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Cenote Calavera, Tulum: Swimming In The Temple of Doom

Hands down, Cenote Calavera in Tulum is one of the best ones in Riviera Maya (and my favorite one!) Find out what makes this Cenote Calavera so special. Hint: it looks like a skull!

The Calavera Cenote is so named because it looks like a skull – in fact, Calavera is the Spanish word for skull). If you look at it from above, you’ll see the main hole with two smaller holes that look like eyes!

This is the reason why this cenote is often referred to as Skull Cenote.

Woman on the ladder descending into Cenote Calavera, Mexico.

Calavera Cenote is also called Temple of Doom cenote because of the cave system with the same name. However, Calavera Cenote is actually connected to the famous Sac Actun cave system. This cave system is one of the longest underground rivers in the world!

Best part of all? Calavera cenote isn’t as famous as other cenotes in Tulum, which means you can have an amazing swim all by yourself if you’re lucky (get here in the morning preferably). Visiting Cenote Calavera is definitely one of the best things you can do in Tulum!

Want to see what the best cenotes in Tulum look like? Check out this video!

 

What Is a Cenote?

You might already know what is a cenote. However, many people don’t really know what exactly is a cenote, and it’s really important to understand what is their significance to the Mayans.

A cenote is a natural sinkhole dating back several centuries. When limestone caves collapse they expose a natural pool. This pool then gets filled with rainwater and with the water flowing through underground rivers, to which these sinkholes are connected to. Voilà, you’ve got yourself a cenote!

The word cenote comes from the Mayan term dzonot, which means well. But not all cenotes look the same. There are essentially 4 types of cenotes:

 Open Cenotes – Open cenotes are like natural, open pools.Some of the open cenotes are also connected to an underground river passage. Examples of open cenotes are Cenote Nicte-Ha, Cenote Cristal and Cenote Escondido.

 Semi-open Cenotes – This type of cenote has some parts that are exposed and some portions that are partially hidden by a cave. An example of a semi-open cenote is Gran Cenote, and so is Cenote Calavera.

 Cave Cenotes – This type of cenote can be accessed via a land-level entrance. Once you make your way in, it opens up to an underground pool which can have both shallow and deep areas. Cenote Dos Ojos is a cave cenote.

 Underground Cenotes – This type of cenote is the most difficult to reach as they are, in fact, underground. Only experienced divers can access underground cenotes. An example of an underground cenote is the Pet Cemetery Cenote near Tulum.

Cenotes have great cultural significance to the ancient Mayans, who believed that the cenotes were passages to the underworld. Mayans performed rituals in the cenotes and treated the sites as sacred.

This means that you should too. Please be responsible! Don’t litter the cenote, always take your trash back with you, and don’t apply sunscreen (even if it’s biodegradable) before swimming in the cenote.

Cenote Calavera, Mexico: An Introduction

Cenote Calavera, Mexico is a beatiful cenote near Tulum.

Most people miss the entrance to the Calavera Cenote the first time that they visit as it’s rather hidden. However, this is probably a good thing – fewer visitors! Both times I was there, there were another 2-3 people at the most.

Update 2022: Calavera Cenote is nowadays more known than it was when I first wrote this post, and it can get crowded at times. I recommend coming here right at opening time, or right before closing time to be able to avoid the crowds.

Calavera is also called Temple of Doom cenote or Skull Cenote. However, there have been no reported deaths in this underground cave during modern times 🙂 Any bones that can be found within the cenotes have been there for hundreds of years… and trust me, you won’t find any of them while enjoying your swim!

The Skull Cenote has three entrances, the main one which is a big hole, and two smaller cenote holes that make the eyes of the skull when you look at it from above. If you enjoy cliff-jumping, jumping into the cenote holes is the perfect way into the cenote, although be careful not to hit your head when jumping; the holes are indeed small!

To get to the water, you’ll have to climb down a wooden ladder on the main large hole. Those with mobility issues might find it hard to get in and out of Cenote Calavera (no worries, there are tons of other cenotes to visit if that’s the case!).

The fresh water inside Cenote Calavera in Tulum is rather clear and the area is a popular one for diving as the visibility once lower is quite high.

Before entering the Calavera cenote, you’ll be asked to shower to rinse off any lotion or sunscreen you may have; this is very important to protect the cenote’s ecosystem and the flora and fauna that live in the water.

Facilities at Cenote Calavera, Tulum

Image of woman swinging at Cenote Calavera in Mexico.
Image: Raphael Zoren, Journey Wonders

Don’t expect anything fancy! Cenote Calavera is not a super organized cenote such as Cenote Dos Ojos. However, you’ll find some facilities on-site.

▶ There’s a small resting area with a table to hang out.

▶ You can also find basic restrooms.

You won’t find any cafes or restaurants at the cenote itself, but you’ll find a few places to eat within a few miles. You can also check out the variety of restaurants in nearby Tulum. The people who run Calavera Cenote might also have drinks and treats for sale.

Make sure to bring along your sunscreen, water, and anything else you may need. There aren’t really lockers or any place to lock up your belongings.

If you don’t want to risk having something out in the open you should leave it at your hotel. However, you will always be able to keep an eye on your things, so I wouldn’t worry about it. I left my electronics on the rocks while taking a swim and felt safe doing so.

Cenote Calavera: Practical Info

Cenote Calavera Price

💲 At the time of writing, the Cenote Calavera entrance fee is 250 MXN (approximately 12 USD).

📷 If you want to enter with professional camera gear they’ll charge you an extra 200 MXN.

Location

The Temple of Doom is only 3 kilometers away from downtown Tulum, Quintana Roo, on the highway leading to Coba. You can see it down here on the map:

Cenote Calavera is pretty close to a few other popular cenotes that are on the same road. The closest cenotes are Gran Cenote, Cenote Zacil-Ha, and Carwash Cenote. Consider visiting them on the same trip.

Cenote Calavera Opening Hours

Cenote Calavera is open 7 days a week from 9 AM until 5 PM.

What’s the best time to visit Cenote Calavera?

Cenote Calavera has become more popular lately, so I highly recommend visiting early in the morning.

Cenote Calavera Snorkeling

✓ It’s possible to snorkel at Cenote Calavera, just remember to bring your own snorkeling gear!

Diving Cenote Calavera

✓ Calavera Cenote is a popular scuba diving location. However, if you plan to go diving at Cenote Calavera you will need to bring all of your own gear and will have to bring it up the ladder by yourself after the dive. The max depth for divers is 53 feet, or 16 meters.

While you can only dive the Temple of Doom with a certified dive instructor or dive shop, the equipment and transportation are usually covered as part of the package. If they’re not, you’ll want to catch a taxi to bring your dive gear. Contact a local scuba diving center in advance to arrange the experience.

CHECK OUT ALSO: 11 Unmissable Day Trips from Tulum

Best Cenote Calavera Tour from Tulum

If you’re staying in Tulum and want to check out a few cenotes in one day, I recommend the Cenote Triple Adventure tour. In just half a day, this excursion will allow you to free-dive, snorkel, and cliff-jump at three different cenotes: Casa Cenote, Gran Cenote, and, of course, Cenote Calavera. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

READ ALSO: 13 Best Cenote Tours from Tulum

How To Get to Cenote Calavera, Tulum

Rent a bike

One of the best ways to get to Calavera Cenote is by renting a bicycle. Getting to Cenote Calavera will take about 20 minutes by bike if coming from Tulum Town.

There are plenty of bike rentals along Avenida Tulum. You can also check with your hotel to see if they have bikes for their guests – many do.

Rental car or car with a driver

Renting a car is the easiest way to get around Tulum, especially if you plan to see a few cenotes in one day. It’s very easy and quite cheap to rent a car in Mexico.

The drive from Tulum to Cenote Calavera with a rental car is pretty easy. You’ll find Cenote Calavera on your right approximately seven minutes after leaving Tulum. Look for a sign with a skull and “Calavera” on your right.

If you prefer not to drive, ask your hotel about renting a car with a driver for the day. Especially if you’re traveling with a few other people, this may end up being more convenient than looking for taxis all day long.

Take a taxi

A taxi to the Skull Cenote from downtown Tulum will cost you about 150 MXN.

Take a colectivo

You can also take a colectivo (a shared taxi) going to Coba from Tulum Pueblo (Tulum Town). Make sure you tell the driver to stop when you are near the cenote (it’s probably best to track the driving on Google Maps).

➤ If you’re coming all the way from Cancun, first check out how to get from Cancun to Tulum.
➤ If you’re coming from Playa del Carmen, check out how to get from Playa del Carmen to Tulum.

Pros and Cons of Cenote Calavera, Tulum

Pros of Cenote Calavera

  • Do you like to jump? Juming into Cenote Calavera is so much fun!
  • It’s closer to many other cenotes, so you can plan an exciting day trip from Tulum exploring lots of cenotes!

Cons of Cenote Calavera

  • The facilities are very simple, so if you are traveling with children you might want to check out Gran Cenote or Cenote Zacil Ha instead.

Other Things to Do Near Cenote Calavera

Here are a few ideas for things to do once you’ve visited Cenote Calavera and nearby attractions.

▶ Visit other cenotes near Tulum – there are so many that it would take you many days to see them all! I always recommend setting aside at least one day to check out a few different cenotes.

▶ Spend some time at the Tulum Beach and have lunch at one of the many trendy cafes and restaurants in Tulum.

Check out the Tulum ruins and if you have time venture further to visit Chichen Itza, one of the 7 Wonders of the World.

▶ Take a day trip to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, where you’ll find the bluest water, dolphins, and even crocodiles!

What to Pack

➤ Swimwear: Pretty essential when you visit a cenote! I’m currently in love with bikinis from ZAFUL – I want to buy them all!

➤ Biodegradable Sunscreen: Please make sure not to apply regular sunscreen before entering a cenote. If you need to use sunscreen, only go for 100% biodegradable sunscreen.

➤ Water Shoes: Highly recommended for Cenote Calavera, both to walk around the cenote and to climb down the ladder to the cave. Invest in a pair of water shoes – they don’t have to be anything fancy, just practical.

➤ Snorkel Mask or Goggles: You need to bring your own snorkeling gear to look at what lurks beneath the surface of the water.

➤ Water Bottle: Try and bring a refillable water bottle with you to reduce the consumption of plastic. However, the tap water in Mexico isn’t generally safe to drink, so make sure to refill your bottle with safe water. Otherwise, you can buy a LifeStraw water bottle that comes with a water filter, so you can drink the tap water.

➤ Camera: The cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula are stunning, so make sure to bring your phone or camera to Calavera Cenote. Even better if you have an underwater camera or GoPro.

Cenote Calavera FAQ

Is Cenote Calavera free?

Cenote Calavera is not free; it has an entrance fee of 250 MXN (12 USD) as of 2022.

How much does cenote Calavera cost?

Cenote Calavera costs 250 MXN (12 USD) per person at the time of writing (2022).

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you book something through one of my links I might get a commission, at absolutely no extra cost to you

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  • Stefania Guglielmi

    Stefania Guglielmi is the founder of Every Steph. Originally from Bologna, Italy, she's been traveling full-time since 2016 and has visited over 50 countries across 6 continents. She believes sustainable travel and luxury travel can go hand in hand and has been advocating for responsible tourism since 2014. Stefania's advice and travel experiences have been featured in important publications such as Business Insider, Refinery29, and Yahoo Money.

Monika @ ispace1.com

Saturday 28th of July 2018

great post, definitely different from the ones i have read lately but i love mexico!