There’s few things that pair better with a day of exploring Chichen Itza under the hot Mexican sun than heading to a cenote afterwards to cool down in its clear, blue water. Better yet, there’s plenty of incredible cenotes close to Mexico’s Wonder of the World, where you can enjoy this colorful country’s unique geological beauty and get a glimpse into its rich history and culture. Here’s 8 incredible cenotes near Chichen Itza for the most epic adventure in the Yucatan Peninsula.
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What is a cenote?
If you’ve been planning a trip to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, you’ve probably heard the term “cenote” (pronounced suh-NO-tay) about a bajillion times. But… what are they exactly?
A cenote is essentially a sinkhole that forms when the porous limestone bedrock of the Yucatan Peninsula collapses and exposes an underground cavern underneath it. This sinkhole fills with cool, clear groundwater, providing the perfect spot to splash around in the Yucatan’s tropical paradise.
Because the Yucatan essentially sits on a big ol’ slab of limestone, there’s over 6,000 cenotes here! In fact, there’s a higher concentration of cenotes here than any other place on the planet!
While we now know and love cenotes as a place to swim, snorkel, and take cool Instagram photos, they were so much more than that to the ancient Mayans that once lived here. It provided them with a source of consistent fresh drinking water, in addition to having great spiritual significance. The Mayans actually believed that cenotes were portals to the underworld and were even used for sacrificial purposes, with sacrifices ranging from gold to jade jewelry and yes, even humans.
How to Get to Cenotes Near Chichen Itza
The roads are well maintained and driving is incredibly similar to what you’ll experience in the United States. In fact, my husband, Justin frequently comments on how drivers in the Yucatan are far more cautious and courteous than those in the United States.
If you can’t swing a rental car, the easiest way to visit some of these cenotes will be booking a tour from wherever you’re staying in the Yucatan Peninsula. I’ve noted below some of the tour options you’ll have to combine visiting Chichen Itza with your cenote of choice.
The Most Incredible Cenotes Near Chichen Itza
1. Cenote Suytun
- Location: Cenote Suytun is located here in Valladolid, 50 minutes east of Chichen Itza.
- Entrance fee: 200 MXN ($10). As this cenote increases in popularity, though, the admission price keeps going up and up, so let us know if you visit and the price has increased!
- Amenities: Cenote Suytun has everything you need- bathrooms, changing rooms, showers, an onsite bar and restaurant, and gift shop! There’s also complimentary life jacket rentals, which are required to be worn if you’re swimming in the cenote.
You’ve certainly seen Cenote Suytun countless times on your Instagram feed—a massive cavern, dripping with stalactites, and in its center, a single beam of light shining down onto a submerged stone platform. As mentioned above, the Mayans believed that cenotes were a portal to the underworld and I can TOTALLY see it here. In fact, I’ve been to a lot of cenotes around the Yucatan and, in my opinion, Cenote Suytun looks the most otherworldly.
To be honest, most folks that visit Cenote Suytun stop here to quickly grab a photo and leave, but there’s certainly more to do here than that. You’re welcome to swim around in the cenote’s cool water and– if you’re interested in snorkeling, there’s plenty of large black fish swimming here (I’d recommend bringing along your own snorkel gear, though, as I didn’t notice any kind of rentals for these here!).
There’s actually even another cenote to visit on the property, named Cenote Kaapeh. While it’s not quite as epic-looking at Cenote Suytun, it’s still definitely worth a stop during your visit.
Because of its ubiquity on social media, it can be one of the most crowded cenotes near Chichen Itza and, thus, the owners have placed a one-hour restriction on visiting within the cenote itself. So, if you’re looking to get some killer shots or videos, I’d prioritize doing that first thing when you arrive. If you want to maximize your time actually enjoying the cenote (and not patiently waiting in line so that you can get a photo), it’s best to show up as soon as they open at 9 AM to ensure you get it largely to yourself.
2. Cenote Ik-Kil
- Location: Cenote Ik Kil is located here, outside of the teeny town of Piste and just 6 minutes south of Chichen Itza.
- Entrance fee: $80 MXN ($4 USD)
- Amenities: There’s bathrooms, changing rooms, showers, two(!!!) restaurants, snack bars, and even a bar. There’s also a few items that you can rent for a nominal fee, like lockers ($30 MXN), towels ($30 MXN), and lifejackets ($60 MXN, which are required to swim here).
While the Yucatan Peninsula is full of jaw dropping cenotes, Cenote Ik-Kil is arguably the most beautiful one, resembling something straight out of Avatar. Lush greenery and wild vines dramatically drape from the top of the sinkhole down to the surface of the water 85 feet below. Not only is it gorgeous, it also just so happens to be one of the closest cenotes to Chichen Itza.
Given its proximity to the ruins, many visitors combine Chichen Itza and Cenote Ik-Kil for a nice day trip.
One option is to drive here yourself if you’re renting a car in Tulum, Cancun, Bacalar, or any of the other popular destinations around the Yucatan. There’s a nice big lot here, with plenty of free parking.
Alternatively, you can go here on an organized tour. For example, this popular tour, which leaves from Cancun or Playa del Carmen, heads to Chichen Itza first thing in the morning, with a stop to cool down at Cenote Ik Kil in the afternoon. Alternatively, this private tour from Tulum will take you to Chichen Itza as soon as it opens and, after you’re done exploring the ancient Mayan city, you’ll get to drink in the beauty of Cenote Ik Kil.
Cenote Ik Kil is probably the most popular stop for most visitors after exploring Chichen Itza, so it can get pretty crowded, especially on weekends and during the middle of the day. So, regardless of how you get here, try to hit Chichen Itza first and as early as you can. If you visit the ruins as soon as its gates open, you’ll likely be able to enjoy both the ancient city and Cenote Ik Kil largely to yourself before all of the tour bus masses descend.
Alternatively, if you’re just planning on visiting Cenote Ik Kil, time your visit around 3 PM once the tour buses have all departed for the day, with plenty of time to swim and explore before it closes at 5 pm.
Once you’re here, you’ll be able to paddle around the crystal clear waters or, if you’re a daredevil, jump from any of the diving platforms located around the cenote. While you won’t be able to jump from the top of Cenote Ik Kil, it has hosted the Red Bull Cliff Diving competition multiple times, where professional divers plummet 85 feet from the rim of the cenote to the water below.
Recommended by Shelley of Tulum Travel Secrets
3. Cenote Oxman
- Location: Cenote Oxman is located here, outside of the town of Valladolid, a colonial town that makes a great base to explore the Mayan ruins in the Yucatan, or just 35 minutes east of Chichen Itza.
- Entrance fee: This cenote offers several packages, with some discounted rates for visitors that are under 18 years old.
All of these packages include the entrance fee (which includes access to the cenote, a pool, and the use of chairs and umbrellas), plus a mandatory life jacket rental.
Basic Package – $150 MXN ($7.50 USD) for adults and $100 MXN ($5 USD) for minors.
Plus Package – $300 MXN ($15 USD) for adults and $200 MXN ($10 USD) for minors, with a credit of $250 ($12 USD) or $150 MXN ($7.50 USD) at the restaurant and bar.
Buffet Package (available on Saturdays and Sundays only) – $350 MXN ($17.50 USD) for adults and $250 MXN ($12.50 USD) for minors, includes a buffet lunch.
- Amenities: It offers changing areas, bathrooms, and showers. There are no lockers onsite, so consider leaving your valuables at home for this one!
With long tree roots that flow from the opening to the water below, Cenote Oxman is one of the most lush-looking cenotes near Chichen Itza.
You can either enjoy the cool waters by climbing down a staircase that descends from the mouth of the cenote down to the water almost 80 feet below. Alternatively, the more adventurous (and fun!) way to get into the deep, blue water is to use the rope swing dangling about 10 feet above the water.
Cenote Oxman is still a little under the mass-tourism radar and it’s usually unnecessary to plan your visit around missing crowds here. If you can, it’s actually best to visit midday when the sun is directly over its wide opening and illuminates the turquoise water below.
Once you’ve gotten your fill of the cenote, there’s still quite a bit to do on the property, which was once a hacienda that served as an agave plantation. For example, you can relax at the swimming pool, get a yummy Yucatanian dish at its restaurant, or sip on an afternoon drink at the onsite bar.
If you want to combine your visit to Cenote Oxman with Chichen Itza, there’s several tour options from popular destinations all around the Yucatan.
For example, check out this private excursion, one of the best Chichen Itza tours from Playa del Carmen. It includes a guided tour of Mexico’s Wonder of the World, some time to cool down in Cenote Oxman, and lunch at a local restaurant in Valladolid. Alternatively, this private tour from Valladolid typically stops at Cenote Ik Kil (in addition to Chichen Itza and a Mayan village where you’ll enjoy lunch!), but your guide will happily stop at Cenote Oxman instead, if you’re looking for something a bit more off the typical tourist path (just be sure to let your guide know ahead of time!).
Recommended by Julien of Cultures Traveled
4. Cenote Yokdzonot
- Location: It’s located here in the teeny tiny town of Yokdzonot, just 24 minutes west of Chichen Itza.
- Entrance fees: $150 MXN ($7.50 USD), which includes a complimentary life jacket rental
- Amenities: There’s showers, bathrooms, and an onsite restaurant.
Cenote Yokdzonot is out-of-this-world beautiful, just like Cenote Ik Kil, with dramatic vines reaching from the lip of the cenote down to its cool, azure waters. However, it has the benefit of being a LOT less crowded than some of the other cenotes near Chichen Itza.
I also LOVE the story of Cenote Yokdzonot—the women of the village were trying to come up with a plan to bring economic prosperity to their small town and decided to turn a long-forgotten-about cenote into a tourist attraction.
Over the course of two years, they labored (on a completely unpaid basis) to clear away trash and overgrowth that had collected around the cenote from decades of neglect and built infrastructure for visitors to actually get down to the water. After a ton of back-breaking work, Cenote Yokdzonot opened to the public and, with hundreds of visitors stopping by on an annual basis, the women’s plan worked!
Beyond just swimming, Yokdzonot may just offer the most activities of any of the cenotes near Chichen Itza, from a zipline over the water to rappelling down the wall of the cenote and even camping along the rim of the sinkhole!
There’s a Chichen Itza tours that include Cenote Yokdzonot, like this small group tour from Valladolid or this jam-packed tour from Merida, including stops at the Yellow City of Izamal, Chichen Itza, the cenote, and a separate stop for lunch (phew!).
5. Cenote Saamal
- Location: Cenote Saamal is located here, right outside of the colonial town of Vallodolid and 35 minutes east of Chichen Itza.
- Entrance fee: $150 MXN ($7.50 USD) for entry and locker and life jacket (which are required to swim here!) rentals or $250 MXN ($12.50) for entry, life jacket and locker rentals, and a buffet lunch
- Amenities: Cenote Saamal offers changing rooms, showers, a bar and restaurant, and gift shop.
Cenote Saamal is part of a beautifully-maintained hacienda with a picturesque courtyard, called Selva Maya. This complex actually offers a lot more than just the cenote, such as bike rentals, a zipline, and even a stand for marquesita (a crispy crepe like dessert).
Saamal has a massive open pool and, unlike some of the other cenotes near Chichen Itza, it gets plenty of light, regardless of the time of day. With an eye-popping depth of 150 feet, there’s a diving platform if you want to jump into the water or, alternatively, you can just walk down a steep set of stairs to enter. Beyond these features, there’s also a (man-made) waterfall, which ups the picturesqueness of the cenote that much more.
As one of the best Valladolid cenotes and just a stone’s throw from Mexico’s Wonder of the World, Cenote Saamal is a popular stop on Chichen Itza tours from Tulum and for other popular destinations. If you’d like to enjoy it in peace, it’s best to show up right after it opens at 9 AM.
On the bright side, you’ll have lots of options of getting to Cenote Saamal if you want to combine your visit with a stop at Chichen Itza. For example, on this private tour from Tulum, you’ll be shown around the ancient city with a knowledgeable guide, stop at a local Mayan village for a homemade lunch (that almost certainly will include handmade tortillas!), and an afternoon swim at Cenote Saamal. Alternatively, this highly-rated group tour from Cancun includes a morning tour of Chichen Itza, a stop at Cenote Saamal for both swimming and lunch, and time to mosey around Valladolid.
Recommended by Mal of Raw Mal Roams
6. Cenote Tsukan
- Location: Cenote Tsukan is located here in the small town of Piste, just 15 minutes west of Chichen Itza.
- Entrance fee: Tsukan offers three different entry packages.
- For $230 MXN ($11.50 USD), you get access to the cenote and a life jacket rental.
- For $470 MXN ($23.50 USD), there are two packages where you can get access to the cenote, a life jacket rental, and a delicious meal at the onsite restaurant.
- Amenities: The cenote offers changing rooms, bathrooms, showers, a gift shop, snack bar, picnic area, lifeguards, and snorkel and locker rentals.
Tsukan is one of the newest cenotes near Chichen Itza, becoming open to the public in 2019, and is undoubtedly one of the Yucatan’s best-kept secrets.
The full name of the park is Tsukan Sanctuary of Life and its grounds, which feel more like a nature park than a tourist attraction, live up to its dramatic name. With paths winding through lush trees past the cenote’s amenities, it’s clear the property is trying to feel as untouched and authentic as possible
Additionally, to enter the cenote, you’ll need to climb down a set of stone stairs into a cave. Here. you’ll find benches, where you can leave your towel and shoes when you’re off enjoying the water, and the entrance to the cenote itself.
Tsukan is mostly in an enclosed cavern, with dramatic stalactites hanging from the ceiling. There’s a small opening in its roof that casts dazzling light beams onto the clear, turquoise water.
Since Tsukan is seriously under the tourist radar, you don’t have to worry about any massive tour buses showing up here. Regardless of when you come, you’ll have a decent chance of having the cenote largely to yourself!
Recommended by Sherry of Digital Nomad and a Dog
7. Cenote Xkeken
- Location: Cenote Xkeken is located here, right outside of Valladolid and 35 minutes east of Chichen Itza.
- Entrance fee: $80 MXN ($4 USD) for adults and $50 Pesos ($2.50 USD) for children
- Amenities: There are showers, changing rooms, bathrooms, life jacket rentals (for $10 MXN ($.50 USD)), and snorkeling rentals.
Cenote Xkeken is one of the best cenotes in Riviera Maya, offering visitors the chance to swim in a stunning underground cave with enormous stalactites hanging from its ceiling.
To enter the cenote, you’ll squeeze through a very narrow hole that opens up into an underwater cavern full of otherworldly rock formations. Once inside, you can swim in the cool water, snorkel, or simply admire the beauty of the cenote from its shallow edges.
One of the most interesting aspects of this cenote is that it’s on the same property as Cenote Samula. While they’re connected by an underground river system, Samula has a different vibe than Xkeken, with a large hole in the roof of its cavern that creates dazzling light beams on the water below.
You can actually purchase tickets for both cenotes at one time ($135 MXN ($6.50 USD)), but interestingly enough, you can only use a rented life jacket in the cenote where you rented it.
It’s a good idea to include water shoes or sandals on your Mexico packing list to use inside of the cenote, because the rocky bottom and the staircase leading down to the cavern can be super slippery. Justin swears by his Tevas hiking sandals (they’re amazing- you can use them as water shoes or hiking shoes!) and I have a cult-like love for my Tevas sandals as well!
Recommended by Sara of Travel Mexico Guide
8. Cenote Zaci
- Location: Cenote Zaci is uniquely located here, in the heart of the town of Valladolid and 45 minutes east of Chichen Itza.
- Entrance fee: $30 MXN ($1.50 USD), one of the cheapest you’ll find in the area!
- Amenities: Cenote Zaci offers restrooms (which cost $5 MXN), showers, a restaurant, and life jacket rentals.
Many Chichen Itza visitors use the colorful pueblo magico (or magical town) of Valladolid as their springboard to stay overnight when you’re exploring the ancient city. So if you happen to fall into that camp, a stop at Cenote Zaci is the perfect way to wind down after a day of exploring the ruins under the hot sun.
You might assume that a cenote located quite literally in the middle of a popular tourist town would be crowded, but it’s actually much quieter than many of the cenotes near Chichen Itza and is mainly frequented by locals (the affordable price point is always a dead giveaway for a more local attraction!).
Cenote Zaci has several unique features, including one of the tallest diving platforms in the area (at 26 feet above the water, it makes my palms sweaty just typing that out!) and several man-made waterfalls that dramatically fall like a curtain around the wall of the cavern.
If you want to visit both sites in one day, make sure that when you are packing for Chichen Itza that you throw a swimsuit and cover-up in your day bag along with some cash to cover your entrance fee. Alternatively, if you’re too pooped from exploring the ruins all day, its restaurant has some killer guacamole and an excellent view of the divers leaping into the cool water below.
Recommended by Stephanie of History Fan Girl
I hope you have a better idea of which of the cenotes near Chichen Itza you want to explore during your visit. Do you have any questions about these otherworldly swimming holes? Let me know in the comments below!