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Cenote Carwash, Tulum [2024] – A Baby Crocodile!?

Wait, what? A cenote with an underwater garden + a harmless, shy crocodile? Check out why you can’t miss Cenote Carwash in Tulum.

Cenote Carwash never fails to pique the curiosity of tourists who come to Mexico in search of the best cenotes. The name is intriguing with a great story to tell. But this curiosity quickly transforms into awe, as those who come to visit this cenote are impressed by the sheer beauty of this cenote. Plus you can even swim with a (harmless) crocodile!

All of this makes it one of my favorite Tulum Cenotes – check this one and a few others out in this video.

If you are looking for a cenote in the Yucatan Peninsula that can offer both swimming and diving, check out why you need to make Cenote Car Wash your next destination.

But First, What Is a Cenote?

You might already know what is a cenote. After all, cenotes have become super popular these past few years. If that’s the case, feel free to skip this paragraph! However, many people don’t really know what exactly is a cenote, and in my opinion 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 rain water 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, and they can be more or less deep. Some of the open cenotes are also connected to an underground river passage (which makes them great for diving!). An example of an open cenote is Cenote Cristalino near Playa del Carmen, and so are Cenote Carwash & Cenote Escondido.

 Semi-open Cenotes – As the name implies, this type of cenote has some parts that are exposed and some portions that are partially hidden by a cave. An example 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 Dzitnup, for example, 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 underground cenote is the Pet Cemetery Cenote near Tulum.

Cenotes have great cultural and religious significance to the ancient Mayans, who believed that the cenotes were passages to the underworld. In fact, 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 only apply biodegradable sunscreen before swimming in the cenote.

All You Need to Know About Cenote Carwash, Mexico

Cenote Carwash is the common name used to reference this cenote, but its official name is Cenote Aktun Ha. The name “Carwash” was derived from the fact that there was once a carwash that operates on the side of the road on the way to Coba, near the location of this cenote.

But aside from its interesting name, the cenote has drawn the curiosity of those who seek out great diving conditions in the Yucatan Peninsula. The moment you walk into this cenote, it looks just like any other cenotes with nothing special to offer. But beneath the slippery (and old) wooden steps that descend towards the calm waters lie an exceptionally beautiful underwater garden, so make sure to bring your snorkeling gear!

Image by Oblivious Dude via Flickr

Also, come here for experiencing a natural jacuzzi. During the summer often you’ll find algae on the surface which trap the heat in the water, so it’s almost like taking a 100% natural bubble bath.

READ ALSO: Cenotes in Tulum You Can’t Miss

The name Aktun Ha literally means “water cave”. And judging by that name, you know what to expect when you visit Carwash Cenote. It is one of the best examples of the natural collapse of the caves to form giant sinkholes that appear to be a giant pond. 

The entire cenote is approximately 50 meters wide with an average depth of 3 meters. There is a platform that was built to provide easy access to the water for snorkelers and divers.

The highlight for those who visit Car Wash Cenote is the cavern area. It features a wide cave entrance with a diving depth of up to 18 meters. This is one of the favorites among divers for its stalactite formations and speleothems that are found all over the cave passages. Only those with cave diver certification are allowed to dive this site.

But What About the Baby Crocodile?

I wasn’t kidding when I said it’s possible to swim with a crocodile in this cenote, and it’s not a crocodile in captivity or anything like that. There’s a shy little crocodile that lives at Cenote Carwash, and once in a while it appears and swims on the surface. Nothing to worry about though: this croc is small and completely harmless.

The crocodile has become the mascot of the place, but let’s be clear: it’s not guaranteed you’ll see it. When I visited I swam all over the cenote trying to find it, but with no luck – this croc is pretty shy! However, if you do find it, how many times can you say you’ve swam with a crocodile?

Just a note: if you do see it, please act responsibly. Don’t get too close, don’t try to touch it, just enjoy its presence from afar. It’s a wild animal after all!

You can check here reviews of the cenote and photos of the crocodile.

READ ALSO: 30 Best Things to do in Tulum – The Ultimate Guide

Facilities Available at Car Wash Cenote

(I think they’ve changed the sign now!)

Cenote Carwash is not heavily commercialized and tourists come here to experience its natural beauty. Cavern diving is one of the main attractions in this cenote, so do not expect a lot of modern tourist facilities (however, there are plenty of restaurants just a few miles away).

There is a parking area available for those who choose to rent cars to get here. Within the cenote itself, you can also find basic facilities that you can use such as a wooden path and deck line. This facility is available for visitors to use so you can get close to the water. A 2-meter platform is also built so you can jump into the water. This platform is safe for adults and children to use.

In addition, there are toilets and changing facilities that are available on-site.

Practical Info for Cenote Aktun Ha (Carwash)

How much does it cost?

The cost of admission to Cenote Carwash at the time of writing is 50 Pesos for swimmers (approximately USD 2,60) and 120 Pesos for divers.

Where is it located?

Cenote Carwash is located in Calle Carretera Federal 109, Tulum, 77710, Mexico. This cenote is very close to the center of Tulum, which is only 12 minutes away via the Quintana Roo 109 highway. It’s right next to Cenote Zacil Ha, which I also recommend visiting, and quite close to Gran Cenote and Cenote Calavera.

READ MORE: Cenote Zacil Ha: Zip Line at this Family-Friendly Cenote

Here you can see it in the map:

Cenote Carwash Opening Hours

Cenote Carwash is open from 9AM to 5PM.

What’s the best time to visit Cenote Car Wash?

The best time to visit is early in the morning, right after the cenote opens. But it isn’t flocked by tourists like many other cenotes in Tulum, so even the busy times are not as crowded. Most of the tourists who come here are divers, and you won’t find any tour buses like at Ik Kil cenote or other more famous sinkholes.

Cenote Carwash Snorkeling

Aside from diving, this cenote is great for snorkeling. The crystal clear water makes it easy to find marine species like small fishes.

Cenote Carwash Diving

There is a great diving opportunity in this cenote. It is a favorite place to go to for divers who want to experience the best cavern diving in Mexico.

11 Unmissable Day Trips from Tulum

How To Get to Cenote Carwash

Cenote Carwash is easily accessible from Tulum – approximately 12 minutes away. Below are some of the transportation options available to get here.

Drive your own rental car

From Tulum, you must drive east on Calle Polar Pte. towards Calle Alfa Nte. Turn left towards Avenue Satellite and then right to Okot. Once you are on Quintana Roo 109 highway, turn left once you see the sign for Cenote Carwash.

Take a taxi

Taking a taxi to Cenote Carwash is another viable transportation option. It is only 8 kilometers away from Tulum, so it would not be too expensive; however, if you plan on visiting more than just this cenote, other transportation options might be better.

Hire a private driver for the day

Enjoy the same convenience as riding a taxi when you hire your own private driver. This might not be the most practical option if you’re just looking to visit Cenote Carwash because the cenote is very close to Tulum and it would be quite expensive to get your own private driver; however, if you plan to visit other cenotes as well or Tulum or Coba ruins in the same day, it’s a great option and the one I chose.

Take a colectivo from Tulum

The cheapest transportation option to get to Cenote Carwash is with a colectivo. Ride the colectivo from Tulum towards Coba. Tell the driver to drop you off at Cenote Carwash.

If you’re coming from other places, check out how to get from Cancun to Tulum and how to get from Playa del Carmen to Tulum.

13 Best Tulum Cenote Tours

Pros and Cons of Cenote Carwash

Pros of Cenote Carwash

  • The baby croc!
  • It is a great cenote for those who want to go swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
  • It is not as crowded as other cenotes. If you visit early, you can even have the cenote to yourself.
  • It is easy to find as there are plenty of sign posts that show direction.
  • It is very accessible if you are coming from Tulum.
  • It is very cheap, especially if you simply want to go swimming.

Cons of Cenote Carwash

  • Diving is only for those with cave diving certificate.
  • It is not as well-developed as other cenotes with only basic facilities.

Other Cenotes To Visit in the Area

Visiting cenotes is my favorite activity in Riviera Maya, so you’ll find quite a bit of content about them on this site. Check out a few other cenotes to visit around Tulum.

The Best Cenotes To Visit in Tulum
Swim with Water Lilies at Cenote Nicte-Ha
Cenote Dos Ojos: The Most Beautiful Cenote in Riviera Maya

  • 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.