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Experience the cenotes near Tulum with your family: How to have the picture-perfect day


By Jennifer Kelly Geddes, Feb 2020


The cenotes near Tulum, pools of water created by the collapse of limestone cave ceilings, are some of the world's most beautiful natural wonders. Filled with rain or water from underground rivers, a cenote, pronounced "seh-NO-tay," can be deep or shallow and enclosed in a cave or open to the sky.

Mexico is home to more than 6,000 cenotes, and some of the best are located near Tulum, a town on the Yucatan Peninsula. For the Maya of Mexico, cenotes were important water sources and believed to be a portal to the underworld. Today, these amazing sites draw visitors from around the world who swim, snorkel and revel in their beauty.

Here are some location suggestions, along with visiting and packing advice, to help you prepare for your visit to the cenotes near Tulum.


Choosing a cenote

Cenote Car Wash, located just 5 miles from Tulum, gets its name from the fact that local cabdrivers used to wash their cars nearby (and some say in this very pool!). Today, this cenote, with an average depth of 10 feet, thrills snorkelers craving a close look at underwater vegetation, fish and turtles, as well as adventurers up for exploring the string of caverns the cenote features. A platform and steps provide easy access to the water.


Crystal clear natural limestone pool

Swim in the crystal-clear waters of Gran Cenote, famous for its connecting tunnels.


Another great option is Gran Cenote, a popular destination due to its connecting tunnels that are partially underwater. This is a good choice for children, as it features shallow water and a sandy bottom (some cenotes are filled with sharp rocks). If your kids like bats, they'll be thrilled to see the nocturnal creatures flutter harmlessly near the top of this sinkhole.

Or try Cenote Dos Ojos ("Two Eyes"), which boasts a massive underwater cave system and eye-popping stalagmites that shoot out of the ground. This cenote is actually made up of two different sinkholes connected by a long passageway, with one pool that's clear blue and great for swimming and another that's darker and cavelike.


Tips for your visit

It's important to respect the natural beauty of Tulum's cenotes, so be aware of the rules at these special sites. Diving or jumping in the pools may not be allowed in shallow areas, and grabbing or damaging vines, stalagmites and stalactites is forbidden. Sunscreen and bug repellent aren't advised when swimming in a cenote, as the chemicals can threaten the environment.

Be sure to check online for a cenote's hours of operation and tips on the best times to arrive; some days and times will be busier than others.


What to pack

An outing with your family to the cenotes requires the right gear so that everyone is comfortable. Several of the more popular cenotes have changing rooms and lockers, but you might want to bring your own padlock just in case. On the same note, some locations have towel rentals, but be on the safe side by packing a towel for each family member. You may also want to pack water shoes and enough snorkels and masks for everyone. Have cash on hand to pay the entrance fee, as most locations don't take credit cards. Finally, because swimming and diving can be tiring, take water and a few snacks, like fruit and granola bars.

With some advance planning and strategic packing, your visit to these natural pools will be an unforgettable experience.


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