This blog will provide all the information you need to visit the best cenotes in Tulum and the surrounding area. There are A LOT of cenotes in Mexico, and especially in Yucatan. A cenote is a natural sinkhole resulting from the collapse of limestone rocks that exposes an underwater cave system. In history the ancient Mayas used the cenotes for sacrificial offerings. Nowadays the cenotes are an experience to visit and to swim in or do scuba diving. There are over 6000 different cenotes in the Quintana Roo region alone. In Mexico there are more than 30.000 cenotes in total! This guide will only be about the most popular cenotes in the Quintana Roo region. So which ones are the most beautiful cenotes in Tulum to go to?
If you are visiting the right cenotes and your timing is good, there is a chance to see some magical light rays peeking through the hole in the roof of the cenote. That is the perfect timing to take your magical picture. Of course you have to take into account that there must be sunshine to create the light ray, and also the time of the day affects the position of the light ray shining through. In this guide we will share our travel tips to the best cenotes in Tulum, Riviera Maya region. If you want to know all the best things to do in Tulum, then read this blog post.
The Grand Cenote is located just outside of Tulum and is one the most popular in this area. Be aware of this when you visit the well-known Tulum cenote! The name already says what you can expect, a large cenote, made of multiple cenote caves. It is the perfect place for snorkeling and swimming. You will find some turtles, blue crabs and a lot of different fish in this crystal clear water. Oh, and there are also flying some bats around 🙂 It is interesting to see the underwater columns of stalagmites and stalactites, mother nature is such an artist!
Getting there: You can easily reach Grand Cenote with a bike or rental car from Tulum, as it is just 5 km away from Tulum center.
Entrance fee: 180 Mexican pesos per person, which is quite expensive to visit a cenote!
Best time for photos: If you want to avoid the crowds you need to come very early The cenote opens at 8 AM and closes at 4.45 PM, with the last entry at 4.15 PM. At this cenote you don’t have to come at a specific time for light rays shining through. The best time to come is immediately after opening time, or the last hour before closing.
Photo tip: There are two places where you can enter the cenote, the best spot for photos is definitely the second entrance more at the back. There you will have some nice angles where you can frame your shot and be creative with the surroundings.
San Lorenzo Oxman cenote
This cenote is not that well known yet, because it’s more off the beaten path. But it was our favorite cenote in terms of fun! There is a platform where you can jump from with a rope in the water. It was very quiet when we were there, so plenty of options to take the right shots. Therefore it’s really worth to visit to have some fun and create action shots! The tree roots and vines dip down in the water which really gives you the jungle vibes. As if you’re Tarzan and Jane swinging in the jungle haha. You can also dive in this cenote if you want to do.
Getting there: Located only 4 km south of Valladolid, you can combine this cenote easily with a visit to Valladolid on the way to Tulum.
Entrance fee: 30 pesos per person with access to the pool and lounge area at the Hacienda.
Best time for photos: You don’t really need to take the sunlight into account when photographing this cenote because it’s so far underground. Anytime is possible for photos!
Photo tip: If you want to capture people swinging from the rope you have to set your shutter speed very high. You don’t want any motion blur in this shot. There is also a very cool angle from above where you can capture people swimming or floating in the cenote.
Be sure to check this one from your travel itinerary! This cenote was our favorite because of several reasons. The first reason is the magical lightray shining through a hole from the roof at a specific time. Also, the impressive stalagmites and stalactites are amazing to see and interesting for photography. Last but not least, it looks like this cenote is not that overrun by tourists as the others we went to. We were the only ones there which gave an extra magical feeling to the experience. Especially when I caught the light ray and Atiba was down at the cenote on the platform. It almost looked like a natural catwalk. A beautiful cenote and must visit!
Getting there: Just a short drive outside of Valladolid, this cenote can be combined easily with the others around Valladolid. Drive all the way down the dirt road until you see a parking lot where you have to buy a ticket at the restaurant to enter the cenote.
Entrance fee: 70 pesos per person.
Best time for photos: If you want to catch the light ray in your shot you have to come in between 11 AM and 1 PM when the sun is at its highest point and will shine straight down through the roof. You have to be lucky with the weather conditions because even when it’s a little bit cloudy, there will be no light ray.
Photo tip: The best angle is from the stairs with the big stalactites framed in your picture. Set your aperture completely open, and put your ISO a bit higher. We’re curious if you also think this is one of the best cenotes in Tulum?
Samula & X’Keken
Visit two cenotes for the price of one, haha! These cenotes are at the same spot, they are worth a visit, but could not exceed our experience from Suytun cenote. Both cenotes do have a hole in the roof, which gives you the chance to capture the lightray if there is sunshine.
Getting there: These cenotes are a 15-minute drive outside of Valladolid in a small town called Dzitnup, on highway 180.
Entrance fee: 125 pesos to visit both cenotes or 80 pesos for only one.
Best time for photos: If you want to catch the light rays you’ll need to have the sun on it’s highest point. Somewhere during midday is the best time to go.
Photo tip: Maybe your first reaction when you start photographing in these cenotes, is putting the ISO higher or the aperture completely open. Which is understandable. But, if you want to catch the light rays and not blur out the water, you have to shoot a bit darker. Of course it will be a bit of a challenge to edit the picture in Lightroom, but who doesn’t want to challenge himself sometimes..?
Cenote Dos Ojos
This cenote is a perfect visit on your trip from Playa del Carmen to Tulum or the other way around. Dos Ojos cenote is located inside the Dos Ojos Cenote park where you can also find other cool cenotes. The incredible rock formations, crystal clear blue water and many opportunities for scuba diving or snorkeling makes it one of the best cenotes in Tulum. Dos Ojos means two eyes in Spanish because it’s actually two cenotes who are connected by a 400-meter long underwater cave system.
Getting there: You can get to Dos Ojos with a colectivo (shared taxi in Spanish) if you don’t have your own transport. Just stand on the side of the highway (307 if you’re going from Tulum to Dos Ojos) and wave at any minivan coming your way. Tell the driver your destination when you get on and pay when you get off, it’s usually around 40 pesos. Careful though: from the entrance it takes about 30 minutes walking on a 2km dirt path without transportation possibilities, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes.
Entrance fee: The entrance is quite expensive, 350 pesos per person.
Best time for photos: The best timing to get to Dos Ojos and have some time alone is right after it opens at 8 AM. Also one of the two Ojos gets direct light in the morning which contributes to even more crystal clear water!
Photo tip: Don’t make the pictures inside the cenote too bright, as you might lose the color details. You can better shoot too dark and adjust the shadows in Lightroom than loosing too much color details because you overexposed the picture. There are a few cool spots to make your pictures, floating in the water or close to the stairs.
We hope you enjoyed reading our guide to the best cenotes in Tulum. If you want to know the best things to do around Tulum, read this blog post.
Planning to go to Holbox island? Then you might want to know the best things to do on Isla Holbox!