If you are visiting Tulum, you are will most likely visit a cenote or two (or maybe even more if you have a car rental). Cenotes are underground holes with crystal clear water that dot Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula that is popular for diving, swimming, and snorkeling.
Gran Cenote is one of the most popular cenotes in Riviera Maya and the closest cenote in Tulum, which can be accessed by a quick bike ride from downtown Tulum.
Gran Cenote is a semi-open cenote with overhanging rock formations and inlets surrounded by lush greens. Open cenotes have plenty of sunshine and are generally warmer to swim in than semi-open or cave cenotes. Other popular open cenotes near Tulum are Cenote Car Wash, Cenote Escondido and Cenote Zacil Ha.
PRO TIP: Need more ideas on what to do in Tulum? Read my complete guide to one of the most popular destinations in Mexico that covers best things to do in Tulum as well as restaurants and hotels.
Best things to do in Gran Cenote
The crystal clear waters of Gran Cenote are perfect for swimming and snorkeling, and you can also see plenty of turtles and fish around this cenote. Be respectful and make sure not to touch or bother any animal that you might see – after all you are a guest in their home, not the other way around.
Gran Cenote is divided into two sections:
The cenote looks like a big river separated by overhanging rock formations. Each part of the cenote has snorkeling pools and nearby caverns.
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 in the cenote. Don’t forget to bring some snacks and water and a towel to dry yourself after taking a swim.
What makes Gran Cenote so special?
Exploring the waters in Gran Cenote is pure joy 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 while taking a swim. If you visit in the morning, you can also see the incredible rays of light hitting the crystal clear water of this cenote.
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.
Did you know?
There are over 6,000 cenotes around Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula – the vast majority of them either too hard or impossible to access. Still, there are many cenotes where you can swim, snorkel and even dive. There are tons of cenotes around Yucatan with Tulum, in particular, boasting a high number of cenotes that can be accessed by bicycle or a quick car ride.
Types of cenotes:
Not all cenotes are created equal!
While some cenotes look like lakes surrounded by lush greenery, others are completely underground! After you visit Gran Cenote near Tulum, I recommend you stop at a few other cenotes in the area to appreciate their beauty and experience what they have to offer.
Open cenotes look more like big lakes than dark caverns filled with fresh underground water. Open cenotes have plenty of sunshine are generally warmer to swim in and 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 are located underground but have openings where you can see the light. These cenotes are particularly popular for photography because the light creates a gorgeous sight by illuminating the clear blue water in these cenotes during certain hours of the day. Some of the most popular semi-open cenotes near Tulum are Cenote Dos Ojos and Cenote Ik Kil.
Closed cenotes are located completely underground and have no natural light. These cenotes tend to be darker and much cooler than open cenotes, as they don’t get any sunshine. If you want to visit cool underground cenotes near Tulum, consider visiting one of Coba cenotes that can be accessed via a ladder leading into the cavern.
More information about Gran Cenote
- Price: 500 Pesos (25 USD)
- Lockers price: 30 Pesos
- Snorkeling gear price: 80 Pesos
- Life jacket: 50 pesos
- Gran Cenote Hours: 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. The last entrance to the cenote is at 4:45 p.m.
How to get to Gran Cenote from Tulum
Gran Cenote is located about 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) away from Tulum along Coba Avenue on the right side of the road. The parking area is right outside of the entrance to a cenote and is free of charge. You can ride a bicycle to get to Gran Cenote, but make sure to use caution, as cars drive pretty fast.
The cheapest way to get to Gran Cenote near Tulum is by renting a bicycle. You can rent a bicycle in many shops around Tulum as well as many hostels and hotels in Tulum.
Another way to get to Gran Cenote from Tulum is by catching a colectivo, a small shared van toward Coba ruins. Colectivos depart multiple times per day and cost less than 50 Pesos.
A taxi from downtown Tulum to Gran Cenote should cost no more than 100 Pesos. You can also exchange contact information with the driver and ask them to pick you up when you are done. Communications are normally done via WhatsApp, and you should download this app ahead of your trip to Tulum.
PRO TIP: Want to learn more tips for your trip to Mexico? Check my complete guide that will allow you to travel safer and skip some of the worst tourist mistakes in this country.
By car rental
If you want to continue your adventure after visiting Gran Cenote, consider renting a car, because taking a taxi to every cenote will cost you a lot more money in the long run.
I recommend City Car Rental, a local company that has offices across many destinations in Mexico. City Car Rental offers competitive prices and a great selection of vehicles. I booked my car with City Car Rentals several times and had a great experience with them every time.
Another option is DiscoverCars, a popular option among many travelers that has a flexible booking system and good inventory.
Booking a guided tour
If you don’t feel like dealing with the logistics and want to visit multiple cenotes without renting a car or relying on public transportation, book a guided tour of Gran Cenote that also includes stops in other cenotes in the area as well as some of the best Mayan ruins.
Things to know about Gran Cenote near Tulum:
- Gran Cenote is one of the most popular cenotes near Tulum, thanks to its proximity to the town. The best time to visit Gran Cenote is between 8 and 9 a.m. before it gets crowded.
- You have to pay for the entrance in cash – All cenotes near Tulum as well as the majority of cenotes around Yucatan accept ONLY cash. If you want to rent snorkeling gear, a life vest, or get a snack, you also have to pay in cash.
- You have to take a quick shower before entering Gran Cenote – You have to rinse yourself off before entering the cenote. This is the main rule because cenotes are filled with fresh groundwater that can be easily contained by chemicals in your sunscreen, body lotion, or perfume. Most cenotes near Tulum have showers on site where you can take a quick rinse before getting in the cenote, but it’s also a good idea to take a shower before you leave your hotel.
- You are not allowed to use sunscreen or bug repellent in Gran Cenote – Chemicals contained in sunscreen and bug repellent can contaminate the water and harm the animals that live in it. Leave your sunscreen at home.
- There are no jumping platforms – While some cenotes near Tulum have jumping platforms from where you can dive into the water, Gran Cenote is not one of them. Gran cenote is too shallow and you can get in the water only by using a wooden ladder leading in the water.
Best time to visit Gran Cenote
- This is the most popular cenotes near Tulum, thanks to its proximity to the town, and it can get very busy. Consider coming here by the opening time for a better experience.
Other cenotes near Tulum
Gran Cenote is one of the closest cenotes to Tulum, however, it is not the only cenote in the area. If you want to visit other cenotes near Tulum, read my guide that will help you to plan your ultimate adventure. This guide includes detailed information on how to get to each cenote, how much they cost, and tips on how to have the best time there without making rookie mistakes.
What to bring to Gran Cenote
- Snorkeling gear – This is a great idea if you plan on visiting other cenotes near Tulum. While snorkeling gear is not expensive to rent, it will add up if you want to visit multiple cenotes in one day. Buying your snorkeling gear ahead of your trip will save you money and avoid relying on rentals whether you want to snorkel in cenotes or the open water
- Towel – Gran cenote doesn’t offer towels which means you should bring your own to dry yourself after a swim.
- Shoes with a good grip – the stairs leading down to gran cenote can be slippery, so make sure to wear shoes with a good grip.
- GoPro – If you want to capture the beauty of Gran cenote, consider bringing a GoPro with a stick that will allow you to film your adventure
- Cash – As I said above, Gran Cenote only accepts cash payments. And they also have to be in Mexican pesos not in U.S. dollars.
Facilities at Gran Cenote
As one of the most popular cenotes, Gran cenote near Tulum offers plenty of facilities to accommodate your visit. Here you can find showers, bathrooms, changing rooms, a small stand with snacks, and FREE parking!
What’s the price of Gran Cenote?
Gran Cenote price as of 2022 is 500 Pesos, which means it’s one of the most expensive cenotes near Tulum.
Is Gran Cenote worth visiting?
Yes, yes, and yes! Gran Cenote is worth a visit, even though the price is pretty steep. It’s a spectacular cenote where you can easily spend a few hours swimming, snorkeling, and catching some sun afterward.
Can I buy food at Gran Cenote?
Although there are no restaurants at Gran Cenote, you can buy some snacks and water at a small stand.
How long am I allowed to stay in Gran Cenote?
You can stay in Gran cenote as long as you want to after punching the entry ticket.
When should I visit Gran cenote?
The best time to visit Gran cenote is between 8 and 9 a.m. before it gets busy and around 4 p.m. when most people leave. The cenote tends to be the busiest from around 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. when most people come here.
What are other cenotes near Tulum?
Gran Cenote is one of many cenotes near Tulum. Cenote Calavera is a close neighbor of Gran Cenote which can be reached via a quick bike ride. Further away along Coba Highway there are cenotes Zacil Ha and Car Wash.
Consider adding more cenotes to your list, if you want to see less explored places near Tulum!
Where to stay in Tulum
Tulum is the closest town to Grand Cenote and is a great place to spend a couple of days where you can enjoy some of the best beaches in Mexico, eat delicious food, and enjoy water sports like snorkeling, diving, and kite surfing.
Here are some suggestions on where you can stay in Tulum, depending on your budget and taste.
Budget Hotels in Tulum
Despite its reputation, Tulum is not all about expensive resorts. The town has plenty of affordable options such as Mango Tulum Hotel just outside of the city center that boasts a garden and pool; or Teetotum Hotel that offers free bikes and free breakfast.
Mid-Range Hotels in Tulum
Tulum has dozens of hotels catering to travelers who are willing to spend a bit more money.
For example, Hotel Cabanas isn’t crazy expensive, but it offers a secluded location with some of the rooms facing the gorgeous white-sand beach. Diamante K is a moderately priced hotel that has beach-front bungalows; and Holistika is one of the most beautiful hotels in Tulum that has private and shared rooms and offers a quiet setting away from downtown and tons of activities.
Luxury Hotels in Tulum
Suenos Tulum is an extremely photogenic hotel along the beach. It boasts artsy Mayan-themed decor and a gorgeous outdoor setting with hammocks and cozy decks.
And if you want a more secluded spot, choose Hotel Bardo, one of the most beautiful hotels in Tulum that will blow you away with its amazing design! Another gorgeous eco-setting is Nomade Tulum that has incredible tree houses and cabins in the jungle.
Gran Cenote near Tulum is one of the most popular cenotes in Mexico’s Rivera Maya and for a good reason. It boasts a convenient location, great amenities, and stunning scenery. Make sure to visit it on your next trip as well as other incredible cenotes near Tulum.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I might earn a small commission if you make a purchase through the links in this article.