The Cenotes are natural water sinkholes scattered all over the Yucatan peninsula, their natural and historic influence is huge, this is due to the fact that the peninsula has no superficial rivers because of its soil characteristics, all the rain water falls down through the limestone and into the underground rivers connecting the more than 10,000 cenotes in the peninsula.
For the wildlife of the region is the only source of fresh water and life revolves and thrives around and within them.
For the ancient Mayas just as for every other species in the area, Cenotes were vital, not only as a source of fresh water but also as a very important aspect of their religious, cultural, political and cosmological life
The Word “cenote” comes from the yucatecan Mayan Word “Dzonot” which is also coming from two words, “Dzotz” which means “Bat” and “Nah” which means “House” so the word actually means “House of bats” this makes a lot of sense as every afternoon after sunset, hundreds of thousands of bats roam out of these caves out in to the open to feed, coming back to the caves every morning before sunrise.
The Mayans settled around these natural water sinkholes and saw them along with caves as the doors to “Xibalba” the Mayan underworld where the spirits of the valiant dead tangle with super natural beings, and the roots of the tree of life are found.
Cenotes where seen as ceremonial places and doorways to the divine. From here, these roots extend through the earthly realms of the forests and to the cosmos.
Human sacrifices where held here by the end of the post-classic period and marked the beginning of the Great Mayan collapse
After all these historical facts here comes the fun. There are over 10,000 Cenotes in the peninsula and you can access to nearly 5,000 of them, yet, there are only a few really accessible from the main roads and near the main towns in Yucatan and Quintana Roo. We are going to focus on those ones to make a simple task easier.
In Quintana Roo
Descending from Cancun on Highway 307 , which runs all the way down to Chetumal, just 30 km from Cancun there’s a little fishermen town called Puerto Morelos , either shortly before reaching Puerto Morelos , located on the right side , we will place an entry with a yellow Arch and with a sign that says Nuevo Vallarta, RUTA DE LOS CENOTES , remember, this is coming from north to south ; Likewise there is advertising a ” Ecological ” Park called Selvatica , move on, and once this indication is located , must delve 17 km, until you reach the community of Nuevo Vallarta, there find at least 5 different Cenotes, and a Temazcal, this is an Indigenous traditional sauna , attended by locals , is a unique experience, should relax first heat of steam into this bath Sauna Maya , and after the Sauna session, a swim , the water is cool to … 24 ° c , is incredible sensation, tempered metabolism , relaxes the nervous system , and cardiovascular system is vitalized , is a rewarding experience . This is also a paradise for Birdwatchers .
Tajmahal this Cenote is only 5 km from Puerto Aventuras. A highly recommended cenote for those who love cave scuba diving and very well known by locals. Its amazing rock formations and its proximity to the ocean give this beautiful place the name of one of the 7 wonders of the world. Incredible vaults that interact with the sunlight creating a magnificent spectacle
Ponderosa; this is one of the most visited cenotes by underwater photographers scuba divers and snorkelers due to its beautiful rock formations and the wildlife that inhabit at it. Turtles, fish and amazing light and shadows make of this cenote one of the best.
Cenote Azul; this cenote is located only 4 km south of Puerto Aventuras and it’s a great option for those who love open snorkeling, it thrives with wildlife.
Aktun Chi; this cenote is located in the middle of the jungle and has 5 different vaults, in its entrance some Mayan temples can be seen guarding the entrance to the underworld as timeless witness of an era.
Sac Actun Considered one of the world’s longest underground rivers , has an entry on the Cancun- Tulum highway; has 153.6 km in length and maximum depth of 72 meters . There are over 111 cenotes in its path, in some of which the archeologists have located the remains of early man, besides historical Pleistocene animal skeletons . Near Tulum, recorded human remains with more than 10,000 years , groups that are even older than the Maya, Olmec or any other recorded groups in the area. Probably the oldest inhabitants of Mesoamerica
Ox Bel Ha; its name means “three paths of water” in ancient Maya, and it’s the longest explored underwater cave in the world, ranking 4th including dry caves. As of January 2014 the surveyed length is 256.9 kilometers (159.6 mi) of underwater passages. It’s located near Tulum and diving centers in town are specialist in these excursions, you can swim in its waters but a certification is required to scuba dive in it.
Cenote Dos ojos, this cenote is one of the top 5 cenotes in the area, the name of this cenote is in Spanish and means “two eyes” due to the connection between two cenotes in an underwater cave, kind of “two eyes in to the underworld. This cenote is perfect for all ages as its facilities are very well conditioned,
Dos ojos is located a few kilometers north Tulum
El Gran Cenote; This cenote is located 3.5 km from Tulum down the road to Coba, this is one of the locals favorites , you can snorkel or Scuba dive its waters with no special certification but a Padi open water certificate. The technical level on this one is very low, yet some previous directions needed.
Cenote Angelita; cave divers love to call it “a saltwater river flowing in a fresh water sinkhole”It is probably the most unusual formation of its kind . The saltwater has a high amount of hydrogen sulfide and a more obvious opacity , highlighting fresh water above this , allowing divers to swim along the underwater building , which has the same appearance as a river . There are even trees and fallen leaves on both sides of its “margins ” , which makes this landscape something even more surreal.
Cenote Calavera; the name means “Skull” and this is due to the shape formed by the 3 holes on the roof of this cenote, the name is also related to the human skull present in it, it is also known as The temple of Doom. This cenote is also just a few minutes drive west from Tulum going to Coba. It is not unusual to find human remains laying in cenotes as they were used for human sacrifice by the ancient Mayans. This cenote is also one of local’s favorites.
Cenote Carwash; this cenote is located just steps from Tulum downtown, its name comes from the use local taxi drivers use to give to this cenote, yes, they used to wash their cabs here. Now this practice is no longer in use and this cenote is one beautiful spot to visit while in Tulum. Its shallow waters are full of life, fish and planta adorn this open cenote making it perfect for snorkeling. Scuba diving is also possible as it is connected to some underwater caves. It’s a great option to spend the day due to its proximity to town and facilities.
Cenote Zazil Ha; the name means “clear water” and it’s also just minutes away from Tulum. The color of its water is jade green and it’s perfect for swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving. It’s connected to other cenotes like carwash and calavera and has an underground chamber called “Las lagrimas” which in Spanish means “Tears” this is due to the shape of the stalagmites inside. Has a restaurant, bar, cabanas, restrooms and parking lot. Perfect for a refreshing day.
Stay tunned for more cenotes in future posts!!
let us know what you think!