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Cenote Tour from Cancun – An Excellent Day Out!

Last updated on May 1st, 2024 at 01:07 pm

A cenote tour from Cancun was high up on my list of things to do when I was planning my trip to the city. The uniqueness of the cenotes and the experience of swimming in their cold, fresh waters really appealed to me. Not wanting to hire a car however, I decided that an organised tour was the best way to go. And so it proved to be.

In this post I’ll share my experience of taking a cenote tour from Cancun, give you some options for alternative tours and offer up some tips and advice so you too can have an excellent day out!

Image shows the view looking down into a cenote as seen on a cenote tour from Cancun

What is a Cenote?

A cenote (pronounced seh-no-tay) is a natural sinkhole resulting when the collapse of limestone bedrock reveals the groundwater underneath. Cenotes range in size and shape with the most common types being cave (the youngest), semi-open cenote and open cenote (the oldest, where the cave roof has fallen in on itself).

Cenotes played an important role in the lives of the Mayan people. In addition to using them as sources of water, they regarded cenotes as the entrance to the underworld and a place frequented by certain Mayan gods. As a result, they used cenotes as places for making offerings and, in some instances, for human sacrifice. In the Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza for example, archeologists found human skeletons as well as ancient Mayan artifacts made from gold, jade, pottery and shell.

Cenotes are a very popular attraction for tourists. Thankfully there are many thousands of cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula and especially the Riviera Maya, so there’s plenty of choice when it comes to wanting to visit one.

Image shows the view looking up from the bottom of a cenote up towards the sky and surrounding vegetation. To visit a cenote join a cenote tour from Cancun.

Can You Visit a Cenote from Cancun?

The short answer is yes!

There are no Cancun cenotes so you will need to travel out of the city to visit one. Those cenotes close to Cancun are found along the same road, the Ruta de Los Cenotes. The first of these and the closest cenote to Cancun is cenote Sol y Luna near the town of Puerto Morales.

Cenotes are such a popular attraction however, that the infrastructure is in place to make it easy enough to visit one (or more!) wherever they are located.

Whether you’re interested in swimming, snorkeling or diving, a cenote tour from Cancun is a great idea.

Image shows a cenote from ground level and looking down into the cenote. A small iguana is visible in the photo.

Best Cenote Tour from Cancun

There will be many claims from many people that this or that tour is the best cenote tour from Cancun. Choosing a tour however will depend on what you want to see and do, how much time you have and what your budget is.

I chose this full day tour which included a visit to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza and the magical town of Valladolid. I was only in Cancun for a short time and this tour allowed me to experience three main attractions all within the same day.

If you are looking for a cenotes tour only option however, then you may want to consider this 3 cenote adventure or this cenote, snorkeling, rappelling and ziplining adventure.

Those who prefer to travel in a smaller group, may want to consider a private tour.

Ultimately, the best cenote tours from Cancun will be the ones that suit your own requirements. Thankfully, there are plenty of Cancun cenote tours for you to choose from!

What to Expect on a Cenote Tour from Cancun

As I mentioned above, my cenote tour from Cancun also included a couple of other activities, however I’m not going to go into detail here about those. Rather, my focus is on the cenote aspect only. Whilst I can only speak to the tour I experienced, I believe that tours to other cenotes will follow a similar pattern.

Hotel Pick Up/Meeting Point

A cenote tour from Cancun will include a guide, driver and transportation there and back. Depending on where you are staying in Cancun, the tour company will either collect you from your hotel or provide details of a meeting point in advance. Check the tour information to ensure you have the correct pickup/meeting point and time – my tour sent a message the day before confirming pickup time and location which was different from what I had expected.

Travel time to your cenote will depend on how long it takes to pick up all guests (assuming you’re on a group and not a private tour), Cancun traffic and which cenote you are visiting.

On Arrival at the Cenote

The tour I joined visited the Chichikan cenote near Valladolid. On arrival we experienced a Mayan shaman blessing and acceptance into the cenote. We were then funneled through the obligatory gift shop where you have the opportunity to purchase all manner of Mayan arts and crafts and tequila!

At the Cenote

Cenote Chichikan is an open cenote located within beautiful grounds. It is 24 metres high, 8 metres deep has limestone walls, a central island and a waterfall.

Image shows the view looking down into the Chichikan cenote. The best way to experience a cenote is to take a cenote tour from Cancun.

There is a restaurant and tequila tasting venue onsite along with various areas where you can sit, swing and relax.

Onsite you will also find changing rooms, lockers and showers. Lockers cost 100 Mexican Pesos (around $6 USD) to hire. The wearing of life jackets is compulsory for those intending to go swimming. The cost (also 100 Mexican Pesos) was not included in the tour price and is payable onsite.

Once changed into your swimsuits, you need to wash off any sunscreen and bug spray using outside showers before you can be issued with a life jacket.

Image shows a sign pointing the way to the Chichikan cenote visited as part of a cenote tour from Cancun

Once you have your life jacket, it’s off to the cenote! Each cenote will no doubt have its rules as to what you can take with you. At Chichikan, any belongings not in a locker were to remain above the cenote. Towels and phones could be taken down into it however.

The climb down into the cenote is via almost 100 wooden stairs which can be slippery. The central island at the bottom is great for storing permitted belongings and taking photos. The water is cold and fresh and home to lots of little fish!

My tour also included lunch which I had after having been swimming.

Overall, I enjoyed a couple of hours at Chichikan cenote as part of a day trip excursion. It was so wonderful to get into the cold, fresh water knowing it was around 38° Celsius (100° Fahrenheit) above ground!

Return to Cancun

At the end of the tour, you’ll return to Cancun and be dropped off at the same location you were picked up from.

What Should You Take With You?

What you take with you will depend on what type of tour you are joining. The tour company will often advise what to take but here are some items you will want to consider:

  • swimsuit (of course!)
  • towel
  • change of clothes – especially important if you have more activities planned elsewhere
  • water shoes
  • rash guard to protect you from sunburn
  • money for hiring lockers and life jackets, buying souvenirs, extra drinks etc.
  • bag for storing wet clothes and shoes – I took a small nappy bag which worked perfectly!
  • waterproof case for phone
  • biodegradable sunscreen and bug spray for use outside of the cenote
  • hat
  • sunglasses
  • snorkel masks/goggles
  • underwater camera/gopro

Consider also whether your travel insurance covers all activities your tour includes e.g. diving, ziplining, ATV adventures etc.

The Downsides of a Cenote Tour from Cancun

Whilst there are many upsides to taking a cenote tour from Cancun (the main one being convenience and you needing to do nothing more than show up) there are a few downsides, namely:

  • you don’t choose the cenote you visit
  • you have no control over the time you visit – this may mean you can’t avoid the crowds
  • the cenote swim element on a day trip may be time limited especially if your tour includes other activities elsewhere

These are all factors to take into account when considering which cenote tour from Cancun suits you best.

Tips for Taking a Cenote Tour from Cancun

These are my tips for taking a cenote tour from Cancun:

  • do your research. Choose a tour that will give you the experience you’re after within the time you have available and at a price you can afford
  • on arrival at the cenote, take a walk around the top so you can get the view looking down into it. A surprising number of people did not do this on the tour I took
  • check out any potential accessibility issues beforehand. Chichikan cenote has about 100 narrow, wooden steps down to the water. Steps can be slippery so take care – several people including me were wearing water shoes for added traction 
  • take cash with you to cover the cost of life jackets, lockers and drinks as well as tips for your tour guide and driver 
  • those susceptible to sunburn should wear a rash guard as sunscreen is not permitted

Final Thoughts

A cenote tour from Cancun is an excellent option if you want to see and experience one of the highlights of the Yucatan Peninsula. The convenience of a tour combined with the opportunity to include other must-do activities make it an obvious choice for inclusion in any Cancun itinerary.

By doing your research and choosing the tour best suited to your aspirations and budget, you really can have an excellent day out in this amazing part of the world.

If you are looking for further things to do in Cancun, be sure you read my post on making a perfect Cancun itinerary here, my post on kayaking in Cancun here and my post on the best way to visit Chichen Itza here.

If you need any general assistance with planning a trip to Cancun, click here for my Resources page.

Disclaimer – Information correct at the time of writing but do check before visiting

Disclosure – This post may contain affiliate links. That means that if you book something using them, I will earn a small commission but you will not pay anything extra. Thank you for supporting my blog.

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