One of our primary reasons for visiting the Yucatan peninsula was my younger daughter’s fascination with the area after studying it in Spanish class, and one of her top desires was to swim in cenotes. Cancun area was a draw for us though, because Dad loves his lay-by-the-pool-and-beach-time and waitstaff to bring him refreshing beverages while he decompresses from his job. So, I started to research the closest cenote to Cancun, Ruta de los Cenotes (because that sounds promising, right?) and others nearby, to see what might work for a family day trip. Ruta de los Cenotes promised a wealth of options and is very near Puerto Morelos (see a post about this quiet little town here), and then others started to compete for my attention, like Cenotes dos Ojos and Kantun Chi Ecopark. So here, I’ll share with you the fruit of my research.
Why Visit Cenotes in Cancun?
Cenotes are underground fresh bodies of water that connect to the surface. There are 6000 or more of these freshwater cenotes across the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Since the Yucatán has sparce rivers and lakes, cenotes were one of the primary sources of drinking water. These freshwater sources were so necessary and valuable, Mayan cities developed around them and spiritual significance was even attached to cenotes. Cancun’s surrounding area offers many places to find one of these geologically, archaeologically, and spiritually significant spots that works for you, because besides all that, they are beautiful places for a refreshing dip!
Ruta de los Cenotes: Cancun’s Quickest Cenote Side Trip
Through all my attempts to find the closest cenote to Cancun, Ruta de los Cenotes came up time and again. The road does provide a wealth of cenotes within an easily drivable distance of Cancun. It is a road that intersects highway 307 just south of Calle Jose Maria Morelos, which leads into Puerto Morelos. This one road has many cenotes dotted along it, so I am only going to talk about a few of the different choices. Also, fair warning, the kilometer point along the Ruta de los Cenotes given is where you turn off the road, but you may have to keep traveling along that turn off a bit before actually getting to the entrance to the Cenote, and some of the road can get rough.
How to get to Ruta de los Cenotes:
Traditional public transportation will only get you as far as the junction of highway 307 and Ruta de los Cenotes. To travel up the road to the cenotes, you really need to either rent a car, use a map, and be brave – or use a tour or taxi. When we decided to explore some cenotes for the day, we wanted to set our own schedule and be able to change plans on a whim, so we hired a taxi for the entire day from Cancun for $3500 MXN, or approximately $180 USD for the four of us. Not the cheapest way to do it, but convenient, safe, and granting abundant schedule-freedom! This enabled us to go south to cenotes near Tulum, and work our way north before calling it quits and heading for the hotel when we were ready.
Cenote Las Majorras
The first cenote you reach along the Ruta de los Cenotes in this list is Las Majorras at 12.5 km from the intersection with 307. Las Majorras is on the less adventure-park end of the spectrum for cenote parks, but still provides restrooms, ziplines (though not as high as the bigger parks), a place to jump into the cenote, hammocks, and a picnic area. Las Majorras is also not enclosed in a cave and larger than a number of the cenotes in the area, so may be more comfortable if you like more open areas. The down side of this open cenote is that there are times the water is not as clear as other cenotes, so if that is a priority for you, this may not be your pick. The road to get to this cenote is quite the bumpy ride, but the pay off is that fewer people seem to make the trek. Approximately 300 MXN/person.
Boca del Puma
This adventure park is approximately 16.5 km from the turn off from highway 307, along the Ruta de los Cenotes. This is not the place for getting in touch with the quiet, sacred, ancient cenotes Riviera Maya may have conjured in your mind before arriving. This is an adventure park, complete with Ziplines (their website boasts 7 of the most extreme!) and ATVs to keep your adrenaline going, and two Cenotes if you need to cool down during or in-between activities. If you are with kids, or looking for some serious in-the-jungle excitement, this is your stop. But fair warning, admission is around $95 USD (or roughly $1790 MXN) each for the full package. Visit the Boca del Puma website here.
Cenote Verde Lucero
Cenote Verde Lucero, located at 17.5km from the intersection of 307, is one of the quieter Cenotes on Ruta de los Cenotes. Quite the contrast from Boca del Puma, Verde Lucero does have basic restrooms, will provide you with a life jacket, but that’s pretty much as far as the frills go. Verde Lucero does have a zipline you can drop from into the water, and a cliff to jump into the cenote if you are brave enough. It is also less known and crowded, so it may wind up being a favorite just for that. Another bonus is the entrance fee of approximately $10 USD (but cheaper with pesos at $150 MXN), which is quite a drop from Boca del Puma!
If you are looking to devote an entire day to adrenaline, and oh yeah, do the cenote thing, too… I give you Selvetica. Selvetica is located at 18km along the Ruta de los Cenotes, and is similar – even offers more than – Boca del Puma. Here you can also go offroading in an ATV, zip through a 10-zipline circuit and two “monster” ziplines, do a bungee swing, and explore their skywalk as well as jump in a cenote. Selvatica also boast not only bathroom/changing rooms, but also lockers, a souvenir shop, and yes food – including vegetarian options. All these bells and whistles come with a price tag, though… of $199 USD for adults and $99 USD for kids. Visit the Selvatica website here.
Riviera Maya Cenotes South of Playa del Carmen
If you are up for a little more of a drive, or maybe wanting to combine your trip to the Tulum ruins with a couple of the best cenotes in Tulum area, here are two great otions…
Cenote Dos Ojos
Cenote Dos Ojos is actually interconnecting caverns that run for nearly 40 miles. These caverns are your pick if you want to SCUBA underwater cave systems, and there is even a bat cave you can surface in at one part of the dive. That, however, was a little ambitious for us! We hadn’t yet done our first SCUBA lesson and dive in clear, sun bathed Cancun water, and were honestly a bit creeped out by diving underwater caves. The good news is, the open cenote at Dos Ojos was accessible, had bright, clear blue water, and was plenty spacious even for the 15-20 other visitors in the water with us. One note of caution, there are the little exfoliating fish in the water, and they will nip lightly at you to get dead skin off. They won’t harm you at all, but it can be startling the first time it happens. If you cry out in surprise, you may spook your child about hopping in… not that I know anyone that happened to or anything…
There are bathrooms, changing area, life jackets, first aid, hammocks, and a full restaurant. $350 MXN or approximately $18 USD each. See the Cenote Dos Ojos website here.
Kantun Chi Cenotes
Kantun Chi is very park-like with a main reception building with bathrooms, lockers, someone to help fit a required life-jacket, and gift items for sale in addition to ticket sales at the desk. Once inside there are paved pathways that link the 4 cenotes of Kantun Chi, and employees who monitor each cenote. If you are visiting with small children, this would be your safest and easiest bet, but not nearly the adrenaline experience of many of the cenotes. They do have kayaks included for use in three of the cenotes, artificial lighting to brighten the back of the deeper caves, and a full restaurant available. Surprisingly, this was not busy at all when we visited, and we had one cenote all to ourselves for quite a while. There is also an underground river you can include in your visit, which brings the price to $59 USD ($1100 mxn) each, less without the river. Visit Kantun Chi’s Website Here.
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