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Top 6 Magical Cenotes Near Chichen Itza

Top 6 Magical Cenotes Near Chichen Itza

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Chichen Itza is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico, known for its iconic pyramid, El Castillo. But there is so much more to do in the area than just checking off a world wonder. And one of my favorite things to do is visit the cenotes near Chichen Itza. 

Cenotes, pronounced “seh-NO-tays,” are natural sinkholes that have formed in the earth’s surface, exposing crystal clear underground pools. These cenotes were considered sacred by the ancient Mayans, and many of them can be found near Chichen Itza.

A lot of tourists tend to visit the popular cenotes around Tulum or Playa Del Carmen, but pretty much anywhere you travel in the Yucatan Peninsula, you’ll find some cenotes. This is because the peninsula is made up of limestone, which allows for the formation of these beautiful underground pools.

The pools are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. The water is usually very clear due to the natural filtering process of the limestone, which makes it ideal for underwater visibility. Some cenotes also have small fish and turtles that live in them. They are the perfect way to cool down after a day of exploring in the hot sun.

The Historical Significance of Cenotes

Chichen Itza and cenotes truly go hand in hand. The only way the ancient city built around Chichen Itza could thrive is because of the cenotes.

Cenotes are the only access the Yucatan has to fresh water. The Yucatan Peninsula does not have any above-ground rivers or lakes, so cenotes were a crucial source of water for the people living in the area.

But their significance goes beyond just providing water. Cenotes were also considered sacred by the Mayans, who believed they were portals to the underworld and used them for religious ceremonies and sacrifices.

In fact, during excavations at Chichen Itza, archaeologists found many objects that were believed to be offerings to the gods in the cenotes. These include gold and jade jewelry, pottery, and even human bones.

The Mayans believed the underworld was a place of death and rebirth, making the cenotes not only a source of life but also a gateway to the afterlife. This is why many cenotes were adorned with statues and carvings depicting gods and goddesses.

Visiting a cenote is not only a refreshing and fun experience but also a way to connect with the ancient culture of the Yucatan.

cenote with green and blue clear water and small palapa hut in the background.

The lush surroundings of cenotes near Chichen Itza make them such special places.

How to Get to the Cenotes Near Chichen Itza

The best and easiest way to get to Chichen Itza and to the surrounding cenotes is by renting a car and driving yourself. This will give you the flexibility to visit multiple cenotes in one day and at your own pace – I highly recommend this!

I usually use Discover Cars when renting around the world. Just make absolutely sure that third party liability is included in the rental, because if not, you will be slapped with a huge fee when you go to pick up the car. If you don’t see any available on Discover Cars, be sure to rent directly through the car rental company to avoid any additional fees.

If renting a car is not an option for you, there are also organized tours that can take you to different cenotes near Chichen Itza. These tours usually include transportation, a guide, and sometimes even lunch or snacks.

You can find tons of different Chichen Itza tour options on GetYourGuide.

Another option and the cheapest is to take colectivos, these are communal vans that run between towns and cities. You can take one from Valladolid to Chichen Itza, and from Chichen Itza, there are also colectivos that go to nearby cenotes.

However, keep in mind that these vans can get crowded and don’t have any sort of time schedule, so plan accordingly. This is not the option for the traveler that cannot fly by the seat of their pants.

tree vines hanging down into a cenote filled with water and lush green forest surrounding it from above.

Some cenotes are deep into the ground like this one and require you to go down a set of stairs or a ladder to reach the entrance.

What to Bring to Chichen Itza Cenotes

Packing to go to a cenote near Chichen Itza is like packing as if you’re headed to a waterpark or a day at the beach.

Check out our full guides to packing for Cancun or what to wear in Tulum to get an idea of what you might want to take. Each cenote is different in regards to the facilities they offer, but there are still some essentials you should bring regardless of which cenote you’re headed to.

Here are a few things to bring with you to a cenote:

  • Swimsuit
  • Towel
  • Waterproof phone case or camera
  • Water shoes or sandals
  • Snacks and water (if not provided by tour)
  • Cash for entrance fees and tips
  • SPF Rash guard or shirt
  • A dry set of clothes
  • Snorkel and goggles

And one big thing to not bring: sunblock! Most cenotes have strict rules against using any type of sunscreen, as it can harm the delicate ecosystem.

Many of the cenotes will make everyone shower and rinse off before entering the water to ensure no harmful chemicals enter the cenote. So, save yourself some hassle and just don’t bring it at all. Wear a long-sleeved shirt like this one to protect yourself from the sun.

And if you’re thinking, “What am I supposed to do with all this stuff while I’m in the cenote?” No worries – typically, you can rent out a locker at the cenote to store your belongings, and they’ll have lifejackets for rent as well if you’re not a strong swimmer.

Some cenotes also offer other amenities such as food and drinks, restrooms, and changing rooms. It’s always best to check beforehand what each cenote offers so you can be prepared for your visit.

6 Cenotes Near Chichen Itza

The area around Chichen Itza is quite big, making some of the cenotes “near” Chichen Itza about an hour’s drive. So, I’ve gone ahead and included the best cenotes around Chichen Itza but have made sure to give you distances from the archeological site as well.

1. Cenote Ik-Kil

Best For: Proximity to Chichen Itza, Great facilities, Lunch on site

Just six minutes south of Chichen Itza is one of the most popular cenotes to head to after visiting the world wonder, cenote Ik-Kil. This cenote is very built up and feels more like a waterpark than a natural cenote.

But don’t let the lockers and buffet restaurant fool you — this cenote is absolutely gorgeous. In the form of a circle, you will wind your way down the carved stairwell to the water.

The cenote is 157 feet (47 meters) deep, and you can jump off platforms at about 15 feet (4.5 meters) high or just take a dip in the refreshingly cool water. Vines will be hanging down all around you, and the water is a bright blue that almost seems to glow when the sun hits it just right.

Entrance is 150 pesos (about $9 USD) for access to the changing rooms, a locker, and a lifejacket for the cenote. If you want to have lunch and a drink here the entrance price hops up to 350 MXN ($20 USD).

This cenote gets crazy packed in the afternoon, so I highly recommend hitting up Chichen Itza first thing when it opens and getting to Ik-Kil before 12 pm. 

person swinging on a rope to jump into a cenote.

Cenotes are like adult waterparks with so much fun to be had swinging and jumping in.

2. Cenote Kax Ek 

Best for: Adventure, Open Cenote, BYO food/drink

Cenote Kax Ek is one of the few open-top cenotes near Chichen Itza. This means that you won’t find a roof over your head here, and it looks more like a lake.

But what it lacks in shade, it makes up for in adventure. Located about 35 minutes from Chichen Itza, this wild cenote is perfect for a day of adventure.

Kax Ek is less built up and is surrounded by the Yucatan jungle, giving it a more natural feel. You can swim and play on some wooden rafts as well as a giant rope swing. It’s about 82 feet (25 meters) deep, and you might feel a few fish nibble on your toes – they won’t hurt you.

Entrance to Kax Ek is on the more expensive side at 300 pesos ($17.50 USD) per person, and there are no lockers or facilities available on site.

So, make sure to bring your own food and drinks if you plan on spending some time here. It’s the perfect cenote for those who want to feel like they are truly immersing themselves in nature and adventure.

3. Cenote Yokdzonot 

Best for: Tour Options, Family-friendly, Less Crowded, Community Focused

Cenote Yokdzonot is another popular cenote near Chichen Itza. Located about half an hour from the ruins, this cenote is perfect for families or those who prefer a more organized experience.

Entrance to Yokdzonot is 150 pesos ($9 USD) per person, and there are restrooms, lockers, and a restaurant available on site. The cenote is much bigger than some of the other ones in the area, so it’s perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

It’s a requirement to wear a life jacket, and while you might want to take it off and jump in, it’s important to remember that these rules are in place for your safety. (Plus, it makes floating around through the cave systems much easier.)

Aside from swimming and exploring the nearby caves, you can learn about the history of the cenote from the locals working and keeping the area clean. The way the cenote was constructed is an amazing story of the community’s resilience, with the women being the ones who spearheaded the project.

The community near Cenote Yokdzonot is very proud of its cenote, and they have worked hard to make it a sustainable and eco-friendly attraction. They also offer guided tours around the cenote, giving visitors a deeper understanding and appreciation for its significance to the local community.

steep ladder looking up to the top of a hole in the ground.

Some of the entrances feel like you are entering a cave system deep underground (and you sort of are!).

4. Cenote Oxman

Best for: Public Transportation, Picnic Tables, Tours

Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman is located about 25 miles south of Chichen Itza and can be accessed by public transportation from the nearby town of Valladolid. You can even ride your bike if you’re feeling adventurous!

The entrance fee is 150 pesos ($9 USD), and the cenote offers picnic tables and restrooms for visitors to use.

Pack lunch and make a day trip to Cenote Oxman. If you prefer to book this full-day adventure to Chichen Itza, which also includes a stop at Cenote Oxman in your itinerary.

What makes this cenote unique is its natural jungle setting. You’ll feel like you’re swimming in the middle of a lush oasis surrounded by cave walls and vines.

The water is crystal clear and perfect for swimming. It can get a little cold depending on where the sun is because the opening is quite small, but if you can handle the chill, it’s definitely worth a dip.

rope swing in front of a green lake.

It’s common to see rope swings at cenotes which you can use to jump in, at your own risk of course!

5. Cenote Lol-ha

Best for: Budget-Friendly, Local feel, Activities

Cenote Lol-Ha is one of the cheapest cenotes around Chichen Itza. Its entrance fee is only 100 pesos ($5.80 USD) and more often than not you’ll be the only one there.

Unlike other cenotes that have become more touristy, Cenote Lol-ha has maintained its natural beauty and local feel.

The cenote is located in the nearby town of Piste and can be easily accessed by public transportation or taxi from Chichen Itza.

The facilities are quite lacking and you’ll have to climb a vertical ladder to enter the cenote, so this isn’t the best for those with more limited mobility.

For more adventurous visitors, there’s a rope you can walk above the water or jump from the man-made platform to splash into the cenote from above.

bright blue water with people swimming in it and surrounded by lush forest.

The color of the water in a cenote depends on the depth of the water and how much light is hitting the water, but they are always such a magical shade of blue or green.

6. Cenote Zaci 

Best for: Budget-Friendly, Time efficient

Cenote Zaci is actually located right in the downtown of Valladolid, which is probably the furthest cenote on this list from Chichen Itza, but since most people stay in Valladolid a night or two because of its close proximity to Chichen Itza, it’s worth mentioning. And it’s my favorite! 

The cenote is a serious life savior when walking the hot streets of Valladolid during the day. Its entrance fee is only 30 pesos (under $2 USD), and its opening hours are from 9 am to 5 pm, making it a perfect stop for a quick refreshing swim between sightseeing.

The cenote itself is more like a small swimming pool surrounded by natural rock formations and trees. But it’s still absolutely gorgeous, and there are some big rocks on the edge to hang out on while you get dry. It’s my favorite afternoon activity after spending the morning at Chichen Itza.