What is a cenote?
A cenote is a natural sinkhole resulting from the collapse of limestone rocks that exposes an underwater cave system. This underwater system is part of the two longest underground water systems in the world (Sac Actun 353 km and Ox Bel Ha 270 km) which was the reason why 13,000 years ago people settled on the peninsula. In history, these ancient Mayas used the cenotes for sacrificial offerings. But nowadays, visiting cenotes is a fun experience and you can swim or go scuba diving!
There are four different types of cenotes, the ones that are completely underground such as this cenote, semi-underground such as Gran Cenote, cenotes at ground level such as a lake or pond and those that are open wells such as Cenote Ik Kil and Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman.
Cenote Suytun from a side view
How to get to Cenote Suytun
Only 8 kilometres outside of Valladolid is the Suytun Cenote located. So it’s only a short distance to drive if you stay in Valladolid. Located along the 180 highway and just a little before the small town of Tikuch, you’ll find the entrance.
To get from Tulum to Cenote Suytun will take you about 80 minutes over 95 kilometers. And from Chichen Itza to Cenote Suytun, which is a perfect day trip, it takes about a 50 minutes over a distance of 55 kilometres.
There are also a few tours that combine a visit to Chichen Itza with a perfect cool off at Cenote Suytun.
Best time to visit Cenote Suytun
The best time to catch the magical light ray inside the Cenote Suytun is from 11 – 1 PM. But unfortunately this is also, mostly, the busiest time as more and more people know this fact.
So you can either choose to go early and have the cenote for yourself without the light beam. Or be there at the right moment and hope for not too much people. Keep in mind that the time of the day affects the position of the light ray shining through the hole in the roof. So with the sun changing position, it also means that the light beam changes position during the different seasons and time of the day.
On a cloudy day you won’t be able to see the light beam, so if that’s the case you can better choose to go as early as possible to have this beautiful place all for yourself.
Also! Keep in mind that Valladolid is an hour ahead of Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. So set your clocks an hour forward so you won’t sleep in too much in Valladolid 😉
* Update 2021: On social media I saw photo’s of Cenote Suytun with much higher water level. It seems that after lots of rainy days, the platform in the cenote is now under water. So unfortunately you can not stand dry on the platform anymore! But hopefully this will be different after some time.
The magical light beam at Cenote Suytun
Entrance fee Cenote Suytun & opening times
The entrance fee for Cenote Suytun is 120 MXN pesos per person in 2020. The gravel parking area, which is big enough for cars and buses, is free. The opening times for Cenote Suytun are from 9.00 AM to 5.00 PM every day of the week.
What to expect at Cenote Suytun
Once you’re arrived at the entrance and paid the entrance fee, you will see there are changing rooms and bathrooms. You can also rent life jackets there to swim in Cenote Suytun for 30 MXN pesos.
When you enter the cenote, there is a stone pathway leading you down. The stairway is well lit which is a must because it gets dark quickly underneath the ground. An impressive stalactite and many smaller stalactites welcome you into the cenote. It almost feels as if you enter a cave, but luckily this cenote has very tall walls with its ceiling almost completely intact despite the small hole where the light shines through.
At the water edge and the beginning of the stone pier are natural stone seats. Here you can leave your stuff or just sit down for a moment and enjoy the silence and beauty of this cenote. If there are no other people around…
The swimming pool of Cenote Suytun is relatively shallow but the emerald blue water is a bit milky, so you can’t see the bottom everywhere. There are black fishes swimming around in the cenote, so don’t freak out if you encounter one during a dip!
As said before, if you are between 11 AM and 1 PM at Cenote Suytun on a sunny day, you’ll have a big chance capturing the magical light ray! Read in the next section our photography tips for Cenote Suytun so you’ll well prepared to make some stunning pictures inside the cenote!
Besides the beautiful Suytun Cenote, there is also a second cenote on the same spot. It’s at the left side of the ticket booth, but you can ask some of the people there to point you in the right direction. This second cenote is just like Suytun underground, but slightly smaller with an open ceiling, shorter walls and lots of greenery and bird life.
Photography tips Cenote Suytun
By now it should be clear that to capture the lightray at Cenote Suytun, the best timing is to get there between 11 AM and 1 PM. Around that time is the sun is at its peak, so it can create a straight ray of light through the hole in Suytuns ceiling.
But how to make great looking pictures at Cenote Suytun?
What are the best settings to make a photo with your DSLR camera in the cenote?
Because there is little light coming into Cenote Suytun, you will need to open your aperture completely and set your ISO higher. If you have a camera with good in body stabilisation, you will be able to manage a sharp shot handheld. But, if you want to make sure to have a sharp picture, or you want to experiment with a long exposure picture, you have to bring a tripod.
This is mandatory as well when you want to take a couple photo as we did here. In this case you can handle the camera shutter via an app on your phone which you connect with the camera. This will give you full control over the camera and you can even manage all the settings on your phone!
Another very important thing to have so you can capture this cenote at its best, is a wide angle lens. The wider the lens, the more cenote you can capture in your frame. We used the 8-18mm Panasonic Leica lens which is great for landscape photography as well!
Different photo angles at Cenote Suytun
There are different ways to capture this magical cenote. Of course the angle from the stairs with the biggest stalactite in it is a must have.
But you can also capture the cenote with the pier right in front of your frame for the leading lines.
Or from the side so you can clearly see the stunning light ray.
Other amazing cenotes to explore near Valladolid
Not only Suytun is a must visit cenote in Valladolid, but there are many more cenotes to explore in and near Valladolid, so hear a quick overview for the best 5 other cenotes to visit.
Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman
This cenote was, next to our visit to cenote Suytun, one of our favourite experiences during our time in Mexico. Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman is a jungle feel, mystical but beautiful cenote with hanging vines and a pool so deep you can’t see the ground. You can swing into the water from an epic Tarzan swing and feel as if you’ve just entered jungle book!
Read here the complete blog about Cenote Oxman in Valladolid
Zaci is located within Valladolid on a 10 minute walk from the centre, so it’s a must visit when you’re in town! This cenote is semi-open with an overhanging roof and vines hanging down into the cenote, giving it that jungle feel just like Cenote Oxman! You can swim here for 30 MXN pesos.
We found this a really pleasant cenote to swim in! The water was deep enough and crystal clear. In every cenote is always a rope stretched underwater and attached on both sides of the cenote. With this you’ll always have something to grab on when you’re tired of swimming, get cramp, or just want to hang in the water and admire the beautiful cenote!
Cenote Ik Kil
Ik Kil cenote is one of the most popular cenotes in Yucatan. So you can be sure it is busy when you visit. Or you have to be there right after opening time. Cenote Ik Kil is another beautiful and big jungle feel cenote with crystal clear blue water and the option to swim. There is also a dive platform for the adventure seekers! The entrance fee is 80 MXN pesos and there are lots of restaurants and shops around.
On the same location as Samula, you will have 2 cenotes for the price of one. The interior of XKeken is also a cave kind of cenote with a hole in the roof and a swimming pool. If there is sunlight, you will also here have the chance of seeing the lightray.
What to bring to Cenote Suytun
If you plan on visiting a few cenotes and want to snorkel in them as well, you will be off cheaper (and more hygenic) if you just buy a snorkel and mask in Mexico. Renting a set every time on a trip can add up in the costs. Find here the other things we recommend taking with you to the cenotes:
- Biodegradable sunscreen. With this you help the fragile eco system of the cenotes stay healthy. But in some cenotes it is even forbidden to use any kind of sunscreen and mandatory to shower before you get into the water to wash off the oils and chemicals you have on your skin. Did you know there are lots of chemicals and other bad ingredients in some sunscreens? These chemicals do not only damage your skin, but also reefs, cenotes and more eco systems when they are often exposed to them. So be a conscious traveler and if you use sunscreen, make sure its biodegradable!
- Swimsuit. Make sure to bring this because you want to dip in that pool!
- A camera, eventually tripod and or GoPro
- Snorkel and mask