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While there are dozens of cenotes near Tulum, many of them have become crowded and expensive. If you are looking for a peaceful atmosphere and stunning scenery, visit Cenote Escondido and Cenote Cristal, two hidden gems just under 10 minutes away from Tulum.
✅ Check my complete guide to where to stay in Tulum to find the right place for your taste and budget 💵
Here you can snorkel, dive, swim and enjoy the serene atmosphere that many popular cenotes near Tulum no longer have. This article provides a complete guide on how to plan your trip and enjoy your visit.
What is a cenote?
A cenote (pronounced seh-no-te) is a sinkhole filled with fresh groundwater that is formed when the bedrock collapsed exposing the groundwater underneath.
There are over 6,000 cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula. Although the vast majority of them are hard or impossible to access, there are many cenotes where you can swim, snorkel, and dive, like many cenotes near Tulum.
Types of cenotes
While some cenotes look like lakes surrounded by lush greenery, others are inside caves! The ancient Mayans considered the cenotes to be the transition to the underworld. Mayans performed religious ceremonies and rituals in these places.
✅ Open cenotes – They look more like big lakes, and are generally warmer for swimming than underground cenotes. They often have open decks where you can sit down and relax after taking a swim. Some of the most popular open cenotes near Tulum are Cenote Car Wash and Cenote Escondido.
✅ Semi-open cenotes – These cenotes can be underground but have openings where you can see the light. Some of the most popular semi-open cenotes near Tulum are Cenote Dos Ojos and Cenote Ik Kil
✅ Underground cenotes – These cenotes look like caves with no natural light. They are also darker and colder than open cenotes. If you want to see underground cenotes near Tulum, visit one of Coba cenotes which can be accessed via a ladder leading into the cavern. Another popular underground cenote near Tulum is Taak-Bi-Ha.
What you need to know about Cenote Cristal, Tulum
Cenote Cristal (also known as Cenote Naharon) is an open cenote that’s perfect if you want to get off the beaten track in Tulum. This cenote looks like a small lake surrounded by a lush jungle. This cenote lives up to its name with crystal clear waters where you can see the fish and turtles swimming around.
👉 Read my guide to renting a car in Tulum so you could visit some of the best cenotes in the area.
Although it’s a popular diving cenote, you don’t need to book a diving session or rent snorkeling equipment – the water here is so clear that you can see the bottom while standing on one of the platforms around this cenote.
Cenote Cristal is suitable for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. There are wooden platforms and a 12-meter ledge from which you can jump if you feel adventurous. There is also a rope across the cenote, so you can use it to pull yourself back to the edge.
How deep is Cenote Cristal?
Cenote Cristal is only 6 meters in depth (20 feet), which is pretty shallow compared to other cenotes in the Yucatan.
Pros: While this is a gorgeous cenote, not many people know about it. You can take a quick bike ride to this cenote or catch a quick colectivo from Tulum, as it’s about 3 km south of Tulum along the highway to Bacalar.
Cons: None! It’s close to Tulum, and yet, it’s relatively under the radar.
What you need to know about Cenote Escondido, Tulum
Cenote Escondido sits across the road from Cenote Cristal, but few travelers know about this jewel. This open cenote lives up to its name thanks to clear waters and the surrounding jungles (Escondido means hidden in Spanish), as you feel away from everything here.
Escondido is popular for swimming, snorkeling, and diving, and unlike other cenotes near Tulum, it rarely gets crowded. If you come early, you might be the only one, and enjoy the serene atmosphere while watching wildlife in the clear waters.
Since it’s not a very deep cenote, it’s suitable for beginner divers, but you can also enjoy snorkeling here. Whatever you decide to do, it’s a perfect cenote for a mini getaway from Tulum, if you want to escape the crowds and spend time in nature.
Pros: On top of its scenery, this cenote also offers great amenities. It has showers, bathrooms, changing rooms, and wooden tables and chairs where you can have a picnic after swimming. You can rent a life vest, since this is a deep cenote, up to 20 meters.
Cons: When you visit this cenote, it’s tough to think of any cons. It’s beautiful, less discovered, and yet, so close to Tulum.
Facilities at Cenote Escondido and Cenote Cristal
These cenotes are located in the middle of the jungle and feel much further away from Tulum than Cenote Calavera, Gran Cenote, or Dos Ojos. But the good part is that even though these cenotes boast unspoiled scenery and a quiet atmosphere, they have enough facilities.
Here’s the list:
- Free Parking
- Picnic tables and chairs
- Changing rooms
- Life vest rentals available on site
One downside of these cenotes is that they don’t have on-site restaurants or cafes. Make sure to bring some snacks and water if you want to spend a couple of hours here.
Cenote Escondido and Cenote Cristal Prices
- Cenote Escondido – 150 Mexican Pesos. In the past, you could purchase a ticket at Cenote Escondido and use it in Cenote Cristal, but this is no longer the case, as you can no longer get a discount for both cenotes at the time of writing this article in November 2022.
- Cenote Cristal – 150 Mexican Pesos. You have to pay for the entrance to both cenotes in cash.
Where are Cenote Escondido and Cenote Cristal in Tulum?
These cenotes are located on opposite sides of 307 Highway. You can reach them by a 5-minute drive from Tulum.
Cenotes Cristal and Cenote Escondido Opening Hours
Both cenotes are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. You need to show up before 4 p.m. to be able to enter.
What’s the best time to visit Cenote Escondido and Cenote Cristal?
The best time to visit both cenotes is early morning or late afternoon before 4 p.m. when most people are gone. Most people come here between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., the busiest time.
Can you snorkel at Cenote Escondido and Cenote Cristal?
Yes, you can snorkel at both cenotes as they boast crystal clear waters and a gorgeous setting.
Can you dive at Cenote Escondido and Cenote Cristal?
Yes, you can dive in both cenotes, but you need special certification.
Best tours of Cenotes Escondido and Cristal
- Cenote triple adventure tour in Tulum – A perfect option if you have limited time in Tulum. This popular tour begins in Casa Cenote followed by a visit to Gran Cenote. Your adventure finishes with a stop at Cenotes Cristal and Cenote Escondido where you can snorkel, jump in the water from platforms and relax. Travelers love this great-value tour!
- On this bike tour, you will venture deep into the Mayan jungle, cycling along lush jungle trails and stopping to visit three different cenotes. Learn about the meaning of the cenotes to the Maya people, climb down to explore the subterranean caves with snorkels, and cool off with a swim in an underground river. This tour includes stops in Gran Cenote, Cenotes Escondido and Cristal.
How to get to Cenote Escondido and Cenote Cristal:
To get to these cenotes, take Highway 307 toward Bacalar. Cenote Escondido is on the right-hand side and cenote Escondido is on the left-hand side. Both cenotes have big signs at the entrance, so they are pretty hard to miss.
By rental car
Renting a car is the best way to enjoy cenotes near Tulum. You can rent a car in Tulum with DiscoverCars, and after visiting Cenotes Cristal and Escondido, also explore other ones that are further away, like cenote Car Wash, Cenote Calavera, or head further to Playa Del Carmen Cenotes.
👉 Check my complete guide to renting a car in Mexico
If you are traveling on a budget, renting a bicycle is the most economical way to visit Tulum cenotes. Rent a bike at one of the bike shops in Tulum or at your hotel. Prices for bike rentals in Tulum are typically 180-200 Pesos a day.
Be careful as you ride your bike on the side of the road, as some cars drive fast.
Taxi is a convenient way to get around Tulum and visit cenotes in the area. You can get a cab in Tulum and ask your driver to pick you up later. Download WhatsApp to communicate with your driver
👉 Check my other Mexico travel tips to stay safe on the road, save money and avoid common mistakes.
Other cenotes near Tulum
Gran Cenote is a semi-open cenote with overhanging rock formations and inlets surrounded by lush greens. This cenote looks like a big river separated by overhanging rock formations. Each part of the cenote has snorkeling pools surrounded by caverns and deeper caves.
There are also wooden decks in each area of this cenote where you can sit down and recharge before the next swim. The area above the cenote has a nice lawn where you can sit down and enjoy the sun after swimming. Bring snacks, water, and a towel to dry yourself after swimming.
Gran Cenote is a lot of fun, and you can easily swim from one area of this cenote to another. The cave part of the cenote is home to many bats that live in its caverns, and you can see them above.
Cenote Calavera is one the most popular Tulum cenotes. It has several small and large openings in the earth to form a skull shape when viewed from above.
Adventurous travelers particularly love this cenote, because you can jump through the small and tight-fitting eye-holes into the blackness below! Cenote Calavera also offers options for scuba diving. Self-diving is not allowed though due to tight caverns; a certified dive instructor must be present for a tour.
Cenote Corazón Del Paraíso is one of the most popular Tulum cenotes for drone photography thanks to its heart shape.
If you are also coming here to take a drone shot, arrive early, before other visitors show up. The shape of this cenote is created by the wooden platform in the upper part.
Cenote Corazon is also popular for diving, and you can also book a diving tour ahead of your visit with one of the diving centers in Tulum.
Other cool things to do in Tulum
- Visit local restaurants – Tulum is a foodie’s haven where you can find anything from Mexican staples to Asian and Italian restaurants. Visit some of the best Tulum restaurants to explore the local food scene.
- Explore Tulum ruins – Perched on the cliff above the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, Tulum ruins are famous for their striking scenery and rich history. Since this is one of the most popular archeological areas in Yucatan, visit it on a private tour to avoid the crowds and the mid-day heat. Check other private Tulum tours.
- Visit Sian Ka’an Biosphere – Sian Ka’an is one of the largest protected natural habitats in Mexico, where you can spot dolphins, monkeys, manatees, and snorkel along the second-largest barrier reef in the world.
- Coba ruins – If you want a slightly different experience, take a tour of the Coba from Tulum. This archaeological area sits in the dense jungle and makes for a perfect day trip from the busy Tulum.
- Take a trip to Bacalar – Located along the lagoon of 7 colors, Bacalar is one of the most beautiful places in Yucatan that you have to visit!
The final word on visiting Cenote Cristal and Cenote Escondido
These cenotes provide a nice break from Tulum while offering a gorgeous setting. If you plan your trip correctly and visit at the right time, you will have the best experience at these two natural sinkholes.