Cenotes In Mexico

Mexico boasts some of the best beaches in the world. With white, powder-soft sands and azure seas warmed by subtropical sunshine, you’ve got all the right ingredients for the perfect break. However, if you’re not close to a beach , and your hotel swimming pool is a little crowded, then there’s another option you might want to consider. The cenotes in Mexico are ideal for those who want to enjoy cool, clear and incredibly clean waters, surrounded by stunning scenery and smaller crowds. If you don’t know much about the cenotes Mexico has hidden in its lush jungles, read on to find out about some of the best.

What are cenotes?

If you’ve never heard of cenotes, then you’re not alone: they’re a distinctly Mexican and South American phenomenon. They were once underground lakes, which have been  exposed after the limestone roofs that hid them collapsed. The waters that fill these subterranean pools have been filtered through the limestone, making them exceptionally pure and clear.

For the ancient Mayans who first discovered them, the cenotes were seen as portals through which they could communicate with the gods of the underworld. More often than not, this communication required a sacrifice and many of the pools have given up evidence of this in the form of jewellery and human bones. However, they were also used for more earthly purposes, including fishing and as a water source.

Our top five

There are thousands of these unique natural attractions in Mexico, with the Yucatan Peninsula alone acting as home to almost 7,000. However, as there are so many, you don’t have to go far to find the best cenote Mexico has for your holiday adventure. In no particular order, here are some of our favourites:

  • Dos Ojos

Set in the north east of the Yucatan Peninsula, Dos Ojos are part of a system of caves which flooded thousands of years ago. As a result, these two still have the roofs that many others have lost, on which you can see jagged stalactites hiding colonies of bats. The name translates as ‘two eyes’, in reference to the two pools being set so close together. One of the caves is darker than the other and tends to be popular with those who enjoy scuba-diving by torchlight. The other is ideal for swimming and snorkelling.

  • Gran Cenote

Also set in the Yucatan Peninsula and arguably the best cenote Mexico has to offer, the Gran Cenote is partly set in a cave. However, what sets this apart from the others is that it also has its own subterranean beach. Bring your goggles and take a swim in the clear waters, where you’ll see shimmering shoals of fish and reclusive turtles. If you need a break, chill out on the sands and look up at the reflected light playing on the rocks above your head.

  • Il Kil

Il Kil is set inland and surrounded by dense, tropical jungle. Once you’ve made your way through the lush undergrowth, you’ll come to a set of man-made stairs that will lead you down to the pool itself. Surrounded by emerald vegetation and hanging vines, it’s the perfect place to get back in touch with Mother Nature. Il Kil is very popular with those taking their holidays to Mexico, so be sure to get there as early as you can. It opens at 9am and closes at 5pm, and is only accessible by car.

  •  Azul

At over 26m deep, Azul is ideal for scuba divers. However, it’s equally as tempting for snorkellers and those who just want to swim through its glassy waters. There are plenty of fish here and if you can hold your breath for long enough there’s an underwater corridor which leads into a large chamber. However, the variety of wildlife isn’t limited to this limestone lake. The bushes surrounding the pool act as home to iguanas and the cliffs are home to some beautiful birds. The cliff walls also hold some superb jumping-off spots for those who want to add a little adrenaline to proceedings.

  • Dzitnup

The story goes that this beautiful spot was discovered by a pig falling through the fragile roof while the poor animal was foraging for food. The roof has remained almost intact (apart from a small, pig-shaped hole) and helps to fill the resulting chamber with light, as the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. One of the most interesting underground cenotes Mexico is home to, coloured lights have been installed in its roof to stunning effect. Ideal for anyone looking for a quiet spot in which to unwind on their holidays to Mexico.