Cenote Valladolid : The Least Crowded

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Have you ever dreamt of swimming alone in these majestic natural sinkholes of ‘agua dulce’? Walk away from the crowded cenotes of Tulum, Playa del Carmen, or Cancun and explore the wild and stunning cenotes in Valladolid.

Here you will find a blend of wildlife, virgin nature and hidden gems you will never forget!


Hidden Gems in Rivera Maya | Cenote Valladolid

Most people usually stay in the touristic areas of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum and visit the cenotes close to their hotel or resort, #1 Tourist Trap, please do not fall into this trap. Don’t judge me wrong, these cenotes like Cenote Azul, Grand Cenote or Dos Ojos Cenote are very nice but extremely crowded. There are much better options for those looking for unique experiences, like the wild cenotes in Valladolid.

On my trip to see the cenotes in Mexico, I made the most of every moment taking pictures with my instant camera and sharing the pictures at the moment with the portable printer with the special people I met on the journey. It was so much fun! 


Valladolid is magically surrounded by the most wonderful cenotes in the Rivera Maya. Since Valladolid is right next to Chichen Itza Temple, some tourists stop by at the most famous cenotes in Valladolid but do not sleep in the city. They all leave without seeing the most special and unique cenotes in the Rivera Maya!

Most of the people usually book expensive day-tours and visit Chichen Itza Temple. On their way to the temple, they visit Cenote Ik Kil, Xcajum Cenote, or Yokdzonot Cenote and go back to their buffet, #2 Tourist Trap.  But, why is it a trap? These 3 cenotes get very packed and especially for those on these tours since most tours go at the same hours to these cenotes.


My advice is to stay at least 2 nights in Valladolid and discover its natural wonders close to the city. Instead of booking commercial tours, you should rent a car and book a nice and much cheaper hotel than those of the coast. The car would enable you to do a road trip around the area, visiting less crowded Cenotes or going to the more famous ones before Bus Tours.

You will also have the chance to immerse yourself in the local culture of this less touristic historic city and try the tasty and authentic Mexican food. Some local friends recommended me to stay in this traditional Boutique Hotel called ‘Hotel Quinta Marciala’ which was extremely worth it. And do not forget to stop by at ‘La Casona de Valladolid’ Restaurant and eat the traditional Poc Chuc or grilled pork marinated in oranges.

I keep on being asked the same 3 questions by my friends and relatives so I have decided to first answer the most important questions you need to know before going to the cenotes.

What is a cenote in Rivera Maya?

It is a subterranean limestone pool that is formed due to erosion over time. These natural pools filled with fresh water filtered from the ground. Some of these underwater caves or pools are sometimes full of wildlife, stalagmites, and stalactites. Cenotes are usually very deep and are all connected by the Sac Actun river, which is the longest river in the world!

Mayans considered cenotes as gates of heaven or hell! They believed that they were the transition point to the afterlife. They used them as a place of human and animal sacrifice and communication with the gods. Bring your googles or rent a diving kit to search for fossils, bones or skulls!

What is the best cenote in Rivera Maya?

By far, the most difficult question. It completely depends on your tastes. I personally prefer less packed and wild cenotes. Therefore, I have to say that my favorite one is Oxman Cenote due to its blend between nature and beauty and also because it has an extremely fun rope swing. I really enjoyed the nature of the area and having amazing local Mexican food in the Hacienda San Lorenzo next to the cenote (below you will see more info).

And it is not all about the cenotes but the experience of getting there! This part of central Rivera Maya in the Yucatan Peninsula is full of natural wonders! Get lost in its jungles and bring out your wildest version!


Cenote Valladolid | Exploring Yucatan Peninsula

Are cenotes dangerous?

If you know how to swim or float it is not dangerous. Even though the cenotes are freshwater and it is more difficult to float than in salt water, most of the cenotes have a rope from side to side than gives you support.

And no, there are no sharks nor crocodiles even though you might be in the middle of a tropical jungle. In addition, it is safe to not wear shoes since there are nice walking paths and you will not have to step on rocks.

Best Cenotes in Valladolid

There are more than 6,000 cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula but I have found that the most special ones are those around Valladolid, these are my favorite:

Zaci Cenote

Cenote Zaci is surprisingly in the heart of the city center of Valladolid. This massive circled shaped sinkhole has a diameter of 25 meters (75 feet) and more than 100 meters (300 feet) deep!


Zaci Cenote | Cenote Valladolid

Are you an adrenaline lover? Zaci Cenote is actually one of my favorites since there are many options for cliff jumpers with jumps from 2-15 meters high. You can see this Cenote as a local swimming pool since it is in a walking distance from anywhere in town and just costs 1,5$. It is perfect for sunbathe and chill out and if you have had too much sun, there is a leafy covered area.

In the rainy season from May to November, there are usually the three waterfalls you can see in the picture.  It feels so relaxing to feel the water crushing your shoulders… hope I could teleport there right now! If the waterfalls are on, take a personal flotation device or whatever that makes you float to enjoy it even more.

Most tours come along midday so I would recommend going for an early swim or from 3 pm onwards. Since it is in town you will have plenty of opportunities to visit it.

a) Price: 30 pesos (1,5$)

b) Open from 8:00 am – 5:30 pm

c) Cenote Zaci is located in streets 36 and 37 in Valladolid

Suytun Cenote

Cenote Suytun is a fairytale-like natural wonder. This huge cavern seems daunting due to its impressive stalactites hanging from the ceiling. It is a closed cenote with an entrance of light that beams at midday but I would recommend going before it closes to experience it on your own. Since it a closed space, it can get noisy at peak hours.


Contemplating Suytun Cenote | Cenote Valladolid

The most special part of this cenote is the man-made platform that makes you feel you are floating on the water. It is also great for watching the small fish around you and the frightening depth of the pool.

Since most cenote’s water is sweet, you float less and since most are very deep you have to be careful. In Suytun Cenote, if you want to swim you have to rent a personal floatation device which costs an additional 30 pesos. If you do not feel like it no worries, the following cenotes are better for swimming and especially scuba dive or diving for the most experienced

a) Price: 125 pesos (6,5$) + personal floatation device 30 pesos (1,5 $)

b) Open from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

c) Cenote Suytun is located in Carretera Libre Valladolid at kilometer 6 Valladolid, Mexico

Oxman Cenote, also known as Hacienda San Lorenzo

This Cenote is a great option if you want to avoid the crowds. This less touristic cenote is a hidden gem inside an Hacienda. 18th-century Hacienda San Lorenzo used to be private property and used to have an agave plantation. This Hacienda has been partially restored and I recommend peeking in and wonder how life here would be. There is a very nice local restaurant, called Hacienda San Lorenzo, and a swimming pool for customers.


Immersing myself in Mexican culture on Hacienda San Lorenzo | Cenote Valladolid

After Zaci Cenote, this is the closest cenote from Valladolid. I highly recommend taking a day off and renting bikes from the local shop Bicicletas Zaci. Their welcoming staff will give you a map to easily find the cenote (I am Spanish so we understood each other perfectly and we ended up going for some beers after finishing the rental, it was a very unique local experience).

It may take around 25 minutes by bike to get there, take your time and enjoy the surrounding countryside. However, if you are more of a walking person, it may take around an hour. The walking path is just magnificent if you are a nature lover. Enjoy the Mexican vibes of the area!


Cenote Oxman in Hacienda San Lorenzo | Cenote Valladolid

This is my favorite Cenote of all the Yucatan Peninsula! It is more of an experience than just the swim. This hidden gem is a tropical oasis, open-air cenote. There are huge vines that fall from the very top to drink from the fresh sweet water of the cenote. And there is a rope swing we all extremely enjoyed! Feel free to use it and feel like Tarzan swinging with the vines! But please do not grab the vines, just the swing.

If you do not feel like rope swinging you can cliff dive but there are not so many jumping options as in Zaci, still it is so fun.

a) Price: 80 pesos (4$)

b) Open from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

c) Cenote Oxman is located in Hacienda San Lorenzo. It is 5 kilometers south of Valladolid. 5 minutes by car, 25 by bike.

Xkeken Cenote, also known as Dzitnup Cenote

Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Samula are both located in Dzitnup village in the same natural park and are sometimes referred to as Cenote Dzitnup. These cenotes are connected by a jungle walkaway which takes a couple of minutes. This small village is located at only 8km or 15 minutes by car from Valladolid, Mexico. These are the most commercial cenotes in Valladolid but they are very worth it on opening and closing hours.

If you felt like it and decided to rent a bike to visit Oxman Cenote, Dzitnup village is only 30 minutes away from Oxman. The magnificent landscape of this area is just marvelous and you may not enjoy it as much if you are inside a car or bus… From Oxman Cenote, I recommend getting the 295 road instead of the more transited 180 road.

Xkeken means pig in the Mayan language and the cenote was named by a Mayan who had a pig that kept returning home nice and clean. After following the pig to his bath, he found out this massive underground cave.


Inside Xkeken Cenote or Dzitnup Cenote | Cenote Valladolid

Inside Xkeken Cenote or Dzitnup Cenote | Cenote Valladolid[/caption]

This cenote is perfect for the family since there are areas of shallow water. Do not forget your scuba diving gear since this cavern is lit-up by beams of light filtering through a natural hole in the roof and artificial light. There is great luminosity throughout the whole day and there is plenty of fish here making it one of the best cenotes to scuba dive! You can rent snorkeling gear in the shops right next to it, it is really worth it!

a) Price: 80 pesos (4$) for one, 120 pesos (6$) including Cenote Samula. 

b) Open from 8:00 am – 7:00 pm

c) Cenote Xkeken is located in Dzitnup village. Get the 180 road at the south-west of Valladolid and do a left turn when you see Dzitnup. Locals might know these two cenotes as Dzitnup Cenote. 15 minutes by car. 50 minutes by car from Valladolid and 30 from Oxman Cenote.

Samula Cenote

Samula is also a closed cenote but it has a bigger hole in the roof that Xkeken. You will be impressed by the height of the roof making it one of the biggest closed cenotes. From the big aperture, you will see some vines dangling down to the water. There used to be more vines, so be careful with the ones left since they are very vulnerable.


Unique Samula Cenote | Cenote Valladolid

Even though it can get packed, I still recommend these two cenotes, especially on a hot Mexican day. Its proximity to Valladolid allows you to visit it when it is more convenient and not when the bus tours arrive. The bus tours will have departed by 4 pm.

These two cenotes are the ones which close the latest (7 pm) so I would recommend going in the early morning (8 am) or in the late afternoon (4 pm). Take into account that you may want to snorkel so they may get dark around 6 pm if it is winter. If you go late in the afternoon, start swimming in Samula cenote since it gets darker before than Xkeken cenote which is artificially illuminated.

Samula majestical cave will impress anyone no matter how many cenotes you have seen. 

a) Price: 80 pesos (4$) for one, 120 pesos (6$) including Cenote Xkeken.

b) Open from 8:00 am – 7:00 pm

c) Cenote Samula is located in Dzitnup village. Only 15 minutes by car from Valladolid. 

Hubiku Cenote

This is one of the most spectacular cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula of Rivera Maya. This semi-opened cenote receives its light from a huge hole and makes the tone of the water turquoise, making it a great place to dive. Anyway, do not dive too deep if you do not want to find bones and skulls!

Hubiku Cenote, like many others in Mexico, was used as a place of worship for the Mayans. Mayans used to make sacrifices to the gods for them to bring rain to their lands. Sacrificial offerings of both humans and animals were made here and you can also spot other fossils.


Scuba Diving in Hibuku Cenote | Cenote Valladolid

Scuba Diving in Hibuku Cenote | Cenote Valladolid[/caption]

Most tourists know that it is one of the most amazing cenotes and many Chichen Itza Tours usually stop by. I would recommend going in the early morning before the crowd comes. Since people usually come on Chichen Itza Tours from Tulum, Cancun, or Playa Del Carmen, they arrive around noon and spend around 3 hours. There is a nice famous local restaurant on the road that takes you to Hibuku Cenote called ‘El Mundo Maya’ Restaurant which I strongly recommend, especially after having swum.

a) Price: 100 pesos (5$). The price of both the restaurant and the cenote is 250 pesos (12,5$).

b) Open from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

c) Cenote Samula is located in Dzitnup village. Only 15 minutes by car from Valladolid. 

Ik Kil Cenote – Chichen Itza Cenote

This is the typical ‘oasis’ cenote you might find in magazines. It is full of vines falling from the huge opening making it very special and beautiful. There is a huge area to swim so even though there might be other swimmers you fill have plenty of space. There are platforms that are great for cliff diving. You can jump anywhere from 1-5 meters.


Majestical Ik Kil Cenote | Cenote Valladolid

Majestical Ik Kil Cenote | Cenote Valladolid[/caption]

This is also one of the cenotes included in the Chichen Itza Tours. These tours usually take the tourists first to the temple and then to then to the cenote. Therefore, I would recommend going before the crowds which start to come around midday or after 3 pm.

a) Price: 80 pesos (4$).

b) Open from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

c) Cenote Ik Kil is located beside Chichen Itza Temple. It is 40 minutes by car from Valladolid, just follow the 180 road and you will find signs of Ik Kil Cenote. 

Final Tips

As you may have seen there is a huge variation of cenotes. If you have a car and are willing to do a road trip around Rivera Maya I would spend a couple of days visiting all of these cenotes.

I would also visit less touristy areas in Rivera Maya other than Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Isla Mujeres or Cancun. There is much more than this! Go to Rio Lagarto and hike on the Ria Lagarto Natural reserve and go to El Cuyo and scuba dive in its pristine beaches and get immersed with the local culture.

Cenotes’ Rules

As you may have seen these natural wonders are beautiful and need to be preserved. I am sure you have already figured out these basic rules but still, I would like to highlight them.

Please, do not do this:

With this list, you have all the tools necessary to organize your next journey to Rivera Maya. In case you have any doubt do not hesitate to contact me on gabriela@nomadicmindtravel.com and I will be happy to help!

See you soon Nomadics and let’s keep on traveling!


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