The cenotes in Mexico already exist for millions of years. At that time, the Yucatan Peninsula and the Riviera Maya in Mexico was a huge coral reef (parts of which can still be found off the Mexican coast in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef). During the ice ages, the amount of ice at the two poles of the earth increased. As a result, the global sea level dropped. Thus, parts of the reef on the Yucatan peninsula were suddenly exposed to oxygen and died. What remains is porous limestone, which can be found everywhere on the Yucatan Peninsula and the Riviera Maya in Mexico.
Acid rainwater made its way through this limestone and was filtered. As a result, the rock was permanently eroded and created fascinating caves, subterranean rivers and stalactite formations. The resulting cave systems are called cenotes in Mexico. After the ice age, the poles melted again and the sea-water level could rise again. This flooded many of these caves and created the world’s largest known underwater system. The total length is over 1,000 kilometers.
For the Maya in Mexico, cenotes are entrancess to the underworld called Xibalba
Holy Cenote Riviera Maya with sacrifices
When the limestone ceilings of the cave systems collapse, shaft-like entrances occur. The holes below, called cenotes, are filled with fresh water. Mexico’s cenotes are sacred to the Mayans, as they are the main source of drinking water. In addition, the cenotes are the entrance to the underworld, the so-called Xibalba. The term cenote derives from the Mayan language, “Dzonot” means “water hole”. The Mayans use these cenotes as wells. They are probably the basis for the development of the Mayan civilization in southeastern Mexico.
As long as cenotes are above water, fairy-tale limestone formations can arise. Because the calcium contained in the rainwater remains hanging on stalactites (coming from the ceiling) or stalagmites (sticking out of the ground). Stalactites and stalagmites grow extremely slowly, about 1 cm in 80 years. It creates dripstone caves with fascinating formations. Some of these cenotes are under water today, others are dry. The cenotes in Mexico are popular for swimming, diving and snorkeling.
Mexico Cenotes: sulfur clouds create a mystical atmosphere
Sulfur clouds cenotes in Mexico
Typical of the cenotes in Mexico is also that fresh water and salt water do not mix. This is because saltwater is heavier. Thus, the salt water is below the fresh water, but it does not mix. The dividing line is called halocline. The halocline usually starts after a few meters of fresh water. In some cenotes, however, the halocline is almost 30 meters deep. A halocline is often surrounded by sulfur clouds. This creates an almost mystical atmosphere, for divers an impressive spectacle.
The water in the cenotes is one of the clearest waters in the world. It has a visibility of up to 100% or 200 meters (even clearer water can only be found under the ice caps on the South Pole). Sunscreen or Mosquito Spray can contaminate the water and are therefore prohibited. That’s why you’ll find showers on many publicly accessible cenotes that you should use before entering the Mexico Cenotes.
Every cenote in Mexico has its own identity, none is like another
Below you will find a selection of the most beautiful cenotes in the Riviera Maya. On our private excursions to Tulum or Chichen Itza we stop at a beautiful cenote for swimming. We use these cenotes for our excursions, diving, swimming and snorkeling. Upon request, Leon Tours Cozumel also organizes excursions to other cenotes.
Cenote Eden (14 meter, 42 feet)
Cenote in the Riviera Maya: Eden
The cenote El Eden is also known as Panderosa. A small lake marks the entrance to this beautiful cenote. It is a popular destination for snorkelers and swimmers. Even divers feel comfortable here. The open water area of the cenote is reminiscent of a large lake, the bottom of which is covered with scree and algae. Its cool water is a welcome change on hot summer days.
Divers start the dive along a wide tunnel with lots of light. At a maximum of 14 meters, the Halokline gives dramatic effects through the incoming daylight. Do not forget your underwater camera! Due to its shallow depth, this cenote is also suitable for beginners. You can observe the halocline (dividing line between fresh and salt water) at a shallow depth. Particularly impressive are the temperature differences between the warmer salt water and the refreshing fresh water.
Cenote The Pit (30 – 40 Meter, 90-120 feet)
Cenote The Pit in the Riviera Maya
The cenotes The Pit and Dos Ojos are located in the same national park. This allows visitors to the National Park to take a cool dip in the Cenote Pit. For snorkelling, however, the neighboring cenotes “Dos Ojos” are more suitable. They are flatter, which makes it possible to observe impressive plays of light from the surface.
Divers with a visit to the National Park can combine the deep dive Pit with a shallow dive in Dos Ojos. The Cenote The Pit is a round cenote. To enjoy all the beauty of this cenote, you have to go down deep. That’s why we also need an Advanced Open Water or Deep Dive Adventure Dive for this dive.
The light falls from the surface like laser beams and accompanies us to the depths. The Halokline is about 30 meters and is surrounded by an impressive sulfur cloud. During the dive you can find Mayan relics and animal bones. The Pit is a clear favorite for many divers.
Cenote Dos Ojos (8-10 Meter, 24-30 feet)
Cenotes in Mexico: Dos Ojos
Dos Ojos is one of the most popular cenote systems near Tulum. In 1999 the IMAX movie “Journey Into Amazing Caves” was shot here. Dos Ojos means “two eyes” in Spanish. This refers to two adjacent cenotes. Both snorkelers and divers feel comfortable here. With the snorkel you can swim independently along a string in a small part of the cave. For dives, the two cenotes are equally suitable. Depending on which direction is taken, there are two completely different dives.
Cenote Dos Ojos – Barbie Line (8 Meter, 24 feet)
The first dive follows a circular walk of about 500 meters. This dive is very shallow. Accompanied by a lot of natural light, you can emerge anywhere in the shortest time on the surface. That’s why this dive is good for beginners. The incidence of light creates impressive light formations. Dreamlike stalactites hang from the ceiling. Do not forget to breathe with so much beauty!
Cenote Dos Ojos – Bat Cave (10 Meter, 30 feet)
The second dive, also called Bat Cave, feels like a real cave dive. Here it is darker, because we are in an air-filled cave. Past beautiful stalactite formations, we emerge in the Bat Cave. We admire the numerous bats hanging from the ceiling. Look for fossils, proof that this tunnel system used to be below sea level.
Cenote Angelita (30 Meter, 90 feet)
Angelita Cenote in Mexico
Cenote Angelita makes every diver’s heart beat faster. In Spanish, “Angelita” means “angel”. Because of the depth, Angelita is less suitable for swimming and snorkeling. For divers, it is a true paradise. This dive takes place in an open, circular cenote. This is a classic deep dive. The halocline is at 27 meters. We start our dive just below it. The halocline is surrounded by a spectacular hydrogen sulphate cloud. Out of it rise trees and branches. Many feel like they’re walking around an island in a misty lake. This creates an almost mystical feeling and an unforgettable dive.
Cenote Calavera (16 Meter, 48 feet)
The Cenote Calavera is only suitable for divers. Because it’s only 10 meters down before you reach the entrance to the vault. The name Calavera means skull in Spanish. From below you can see three holes of light that make you feel like diving in a skull. As we descend, we swim past ancient Mayan pottery and animal bones. A few meters further and we pass one of the best halo lines of the Riviera Maya. In the Cenote Calavera, the temperature difference between salt water and fresh water is particularly intense. The salt water below is a few degrees warmer than the overlying fresh water.
Evidence that this cave was once completely below sea level, provide numerous fossils. Surrounded by light plays and a great view, the scenery ensures a fascinating dive.
Cenote Aktun Ha / Carwash (16 Meter, 48 feet)
Carwash Cenote Riviera Maya
Some taxi drivers used the clean water of the cenote to wash their car. Therefore, this cenote has its nickname Carwash. This cenote is great for diving, snorkeling and swimming. In the hot summer, the water can be temporarily mixed with algae. The algae season lasts from February to September. During this time, there is a thick, orange-green algae layer on the water surface. It is about 1 meter thick. Underneath, the water is crystal clear, as befits a true cenote in Yucatan. In front of this backdrop you can create interesting underwater photos.
For divers the dive starts in a kind of pond. Algae and roots create fascinating light effects. It is so beautiful that we could only dive under the open water surface the whole time. But are we not there for cave diving? Inside the cenote we find bones and Mayan pottery. Even in the algae-free season, we expect amazing plays of light. One of the most beautiful cenotes in the area.
Cenote Dreamgate (7 Meter, 21 feet)
Dreamgate Cenote in Mexico
The Cote Dreamgate is a true diver’s dream. Since the treasures of this cenote are completely under water, it is only limitedly suitable for snorkeling and swimming. Dreamgate is so big that two different dives are possible. During the dive we pass fantastically beautiful stalactite formations. The underwater caves are richly decorated with stalactites and stalagmites.
Because of the shallow depth, good buoyancy is a must, so that no slag from the ground is whirled up. Slowly we follow the tunnel system and have enough time to admire the breathtaking formations around us.