Cenote Suytun: The Yucatan’s Most Otherworldly Cenote

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Cenote Suytun is arguably the most famous cenote in the Yucatan. You know the one I’m talking about- think of a stalactite-laden cavern, with a single beam of light, shining down onto a submerged stone platform. If you want to mark this otherworldly (and very Instagrammable!) place off your bucket list, here’s everything you need to know about visiting Cenote Suytun.

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Woman standing on a circular platform in Cenote Suytun near Valladolid, Mexico
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What are cenotes in Mexico?

If you’ve been planning a trip around the Yucatan Peninsula, you’ve almost certainly heard of cenotes. Cenotes (pronounced suh-NO-tay) are sinkholes that are formed when the Yucatan’s porous limestone erodes and collapses, creating an underground cavern. 

Given the porous nature of the limestone, rainwater seeps into the ground here and creates an enormous network of underground rivers. When a cenote forms, the water in these underground rivers flows into the cavern, forming a pool of cool, clear water.

Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza in Mexico

Cenotes are not unique to Mexico—in fact, they’re found all over the world, from Canada to Zimbabwe. But Mexico is unique in its sheer volume of cenotes, with over 7,000 in its footprint. It’s actually believed that the enormous meteor that hit the Earth around 66 million years ago in Chicxulub, Mexico, ultimately leading to the extinction of dinosaurs, also likely caused the formation of all the cenotes here.

While we now love cenotes for swimming and their Instagrammability (obvs), the ancient Mayans used to view them as so much more than that. In fact, in addition to using cenotes for fresh drinking water and other very practical things, the Mayans also believed that cenotes were the portal to the underworld. 

And Cenote Suytun kind of looks exactly like that!

How to Get to Cenote Suytun

Cenote Suytun is located about 10 minutes outside of the town of Valladolid, a colorful town, full of colonial architecture, that’s frequently used by travelers as a springboard when visiting Chichen Itza.

To get from Valladolid to Cenote Suytun, you have several different options. You can either drive your rental car, grab a taxi or rideshare, or a colectivo from Vallodolid’s bus station (for just about $1!).

Colorful Valladolid sign at night

Otherwise, you can basically get to the cenote from any of the most popular destinations around the Yucatan. For example:

  • Cancun to Cenote Suytun: You can either take an ADO bus to Valladolid (around $10) and then take a taxi, or alternatively, drive your rental car two hours and 10 minutes west to the cenote.

    There’s also a few tour groups that leave Cancun and stop at Cenote Suytun so you don’t have to worry about transportation yourself, like this tour, which includes round-trip transportation, lunch, and visits to Cenote Suytun, Rio Lagartos, and Las Coloradas
  • Playa del Carmen to Cenote Suyun: You can take the ADO bus from 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen to Valladolid (around $10) and then take a taxi, or alternatively, drive your rental car the two hours northwest to the cenote.

    You can also book a tour to the cenote that departs from Playa del Carmen, like this private tour, including breakfast, round-trip transportation, and visiting two cenotes.
  • Tulum to Cenote Suytun: You can take the ADO bus to Valladolid (around $8) and then take a taxi, or drive your rental car one hour and 20 minutes north to the cenote.

    You can also (you guessed it!) book a tour from Tulum, like this private tour, which includes both Cenote Suytun and Cenote Oxman, round-trip transportation, and breakfast.
Pssst.... if you're staying in Tulum, there's tons of incredible swimming holes in that area as well, like Gran Cenote or Cenote Calavera, which you can explore on any number of incredible Tulum cenote tours!
  • Merida to Cenote Suytun: Take the ADO bus from the CAME station to Valladolid (around $11) and then take a taxi or drive a rental car two hours and 10 minutes southeast to the cenote.

    Alternatively, you can find some Chichen Itza tours that stop at the cenote, like this private tour from Merida that stops at the ancient Mayan city and Valladolid.
Parking lot in Cenote Suytun near Valladolid, Mexico

Once you reach the cenote, there’s a huge parking lot with lots of spaces. As with anywhere, I wouldn’t recommend leaving valuables in your vehicle, but, because the ticket office looks out into the parking lot, I felt pretty comfortable leaving our car in the lot.

How far is Cenote Suytun from Chichen Itza?

Cenote Suytun is one of the best cenotes near Chichen Itza, about 50 minute east of the ancient city. It’s super easy to combine these two into a one day extravaganza (especially if you have a rental car). 

I’d suggest heading to Chichen Itza first to beat the insane crowds and then hitting Cenote Suytun in the afternoon. My husband, Justin, and I stopped at another cenote, Cenote Yokdzonot, after Chichen Itza during our Yucatan road trip and the cool water felt soooo amazingly refreshing after spending all afternoon in the hot sun. Highly recommend that you do the Wonder of the World and cenote combo as well!

How Much Does Cenote Suytun Cost?

Admission to Cenote Suytun costs 200 MXN ($10). As the cenote swells in popularity, so do the prices- so don’t be surprised if it’s a bit more expensive than that when you visit! (…and if it is, please let us know in the comments so we can update this article. Thanks!)

Ticket office to Cenote Suytun near Valladolid, Mexico

It’s worth noting that admission to Cenote Suytun actually includes admission to two different cenotes- Suytun, in addition to Cenote Kaapeh, a half-open cenote with shallow water. So you’re basically getting a two-for-one deal here!

What to Expect When Visiting Cenote Suytun

Once you pay for admission, you’ll enter through a gift shop with locally made arts and crafts (and free tequila shots!). 

There’s changing rooms if you need to put on your swimsuit, which, while rustic, provide privacy and are decently clean. 

Like all cenotes in the Yucatan, you’ll be asked to rinse off in the facility’s showers before getting in the water here. This is to prevent the natural oils and any sunscreen or lotion on your skin from leaching off into the water and negatively impacting the cenote’s fragile ecosystem. 

Woman walking through the grounds on Cenote Suytun property

If you plan on swimming, you’ll need to grab a complimentary life vest from one of the attendants stationed near the showers. I know life vests don’t look very Instagrammable or whatever, but Cenote Suytun requires them if you plan on actually getting in the water. If you’re just here to snap some photos on the platform, though, not to worry- you aren’t required to wear a life vest on it.

Turn to your left and follow the path leading back through the property. Eventually, you’ll reach a stone stairway, steeply descending into the earth. To be honest, if there was a stairway to the underworld, I have to imagine this is exactly what it would look like (side note: Stairway to the Underworld would be an excellent band name).

Stairwell into Cenote Suytun near Valladolid in Mexico

Once you walk down these stairs, you’ll enter into the cavern and descend down a second set of stairs to reach the main platform.  There’s several rows of huge concrete steps to provide seating here, including  in front of, behind, and to the side of this main platform, all facing towards the water.

The cenote itself is stunningly gorgeous, with towering walls and a ceiling that’s dripping with countless stalactites. There’s just a small hole, but a few feet in diameter, in the center of the ceiling that lets the infamous beam of light in, as well as a few lush plants dangling down from the jungle.

You can take photos to your heart’s content, although, of course, don’t be a jerk to others  around you. People are very good here at patiently waiting in line for their turn, so keep the good vibes a-going and don’t take too awfully long to get your photo or video. 

Woman sitting on circular stone platform in Cenote Suytun in Mexico

You can also swim here (although, truth be told, you may get the stink eye from folks trying to get their TikToks or whatever without you splashing around in the background). The water is quite cool (75°F), but, as mentioned above, it can feel refreshing if you’ve been in the sun all day!

Alternatively, you can snorkel, although I’d recommend bringing along your own snorkel set (Justin and I each have this one and love it!). There’s actually tons of large black fish swimming  here that are equal parts cool and spooky in the dark water. 

Woman swimming at Cenote Suytun near Valladolid, Mexico

Once you’re done enjoying the cenote, it’s worth heading over to Cenote Kaapeh, which is close to where the ticket stand is. The water is a bit on the murky side, so I don’t think that many folks actually swim here. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful spot to quickly check out, especially if you’re looking for something a bit quieter than Cenote Suytun.

When to Visit Cenote Suytun

The most popular time to visit the Yucatan is from December through May, when the temperatures are pleasant and the skies are generally clear.  It’s also by far the most crowded time to visit, so be prepared to wait in a line to snap your photo at the cenote!

It can get crowded here. So crowded, in fact, that the owners have instituted a one-hour time limit for visiting the cenote. When we visited in October (solidly in the off-season), there was hardly anyone there and this rule definitely wasn’t being enforced. But be forewarned that you might get kicked out after an hour if you happen to be visiting during a more popular time.

Woman standing on circular stone platform in Cenote Suytun near Valladolid, Mexico

If you want to miss the crowds, I’d suggest visiting on a weekday instead of the busy weekends. We visited on a Wednesday and were able to take photo after photo on the platform (with no one else waiting to take photos!).

In terms of what time of day you should visit, you’ll get the best photos at Cenote Suytun if the beam of light is directly shining down onto the platform, which will happen around 12 PM.  

If the light beam is important to you, be punctual! We showed up just after lunch and were able to snap a few photos where the light beam was on the platform, but, by 1 PM, the light beam had moved 10 feet or more to the right of the platform.

Woman standing on circular platform looking up at lightbeam in Cenote Suytun in Mexico

Finally, if it’s cloudy, you may not get the light beam of your dreams- it usually has to be quite sunny for the lightbeam to appear. 

If you don’t give two figs about the light beam, I’d instead suggest showing up when the cenote first opens at 9 AM or right before it closes, at 4 PM. You’ll likely get it all to yourself!

Frequently Asked Questions about Cenote Suytun

What are the hours at Cenote Suytun?

Cenote Suytun is open from 9 AM to 5 PM, with the last ticket sold at 4 PM.

How do you get the best photos at Cenote Suytun?

As mentioned above, the best time to capture the light beam at Cenote Suytun is 12 PM. 

Otherwise, the best way to get the money shot is if you’re standing on the stairs when you first enter the cenote, which really helps capture the grandeur of the cavern. Alternatively, you can get some neat photos if the photographer is standing near where the stone platform juts into the water. 

Stalactites and a light beam in Cenote Suytun

Part of what makes Cenote Suytun look so mysterious and otherworldly is how dark it is.

While darkness is great for moodiness, it’s not so good for photos. So, for the best results, shoot with a mirrorless camera, like our trusty Sony A7III (if you’re interested in photography, check out our review of the Sony A7III) and play with the shutter speed. In dark conditions, you’re going to want to use a slow shutter speed and a tripod to help prevent blur. 

Can you dive at Cenote Suytun?

No, unlike some of the cenotes in the Yucatan, like Cenote Yokdzonot or Cenote Azul, Suytun is quite shallow, ranging from 3.5 to 16.5 feet deep, which is too shallow for diving.

What facilities can I expect at Cenote Suytun?

You can expect the following facilities at Cenote Suytun:

  • Bathrooms, changing rooms, and showers
  • Locker rentals for around 35 MXN (~$2)
  • A restaurant that serves a buffet of Yucatanian food. You can purchase a dual ticket to the cenote, plus the buffet for 350 MXN (~$18). 
  • Gift shop (with the aforementioned free tequila shots!)
  • Onsite cabanas
Cafeteria at Cenote Suytun in Mexico

It’s also worth mentioning that you can actually rent out Cenote Suytun for private events, like weddings or other ceremonies for an hour at a time. Can you imagine how epic the wedding photos would be?

What is the history of Cenote Suytun?

While Cenote Suytun looks quite mystical, there doesn’t appear to be much historical records regarding the ancient Mayans’ use of it.

Rather, the cenote has sat under the earth on a cattle ranch outside of Valladolid for a number of years. In September 2009, the rancher’s family decided to turn part of the property, including Cenote Suytun, into a tourist attraction, due to the rising popularity of cenotes. Part of this transformation including adding the underwater stone platform that makes the cenote so unique today!

What should I bring to Cenote Suytun?

Besides any photo gear you might want to take with you, you really don’t need much at Cenote Suytun. However, I’d recommend adding the following to your Mexico packing list so you can bring them to the cenote:

  • A quick-dry towel: If you plan to be hitting the beach or bouncing around to different cenotes while you’re in the Yucatan, I’d suggest packing along a quick-dry towel. They’re usually pretty packable, light, and make it so that you don’t have to run around the Yucatan sopping wet. Score!
  • GoPro: The Yucatan is the perfect place for a GoPro, with unlimited opportunities for underwater photos and videos. I had a blast with ours in Cenote Suytun, trying to get videos of the skittish (and still spooky) fish.
Woman using GoPro in Cenote Suytun near Valladolid, Mexico

It’s no wonder the Cenote Suytun is one of the most popular cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula. Do you have any questions about visiting the cenote? Let me know in the comments below!

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