Visiting the Gran Cenote in Tulum is a must do during your time in the Riviera Maya. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions near Tulum and a fun day trip. You can go swimming, snorkeling and even diving in the Grand Cenote! And after all this fun, there is a beautiful lawn with hammocks to relax and dry off after a swim. Find in this blog post all the information you need to visit the Gran Cenote Tulum.
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 in the Quintana Roo region. In history, these ancient Mayas used the cenotes for sacrificial offerings. But nowadays, visiting cenotes is a fun experience and in most of the cenotes you can even swim or go scuba diving!
There are four different types of cenotes. The ones that are completely underground such as a cave but with a small opening in the roof just like Cenote Suytun. Semi-underground cenotes such as this cenote which has open spaces but also a cave. Cenotes at ground level such as a lake or pond and those that are open wells such as Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman.
How to get to Gran Cenote Tulum
The Gran Cenote is only 5 kilometres outside of downtown Tulum located so you don’t have to travel far! There are a few options to get to the cenote. We’ve only transported ourselves with a rental car which we picked up directly after our arrival in Cancun Airport. This gave us the freedom to go and stop wherever we wanted, the ultimate Mexico road trip! But here are a few other options to get around:
- By taxi: easy but can add up in the costs if you have to take a taxi every time you need transport. One way to the Gran cenote from Tulum centre is about 100 MXN pesos.
- By bicycle: for about 80 MXN pesos per day you can rent a bicycle which is the most fun and healthy way to get around in Tulum! It takes about 20 minutes to get to the Gran cenote from Tulum centre.
- Rent a car: which is what we did for the two weeks we were in the Yucatan Peninsula and Quintana Roo region traveling around. We highly recommend renting a car as it gives you so much freedom to stop wherever you want. From Tulum downtown it’s only a 5 minute drive to this cenote, but you can combine it with the other cenotes in Tulum.
- By bus: it is possible to get to the Gran cenote by bus (the public transport buses are the ADO buses or take the collectivo, a shared van). But both their schedule is a bit unreliable, so if you’re short in time you can better have your own transport, or book day tour!
- Book one of the cenote tours: if you’re short in time and don’t want to arrange all the transport and hassle yourself, you can book one of the cenote tours or a bike tour to explore the closely cenotes and meet other travelers!
Gran Cenote Tulum. The cave which connects both cenotes
Entrance fee Gran Cenote Tulum and opening times
The entrance fee for Gran Cenote is 180 MXN pesos per person. This is excluding life jackets rent which is 50 MXN pesos.
If you want to rent snorkels this cost an extra 80 MXN pesos and using a locker costs 30 MXN pesos. Make sure to bring enough cash, also small change money, to the cenotes.
The opening times for Gran Cenote are from 8 AM to 4.45 PM with the last entry at 4.15 PM.
Best time to visit Gran Cenote Tulum
If you want to experience the Gran Cenote without too much crowds, the best time to go is a early as possible. Avoid the tourists buses and get to the cenote when it opens. Also try to avoid the weekends or Mexican holidays when more locals flock to cenotes and beaches as well.
In terms of the best season to go, you don’t really have to take the weather forecast into account. You’re getting wet anyway in the cenote, and there are lockers if you want to use one to protect your valuables.
Take into account that high season is from December to March, April. So during these months you’ll likely don’t have a chance of an empty cenote.
For the best quality of pictures you have to work around the sunlight peeking through the vegetation. There might be a chance of glare on the water, created by the sunlight that reflects on the water. You can use an ND filter to cover this, or wait for the sun to shine a little less bright.
Checking out the crystal clear water of the Gran Cenote in Tulum
What to expect at Gran Cenote Tulum
When you’ve payed the entrance fee and enter the terrain of the Gran cenote, you’ll see a beautiful kind of garden with a lawn, hammocks, changing rooms and showers.
It is mandatory to shower before you enter the Gran cenote so all chemicals and oils such as sunscreen or mosquito repellent are washed off. With this, you protect the ecosystem of the cenotes. There’s even a clear sign saying to not use any sunblock or sunscreen because it damage the fragile ecosystem of the cenotes. So keep this in mind; don’t put any sunscreen or mosquito repellent on you when visiting the cenotes in Mexico!
There are two entrances into the Gran cenote which are connected with a boardwalk. The first entrance you’ll see, gives access to the big, main pool. But if you walk a little bit further, you’ll see another stair going down to the second, smaller cenote. The water in the Gran Cenote is connected underneath the cave, so you can swim from one side to the other. But the second smaller cenote is much quieter and an oasis to relax for a bit.
It is fun to swim and snorkel around in the cenote. You can admire the beautiful rock formations underneath the water. But also keep an eye on the roof of the cenote, because there might be bats hanging around!
Tarzan spotted at the Gran Cenote in Tulum 😉
Wildlife of Gran Cenote
While exploring around in the crystal clear waters of the Gran Cenote, you’ll have a big chance of spotting some wildlife like turtles, crabs, bats and fishes! We captured a big blue crab and a turtle hanging around. It’s important to keep distance of these animals and respect their habitat.
Gran Cenote Tulum wildlife; a turtle and blue crab
What to bring to Gran Cenote Tulum
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. Find here the other things we recommend taking with you to the cenotes:
- Swimsuit. Make sure to bring this because you want to dip in that pool!
- A camera or GoPro
- Snorkel and mask
What’s forbidden at the Gran Cenote Tulum
Besides bringing things you need at the Gran Cenote, there are also a few things you don’t have to bring, or rather saying things that are forbidden to use at the Gran Cenote. Yes, you read it right, there are a few things forbidden to take inside the Gran Cenote. Here they are:
- Tripod. Not exactly sure why this is forbidden. Maybe because they want to avoid being a “photoshoot spot” and want to give all visitors a pleasant experience. So bring a friend if you’re a solo traveler who can take some photos of you or ask someone at the cenote to snap a shot.
- Sunscreen. All kinds of sunscreen are forbidden to use at the Gran Cenote. That’s why you even need to shower before you enter the water. 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 sunscreen!
Other amazing cenotes to explore near Tulum
Not only the Gran Cenote in Tulum is a must visit, but there are many more cenotes to explore in and near Tulum. So hear a quick overview for the best 5 other cenotes to visit.
Cenote Suytun is definitely one of the most unique and magical cenotes because of the light beam and perfect platform in the middle of the cave. And with a huge stalactite at the entrance, this cenote is also super photogenic. It almost feels as if you enter a cave when you make your way down into cenote Suytun. But luckily this cenote has very tall walls with its ceiling almost completely intact despite the small hole where the light shines through. This magical light beam is what makes Suytun so photogenic in combination with the stone pier which makes a perfect ‘catwalk’ or platform to put a person in frame.
Read in this blog post everything about Cenote Suytun
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 beautiful cenotes. The incredible rock formations, crystal clear blue waters 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.
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!
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.
More Mexico travel guides
We hope you enjoyed this blog post about the Gran Cenote in Tulum! For more Mexico travel inspiration, head over to these blog posts: