Cenote Cocalitos, located in Bacalar, Mexico, has clear, turquoise water, helping the city earn the nickname “The Maldives of Mexico.” In addition to its stunning water, this cenote also just so happens to offer you the opportunity to get up close and personal with the oldest living organism on the planet. So if you want to see this incredible site with your own eyes, here’s everything you need to know about visiting Cenote Cocalitos.
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What is Cenote Cocalitos?
Cenote Cocalitos is located within the Bacalar Lagoon, a 26-mile long body of water found in Bacalar, Mexico.
This cenote is a bit unique for a couple of reasons.
Most cenotes (i.e., sinkholes formed from the Yucatan Peninsula’s porous limestone bedrock), like Cenote Azul in Bacalar, are completely surrounded by land. Cenote Cocalitos, on the other hand, is actually part of the Bacalar Lagoon, which was formed when a bunch of different cenotes (including Cocalitos) collapsed together, creating the largest freshwater body in Mexico!
Because the lagoon is formed by a ton of different sinkholes, its depths vary pretty significantly from 2 meters all the way down to 90 meters. These significant changes in depth, as well as its white sandy floor, cause the jaw-dropping hues that give the lagoon its famed “seven colors.”
Cenote Cocalitos is also unique, as it’s one of the best places to see stromatolites in Bacalar. If you’ve never heard of stromatolites before, you’re not alone—but, in a nutshell, they’re an extremely rare, coral-like colony of microorganisms that are composed of cyanobacteria and sedimentary particles. They kind of look like big, blobby rocks, but in actuality, they’re the oldest living organism on the planet and have been ranked by scientists as being equally as important to our environment as forests because of their ability to trap and store carbon from the environment.
You can find stromatolites sprinkled around the Bacalar Lagoon but Cenote Cocalitos has a large concentration of massive ones that are a stark contrast to its brilliant blue water. In fact, the insanely clear water here is, in part, thanks to the stromatolites, which help filter the lagoon.
How to Get to Cenote Cocalitos
When my husband, Justin, and I were visiting Bacalar, I REALLY wanted to go to Cenote Cocalitos to see the stromatolites (okay, guys, confession- I’m kind of a nerd). But I was a bit confused on how to actually visit.
Cenote Cocalitos is located here, with its shores about a 45 minute walk south of downtown Bacalar. That being said, most of the Bacalar Lagoon’s shoreline was located on private property, including Cenote Cocalitos, so how exactly do you access it?
Turns out, there’s actually three ways!
Visit Balneario Cocalitos
Note: As of February 2023, Balneario Cocalitos is temporarily closed (the owner passed away and the children are determining what should be done with the property). There's no reopening date slotted, but please leave a comment below if you hear about it reopening! You can still access the cenote using the other two methods discussed below, but be sure not to use or touch any of the balneario's property!!
While the cenote’s shores are on private land, there’s a balneario (or beach club) on a large portion of it, with a small sandy beach and plenty of shade to relax under.
While it may not be the bougie beach clubs you’d expect to see in Cancun, it’s got all the basic amenities that you’d need, like a parking area, bathroom, changing rooms, a restaurant for cold cervezas, and plastic chairs to soak up the sun. Plus, it only costs 50 pesos (or $2.50 USD) to enter. Don’t forget your pesos- it’s cash only!
The beach club is also super family-friendly. The water is shallow and calm, and there’s over-the-water swings and hammocks to play in. All in all, a visit to the Balneario Cocalitos is one of the best things to do in Bacalar.
Go on a boat tour of the Bacalar Lagoon
Alternatively, there’s tons of tour companies that offer Bacalar boat tours that cruise to various cenotes in Bacalar, including Cocalitos. Almost all the tours will stop at Cenote Cocalitos, where you’ll get to see and learn more about the stromatolites in Bacalar.
Some of the boat tours just stay out on the water at Cenote Cocalitos and you won’t get an opportunity to swim here (although, not to worry- you’ll have plenty of other opportunities to get in the lagoon at a couple of other stops!). Alternatively, other boat tours stop for a swim break at the cenote and may even use the small dock by the balneario, so you can personally enjoy the cenote’s warm, turquoise waters!
If you really want to do this boat tour and enjoying Cenote Cocalitos combo, I’d suggest booking a private tour, like this private sailboat tour, where you’ll get to dictate how long you want to stay at each spot!
Kayak or standup paddleboard to Cenote Cocalitos
There’s lots of places to rent a kayak or standup paddleboard for a couple of hours or for the day in downtown Bacalar, like this all-day paddleboard rental from Adventure Lab, and paddle your way to the cenote. Just be sure you know how far it’ll be from the rental store to Cenote Cocalitos- if you choose a rental store closer to the north side of Bacalar’s downtown, you may need to paddle upwards of six miles to reach the cenote!
What to Do at Cenote Cocalitos
So once you’re at Cenote Cocalitos, what is there to do here?
As noted above, Balneario Cocalitos is temporarily closed as of February 2023, so some of these activities, like renting a kayak, are currently unavailable. You can still enjoy most of the activities below, so long as you have on your gear!
This one’s kind of self-explanatory, but, obviously, get out in the water. There’s a nice variety of shallow and deeper places near the balneario, so regardless if you just want to wade around or get a full-blown swimming workout in, you’ll have plenty of options.
You can rent a kayak for 100 pesos an hour from Balneario Cocalitos and paddle around the cenote. This is a great way to get a bit further from shore and explore some of the sand bars and plant life that most visitors don’t get to see.
The water is crystal clear here, with perfect visibility for snorkeling. The beach club has snorkeling equipment to rent or, alternatively, you can bring your own. Justin and I each have this snorkeling set that we love and bring on all of our tropical vacations.
Once you’re geared up, you’ll be able to get an underwater look at the ancient stromatolites and may even see some of the small fish that call the Bacalar Lagoon home.
You can actually camp at the Balneario Cocalitos, surrounded by swaying palm trees and a lush garden, for just 150 pesos a night. Due to its small size, there’s limited light pollution in Bacalar, so you’ll be able to sleep under a sky, twinkling full of stars.
Tips for visiting Cenote Cocalitos
- You can’t wear sunscreen if you’re getting in the water. To protect the color and clarity of the lagoon and to preserve the stromatolites, you’re not allowed to wear sunscreen (even biodegradable or reef safe) in the Bacalar Lagoon, until your time in the water is done.
Luckily, there’s plenty of shade at Cenote Cocalitos, but if you’re sensitive to the sun or would rather spend your time out in the water, I’d suggest making sure your Mexico packing list includes something that you can wear in the water for extra sun protection, like this rashguard with SPF for men and this rashguard for women. I made the stupid mistake of just wearing my bathing suit and had the gnarly sunburn to prove it!
- You can’t walk on the stromatolites. As mentioned above, the stromatolites in Bacalar are extremely rare on the planet and integral both to the lagoon itself and our environment as a whole. To protect them, the beach club has put ropes around them to discourage people from touching or walking on them.
So please refrain from doing so- as our planet’s oldest living organisms, be sure mind your elders!
Enjoy Cenote Cocalitos- it’s an incredibly special place and worth a stop for all Bacalar visitors. Do you have any questions about visiting the cenote or Bacalar? Let me know in the comments below!