The Yucatan peninsula does not have any above ground rivers; instead there is a large underground river system. Reputed to be the world's longest underground river, called the Sac Actun, meaning white cave, and is over 100miles long. It meanders all though our region, and because the ground is made soft and porouslimestone, through the eons, caverns have developed and then followed holes through the ground into the caverns. These holes are called cenotes.
The cenotes, and caverns are NOT to be missed. Some cenotes are vertical water-filled shafts, while others are caves, some connected together with pools and underwater passageways. Some have beautiful stalactite formations, some are simply giant caverns. Many are famous for snorkeling and diving. If you are interested in scuba diving a cenote, specialized cave divetraining is required.
Cenotes were very significant to the Maya. Cenotes provided them their water source, as well as shelter, and cenotes also played a strong religious role in their culture.
To us, there is nothing better than swimming in a cenote on a hot day. As the water comes from the underground river, it will be cool, refreshing and very clear. Cenotes are living environments, so you will want to also be environmentally friendly.
Cenotes are scattered throughout the jungles towards the interior; most larger cenotes are accessible off the main roads. There are many cenotes that are available for public access will charge an entrance fee. You can easily spend all of you time cenote hopping!Depending on its type, you may want to bring along your snorkel gear. If you are prone to getting cold, bring a shorty, or wetsuit if it's not at the height of the summer. And as they vary by type, ensure that you are physically fit for the particular entrance and walk.
In general, when visiting a cenote, bring as few things as possible as you don't need much, and there may or may not be lockers. Lock everything in the car's trunk; expect mosquitos as you are in jungle; and except for the larger cenotes, don't expect much in the way of concessions. Finally, you do not need a guide.
We have chosen to list just a few of our favorites that are close by, however, there are 20+ available for visiting.
The underground caves at Aktun Chen is listed as number 3 in the world as National Geographic's TOP Underground Walks. This walk includes the largest dry cave in the Yucatan, with an underground lagoon. Beautifully lit, it's a treat, and very easy to walk. Akun Chen also has ziplining, snorkeling, and a small nature preserve. You can purchase combined tickets or single items.
Casa Cenote also known as Cenote Manatee, due to the manatees that used to reside here, is special due to its location, which is directly across from Tankah beach. The cenote is completely open to the sky (no cavern) and surrounded by mangrove jungle. It is right next to the beach road, and has an easy entrance, with minimal walking. Snorkeling up to the river's entrance is very relaxing, and kayaks can also be rented here. This is a great place to go when you have a mixed group of snorkelers and non-snorkelers.
Cenote Dos Ojos, Two Eyes, is named as such because it two large circular cenotes with it´s famous cave system underneath, amounting to over 415 m of underwater magical world in the immediate area. Amazing. Perfect for snorkel or diving, snorkelers get the unexpected reward of being able to see the deep cave walls with the help of the scuba divers below.
Along 307, north of us about 10 miles, is wonderful for it's native fresh water fish. It has Yucatan surrounding, so is very natural, and very open providing a great snorkeling experience. Close by are also, Chak-Mool and Tajmahal, which are primarily used for diving.
Along the Coba road, very large and one of the first. Gorgeous, and it checks most of the boxes. BUT many tours go there now, so it gets very busy. So go early in the day. There are a couple of other cenotes close to by Gran, Carwash and Calavera which you may want to visit, to make a cenote day.