What is a Cenote? Where to Find the Best Cenotes near Cancun Mexico

What is a cenote? The most missed part of a Cancun Vacation Cancun Mexico is a great place for a vacation.

Cenotes are the most missed part of a Cancun Vacation

Cancun Mexico is a great place for a vacation. Everyone knows that must do Cancun includes gorgeous beaches of turquoise waters and miles of white sand. Lots of people even know that the area features some of the best Mayan ruins like Chichen Itza and Tulum (read more about those here)… 

What many people often miss is that the Cancun area is home to some of the world’s most amazing cenotes!

What to Pack?: Before you head off to Cancun, make sure you read my Cancun Packing List guide so you know what essentials you need to enjoy your tropical paradise.

So what is a Cenote? (pronounced see-no-tay)

Cenote Suytun! What is a cenote? The most missed part of a Cancun Vacation Cancun Mexico is a great place for a vacation.

Okay, what is a cenote and why should you care?

Imagine all the excitement and gorgeous features involved in exploring underground caves mixed with a cool fresh water swimming hole. What you are imagining is basically a cenote. A Cancun sinkhole truly is a must see destination.

I’m no geologist, but the basic idea is that over time the type of rock prevalent in the Yucatan (limestone) gets worn away by water seeping into the ground and washing away the rock. As this process continues the rocks wear away and fresh water gathers underground. Eventually relatively large caves form and pools of water gather.

The resultant effect is that they create beautiful cave formations and amazing swimming holes.

There are SO many Cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula 

The Yucatan Peninsula is now home to tons of cenotes. Some feature a collapsed ceiling opening them up to the sun (like Cenote Ik Kil and the lesser known but just as magical Cenote Saamal), some have small openings letting a little bit of light in, some are completely underground, and some are perfect for scuba diving into underground tunnels. Regardless of the type, they are all worth visiting.

Cenotes near Cancun: Everything you need to know

There is no one cenote that Cancun is famous for; this is because there are dozens of nearby cenotes to include in any Cancun Mexico excursions. Every time I go back to Cancun it seems like a new cenote has been opened to the public. 

With more and more tourists finding out about cenotes some of them (a lot of them) are getting really crowded and harder to enjoy. Even with crowds a cenote Mexico offers is still worth a visit. If you plan ahead and visit a lesser known cenote, you may be able to relax and enjoy even more.

Tips to avoid the crowds

Every cenote will be different, but the biggest tip I have for avoiding the crowds is to rent a car and drive yourself. This will give you a chance to arrive before or after the tour buses do. The tour buses seem to funnel 6 at a time. They leave at the same time as well.

Should you take a Cenote Tour?

A cenote tour is usually you just paying admission and walking in yourself. Tour guides are available at the bigger cenotes, but I recommend passing on the guide and walking yourself down into the cenotes and amazing Cancun underwater caves. 

Some people will swim and lounge about for hours to get out of the oppressive Cancun sun, while others will make a quick appearance to only snap a couple pictures for Instagram.

The Best Cenotes of the Yucatan

Trying to figure out which Cenotes to visit? Check out where we found the best Cenotes in Mexico below!

Suytun Cenote (Our personal favorite)

Suytun Cenote! What is a Cenote? And where can you find the best Cenotes in Mexico!

Cenote Suytun – Tip – Show up before 10 am and you should have the place almost to yourself! All the tour buses arrive at 10 am. 

Cenote Ik Kil (The most crowded Cenote in Mexico)

Cenote Ik Kil (The most crowded Cenote in Mexico)

Cenote Ik Kil – This gorgeous cenote is very close to Chichen Itza.  The fact that it is only an 8 minute drive from Chichen Itza makes it very easy to drop in on.  Even if crowded, it is still easy to enjoy.

Cenote Zaci (Underrated Cenote)

Cenote Zaci is another one that you can easily hit on the way to Chichen Itza from Cancun. It is in the middle of the small city of Valldolid, and seems to be one that not a lot of tourist know about so you can expect less crowds. 

Cenote Saamal

Cenotes in Mexico! Are you wondering what is a Cenote and where to find the best ones in Mexico?

Cenote Saamal – This cenote is just outside of Valldolid and is located just up the road from the park that features Cenote Samula and Cenote X’keken.  The roof of Cenote Saamal is open to the sky which creates little waterfalls on the sides when it rains.

Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Samula

Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Samula – These cave cenotes are located in the same park (just outside of Valladolid). They are each perfect examples of cave cenotes!

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What is a Cenote? And where can you find the best Cenotes in Mexico? Read everything you need to know about Cenotes in Mexico including Cancun Mexico and the Yucatan Cenotes!
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Hey there! I'm Claire, the founder of avenlylane.com & avenlylanetravel.com. While spending 4 years completely bedridden and miserable from an unexpected illness I decided to begin writing about my past travel adventures and now the rest is history. Thank you so much for visiting the website. I hope you enjoy it!


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