3 Ways to Experience a Cenote in Cancun

X'Canche Cenote cenote panorama, Yucatan peninsula, Mexico.

Travel insights from Andrea Sedlacek, editor of The Compass

A cenote (pronounce si-no-te) is a deep sinkhole naturally formed from collapsed limestone. It’s a pool of groundwater and rainwater and you’ll find them in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, near Cancun. Cenotes are sacred places for the Maya, who believed they were connected to the underworld. Though they are sacred and magical, it’s possible for tourists to visit many cenotes throughout the Yucatan, for a swim in the cool, healing waters. Here are three ways to do that.

  1. Coba & Mayan Cenote Private Tour

    Coba and Mayan Cenote Private Tour

    Image courtesy of Amstar

    Get a full understanding of Mayan history and current life with this all-day tour (with transportation included). You’ll start at Coba, one of the most beautiful and renowned Mayan cities with Nohoch Mul, one of the tallest pyramids in the Mayan world. After touring the city nestled in the ancient jungle and climbing the pyramid, you’ll head to a cenote to cool off in the underground, crystal-clear waters of the underworld. The last stop on this tour is an authentic Mayan village to see how the descendants of Mayans live today. It’s a well-rounded experience that will leave you with a full appreciation of the Mayan culture.

  2. Cenote and Paradise Lagoon

    Cenote and Paradise Lagoon

    Image courtesy of Amstar

    This four-hour excursion is all about the cenotes. As a professional eco-guide navigates you through impressive cenotes, you’ll marvel at stalactites, stalagmites and other ancient rock formations. After a dip in the healing waters, you’ll snorkel and swim at a paradise lagoon. Relax on the way back to your resort in the transportation that’s included in this experience.

  3. Ek-Balam Cenote Maya

    Ek-Balam Cenote Maya

    Image courtesy of Amstar

    Ek-Balam means “Star Jaguar” in Mayan and is fitting for one of the most captivating Mayan sites in Mexico. Ek-Balam was home to King Uk’it Kan Lec Tok, who is buried at the site, in the side of the largest pyramid. You’ll visit his grave and have the chance to climb to the top of Ek-Balam if you’d like, for a sweeping view of the surrounding Mayan jungle. Go from the top of the world to the underworld with a refreshing swim in a nearby cenote, followed by lunch and the ride back to your resort (which is included in the tour).

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