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Our scuba travel experts are available 24/7 to assist you in planning and booking a fantastic scuba diving vacation

With an estimated 6,000 cenotes, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and its extensive subterranean waterways are ideal for experimenting with cavern diving.

Highlights

Cenote Dos Ojos

A favorite among local divers, Cenote Dos Ojos is two neighboring cenotes which connect in one large cavern system with huge pillars and stalactites.

Playing Archaeologist

Because of their history as ancient sacrificial grounds, cenotes are home to many skeletons. In particular, Pet Cemetery is known for animal fossils.

Underwater Photography

With crystal clear water, fascinating light displays and delicate formations, the cenotes, especially Kukulcan are an underwater photographer’s dream.

Diving in The Cenotes

Quick facts

Cenotes (pronounced sen-o-tays) are ancient sinkholes that exist throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. For many years, these caverns have been a major scuba diving attraction in Mexico.

Because of a recent split in the definition of cave diving, cenotes are now accessible to a wide range of divers. As long as you maintain a minimum of natural light, cenote diving is defined as cavern diving, and anyone holding a basic scuba certification can head into this subterranean environment.

The process of cenote diving can be an arduous one. Depending on which cenote you choose, the dive may begin with a mile or more of lugging dive gear through the jungle. Then it’s a giant leap into the sinkhole and a crystal-clear world unfolds before your eyes. Once inside, you’ll follow a guideline and the light of your dive leader into the many halls and tunnels of the cavern. Be prepared for the occasional sharp halocline.

Do keep in mind that cenote diving is not for everyone. If you have just completed your Open Water training, are afraid of the dark or tend to get claustrophobic, we don’t recommend that you try this type of diving.

As a final note, a 16% tax is levied on all dive operations in Mexico, and many cenotes require an extra entrance fee. A fully cave certified dive guide and full cave gear are legal requirements for cenote diving.

When to go

For the best lighting and visibility, dive the cenotes between May and September. For the best above-the-water weather, choose October to April.

October to April

While October to April may not be considered conditions in the cenotes, there is no bad time to explore these subterranean wonders.

October to April is considered the best time to visit Mexico for beach vacations and therefore is the most popular time to dive in the cenotes. This is the best season to book your holiday if you would like to combine cenote diving with great topside conditions.

Because the winter months constitute high season, you should make sure to book as early as possible in order to secure the best rate.

Water temperatures in the cenotes remain constant year-round and cool very minimally during the winter months. On average, temperatures are approximately 77ºF (24 to 25ºC).

May to September

The best time for cenote diving is between May and September. These months bring the best light to the caves and result in better photographs.

Note that diving in the cenotes is possible year-round. The only thing to remember during the summer and early fall months is to keep an eye on the forecast. These seasons do see the occasional hurricane which may hinder your ability to reach any Mexican destination. When there isn’t a hurricane, the weather during the summer is hot and humid with the occasional rain shower.

As an added bonus, the summer months are low season throughout Mexico. At this time, you’ll find the best deals on diving and accommodation. If you enjoy uncrowded dive sites, travel to Mexico between May and September.

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Where to dive

Most cenotes are open to anyone with a basic scuba certification. The Dos Ojos and Sac Aktun systems offer exploration opportunities for cave divers.

    Snorkeling in The Cenotes

    Just because you’re restricted to snorkeling doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the majestic beauty of the cenotes. Several cenotes have facilities for snorkelers and the water clarity and light play allow snorkelers to capture some stunning underwater images. A few great cenotes for snorkeling and swimming are Gran Cenote, Cenote Dos Ojos and Cenote Azul.
    Of the more than 6,000 cenotes in Mexico, a vast majority of those accessible to Open Water divers are scattered between Puerto Aventuras and Tulum. Most cenotes feature one or two dive paths meaning you could spend a full day diving any one cavern. Nearest to Puerto Aventura, you’ll find Chac Mool and Kukulcan, Taj Mahal and Ponderosa. The central region features the Pit, Pet Cemetery, Cenote Dos Ojos, Dreamgate, Casa Cenote and Cenote Manati. Finally, Gran Cenote, Temple of Doom and Angelita are located close to Tulum. Of the cenotes mentioned above, Taj Mahal, Cenote Dos Ojos and Gran Cenote are favorites among dive operators in the area.

    What to see

    The cenotes are home to approximately fifteen species of fish including mollies, catfish and tetras. Almost all of the area’s marine life is small but readily visible due to the clarity of the water and lack of hiding spots. Chara, a type of algae, is the most common plant life in the cenote environment.

    Because the freshwater to saltwater ratio changes from cenote to cenote, so does the number of fish. Some cenotes are seemingly filled with small fish while others are practically void of marine life.

    Much more interesting than the marine life in the cenotes are the geological formations. You’ll find stalactites, stalagmites and huge pillars in these ancient sinkholes.

    Calendar

    For better readability of the table, pass into the landscape mode.

    Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

    Location

    The Yucatan Peninsula is a low, flat body of land with virtually no surface streams or rivers. This is a symptom of the area’s geological history. Thousands of years ago, the Yucatan Peninsula was a coral reef at the bottom of the sea. While there is limited surface water today, the limestone of the Yucatan is actually home to three of the longest subterranean water systems in the world, namely the Dos Ojos System, the Ox Bel Ha System and the Sac Aktun System. These three systems occasionally break create sinkholes at the surface forming more than 6,000 cenotes across Mexico.

    Other attractions

    As most tourist-accessible cenotes are located on the Yucatan Peninsula, visitors to the area should also avail themselves of the plentiful attractions in this part of Mexico. The most incredible things to see in the region are the ancient Mayan temples that dot the landscape. Two of the most famous are Chichen Itza and Tulum. Aside from the temples, going on a jungle trek or two is sure to get your adrenaline pumping! You’ll also find plenty of watersports from kayaking to parasailing as well as sandy white beaches on which to relax. In the evening, stroll through local villages, dine on delicious Mexican food and shop for local handicrafts.

    Getting there

    Most of the accessible cenotes are located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. If you are based on the Riviera Maya and wish to explore independently, renting a car is your best option. Otherwise, you will need to use the shared vans that ply the major roads. For the less independent traveler, many swimming and snorkeling tours are operated from tourist centers, but divers may find it most useful to sign up for a tour with a local scuba operator.

    UTC-05:00

    Time zone

    MXN

    Currency

    +52

    Calling code

    127 V

    Electric volt

    A, 

    B

    Plug type

    CUN

    Main airport