What you should know about
This is a smart Tulum Cenote's guide. Enjoy fresh blu waters of the cenotes here around and know the history behind them. What's a cenote? Why they were sacred for Maya?
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If you’ve seen Coco, the Pixar Movie, or only the trailers, you will be wondering what sort of place is this.
The word “Cenote” derives from a phrase used by the Yucatec Maya - ts'onot - to refer to any place with reachable groundwater.
In other words, they are natural sinkholes result of collapsing limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. They are floor connections to subterranean waterbody. Even if the best-known cenotes are huge open water swimming pools measuring tens of meters in diameter, including the ones at Chichén Itzá in Mexico, the greatest quantity of cenotes are smaller sheltered sites and do not always have any surface uncovered water.
Mainly related to the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico (there are over 6000 different cenotes in this area), they also are believed to had been utilized by the ancient Maya as a venue to offer sacrifices.
The Yucatán Peninsula has almost no rivers and just a few lakes, frequently marshy. So, cenotes had an important role for the Mayan people because they were the only source of fresh water in the area. Major Maya settlements required access to good enough water resources. Consequently, cities, including the well-known Chichén Itzá, have been constructed around those natural wells.
ANCIENT MAYAN GATEWAYS TO AFTERLIFE
In addiction, the Mayan people associated the sinkholes to their spiritual beliefs. For example, some cenotes like the Sacred Cenote in Chichén Itzá played a crucial role in Maya rites. Believing that those pools were gateways to the afterlife, the Maya sometimes threw precious items into them.
But Mayan were also infamous for shocking rituals and human sacrifices. Human skeletons and sacrificial objects found in the cenotes confirm this theory.
Even if a few critics argue that the skeletons belonged to people who accidentally fell into the water-filled caves, some scientists disapprove these claims declaring that the place where the remains were discovered could only be accessed after water levels had fallen.
A SHORT & SMART TULUM CENOTE'S GUIDE
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Cenote Calavera is located just outside of Tulum on the Avenida to Coba and it is one of the closest cenotes to the Pueblo, but it’s also generally quiet. It's easy reachble by bike.
This cenote gets its name from the three holes in the roof of the cenote: when you will be inside the cenote, look up to find three holes that resemble the eyes and the mouth of a big “calavera”, a skull.
In addiction, there is also a small “altar” in the cenote that you can see while diving that contains bones and a few pieces of Mayan pottery. So, that’s way it is also called ‘The Temple of Doom’.
Cenote Calavera is a ‘Cántaro’ or jug type of cenote where the roof has broken away revealing the water below.
Despite of its name Gran Cenote is not one big cenote, but two cenotes connected by a tunnel. Also, a wooden platform connect the open lagoon to the cave.
It is easy to undertstand why this is the most famous cenote in Tulum. Above all, swimming in an amazing blue water through its magnificent small caves with many stalagmites and stalactites, turtles and fishes, is an indescribable experience.
As a result, Gran Cenote is also the most crowded of the area, so try to go early.
CENOTE AKTUN HA (CARWASH)
Formally, this cenote is known as Aktun Ha Cenote, however it know by locals as the Cenote Carwash. It got its name because it’s very closed to the street, so many taxi drivers use to stop by to wash their vehicles.
But, even though it’s without problems reachable, it not often gets crowded, so it’s the best spot to come for a swim and relax. There is also a platform so you can jump into the water.
Additionally, there’s a resident little crocodile that sometimes appears. It is harmless but act responsibly and don’t get too close or try to touch it.
CENOTE ZACIL HA
Cenote Zacil Ha is not so big, but its crystal clear turquoise water are perfect if you are looking to escape from the tropical heat. It looks like an artificial rock swimming pool, but its caves connect Zacil Ha to others cenotes in the area. You can also use the zip-line that runs above the surface..
There are other nice amenities available, two swimming pools, changing rooms and a restaurant, that’s why it’s very family-friendly and often crowed.
CENOTE CRISTAL & CENOTE ESCONDIDO
On the road to Chetumal there are other two nice cenotes.
Cenote Cristal is a preatty cenote that looks like a pristine lake where you could swim with small fishes. There is also a wooden platform that you can jump off from.
On the opposite side of the street, you will find Cenote Escondido.
Less crowed than the others cenote of the area, it’s a large, open cenote perfect for swimming and snorkeling. There is also a rope swing that you can use to jump into the water.