Cenotes are found everywhere around Mexico and more specifically Quintana Roo. Centuries ago, the Maya civilization considered them as being sacred. In fact, cenotes are an essential part of the Mayan culture and they represent the underworld’s entrance.
In addition to their spiritual importance, cenotes were an important source of water because they provided drinkable water as well as crops.
Nowadays, cenotes are still very important in the Yucatán Peninsula for both tourists alike and locals.
Here we will answer all common questions so you can have a better understanding of the phenomenon that are Quintana Roo cenotes. If you’ve never been to one before, these tips will help ensure your experience is unforgettable.
What is the Best Time to Enjoy the Cenotes in Quintana Roo?
The Quintana Roo cenotes are authentic and beautiful sights to visit and you can’t leave the Yucatan peninsula without seeing some.
For this reason, the best months to visit Quintana Roo and its cenotes are from December through April. Sure, you will encounter more tourists during that time but the weather will be nearly perfect and you’ll be able to purchase cheaper flights and hotel rooms.
On a side note, keep in mind that, upon entering or leaving Quintana Roo, all tourists are required to pay a $48 tourism tax called Visitax. This can be done online quickly before departure or when arriving at the destination.
What Does “Cenote” Mean?
Cenotes are a popular touristic attraction and an important spiritual place for Mayans. That being said, let’s elaborate on the meaning of the word.
“Cenote” is an ancient word coming from the Mayan “Dzonoot” which translates to “hole with water”.
The transition to the word ”Cenote” from “Dzonoot” is due to the Spanish conquistador that imposed their language and, therefore, “Cenote” was adopted.
How Were Cenotes Formed?
Cenotes were formed when waterways pass through the Rivera Maya’s limestone. Caves bound by lush jungles make for a perfect place to find water-filled cenotes. Even in places where there is no surface evidence of an underground river or lake like Tulum.
The discovery was made while exploring limestone shelves that line the Yucatan peninsula and form cenotes when they pass through the base layer into aquifers below.
Caves are found near many of these because the water table is usually close to or at surface level there; this explains why you will find most cenotes surrounded by lush green jungle!
Why are Cenotes Formed Like an Under-the-ground Sinkhole?
The soil around the Yucatán Peninsula is referred to as “limestone”. It is very porous and allows the underground water to be filtered through.
Essentially, as discussed previously, the cenotes were formed after the rainwater drips and that then formed huge wells that are the cenotes we know today.
A significant contributor to their formation was the decline over time in sea level from 2.5 million years ago up until 10,000 BC during what scientists call the Pleistocene period.
Are Cenotes in Mexico Free?
Locals offer a variety of cenotes for tourists to explore and are either public or private. That said, the majority of Quintana Roo cenotes were bought and you need, therefore, to pay an entrance fee per person.
Cenotes are usually located near local villages and locals made it their job to guide you around them. In fact, you’ll see both children guiding you around and even giving you a ride if you’re traveling with your other half.
Cenotes are a quietly magical part of the Yucatan Peninsula. Other than touristic ones with an entrance, you will find some free ones that can be found in hidden spots around town if you know where they are located initially.
Is the Water In Quintana Roo Cenotes Cold?
A cenote is a place where you can escape from the heat and relax in cold waters, as they are sustained by underground rivers. This translates to having no contact whatsoever with solar energy.
The Riviera Maya is a tourist destination like no other. As a general rule of thumb, the average temperature of the cenotes’ water is 75°F. While it may sound cold, it is sometimes not cold enough to cool you down during a hot day in Quintana Roo with temperatures rising up to 100° and 107 degrees Fahrenheit.
In plain words, this simply means that the water in the Quintana Roo cenotes is cold even during times of extreme heat. Needless to say, they’re a great spot to visit after experiencing popular attractions such as Chichen Itza.
How Deep are Cenotes in Quintana Roo?
The depth of a typical cenote in Quintana Roo range from 32 to 131 feet. Some cenotes are deeper and the deepest in the world is El Zacatón. It has a depth of 1,112 ft and is located in Tamaulipas at some point near Mexico’s border with Texas.
It’s important that you take precautions when swimming in them as there are many currents underneath these natural ponds that could pull you under if not careful.
For this reason, life jackets should always be worn when entering any cenote, especially the deeper ones.
Are Cenotes Dangerous?
We couldn’t not recommend visiting the beautiful cenotes around Quintana Roo. However, it’s important to highlight the fact that these massive wells can be extremely dangerous and you could even die.
Visibility when diving can be poor and some cenotes are very dark. If you’re inexperienced and visiting cenotes on your own can be very dangerous.
That said, if you take normal safety precautions and travel with a guide or an experienced diver, you should simply enjoy your time with no potential issues.
What are the Roots Hanging from the Ceiling Inside Cenotes?
When visiting the cenotes in Quintana Roo, you might wonder what the plants coming from the ceiling might be.
Basically, the roots hanging inside the cenotes are from Ceiba trees. They may seem simple roots from a tourist viewpoint. However, Ceiba trees are considered sacred to the Maya and it needs lots of water to survive.
Do you Need Water Shoes for Cenotes?
To make your journey to the cenotes, you’ll need a pair of running or casual tennis shoes as well as water shoes.
To stay on your feet, wear sandals like flip-flops after you take a refreshing swim to keep them clean from the ground below and your other shoes dry.
While wearing these types of shoes isn’t a requirement, it will make your experience much more pleasant.
How do Cenotes Remain Clean?
Quintana Roo cenotes are a tourist attraction of sorts because they stay so clean due to the natural filtration process and thanks to the plants inside.
In fact, the abundance of plant life in the Mayan jungle helps clean out all impurities before they even reach the surface.
This lush environment can trap debris, as well as play a role in how rain gets carried into and out of caverns for purification before it’s combined with natural spring water.
What are the Best Cenotes in Quintana Roo?
With over 6000 cenotes in both Yucatan and Quintana Roo, it can be difficult to know which one to visit. Whether you’re coming to Quintana Roo on a short vacation or planning to stay longer, these below are the best cenotes to visit.
- Cenote Zaci – Found in the heart of Valladolid
Address: Sta Ana, 97780 Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico
Entrance fee: 30 pesos / $1.50
Opening time: Daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm
- Gran Cenote – Located down south of Playa del Carmen
Address: Quintana Roo 109, 77796 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Entrance fee: 180 pesos / $9
Opening time: Daily from 8.00am to 4:45pm
- Cenote Multum Ha – Found a mile away from Coba in Quintana Roo
Address: Carretera Principal Km6, 77740 Cobá, Q.R., Mexico
Entrance fee: 100 pesos / $5
Opening time: Daily from 8.00am to 6.00pm
- Zacil-Ha Cenote – Located a few minutes from the Tulum Archaeological Zone
Address: Coba km 8, México 180D, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Entrance fee: 50 pesos / $2.50
Opening time: Daily from 10.00am to 5:30PM
- Cenote Chaak Tun – Found a few miles away from Playa del Carmen’s downtown
Address: Av. Juárez prolongación km 4.7, Ejidal, 77723 Playa del Carmen
Entrance fee: 100 pesos / $5
Opening time: Daily from 8.00am to 4.30pm
Of course, these are not the only incredible and unique cenotes across Quintana Roo and Yucatan. However, they’re the most beautiful and authentic for a full Mexican adventure with friends or family.
This was everything you needed to know about the Quintana Roo cenotes. While all the cenotes can be visited on your own, we recommend going with an experienced guide if you’re looking to explore them fully.
In conclusion, Quintana Roo cenotes are an excellent opportunity for visitors to the region. They offer a chance to explore and discover new aquatic ecosystems in one of the most biodiverse places on Earth.
If you’re coming to Mexico soon or have plans to visit soon, make sure you take some time out of your vacation schedule for the amazing cenotes in Quintana Roo.