The Best Cenotes Near Valladolid
Updated August 2023, The Best Cenotes Near Valladolid was originally written in October 2022
Valladolid proved to be the best place to base for exploring the Yucatán Peninsula’s Mayan ruins and its smattering of dazzling cenotes. With several cenotes located only a short drive from Valladolid, the small colonial city is a great place to base yourself for a couple of nights to explore these amazing natural sinkhole pools.
In this quick guide, you will find information on the best cenotes around Valladolid.
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So What is a Cenote?
Well, first things first, surely you might be scratching your head wondering how you even pronounce this word- it’s said seh-noh-tay.
Cenotes are sinkholes that occur naturally in limestone when underground caves collapse. The limestone collapse then exposes groundwater. These resulting cenotes can be either completely open on top, semi-open, or completely underground.
Open cenotes are caves that have collapsed in on themselves and are completely exposed to the sky. Cenote Oxman is a good example of an open cenote that you will see further on in this post.
Semi-open cenotes are caves that are mostly underground but have a small opening on top allowing light in. Personally, these are my favorite type of cenote as I find them the most beautiful. Examples of semi-open cenotes you’ll see later in this article are Cenote Suytun and Cenote Samula.
Underground cenotes are caves that are as the name suggests, completely underground. They have no natural light source like the open and semi-open cenotes. Cenote X’keken is an example of a cenote that is almost entirely underground.
What to Know Before Visiting the Cenotes
- Most all cenotes around Valladolid and elsewhere require that you wear lifejackets if you plan to swim in the water. Some cenotes include lifejacket rental in the entry fee, while others do not and you’ll have to pay an additional fee.
- Avoid wearing sunscreen if you’re going to enter the cenote waters as the chemicals can damaging.
- Most cenotes will require a walk down steep stone or wooden stairs to access them, so do take caution when entering as they are commonly wet.
- There are showers before you go down into many of the cenotes and some will have signs telling you that you must rinse off before entering.
- Most of the larger cenotes have lockers at them where you can store valuables, though we didn’t make use of any of them. We just brought our gear in a dry bag and stored it somewhere out of the way along the walkway in the cenote which is what most people seemed to do too.
The Best Cenotes Around Valladolid
Cenote Suytun is one of the most popular cenotes around Valladolid and for good reason- it’s absolutely gorgeous. The reason why Cenote Suytun ended up so famous was that the owners of the cenote build a stone walkway that juts into the water which made this place rise to Instagram stardom.
So while it is beautiful, it can be a bit of a zoo down inside. I’d read that it’s best to visit early when it opens or just before it closes if wanting to avoid busy times, so we visited right at the end of the day about 1 hour before closing. It’s also worth noting that midday is your best bet to see Cenote Suytun with the beams of light shining down perfectly onto the stone platform in the center, this subsequently is when it’s most likely to be jampacked with tour bus visitors.
When we first got there there was a line of about 12 people waiting to take their photos and within about 20 minutes the line was nearly out of the cenote, so I think you basically get the tour bus crowd midday and the independent crowds early and late- meaning you won’t have this place to yourself by any means (so be prepared!).
When we purchased our tickets to go inside we were told visitors have a 1 hour limit to be inside the cenote, though it seemed crowded enough that I don’t know how they would even enforce that.
There is also a second cenote located here at Cenote Suytun too so don’t miss it while you’re here.
Entry fee: $150 MXN to enter the main Cenote Suytun and the smaller one on the grounds. You can also pay a $200 MXN entrance to get two free alcoholic drinks at the bar on the grounds and access to the pool.
Lifejacket rental: $30 MXN
Hours: 9 am to 5 pm
How to get there: Cenote Suytun is located only 8 km outside of Valladolid Centro. A taxi will cost $120-130 MXN one way if you don’t have a rental car. Colectivos ply the route too and leave from next to the ADO bus station in Valladolid when full for about $20 MXN per seat.
Cenote Samula is a partially-open cenote and was the first we visited on my most recent trip back to the Yucatan Peninsula. A small hole in the top of the cave lets natural light down inside, illuminating its crystal clear waters.
A wooden stairway gives access to the waters below but also offers several great vantage points for viewing and/or photographing the cenote from.
The waters inside Cenote Samula are a bit chilly and there are cichlid fish that live inside, so if you feel nibbling on your legs and toes you aren’t crazy- it’s the little fish dining on your flesh.
Entry fee: Cenotes Samula and X’Keken are all part of the same complex known as Cenote Dzitnup. Entrance is $125 MXN for Dzitnup (both Cenote Samula and X’Keken) or $80 MXN to visit Cenote Samula only
Lifejacket rental: $25 MXN
Hours: 8 am to 7 pm
How to get there: Cenote Dzitnup is located about 7 km from Valladolid. A taxi here should cost about $100 MXN one way. Colectivos also go here from Valladolid Centro for about $20 MXN per seat. If you plan to also visit nearby Centore Oxman you may want to negotiate a taxi driver to take you to both cenote complexes, wait on you and bring you back. Another option is to rent bicycles in Valladolid and ride out here which can be rented in town for around $150 MXN per day.
Cenote X’keken, as mentioned above forms the remainder of Cenote Dzitnup with Cenote Samula. So if you’re visiting one, you may as well visit the other. It’s a little smaller and with a lower ceiling than Samula, though it features some impressive stalactites within.
Cenote X’Keken is almost completely underground with only a small hole in the roof allowing a beam of light in. Most of the lighting inside Cenote X’Keken is artificial, lit by lamps set up by the cenote owners.
Entry fee: As mentioned before, Cenote X’Keken forms part of the Cenote Dzitnup complex. Entrance is $125 MXN for Dzitnup (both Cenote Samula and X’Keken) or $80 MXN to visit Cenote X’Keken only
Lifejacket rental: $25 MXN
Hours: 8 am to 7 pm
How to get there: As X’Keken is located just across the street from Cenote Samula and is in the same complex you can follow the instructions above to reach Cenote Dzitnup and walk over here from there.
Cenote Oxman is situated on the former Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman guava plantation grounds not too far from Valladolid and near to the Cenote Dzitnup Complex. The cenote is mostly open and features tree roots and vines that dangle into the cerulean waters of Oxman.
A rope swing from a platform on the wall of Cenote Oxman gives visitors the chance to swing and splash into the waters should they dare. Even if you don’t plan to splash in, there’s no denying that Cenote Oxman is gorgeous.
We visited in the late morning just after wrapping up visiting Cenote Samula and X’Keken, so it was quite busy as expected as Cenote Oxman is a popular stop-off for the tour bus trips on their way back to Cancun and Playa del Carmen from Chichen Itza.
I would think if it’s perfect photos you’re after then arriving at opening time at 8 am would be wise.
There is a second smaller cenote on the Oxman grounds, so don’t miss it on your visit. While it’s not quite as grandiose as Oxman, it’s still a nice quiet space to relax in comparison.
Entry fee: Cenote Oxman has three different entrance fee options. $150 MXN gets you entry to the cenote only. $200 MXN gets you entry to Cenote Oxman and a $50 MXN voucher for food in the restaurant. $3000 MXN entry will give you access to everything on the grounds.
Lifejacket rental: Included in entry fee
Hours: 8 am to 6 pm
How to get there: A taxi to Cenote Oxman from Valladolid will cost around $100 MXN each way, though as mentioned before it may be worth combining a visit to Oxman with Samula and X’Keken.
Cenote Ik Kil
To be honest, I skipped Ik Kil as we made an early morning visit to Chichen Itza and headed back to Valladolid to catch our afternoon bus up to Chiquila to get to Isla Holbox. A good friend of mine visited not too long before me and said the place was an absolute zoo when she stopped in after Chichen Itza. The majority of tours to Chichen Itza stop in at Cenote Ik Kil afterward so know that it will likely be very crowded unless you decide to get there at opening.
So I’ll tell you what I do know about Cenote Ik Kil- it’s an almost entirely open cenote and from the images I’ve seen reminds me quite a bit of Cenote Oxman with the hanging tree vines which helped me decide to give Ik Kil a pass since I was on a time crunch.
Red Bull holds a cliff diving event here at Cenote Ik Kil which has also bolstered its popularity.
Entry fee: $100 MXN
Lifejacket rental: $30 MXN
Hours: 9 am to 5 pm
How to get there: Cenote Ik Kil is situated between Valladolid and Chichen Itza explaining why the two are commonly combined. If you have hired a taxi to take you to and from Chichen Itza it would be worth negotiating a stop for Cenote Ik Kil if you want to visit it. The colectivos that ply the route between Valladolid and Chichen Itza also stop here. The cost of the colectivo is $40 MXN one way between Valladolid and Chichen Itza and they depart from a small lot just a little west of the ADO bus station.
Cenote Zaci-Ha is located right in the heart of Valladolid making it probably the easiest cenote of all to visit. Unfortunately, I did not get to visit it as I was in Valladolid in April 2022 and it was still closed due to renovations. The kind woman working at the entrance said it should be complete sometime in May 2022, though the restaurant on site is still open to the public should you want to have lunch there.
Cenote Zaci-Ha is an open cenote and is located smack in the middle of Valladolid just a few blocks east of the main square, so if you’re in town and passing by it should be well worth the stroll over here when it re-opens.
Entry fee: $30 MXN
Lifejacket rental: $30 MXN
Hours: 8 am to 5:30 pm
How to get there: Cenote Zaci Ha is located right in the middle of Valladolid between Calle 36 and 34 (running north-south) and Calle 39 and 37 (running east-west) so you can easily walk to the cenote from most places in town.
Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza
Although you cannot swim in the Sacred Cenote, it’s still worthy of a stop when you’re out visiting Mexico’s wonder of the world, Chichen Itza.
The cenote was excavated in the early 20th century revealing human remains, fragments of pottery, and even gold indicating that the cenote was used for sacrifices.
Entry fee: Sacred Cenote is within the Chichen Itza Archeological Site so it is included on the $571 MXN ($85 MXN for residents) entrance ticket.
Lifejacket rental: None, it is prohibited to swim in the Sacred Cenote
Hours: 8 am to 5 pm
How to get there: Located on the grounds of Chichen Itza you can either take a taxi, drive yourself, or grab a colectivo from Valladolid. A taxi should cost around 500-600 MXN each way, while the colectivo will cost $40 MXN each way. The colectivo station in Valladolid for Chichen Itza is located opposite Calle 46 from the ADO bus station. If you have booked a Chichen Itza tour you’ll be able to visit the Sacred Cenote while there.
What to Bring with to the Cenotes Around Valladolid
- Towel: A quick-drying microfiber towel is handy for cenote visits, though some of the more popular cenotes do offer towel rentals for an additional fee
- Swimsuit: If you plan to swim in the cenotes (which you should!) you’ll need to bring a swimsuit or swim shorts to swim in
- Sunscreen: Remember that you cannot wear sunscreen into the cenotes, but if you plan to make use of the above-ground pools at some of them you may want to bring some for afterward.
- Water shoes: The steps going into the cenotes can be slippery, so a water shoe with grippy soles can be useful.
- Camera: If you want to capture the cenotes a camera that does well in low light settings will be beneficial- we had a Canon 5DMIII with a Rokinon 14mm lens and the Sony A7RIII with the 24-70mm G-Master lens with us (though honestly, most smartphones do a decent job of getting pics). If you want something to bring into the water I would recommend a GoPro.
- Dry bag: Given the wet nature of the cenotes, bringing a dry bag is smart to keep your electronics and other items dry while you leave them sitting as you swim in the cenotes.
- Cash: Some of the cenotes take cards for payment (with an additional service charge) while many are cash only so have more than enough cash. Other costs like drinks, snacks, souvenirs, rentals, etc. usually are only payable in cash too.
Where to Stay in Valladolid
Most travelers who visit Valladolid do so just in passing on their way back to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum from Chichen Itza but in my opinion, it’s well worth it to spend a couple of nights or more in Valladolid.
Solo backpackers: If you’re a solo backpacker on a budget check out Hostal Mamacha which offers inexpensive dorm beds right in the center of Valladolid.
Budget: Couples or two friends that are traveling together have a lot of options that would still put you in the budget accommodation category in Valladolid. We opted to go for budget accommodation as we were two and booked the Hotel Casa Rico which is just a block off the main square, which we would recommend. Other midrange options we were looking at were the Hotel San Clemente and Hotel Real Colonial.
Midrange: Valladolid has a lot of great midrange options. We were considering the Real Hispano for our stay in Valladolid but ended up going for something a little cheaper.
Splurge: If you want to splash out a bit for something pretty nice, opt for the Mayan Majesty Boutique Hotel.
Have any questions about the best cenotes around Valladolid?
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