(Author's Note: This article originally appeared in 2016. This is the 2018 updated edition with 11 new cenotes added to the original list of top 10 cenotes in the Riviera Maya, including Cenote Sac-Actun, which recently was discovered to have "the longest underwater cave system in the world".
Everyone wants to know where the best cenotes in the Riviera Maya are.
Each cenote has its own distinct personality that lures you into it.
I have yet to travel to any two cenotes that were completely identical. Each one has its unique flavor to it. It’s part of what makes the Riviera Maya so special. The adventure never ends.
Let’s take a look at the top cenotes in the Riviera Maya to find out what makes each of them unique.
Here your chance to chase adventure and get rough and dirty at Latin America’s number one, tourist rated adventure park, Selvatica.
Your reward at the end of this great series of challenging adventures? Your chance to refresh and reset at Cenote Selvatica. You’ll feel reborn with vigor and ready to head to whatever's next.
This cenote is separated from the ocean by a small strip of land. Instead of the many circled cenotes, Casa Cenote features a long canal that winds away from the ocean.
When the sun is shining, its crystal clear waters allow you to see—with impressive clarity—all the way to the bottom. Many times, the bottom looks so near, it appears to be in near reach of your toes. When you attempt to touch with your hands, you’re amazed to realize its actually twice as deep as your eyes perceive it to be.
This is a small and cozy cenote. It has a cave, but it's not large. Above the cave, people can dive off an approximately 12-foot ledge into the deep cenote.
Even though it's in a somewhat of a confined area, it’s the perfect place to entertain the whole family.
From an aerial perspective, this cenote looks very similar to Belize’ world famous, blue hole.
It’s an impressively massive cenote in diameter. Despite its enormity, however, most people tend to congregate together near the entrance’s shore.
This small cenote has a lot of open space surrounding it. This leaves room for permanent chairs, tables, and shade-providing umbrellas. The most unique aspect of this cenote, however, is the short zipline they installed over it.
Have the lifeguard clear the way for you, put on a lifejacket, jump off and hold on to the handle. Fly the through the air before letting go at a predetermined spot in the cenote. Rinse and repeat as many times as you wish.
After visiting the Mayan Ruins of Ek Balam, go visit its eponymous and beautiful cenote, Ek Balam Cenote. One feature you won’t elsewhere is the impressively tall wooden staircase along the cenotes side.
If you dare, climb up and jump several yards down into the cenote.
First, visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza. Then, travel about a mile and half toward Cenote Ik Kil. Revitalize yourself in a majestic cenote idolized by the Mayans.
As the name suggests (in Spanish), this is a large and popular cenote. Google the diving pictures taken there, and be prepared to be awestruck. You can be sure, the pictures are so spectacularly majestic they’re enough motivation to visit in and of themselves.
Cenote Dos Ojos (meaning two eyes in Spanish) is connected to one of the top 10 longest underwater cave systems in the world. It contains the deepest known cave passage in Quintana Roo with a depth of nearly 400 feet. It was featured in the IMAX film of 2002, Journey Into Amazing Caves.But that's not all. Just this January 2018, the largest underwater cave system was discovered, connecting Cenote Dos Ojos & Cenote Sac-Actun (mentioned next).
In what appears to be a scene from James Cameron’s Avatar, Cenote Samula has an Alamo tree extending its roots from several yards above, into the cenote for hydration. The rare and impressive vista of hanging roots entering into the cenote is a sight to behold.
This popular cenote near Merida features a 26 foot (8 meters) wooden staircase that leads you into a gorgeous grotto.
Cenote Cheletun is 158 feet long (48 meters), and 65 feet wide (20 meters). It has a depth of 50 feet (15 meters).
This cenote is deep. VERY deep. In fact, it’s one of the deepest cenotes in the Riviera Maya with a depth of 367 feet (112 meters).
It’s 65 feet long (20 meters), and 20 feet wide (6 meters).
Cenote Bolonchoojol(meaning 9 drops of water in Mayan) is one of the most popular cenotes around. Why?
Well, for one, take a look at the photo above. You’ll see photos of this cenote in many guides. The combination of stalactite formations, crossed with the sunlit turquoise waters are simply eye-popping.
This stunning cenote is located just 5 minutes away from Valladolid. It features a huge, thick stalactite formation that sinks downwards.
You can also step onto a concrete platform that goes into the middle of the cenote. This is the perfect place for an incredible photo, or to observe the freshwater fish because it's not very deep.
Located about 35 miles south of Merida, you will find Cenote Kankirixche (meaning Yellow Fruit Tree).
It is about 82 feet (25 meters) long and 50 feet (15 meters) wide. It has a depth of 165 feet (50 meters). Its crystal clear waters make for perfect visibility.
This gorgeous cenote is off the beaten path and has many lily pads floating in it. However, the secret is now out. If you want to visit this cenote, try coming early, or during a weekday.
If not, you could face large crowds.
If you’re short on time, and want to see many cenotes in one tour, Kantunchi is your place.
The first is Cenote Kantun-chi (meaning yellow stone mouth in Mayan). Here you will find some of the best cenote/stalactite combinations you’ll ever see.
There’s even a stalactite cave tour you can take there.
Cenote Sas ka leen (meaning transparent water in Mayan) is the largest cenote in Kantunchi Park.
Look at the picture above. Jaw-dropping huh? I mean, just look how sky blue those waters are!
Like we just mentioned, this is just one of 4 cenotes in Kantunchi Park.
This is the third cenote available at Kantunchi Park. It’s out in the open so the water gets a bit warmer.
Bring your snorkel so you can see all of the freshwater fish. Just take a look at the video above to get a clearer picture of what I’m talking about.
Cenote Chak-Zinik Che, (meaning “Home of the Red Ant” in Mayan) is one of the most popular cenotes for divers.
Wow. There you have it! That's our guide to enjoying the top 20 cenotes in the Riviera Maya!
Remember, each cenote brings something unique and entertaining. Translation? The fun never ends…So make your checklist HAVE SOME UNFORGETTABLE FUN!