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Exploring Cenotes: What to Expect

As the ultimate playground for tourists, Tulum’s long list of historical and environmental wonders guarantees an unforgettable visit. But it is what lies beneath the area’s surface which makes the Yucatan Peninsula different to anywhere else in the world. Home to the largest underwater river system ever discovered, it is believed to have over 6,000 cenotes. So what can you expect when exploring these hidden underwater gems? Here we’ll run you through everything you need to know!

What are they?

Cenotes are natural sinkholes formed from hundreds of years of limestone erosion, exposing the hidden groundwater underneath.

To the Mayan people, these remarkable creations meant much more. Considered to be portals to Xibalba— or the Netherworld - they were revered by this ancient civilisation, often being used in sacrifices and rituals.

The different types of cenotes

Cenotes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, with three main types to explore. The first are ‘open’ cenotes, where the entire limestone ceiling has collapsed leaving the water beneath completely exposed. Filled with plants and wildlife, these crystal open water pools are often the most popular for snorkelling. You might even get the chance to zip line into the water - appealing for all you daredevils out there!

With ‘closed’ cenotes, you’ll need to climb down steps or a ladder to get to them - or you can just jump straight in from the ground for an extra thrill! These magical underwater caves are decorated with stunning stalagmites and stalactites (think lots of icicle shaped rocks hanging from the ceiling).

You can of course enjoy a mix of both with a ‘semi-open’ cenote, where only part is enclosed whilst the other half is bathed in the outdoor sunshine.

For a full exploration of the underworld, we recommend you try “cenote hopping” with an experienced Tulum guide who will bring you to a few different ones!

Scuba Diving

For those of you with a minimum of an open-water certification, you can explore the deeper depths of these mystical caverns. As one of the most unique experiences in Tulum, prepare to dive deep into the underworld and be awed by its natural wonders. From seeing rays of sunlight penetrating the dark water like laser beams, to experiencing the intertwined passages connecting these underground cenotes - scuba diving in a cenote is completely different to ocean diving! Just make sure to have a certified scuba diving instructor or guide with you.


Of course you don’t need to dive to experience the incredible beauty of these underwater sinkholes. Snorkelling in cenotes is one of the most popular activities in Tulum, allowing you to discover all kinds of fossils and marine life, including freshwater fish and sea turtles. There might even be the odd little crocodile too… which you can admire from a distance, of course! At O2 Tulum, we make sure to bring our waterproof cameras with us so that we can record the best parts of the adventure for you!

So if your ready for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, book a private tour of Tulum’s hidden underworld here


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