Be amazed by the secrets Mexico also has reserved underneath. From underground caves to open sinkholes, the mixture of clear water and lighting makes it for a magical experience.
Besides its delicious foods, the Yucatan Peninsula is also known as the state in Mexico with the largest quantity of cenotes. Source of water to the ancient Mayans, it’s believed that under the peninsula lies over 6,000 natural pits filled with deep blue water. When visiting Yucatan, set a couple of days aside to tour around these beautiful natural pools, filled by rain and water flowing from underground rivers. Most of the local tour companies offer guided visits and they’re also accessible by car.
“There are a few explanations for the origin of the word Cenote, that could possibly be from ts’onot – to refer to any location with accessible groundwater, or from the Mayan word dzonot, which means well or flooded cave”
Generally, it’s not allowed to enter cenotes using (or carrying) your regular sunscreen – it must be biodegradable to secure the life of the place. Make sure to bring your towel if you plan on swimming, have your belongings reduced to the necessary and have cash on you.
If you have ever Google’d the word cenote for Mexico, you have likely come across lots of photos at Cenote Suytun, as it is one of the most photographed sinkholes for its beautiful man-made runaway towards the center with a spectacular skylight above. Admission fee is 150 Mexican pesos per person for access to the site or 290 Mexican pesos including a buffet for those wanting to spend a few hours (prices in February/2019). The fee does include a life jacket, which is mandatory for swimming. Be mindful of the time you get there, as visitors line up for a shot under the shiny beam of light – the light is right on top of the platform at noon, but it’s also the busiest time.
This open-air cavern cenote is right in the middle of downtown Valladolid with very easy access if you have the destination as part of your tour. The town can also easily be accessed by car, bus or local vans (colectivos). The admission is a small 30 pesos fee (price in February 2019), but if you have time aim for a sit-down meal at the restaurant Zaci located right at the entrance. The food is pretty good, they have a nice selection of local beers and you have free access to the cenote with the purchase of any item. Cenote Zaci is popular for cliff jumping and snorkeling, so be swimsuit ready.
Cenote Ik Kil
From all the cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, the Ik Kil is the most visited. This sinkhole is commonly included in tours around the area, such as visits to Valladolid or Chichen Itza, making it extremely busy at best of times. If you plan on going, be prepared for line ups and renting a life jacket on-site is advisable as the cenote has only one ladder to get in and out, and there is not plenty of room to hold on to while in the water. The admission fee is 70 Mexican pesos (price in February 2019), but nothing else is included.
Cenote San Ignacio
Located around 20 minutes away from the capital of the Yucatan Peninsula – Merida, Cenote San Ignacio is a cave sinkhole artificially illuminated by LED lights to allow visitors to safely enjoy the 26 degrees underground natural pools. The regular admission is 100 Mexican pesos (price in February 2019), but the visitor can choose to buy the full day package including snacks and lunch.
El Corchito Ecological Reserve
Considered one of the most important ecological reserve at the Yucatecan coast, El Corchito is a hidden gem visited mostly by locals. The site is preserved by the small 35 pesos fee (price in February 2019) charged for admission, which includes a short motorboat ride to take you across the mangrove and into the reserve. There are three cenotes to be appreciated, two of them swimmable and one inhabited by a simpatico alligator.