One of the best things to do when traveling Mexico has to be swimming in cenotes! Chances are that nowhere else in the world has such a concentration of freshwater pools as the Yucatán Peninsula. You’d be crazy not to visit these jewels of the jungle on your trip! So where are the best cenotes near Cancun and Playa del Carmen? Without a doubt, along La Ruta de los Cenotes near the small beachside community of Puerto Morelos.
It’s actually one of the best things to do in the Riviera Maya area after you’ve had your fill of laying on the beach. It makes for a fun and active day trip and gives you a chance to see more of Mexico’s magic!
RUTA DE LOS CENOTES
Ruta de los Cenotes, or “cenote route”, is a magical 37km (23 miles) long road lined by thick jungle that is dotted by cenotes on both sides. There are many different kinds of them and they all offer unique experiences.
A few have been turned into adventure parks offering activities like zip-lining, rock climbing, ATV’s, and horseback riding. It’s the perfect way to enjoy the natural beauty of Mexico and see several different cenotes in one day.
WHAT TO BRING
- Towel & dry clothes (most should have changing rooms)
- Sunscreen (please don’t apply until after you’re done swimming)
- Bug spray (again, not until after swimming)
- Pack a cooler to save money on lunch or at least bring snacks
- Snorkel masks
- Underwater flashlight
KEEP IN MIND
- To reiterate, don’t apply sunscreen, sprays, or lotions before entering the pools. Don’t pollute them for everyone!
- Please don’t touch the stalactites and stalagmites!
- Many of the cenotes have photographers that follow you around to take pictures, if you don’t want any it’s best to be honest and tell them before they start shooting.
- Don’t swallow the water. You might get sick. There is no chlorine in these pools!
THE BEST CENOTES NEAR CANCUN
Kin Ha Cenote
This is one of the best cenotes near Cancun, and it’s popular for good reason. There are several different packages and activities to choose from for an extra price as well as a restaurant on site. You could probably spend the entire day here, swimming and swinging in hammocks if you wanted. We decided to visit two cenotes, Kin Ha and Blanca Flor.
Kin Ha is a closed cenote with a small opening on top that you can (and should) jump from. There are two platforms, 4m (13 ft) and 5m (16 ft) high. The water is really clear and reaches 40m (131 ft) in depth.
A short ride in an old beat-up van takes you to Blanca Flor. You’ll have about an hour to swim, try the ziplines, and the 5 level platform. If you’re feeling really brave you can climb up a rickety ladder to the highest wooden platform and jump from 14m (45 ft). We felt a little rushed because we needed more time to build up the courage to jump from the top. Matt jumped from the second-highest one at 11m (36 ft) and I did 8m (26 ft), but one day we’ll definitely go back to try again!
One thing worth mentioning is that this place is pretty strict about you taking your own photos inside the Kin Ha cenote. It’s actually not allowed. They claim it’s for your safety, but it seems like they just want you to hire their photographers. They did allow us to take some photos at the top of Kin Ha (outside of it) and at Blanca Flor, but we had to ask in advance.
Kin Ha: 300 pesos/person ($15), Kin Ha + Blanca Flor: 400 pesos/person ($20)
Located at the 20km marker along the road, just follow the signs.
Boca del Puma
Meaning “puma’s mouth”, this place has two cenotes. The first one is a small open pool that feels like it’s manmade. It’s pretty, but if you’ve been to other cenotes, it’s not ultra-impressive. The main reason to visit is to try the swing style zipline that launches you into the water. It’s good for a few laughs at least!
You can find the second subterranean cenote at the end of a long gravel trail tucked away in the jungle. Stairs lead you underground to what seems like a small pool at first, but it’s actually very deep. We’ve visited this one twice because it’s really fun to practice freediving in.
The water is crystal clear and doesn’t have the film on the surface that other underground cenotes have sometimes. The darkness of the cave adds a little element of fear and mystery to the place. There’s also a tunnel you can swim through that leads to another opening in the ground where sunlight comes in.
The guides we’ve had on our visits are also fun guys that can show you around for a small tip. If you want a photographer, they’re available, but if not just politely tell them from the beginning that you don’t want any photos.
250 pesos/person ($13)
Located at the 16km marker
Cenote La Noria
This cenote is not just one of the best cenotes near Cancun, but probably one of our favorites in the Yucatán, and it’s much less visited. We arrived at 9am and had the whole place to ourselves for an hour at least. It’s a cave cenote with wooden stairs that has a two-level platform. It’s pretty big inside and you’ll still find the occasional bat flying around.
There’s a rope swing and a short zip line, as well as a 7m (23 ft) high jump off the rim. It feels a little sketchy jumping because you can see the bottom, but it’s deeper than it looks. It’s an optical illusion from the top. To be extra safe just tuck your legs. We did notice some film on the water, though we’re not sure if it’s from sunscreen or just residue from the cave.
A great guy named Luis works there and he convinced us to come back and zipline. There are four lines, a couple of which go right through the middle of the jungle. It’s also a great way to do some bird watching if you’re into it. We were told there are toucans in the area that come around to eat fruit from the trees, we weren’t so lucky, but maybe you’ll be!
Cenote: 200 pesos/person ($10) Zip lining: 150 pesos/person ($7)
Located at 20km, directly opposite from Kin Ha
OTHER CENOTES WE DIDN’T VISIT
This one is quite busy with tours and has several adventure packages that tend to be more expensive so our cheap asses skipped it, but it does look like a fun experience. For reference, we talked to a guy that said he paid about $90 USD for his tour, which included lunch. There are 3 different cenotes to choose from, two are open and one is closed. Cenote Zapote has both a 10m (32 ft) and 14m (45 ft) high jump if you dare! This place has raving reviews if you’re willing to spend the money.
Located at the 20km marker, before Kin Ha
Cenote de 7 Bocas
Translated to mean “7 mouths” this is a semi-closed cenote that has seven different openings. Definitely recommended for those who like caves and swimming through them, because a few of them are connected. However, we heard not all of them are open for swimmers. Some people say this one is overpriced. If you go let us know how it is!
350 pesos ($18) per person
Located at the 15.5km marker along the route
Cenote Verde Lucero
This is your ideal open cenote, full of emerald green water and surrounded by lush vegetation. This one gets pretty busy during the afternoon, so try to arrive early. It still seems to be a great place to chill under a palapa. When we stopped by it was just a little too crowded for our liking.
300 pesos ($15)
Located at the 18km marker
Cenote Las Mojarras
A huge open cenote with a diameter of 67m (219 ft), surrounded by lots of green vegetation. There is a double zipline, a 6m (19 ft) platform for jumping, and some camping areas. This one might be a good one to visit if you don’t like the idea of enclosed cenotes or just want to save money. You can also rent ATV’s and drive around the jungle if that’s your thing.
150 pesos ($7)
Located at the 12.6km marker
HOW TO GET THERE
Ruta de los Cenotes is located on the west side of Federal Highway 307 in Puerto Morelos. There are two main options for exploring this area, driving a rental car on your own or arranging a tour through a company. Note that there is, unfortunately, no public transportation to the cenotes and it’s a long remote road that isn’t really suitable for biking or walking either.
We recommend renting a car because you can have the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want. We’ve used both Thrifty and Hertz at the Cancun International Airport without any issues. Renting a car at the airport is easy and driving around this area is completely safe.
The trick to keeping the cost low is to decline the most expensive insurance. Technically, you only need liability insurance. Some credit cards offer additional rental car insurance when you book the car on the card. We have a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card that offers collision, theft, and loss coverage.
There is a map at the beginning of the cenote route that shows the location of each one, down to their exact kilometer markings. They’re pretty easy to find, but for your convenience, we’ve included a google map at the bottom of this post.
For those who don’t feel comfortable driving, most hotels and resorts offer tours to this area.
You could also hire a taxi for the day, this will enable you to have flexibility without the responsibility of driving yourself. It won’t be the cheapest option, but if you don’t want to drive or do an organized tour you can try this. Just be sure to bargain down the price. We’d recommend taking the ADO bus to Puerto Morelos first, then catching a taxi from there.
Overall, we had a really great time exploring Ruta de los Cenotes along the Riviera Maya. Just driving down this road is beautiful in its own right. There is definitely a decent variety of experiences to fit different people’s needs. Our only complaint is the prices, if you visit several, the entrance fees add up fast.
For those who are in Mexico on a shorter vacation, this is a fantastic way to spend a day and we highly recommend it! If you have a little more time, we also love the cenotes in Homún or Valladolid. Hope this post was helpful. Have fun out there!
Now you know where to find the best cenotes near Cancun. Where’s your favorite swimming hole?