This past August I was fortunate enough to visit the Cancun area with my family. This was by far one of my favorite vacations for many reasons. It was a 16 day trip with my husband and four of my six kids. The main purpose of this particular trip was to explore some Mayan pyramids and ruins that we had not yet been too and to also visit some different cenotes.
If you are unfamiliar with the term Cenote, ( seh-no-teh ) it is basically a sink hole. Because much of the ground in the Yucatan is limestone and porous, there are no major rivers and most of the fresh water runs underground. When the land above collapses, a sink hole, or cenote is formed. Cenotes are natural fresh water pools in which to swim and cool off. Many people enjoy snorkeling in them as well. The types of fish you might see depends on weather that particular water way is connected to the ocean. These sink holes come in many different varieties.
Admission is 465$ P or about $25 U.S
When most people think of a Cenote they envision Gran Cenote in the Riviera Maya. While there is no denying that it is indeed gorgeous, it is also one of the top visited cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula so it is very, very crowded. If you are like me, you prefer a more laid back, no flippers in your face kind of fresh water swim. Yes, the cave you see below is at Gran Cenote and yes, it has resident bats. They don’t bite and they actually fly around so fast that you would think they are birds. Since Gran Cenote is close in proximity to the Coba Ruins, many find it a perfect place to stop and cool off on their way back to Cancun. There is no lunch facility on site so pack a snack or lunch. Lockers are available.
Admission is 150$ P or about $8 U.S
If you decide to by pass Gran Cenote altogether, there is a much more secluded, less crowded watering hole just north of Akumal. Cristalino is the same type of cenote as Gran but it happens to be my personal favorite as it was much less crowded. In fact, we had the whole place to ourselves for almost 2 hours. It is truly a tropical paradise! There were tiny black fish that nibble on your feet and toes giving you the ultimate fish pedicure. In fact – this same pedicure is offered in Playa Del Carmen at a fee of $20.00 U.S per person. This park has natural cliffs to jump off of, mangroves and caves to swim through. It is by far the closest I have been to heaven on earth! There is no lunch facility on site so pack a snack or lunch. Lockers are available.
CASA CENOTE or CENOTE MANATEE
Admission is 120$ P or about $6.50 U.S.
My second favorite was Casa Cenote or Cenote Manatee, located in Tankah. There are no longer manatees there however if you are very lucky, you may see the resident crocodile. Don’t worry, he stays in the back of the lagoon. He is very shy and only about 4′ long. We were lucky enough to catch a quick glimpse of him before he slide in to the water and disappeared. This Cenote is very different from the first two in that the previous seemed to look like collapsed land. This body of water looks more like a lagoon but is cenote fed. It leads to the ocean in a very unique way, via a cave that goes under the ground and road and empties out into the ocean. For this reason many people practice their scuba diving here. They offer kayak rental as well. You can take the kayaks ( no need for a tour as it is do-able on your own ) all the way to the back of the lagoon. It is a narrow, prehistoric setting taking you back through the mangroves and low jungle. There are a two Restaurants across the street. Blue Sky ( love this place ) and the other one I believe was called Casa Cenote Restaurant. There is also a convenience store across the street where you can purchase snacks.
X’CANCHE or CENOTE AT EK BALAM
Admission is 150 Pesos or $8 U.S ( bike included )
X’Canche is an exotic cenote in the middle of the hanging vines of the jungle. You can visit after touring the ruins at Ek Balam. It is quite far back from the ruins so I don’t suggest walking if it is too hot. Bikes are included in the entrance fee or you can do as we did and rent a rickshaw. What I love about this site is that the same Mayan family has owned it for generations. The funds created by the ruins and the cenote entrance stay in this village and family. The stairs that lead down to this magical oasis are quite steep but it is truly worth the effort and the walk down, in itself, is breath-taking! At this site you can cliff jump and swing into the water from a rope. The water itself is very dark and deep but in the middle of August, in the middle of the jungle, it was a refreshing treat. You will need to pack a lunch or snack as there are no eating facilities on site.
YAL KU LAGOON
Admission is $260 Pesos or $14 U.S. ( snorkel gear extra )
Technically, this body of water is referred to as a lagoon but it is fed by fresh water cenotes that surface and lead out to the ocean. Because it is a mix of fresh and salt water ( brackish ) the water appears somewhat oily the closer you get to the sea. There is a huge variety of fish and the snorkeling is phenomenal. We have found the best area in which to see the most fish is close to the entrance. Here you will find huge Parrotfish and schools of vibrant Blue Angel Fish. The closer you get to the mouth the sandier the bottom becomes. Here you may see rays, barracuda or if you are really lucky, the sea turtles that Akumal is famous for. Arriving before the hordes of tour buses get there is highly recommended. We have even rented a townhouse on the lagoon in order to have after hours access. There is a restaurant on site and a couple more with in walking distance. Lockers available.
BLACK CENOTE AT BACALAR
Admission was free but you need to access from the lake
Bacalar is a small town near the Belize border. It is about a four-hour drive from Cancun and is well worth the visit. Bacalar means lake of seven colors. It is a beautiful fresh water lake fed by underground springs. What is unique about Black Cenote is that it is located IN Lake Bacalar and next to another cenote, Emeralda. Who would have thought it? A body of water inside a body of water! They are both next to Cenote Azul which can not be accessed from the lake. If you venture this far south you must take a tour of the lake through Amir AdvenTours at amiradventours.com. I can not sing their praises enough. Not only did they take us to this amazing cenote but they took us to a spot on the lake where we were able to take exfoliating mud baths. They also provided us with an amazing spread of fresh local fruit. The best Papaya and Mango I have ever eaten!
Click on the link below the pictures to see a clip of Black Cenote tour through Amir Adventours!
There you have it. I find that even writing this I am making plans to go back to all of the places we visited. Our route from Cancun was 6 nights in Tankah, 2 nights at Bacalar, 4 nights at Akumal, and 4 nights on Isla Mujeres.
Please feel free to ask questions or leave comments below!
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