Cancun is not solely for spring break or all-inclusive luxury. Unique adventures await travelers selecting Cancun and the Riviera Maya as a holiday destination. For those more adventurous, plan to take a swim in the mystical Mayan underworld and connect with nature in a new way by swimming (or even get married) in the cenotes of Cancun.
Cenotes, sacred Mayan swimming holes, are the perfect place to refresh and recharge on a trip to Mexico. Located throughout the Yucatan Peninsula they surprise and delight visitors who want to explore and literally dive into the world of the Maya.
What is A Cenote?
Cenotes are natural swimming holes created by the slow collapse of limestone rock over many, many years. Some have broken through to the surface; others have not, but the entire system is a unique subterranean world of (mostly) crystal clear, 75-degree, fresh water.
For the Mayans, cenotes were often sacred places used to communicate with the gods and at other times sources of fresh drinking water. Not all are open to the public, but many are available for a plunge, a snorkel or even a scuba dive.
Start With a Cenote Tour
One easy way to sample a cenote is to take a tour. Great options for visitors are tour operators Xenotes and Alltournative. Both offer the opportunity to explore multiple cenotes in one day. A tour includes an education on how to keep the fragile ecosystem safe and the opportunity for maximum adventure through zip lines, rappels, and snorkeling.
Stay in a Luxurious Hotel Near Cenotes
If staying at a luxury resort is your primary purpose for a visit to Cancun, consider staying at one close to a cenote, or even better how about one with a cenote.
Hacienda Tres Rios
The Hacienda Tres Rios is an eco-friendly luxury resort built on a former nature park. The property contains ten cenotes with a few available for swims or even a kayak out to the Caribbean Sea. As an added plus, the resort offers a “sense adventure” and temezcal treatment where a plunge into a sacred swimming hole is encouraged as a way to further refresh and cleanse your mind, body and soul.
Blue Sky Boutique
Relax at the Blue Sky and then hop over to the cenote. Photos taken from trivago.
Located just a 10 minute drive from the Dos Ojos Cenote, the Blue Sky Boutique hotel is a quaint oasis of privacy and luxury. The hotel is located in Tulum, a bit more than an hour south of Cancun, but a lot of the cenotes are on this road between Cancun and Tulum so it’s a great place to stay. Each of it’s nine spacious guestrooms feature private balconies, beachfront views, and elegant citrus-tropical decor.
Adventure on Your Own
Many cenotes are accessible from the main highway between Cancun and Tulum (especially closer to Tulum). Gran Cenote, a popular one for travelers not on a tour, provides access and snorkel equipment rental for a few dollars. This cenote offers simple swims and incredible beams of lights through cavernous tunnels great for snorkeling and diving.
Photographer Matt Adcock, of Del Sol Photography, an expat local to the Riviera Maya, describes one his lasting memories of Gran Cenote: “I love the huge lily pads and watching the beams of light dance in-between the leaves underwater. It is a celebration of light and the freshwater habitat so common at many of these locations.”
Get Married in Mexico
Destination weddings are popular in the Riviera Maya and more and more couples are choosing to do photo-shoots inside cenotes. Adding to the magic and the spirituality of the special moment, the shoots are often a highlight of the weekend. One bride, a native of the island of Antigua, and groom, whose family hailed from Australia, chose Mexico just so they could have underwater photos and “trash the dress” in a cenote (photo). It’s a global phenomenon and wedding guests are often invited to attend the photo shoots too.
Whichever way visitors see and experience the romantic Mayan swimming holes of Mexico, one thing is for certain, first time visitors always seem to want to dive in a second time. Thankfully there are over 6,000 available to explore!