Tulum, Mexico is known for its stunning white beaches, vibrant nightlife, and boho chic vibes. But one of the most unique aspects of this part of Mexico is its proximity to cenotes, which are otherworldly underground caverns filled with crystal clear, cool water. Here’s the 7 best Tulum cenote tours from both Tulum and around Cancun and Playa del Carmen, so you can experience this amazing part of the Yucatan Peninsula all for yourself!
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What is a cenote?
If you’ve been researching what to do in the Yucatan Peninsula, you’ve probably heard of cenotes. But what exactly are cenotes?
A cenote (pronounced suh-NO-tay) is essentially when a sinkhole forms in the porous limestone bedrock of the Yucatan Peninsula and forms a large underground cavern. These caves usually fill with clear and cool groundwater (no warmer than 75°!), which feels SO refreshing under the hot Mexican sun.
While you can find cenotes in a few other countries around the world, including Canada, Zimbabwe, and Australia, the Yucatan Peninsula has, by far, the highest concentration of them—over 6,000!
While we now know and love cenotes as beautiful places to cool off on hot days, the ancient Mayans viewed them as much more than that, using them for precious drinking water and for agriculture and cleaning purposes.
Beyond that, though, the Mayans tied great spiritual significance to cenotes, believing them to be the gateway to the underworld. In fact, some cenotes were actually used for sacrificial purposes. Archaeologists have recovered everything from gold and jade to human remains, with injuries consistent with human sacrifice, at the bottom of cenotes.
Tulum Cenote Tours
You can find these swimming holes all over the Yucatan, including beautiful cenotes near Chichen Itza or in the northern part of the peninsula.
But Tulum has an incredibly high concentration, with a variety of different cenotes, ranging from ones with deep underground tunnels that are perfect for advanced scuba divers to ones with diving platforms that adventurous travelers can jump off from.
Tulum Cenote Tours from Tulum
This group tour is a great option if you’re looking to see lots of Tulum cenotes in one go.
After meeting at the Adventure Tour Center, your group will head to three uniquely beautiful cenotes.
First up is Cenote Zemway, an off-the-beaten-path cenote with incredibly clear water, that looks emerald green or bright turquoise, depending on the light. Beyond likely having the cenote totally to yourself, it also offers two platforms that are 15 feet and 18 feet high, respectively, to jump from.
Next, you’ll head to Gran Cenote, which actually offers two different caverns—a large and deep one with stunning underwater stalactite formations and lots of cute turtles swimming around and a much shallower one that’s perfect for just wading and relaxing in. I definitely recommend snorkeling here- when my husband, Justin, and I visited, swimming amidst the rock formations seriously felt like being on another planet!
Finally, the last stop of the tour is Casa Cenote, which essentially looks like a wide open lake, surrounded by mangroves and lush greenery. Underground tunnels actually allow seawater to flow directly into this cenote, so it’s not unusual to see stingrays and tropical fish here.
This is actually the cenote where Justin and I got scuba certified—and, from personal experience, I can tell you that you just might see an allegedly friendly crocodile swimming through the waters!
This tour is AWESOME, not only because of the incredible diversity of its stops, but also because of their guides, who are engaging and knowledgeable about cenotes’ ecosystems.
Want something a little bit more exclusive?
If so, I’d recommend going on this private tour of three of the most beautiful cenotes in Tulum.
You’ll stop first at the beautiful Gran Cenote—the rim of the cenote is dozens of feet above the turquoise water below, with luscious greenery draping down over its opening. While it’s stunning, it’s also one of the most popular cenotes in Tulum—but, luckily, on this tour, you’ll get to the cenote right when it opens before any of the massive tour buses arrive.
Next up, you’ll head to Cenote Taak-Bi-Ha, one of the most unique and under-the-radar swimming holes in Tulum. While Gran Cenote is partially in a cave, Taak-Bi-Ha is completely underground, with dramatic stalactites dripping from the ceiling and ice blue water. It definitely will give you a better understanding of why the Mayans believed that cenotes were portals to the underworld!
You’ll grab lunch and a cerveza (or two) at a local restaurant before heading to the final cenote, Xunaan Ha. Like Taak Bi Ha, Xunaan Ha is well off-the-beaten tourist path and has a variety of activities for adventurous travelers to enjoy from snorkeling with the tons of tiny fish in the crystal clear water to jumping from the diving platforms and even a zip line.
This tour company did an excellent job of selecting three very different and yet each incredibly beautiful—and fun!—cenotes. Plus the guides are fantastic—they are incredibly knowledgeable about both the natural and Mayan history associated with each of the cenotes and are, like, seriously committed to getting awesome photos and videos of you enjoying the beautiful cenotes.
If you want to mix cenotes with a bit more adventure, this unique tour lets you choose between riding e-bikes, scooters, or ATVs to three different cenotes—how cool is that?
You’ll stop first at the popular Gran Cenote, getting there bright and early before the masses arrive.
The other two cenotes on the tour are the more under-the-radar Cenote Escondido and Cenote Cristal. These two sinkholes are located in the same place, but still feel unique from one another. Cenote Escondido is a large pool with shockingly clear water that’s surrounded by lush plants and towering trees. Cenote Cristal, on the other hand, is excellent for snorkeling, given its cool underwater rock formations and plentiful fish.
Meet your group in Tulum before heading off to FOUR different cenotes in the area, each with their own unique adventures.
After a short hike through the jungle, you’ll reach your first one, Cenote Naval, a beautiful open pool, with lots of lily pads and cute little turtles. Ride on its zip line and jump into its cool refreshing water before hiking to your next stop, Cenote Pirañas.
This cenote has clear, emerald green water and is surrounded by the lush jungle—it feels like you’re swimming through your own little slice of paradise.
The next cenote, the Large Cenote Naval, has two of the longest ziplines you’ll find in any Tulum cenotes. One of these ziplines will actually take you to where you’ll launch a canoe to the final destination, Cenote Azul. True to its name, Cenote Azul has stunning blue waters and beautiful underwater rock formations that are perfect to swim or snorkel through.
After all that adventuring (snorkeling! canoeing! ziplining!), you’re sure to have worked up an appetite! You’ll head to a small village, while you’ll watch as locals prepare your meal of authentic Yucatanian food, including hibiscus agua fresca and hand-made tortillas.
Tulum Cenote Tours from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and the Riviera Maya
Pickup included from Cancun or the Riviera Maya
The first stop of this tour is the Tulum Ruins, which are the ONLY remaining Mayan ruins that overlook the ocean—pretty cool, huh?
You’ll be shown around this fascinating site by an archaeological guide and get to dive deeper into Mayan history. Afterwards, you’ll have some time to explore for yourself.
Afterward, you’ll drive down a bumpy jungle road to the remote Cenote Jaguar, with turquoise water and surrounded by mangrove trees. There are plenty of activities to enjoy here, besides taking in the stunning views, like snorkeling, jumping from any of its platforms, or even ziplining. You’ll also snag a tasty buffet lunch of traditional Yucatanian food.
You’ll make a quick pitstop to try Café Olla—a spiced Mexican coffee drink—before heading to your final destination of Akumal Bay. This is an AWESOME place to see sea turtles—in fact, usually several—so grab some snorkeling gear and jump into the water!
Beyond this being an awesome way to explore Tulum and its cenotes, the guides on this tour couldn’t be any more enthusiastic—plus there will be a professional photographer capturing all of the fun you’ll be having throughout the day!
Pickup included from Playa del Carmen
On this adventure, you’ll go to Cenote el Sueño, an underground cave with countless stalactites and stalactites and crystal clear, ice blue water. This is a private cenote that’s only open to groups, so there’s a good chance you’ll have it all to yourself as you navigate through a series of dramatic underground caverns.
Afterwards, you’ll head to Yal Ku, a unique lagoon where the river water mixes with seawater, with lots of tropical fish to see while you’re snorkeling. This calm cove is an excellent spot for beginner snorkelers to give it a go and, even if you’re not into snorkeling, you can enjoy the beautiful lagoon and its abundant wildlife (SO many birds!)
The guides with this company make every effort to make sure you have the best time, from maneuvering to get ahead of other tour groups so you can enjoy areas by yourself to explaining what kind of wildlife you’ll see while snorkeling.
Pickup available from Cancun
If you’re wanting to go on a tour of multiple Tulum cenotes, this tour is perfect for you, cramming in as many adventures (including TWO cenotes!) into one day.
After either meeting or getting picked up in Cancun, you’ll head to the Tulum Ruins, an ancient Mayan city with several well-preserved buildings and stunning coastal views. You’ll be guided around by a knowledgeable guide to learn about the Mayans who once lived here and have time to explore the beautiful site on your own.
The next two stops are what we’re all here for—cenotes!
Cenote Dos Ojos, the first one, is so named because it essentially has two “eyes”—two underground cenotes that are connected by a cave. Because of the unique openings in the ceiling above, dazzling light rays shoot through the water here, lighting up the electric blue water and the unique rock formations waiting below the water.
The beautiful Gran Cenote is the next stop, with plenty of wildlife, like blue crabs, small fish, and turtles, swimming through its clear water.
After a quick stop at a local restaurant for lunch, you’ll head to your last stop in Tulum on the tour. At Sculpture Park Ven A La Luz, you can marvel at Tulum’s iconic wooden statue that you’ve surely seen all over social media with a larger-than-life woman opening her chest cavity to reveal luscious vines and greenery hanging within.
On your way back to your hotel, you’ll make a quick stop at Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen, a happening street with tons of boutiques, bars, and restaurants.
I hope you have a little bit of a better idea of what kind of Tulum cenote tour you want to take, whether you’re staying in this boho beach town or elsewhere in the Riviera Maya. Do you have any questions about any of the tours listed above—or just visiting cenotes in Tulum in general? Let me know in the comments below!