it’s possible to safely jump in and swim around the cenote. It also comes complete with steps and even a zipline across the water! Plus, it’s pretty cheap to enter too.

GETTING THERE: The best way to get to Cenote Zacil-Ha is to hop on a colectivo from Calle 2 in Playa del Carmen – just look for a colectivo that is headed to Coba, and ask to be dropped off at Cenote Zacil-Ha. As it’s close to Cenote Carwash, you can visit them on the same day. Or, you can drive yourself (it’s not too far).

OPENING HOURS: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm

Cenote Xunaan-Ha

Situated near Chemuyil, Cenote Xunaan-Ha is a small, open-air cenote and one of the lesser known Playa del Carmen cenotes. It’s completely surrounded by lush tropical plants and makes for a beautiful place to come and enjoy a slice of nature.

Meaning “Goddess of Water”, Xunaan-Ha is actually also part of the longest underground cave system in the Maya Riviera.

If you’re an advanced cave diver, this may be something you want to tick off your bucket list. Or, if you’re not, simply bring along a snorkel and take a look beneath the surface!

GETTING THERE: You’ll find Cenote Xunaan-Ha 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) south along the coast from Playa del Carmen. It’s best reached either by taking a taxi or driving yourself.

OPENING HOURS: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm

Cenote Azul

Cenote Azul

One of the most famous (and most beautiful) cenotes in Playa del Carmen, Cenote Azul is pretty much nature’s own swimming pool. It’s open-air, so it may not have any caves, but it’s shallow and perfect for relaxing and good for families.

It’s divided into two swimming areas, separated by a wooden walkway; there’s a deep pool – complete with a cliff for jumping into the cenote – and a shallow side, where families splash around in the crystal clear waters.

The only downside to this awesome cenote is that it gets quite busy. Avoid weekends and holidays to ensure fewer crowds.

GETTING THERE: You can easily reach Cenote Azul by colectivo from Playa del Carmen. If you have your own set of wheels, you could opt to drive yourself along the coast on Highway 307.

OPENING HOURS: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

Tulum Cenotes

Cenote Dos Ojos

One of the most famous cenotes in Playa del Carmen, Cenote Dos Ojos – meaning “Two Eyes” – is named after its formation in not one but two sinkholes, which are connected by a wooden boardwalk.

Each of the two pools of water here is around 70 meters (229.6 feet) in diameter. Although they’re situated in a cave, there’s enough natural light to see the glimmering beauty of the water.

The flooded cave system here only began to be explored in the 1980s, and exploration still continues to this day. Many people opt to visit Cenote Dos Ojos on a snorkeling tour so that they can explore the cave system safely with a guide.

GETTING THERE: Located in Cenote Jaguar Road, this is best visited on a tour – that way you get to snorkel around the caves. If you wish to get there by colectivo, keep in mind that this will drop you at the entrance, from where it’s a 30 minutes walk to the ticket office.

OPENING HOURS: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

For a diving experience in Cenotes Dos Ojos and other cenotes near Playa del Carmen, click here.

Cenote Taak Bi Ha

Another cave cenote near Playa del Carmen, Cenote Taak Bi Ha is located close to Cenote Dos Ojos. It’s a beautiful, eerie spot for enjoying some splendid clear water on a backdrop of cave scenery.

Those with scuba credentials could opt to dive here, while snorkeling is also highly recommended. Whatever you do, don’t forget to bring your underwater camera – Taak Bi Ha features some particularly photogenic underwater formations. The deepest point of the cenote is 4 meters (13 feet), so it’s relatively easy to explore.

GETTING THERE: Cenote Taak Bi Ha is a 40-minute drive from Playa del Carmen. It’s possible to self-drive, but you’ll need to drive along a dirt road from the main road to reach the entrance. Alternatively, a colectivo can take you here, but then you’ll have to traverse that same dirt road on foot.

OPENING HOURS: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
ADMISSION FEE: MXN350 ($17.8 USD); MXN400 ($20.3 USD) for a guided tour

Cenote Tajma Ha

Cenote Tajma-Ha

This one was originally known as Cenote “Taj Mahal”, hence the similar name today. You can see why people came to name it after the Taj, however, as it’s a very impressive cave cenote, featuring limestone formations and underground passageways.

Cenote Tajma-Ha is particularly beautiful to visit between March and September, when the sun jets beams of lights into the main cavern, illuminating the water with a beautiful glimmering effect.

For divers, you may want to join a diving tour to see the otherworldly formations and fossils embedded into the walls of the cave. The depth reaches down as far as 30 meters (98.4 feet) in some parts!

GETTING THERE: This cenote is located 29 km (18 miles) and 20 minutes’ drive from Playa del Carmen. You can reach it by driving the Cancun-Tulum Highway, or take a colectivo that’ll drop you off nearby.

OPENING HOURS: 8:00 am – 4:40 pm
ADMISSION FEE: Enquire with the dive shop

Best cenotes in Mexico

Gran Cenote

This is easily one of the most popular Playa del Carmen cenotes – and in fact, in the entire Maya Riviera. Rather than being one large pool, Gran Cenote is a collection of interconnected caves and cavers, and an open-air cenote. The water here is exquisitely clear – so clear, in fact, that you can see fish swimming around without putting your head underwater! In addition, it’s all joined up by wooden walkways, making it pretty easy and fun to explore.

But it can get very busy, particularly on weekends and holidays, and mainly in the middle of the day. Because of that, opt for a weekday trip and aim to visit Gran Cenote either earlier in the morning or in the afternoon.

GETTING THERE: It’s easy to reach Gran Cenote is easily reached by colectivo from Playa del Carmen. You can also drive there or take a guided tour.

OPENING HOURS: 8:10 am – 4:45 pm (last entry 4:15 pm)

For a guided tour that follows the Ruta de Cenotes, click here.

Chaak Tun

Cenote Chaak Tun

Chaak Tun is a cave cenote made up of one large pool and three caverns, and one of the most unique cenotes near Playa del Carmen. This underground world may not be brimming with natural light, but it’s an incredible subterranean place to explore with stalagmites, stalactites, and other rock formations dotting the caves.

In fact, “Chaak Tun” means “Stone Rain” in the Mayan language, referring to the formation by calcium-rich water of the stalactites hanging from the cave ceiling. It’s also home to bats.

GETTING THERE: Cenote Chaak Tun can only be visited on a guided tour. The tour takes around two hours and sees visitors meandering through the cave system itself with a knowledgeable guide (and safety equipment too).

OPENING HOURS: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
ADMISSION FEE: 500 MXN ($25 USD) (including tour and equipment)

For a 3-hour incredibly fun guided tour of Cenote Chaak Tun, click here.

Cenote Jardin del Eden

Cenote Jardin del Eden (Cenote Ponderosa)

As you can probably tell by the name, the Cenote Jardin del Eden is particularly stunning. It’s the perfect place to take a break from the heat and humidity of the day, and enjoy a relaxing swim at this open-air cenote.

Also named Cenote Ponderosa, this pool is surrounded by an oasis of tropical greenery and edged by moss-covered rocks. The water is clear and crystalline, making it super easy to see the underwater life. Needless to say, snorkeling here is excellent. You can even jump in from a rocky 12-foot outcrop.

It can easily be paired with a trip with neighboring Cenote Azul and Cenote Cristalino.

GETTING THERE: You can easily reach Cenote Jardin del Eden by colectivo from Playa del Carmen. The road to get there is well marked, in case you want to drive yourself.

OPENING HOURS: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Further Readings

Make sure to read my other posts about Mexico:

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Discover the best cenotes near Playa del Carmen - via @clautavani

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