Bacalar, in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, is known for its famed Lagoon of Seven Colors, varying from turquoise to a dark indigo. And the town’s Cenote Azul, which borders the lagoon, is no exception, with jaw-dropping dark blue waters, just waiting for you to dive in.
Here’s everything you need to know about the stunning Cenote Azul Bacalar.
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Cenote Azul (or the “Blue Cenote”) is absolutely gorgeous, getting its otherworldly dark blue color from its depth (reaching almost 300 feet underground!). But before we get into what makes Cenote Azul in Bacalar so cool, let’s back up a bit.
What’s a Cenote?
If you’re researching the Yucatan Peninsula, you’ve almost certainly heard of a cenote (pronounced suh-NO-tay) already. But what are they exactly?
So the Yucatan Peninsula sits atop a porous limestone bedrock, which allows tons of rainwater to just seep into the ground. Over time, this limestone collapses, exposing underground rivers and streams that have formed from all that aforementioned rainwater. These caverns, filled with cool, clear water, are known as “cenotes”—you can find thousands of them throughout the peninsula.
Cenotes can either be totally underground (called “closed cenotes”); almost totally underground with small openings in their ceilings (called “semi-open cenotes”, like the Instagram-famous Cenote Suytun); and ones that are totally open (aptly-named “open cenotes”).
Cenotes have always been important to the people of the Yucatan Peninsula, dating all the way back to the ancient Mayans, who used them for everything from incredible practical utilities, like fresh drinking water, to more spiritual purposes. In fact, the Mayans believed that cenotes were the entrance to the underworld and used them as sites for human sacrifices.
The Bacalar Lagoon was actually formed when a bunch of cenotes, like Cenote Cocalitos or Cenote Negro, collapsed together, forming the largest freshwater body of water in Mexico (26 miles long!). Cenote Azul is one of the only cenotes in Bacalar that sits outside of the lagoon, separated from the turquoise water by just a thin strip of land. Perhaps, someday, that land will collapse and Cenote Azul will also become part of the Bacalar Lagoon!
Where is Cenote Azul?
Cenote Azul is located here, approximately 10 minutes south of the downtown area of Bacalar.
It’s worth noting that there’s another Cenote Azul in Playa del Carmen, about three and a half hours north of Bacalar. Same name, but the one in Playa del Carmen has a way different vibe (cough, cough… touristy). In fact, you may see or hear it being referred to as “Cenote Azul Bacalar” to help distinguish the two sites!
To get to Cenote Azul Bacalar, you have a few options:
- Car: As noted above, it’s a quick 10 minute drive to the cenote from Bacalar’s downtown. Once you reach the cenote, there’s a free parking lot for visitors to use.
- Taxi: If you aren’t renting a car (and you totally should- I’d highly recommend a Yucatan Peninsula road trip!), you can alternatively take a taxi here, which should cost between $50-$80 MXN ($2.50-$4 USD). That being said, taxis in Bacalar can be a bit slow and on the unreliable side, so it wouldn’t personally be my first option.
- Biking: Bacalar is a small, charming town that’s perfect for biking around. Luckily, there’s plenty of rental shops downtown and even hotels, like Hotel Sun Ha Bacalar or Villas Eco-Románticas Kúuch Ka´anil, where guests can rent a bike. Cenote Azul is just a 15 minute bike ride from town and offers a nice bike rack right by the entrance.
If you’re interested in visiting Cenote Azul but aren’t staying in town, you may want to check out a group trip to Bacalar, like this tour from Cancun. I love me a group tour- you don’t need to worry about driving to and around the destination (which means taking in the surrounding scenery and lots of van naps!).
How much does Cenote Azul cost?
One of the best things about Cenote Azul is that it’s one of the cheapest things to do in Bacalar, costing just 30 pesos (or $1.50) to get into the cenote. Everything here is cash only and there’s no ATMs—so don’t forget your pesos!
This is an AWESOME deal- in comparison, for example, some of the cenotes near Tulum, like Gran Cenote or Cenote Calavera, can easily cost up to ten times Cenote Azul’s admission fee. In fact, most things in Bacalar are pretty affordable, as compared to some more popular spots in the area, like Tulum or Playa del Carmen, making it one of the best options if you’re traveling the Yucatan on a budget.
Cenote Azul also feel a bit more authentic than the pricier cenotes—when my husband and I stopped here, most of the other visitors appeared to be locals and domestic travelers!
What to Expect When Visiting Cenote Azul
After you pay your entrance fee, you’ll walk through a gate and onto a huge cement patio overlooking the cenote. To your left, you’ll walk down a ramp and find Cenote Azul. It’s a HUGE pool of dark blue water (over 650 feet wide!), with a rope strung across its diameter and surrounded by lush green vegetation.
Otherwise, unlike a lot of other cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, Cenote Azul feels pretty simple (in a nice way) and uncommercialized, with a limited amount of facilities.
Cenote Azul Restaurant
There’s an open air restaurant, directly overlooking the cenote and serving up your favorite Mexican classics. There’s undoubtedly way better food in Bacalar, but if you need a quick snack or a beer while you’re at the cenote, the prices are quite reasonable and the views can’t be beat!
The cenote has nice, reasonably clean bathrooms (at least when we visited!) and showers to rinse off in before and after you get into the cenote.
Life jacket rentals
Life jackets are available for rent for about $50 MXN (or $2.50 USD). I’ve read reviews of other visitors indicating that life jackets were required to swim here, but this definitely was not the case during our visit. So be forewarned that this “requirement” may be inconsistently enforced.
As mentioned above, though, Cenote Azul in Bacalar is one of the deepest cenotes in Mexico, stretching an eye-popping 300 feet below ground—so if you’re not a strong swimmer, you may want to strongly consider picking up a life jacket!
… No lockers?
Otherwise, there aren’t a whole lot of other amenities at Cenote Azul, including, most notably, lockers. Accordingly, while you’re enjoying the cenote, you’ll just need to keep your belongings on land in a spot where you can keep your eye on them.
I’ve read other travelers’ reviews, complaining about wallets and other valuables being stolen out of bags here while they were off enjoying the cenote, so I’d strongly recommend leaving anything valuable at your accommodations.
If you want to bring your phone with you into the cenote, consider getting a waterproof floating phone case, like this one, so you don’t have to leave it unattended on land. And bonus- you’ll get to take cool underwater photos!
What to Do in Cenote Azul
There’s tons of things to do at Cenote Azul:
- Swimming: Most folks just come here as a cheap way to cool off in the middle of the day.
Unlike most cenotes’ waters, the temperature here is not too awfully chilly. Plus, with how large the cenote is, there’s plenty of space for swimmers to spread out and have a bit of privacy around the plants and small coves rimming the edge of the cenote.
- Snorkeling: Cenote Azul has some solid snorkeling, thanks to the plentiful fish that swim around in its crystal clear waters. There aren’t snorkeling gear rentals here, though, but I always bring my own set anyway!
- Scuba diving: Due to its depth and interesting underwater world of roots, caverns, and rock formations, Cenote Azul is an excellent spot for advanced scuba divers. You’ll need to go with a tour, though, which you should be able to book in Bacalar.
- Kayaking: Want a bit of an arm workout instead? You can paddle your way across the cenote to explore all of its nooks and crannies. Cenote Azul rents out kayaks for $150 MXN (~$7.50 USD).
- Getting a massage: If being in paradise isn’t relaxing enough for you, the cenote also offers massages, in a little cabana, right next to the cenote. What could be better than having your muscles aggressively rubbed, all while you’re enjoying the natural beauty and peace of nature?
- Snapping photos: They love little Instagrammable swingsets in the Yucatan and Cenote Azul in Bacalar is no exception. Get a cute photo here, overlooking the water, and live out your best life on the swings.
Tips for Cenote Azul
- Much like other cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, you’ll be asked to shower off and not use sunscreen before entering the cenote, as these oils can leech off of your skin and negatively impact the fragile ecosystem.
Since you can’t use sunscreen here, you’re likely to get burnt if you don’t use a little strategy, like visiting in the early morning or the late afternoon to avoid the harshest sun or wearing a rashguard (like this one for men or this one for women) to protect that luscious skin of yours.
- Cenote Azul is beautiful, with its clear, dark blue water, and cheap admission to visit. That being said, it’s basically just a big lake to swim and cool off in. A stunning lake… but still, (basically) a lake.
So if you’re looking for a bit more unique experience, consider heading to Los Rapidos Bacalar (13 minutes south of Cenote Azul Bacalar), instead. This narrow section of the lagoon has a gentle current, which effectively acts as a lazy river, carrying you down it as you float.
It’s SUPER fun and one of my favorite things to do in the Yucatan. However, it is a bit more pricey, though (as in ~$8 USD per person), so, if you’re a budget traveler, Bacalar may be more up your alley.
- Despite its awesomeness, Bacalar has managed to mostly fly under the international tourism radar for quite a while and has kept its lagoon clear and beautiful.
Let’s keep Bacalar beautiful- properly dispose of any waste you generate here, abide by the cenote’s rules (like the no sunscreen thing) to protect the cenote, and generally, be responsible travelers!
Have fun exploring Cenote Azul in Bacalar! Do you have any questions about your visit? Let me know in the comments below!