Explore ways to cool off in the Yucatán Peninsula
Sounds good right about now, no?
Do you know the James Taylor song Mexico? When I hear that song it sweeps me away to a romantic notion of a Mexican beach town. The lyrics include: Oh, Mexico/ It sounds so sweet with the sun sinking low/ Moon’s so bright like to light up the night/ Make everything all right
Like you I’ve spent an unreal amount of time at home during this terrible pandemic and listening to a song about pure fantasy – escaping to an exotic land – feels good.
Eventually Covid-19 will lift and when it does I have a a recommendation – yes Mexico… but specifically, visit the cenotes! If you love water, adventure and nature you won’t want to leave. I was like a kid… I saying, “c’mon just 5 more minutes!”
Water in the cenotes tends to be cool, the water comes from underground. These pools provide a REALLY refreshing way cool off from the hot Mexican sunshine. Cenote – pronounced – say-NOH-tay – is a sinkhole but that’s like calling Albert Einstein just a professor.
A Brief History
They are natural pits created by the collapse of limestone bedrock. That process exposes the groundwater. Water in the cenotes tends to be cool as the water comes from underground. These oases are associated with the Yucatán Peninsula but they are found in other parts of the Caribbean.
A Deeper Dive
These spiritual spots were often used by the ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings. Our friends at www.playadelcarmen.com tell us, “the ancient Maya understood the cenotes to be much more than simply a place to deliver their sacrificial dead. They were, in fact, considered to be the portal to Xibalba—the Netherworld.”
It’s amazing when you consider the knowledge the ancient Maya possessed, they envisioned how thousands of cenotes connected to form the underground labyrinth, the world of Xibalba. Maya tradition considers the cenotes to be a sacred place protected by a Mayan sprite known as an Alux (plural is Aluxob). As noted on the PlayaDelCarmen website, “the sprits are considered to be playful creatures that like to play tricks on people. When entering a cenote, it is a common practice to ask the Aluxob for permission to do so.”
The Basics: Cenote Packing Check List
I’d recommend: a backpack, towels, water, swimsuits, sunscreen, some cash, snacks, and shoes for the wearing in the water. Climbing on the rocks can be nicer with shoes. A second pair can be nice to wear after swimming. In addition I brought the following:
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The BEST Cenotes near Play Del Carmen
An amalgamation of information from a few sites I visited.
1. Cenote Azul
• Fun for families
• Open-air swimming in chilly water
• Diving from natural platforms.
2. Cenote Zacil-Ha
• Open-air swimming
• crystal clear waters
• Jump from the sides or even zip line across and drop into the cenote from above!
• Hammocks and regular swimming pools to lounge around
3. Gran Cenote
• Large and one of the most popular cenotes
• Swimming, snorkeling and diving
• Caves, caverns and an open air cenote
• There are spectacular view of the light beams hitting the water through the cave opening
4. Cenote Carwash
• small and relaxed
• large open air pool
• Fish and turtles swim in an underwater world of stalactites and stalagmites and a little resident crocodile occasionally makes an appearance.
• The undergrowth leads to a cave section.
5. Cenote Dos Ojos
• Great for diving
• Its name translates as Cenote Two Eyes in reference to the double sinkholes connected by a boardwalk
• The double sinkholes join to form an underground cavern
• Good for families
6. Cenote Cristalino
• Very close Play Del Carmen and the previously mentioned Cenote Azul
• Open air cenote
• Like some other cenotes this one has little fish that like to suck on your skin – it tickles.
• Crystal clear blue waters
7. Cenote Jardin Del Eden
• One of the most popular cenotes Playa Del Carmen cenotes
• People think it looks like what the Garden of Eden may have looked like
• The clear water is great for cliff jumping and snorkeling
• The cave system is very popular with scuba divers
8. Casa Cenote
• One of the most unique cenotes near Playa del Carmen
• Crystal clear turquoise waters, surrounded by lush trees and mangrove
• Swim, kayak, snorkle or paddle board in the cenote
• Attracts divers with its underwater cave system which leads directly to the ocean
9. Cenote Tajma Ha
• Best for intermediate/advanced divers
• Mesmerizing natural wonder
• One of the best cenotes near Playa Del Carmen!
• There are a number of companies that run dive tours into the cenote
10. Cenote Ik Kil at Chicen Itza
• One of the most beautiful cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula.
• The roof of Cenote Ik Kil has collapsed and with the great roots it makes a spectacular scene
• Gazing up at the open sky while swimming in Cenote Ik Kil is a surreal experience
• It’s easily accessible from Playa Del Carmen
Swimming with Turtles
In addition to the cenotes, like the waters off Akumal has turtles!
Where else can you find cenotes?
The term cenote has been used to describe similar ‘karst‘ features in other countries such as Cuba and Australia, Here’s some listed by our friends at Wikipedia:
- Ewens Ponds, near Mount Gambier, South Australia
- Kilsby Sinkhole, near Mount Gambier, South Australia
- Little Blue Lake, near Mount Schank, South Australia
Devil’s Bath is the largest cenote in Canada at a size of 359 meters in diameter and 44 meters in depth. It is located near the village of Port Alice, British Columbia on the northwest coastline of Vancouver Island. Devil’s Bath is continuously fed by an underground spring and is connected by underwater tunnel to the Benson River Cave.
- Hoyo Azul (Punta Cana)
- Los Tres Ojos
- Ojos Indigenas (Punta Cana)
Central and northern region
- Dos Ojos, Municipality of Tulum
- Dzibilchaltun, Yucatán
- Ik Kil, Yucatan
- Gran Cenote, Municipality of Tulum
- Hubiku, Yucatan
- Sacred Cenote, Chichen Itza
- Xtacunbilxunan, Bolonchén
- Cenote Azul, Playa del Carmen
- Jardin Del Eden, Playa del Carmen
- Choo-Ha, Coba
- Zaci, Valladolid
- El Zapote, the site of the Hells Bells bell-like rock formation
- Bottomless Lakes, near Roswell, New Mexico
- Montezuma Well, Verde Valley, Arizona
- Blue Hole, Castalia, Ohio
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