While most people heading to the Yucatan Peninsula visit for the white sandy beaches, Tulum has the added benefit of being a great base for accessing cenotes.
Mexico is world famous for its cenotes, which are natural pools that have become exposed after a centuries-old cave has collapsed and been filled in by the freshwater of underground rivers.
These swimming holes are open to the public, and they’re stunning spots to take a dip. Don’t get us wrong: Tulum definitely has award-winning beaches (which are still the top things to do in Tulum), but if you’re after something a bit different, shake off the sand and hit up one of the following cenotes near Tulum.
Dos Ojos is part of the Sistema Sac Actun, which is the largest underwater cave system in the world. This means it’s a popular place among divers because there are extensive underwater caves to explore.
Though it’s also an incredible spot for regular swimming and snorkeling; its two lagoons have exceptionally clear water where you can appreciate the stalactites and other rock formations of the caves.
The entrance fee is 350 pesos ($18 USD), which includes your life jackets (required) and snorkeling gear. This cenote is only 30 minutes from Tulum, and there’s a restaurant onsite if you want to have a picnic here too.
Gran Cenote is a big reason to pick Tulum over Cancun; it’s between Tulum and Coba and is one of the best places to snorkel.
This is one of the most prized cenotes in Mexico – there are a couple of cave systems to explore, and the water is breathtakingly blue, which means it’s perfect for photo opportunities.
The water is crystal clear, which makes it easy to see the many rock formations, but there’s also a lot of wildlife, and you can swim through a cave with bats flying overhead, as well as turtles and fish sharing the water.
This is a popular Tulum cenote, which means there’s a lot of tourist infrastructure, including bathrooms, changing rooms, lockers, gear rental, and a shop with food (though we recommend packing your own and having a picnic).
It’s only 5 km from Tulum, and we recommend stopping by on your way to/from Coba.
Cenote Aerolito de Paraiso (Cozumel)
If you’re already planning a day trip out to Cozumel (2 hours from Tulum), before you head back from Cozumel to Playa Del Carmen, don’t miss stopping at Cenote Aerolito de Paraiso.
There are 18 cenotes on the island of Cozumel, but this one is the most accessible and has butterflies, birds, and yes, crocodiles.
This cenote is for cave-certified scuba divers, and while it’s only 68 meters or 233 feet deep, it’s been described as “a natural replica of the sea at 3,000 meters deep, in complete darkness.”
Cenote Aktun Ha
This is a quiet cenote, also called Cenote Car Wash for the taxi drivers who used to wash their cars here. It’s a beautiful open cenote near Tulum, surrounded by lush forest, where you can swim alongside turtles and fish.
Car Wash is one of our favorite Tulum cenotes, and it’s also worth keeping in mind that there’s a (totally harmless!) resident crocodile.
It’s about 15 minutes from Tulum and 2 miles past Gran Cenote, so you could easily combine them both.
Born in England, Sarah developed her wanderlust at a young age as she traveled around Europe with her parents. As a young adult she spent every penny she could on experiences as opposed to possessions. Eventually she found a way to earn a living doing what she loved: traveling, writing and capturing images of the wondrous world we live in. When not on the go Sarah enjoys time in her “sometimes home” of Vancouver.