Discover why you need to visit and swim at Gran Cenote, a sinkhole located between Tulum and Coba in the Riviera Maya. You won’t regret it!
This is a guest post by Eloise, the writer at My Favourite Escapes. Follow her adventures on Facebook and Instagram!
Whether you’re looking for a refreshing swim, a lovely place to relax, or a great snorkeling experience, Gran Cenote in Mexico should be on your Tulum itinerary. It’s in fact one of the most beautiful cenotes in Tulum, and it’s so so popular for more than one reason. Let’s see them all!
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 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 rainwater and with the fresh water flowing through underground rivers, to which these sinkholes are connected.
The word cenote comes from the Mayan term dzonot, which means well. There are river 30,000 cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula! But not all cenotes look the same. there are essentially 4 types of cenotes:
• Open Cenotes – An open cenote is like a natural, open pool. Some of the open cenotes are also connected to an underground river passage (which makes them great for diving!). Examples of open cenotes are Cenote Nicte-Ha, Cenote Cristal and 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 (and Gran Cenote).
• 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.
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.
Check out a few other cenotes in Tulum in this video below.
Gran Cenote, Tulum: An Introduction
We initially didn’t plan to visit Gran Cenote during our trip to Tulum in the Riviera Maya. It’s one of the most popular cenotes in Tulum and we usually prefer less frequented places.
But most sites are popular for a reason, and visiting Gran Cenote was often mentioned in all the lists of the best things to do in Tulum.
We had a couple of hours left in the day, so we quickly drove to Gran Cenote, Tulum. We were lucky to arrive one hour before it closed: most people had left, and we were almost by ourselves in the cenote.
As you may have guessed from its name, the Gran Cenote (which many people spell wrong with Grand Cenote!) is big. It’s actually made of multiple cenote caves. But don’t expect something huge: the area that’s not underground is not that big, and I’m sure it quickly looks crowded.
We found the cenote very fun to explore and one of the best cenotes for snorkeling in the area as the water is crystal clear. It is also possible to do scuba diving at Gran Cenote. As we are avid snorkelers, we particularly liked exploring inside the cave to check out the rock formations.
The opening is perfect to have enough light to see the underwater columns of stalagmites and stalactites while still being in the dark to enjoy the magnificent sun rays hitting the cenote hole. It’s the only cenote we visited that provided a cave experience like this. And… surprise! There are bats flying around and small turtles swimming to make the experience even more fun and memorable.
In such clear water, you don’t need to snorkel to spot the turtles. Gran Cenote also has shallow areas that make it perfect for those who aren’t confident swimmers or if you’re traveling with kids.
The Facilities at Gran Cenote, Tulum
The perks of visiting a touristy cenote are that the facilities are adapted to tourists’ needs in a similar way to Cenote Dos Ojos.
▶ There are bathrooms and changing rooms on-site, as well as lockers to keep your belongings safe.
▶ You can rent equipment if you don’t have your own snorkel and mask, but be aware that the quality isn’t always the best. I highly recommend bringing your own snorkeling gear if you can. If you plan to rent equipment or a locker, make sure you have your ID to leave it as a deposit.
▶ There’s a small shop selling snacks and drinks and picnic tables in the shade. It’s allowed to bring your own food. Otherwise, there are plenty of restaurants in Tulum just a few miles away.
Gran Cenote Price
The Gran Cenote entrance fee is 500 MXN (or 25 USD, they accept dollars), and it includes a life jacket and snorkeling equipment. The locker is 30 MXN.
Gran Cenote Location
Gran Cenote is only 5 km (3 miles) away from Tulum town center, on the highway leading to Coba Ruins. Here you can see it on the map:
Other cenotes that are close to here are Cenote Zacil Ha, Cenote Carwash, and Cenote Calavera.
Gran Cenote Opening Hours
Gran Cenote is open from 8 AM to 4.45 PM (the final entry is at 4.15 PM).
Best Tours to Gran Cenote
If you prefer to join an organized tour, here are some of my favorite options.
READ ALSO: 13 Best Cenote Tours from Tulum
➤ The Cenote Trail: Caves Visit and Bike Tour, will bring you to discover some of the most beautiful cenotes in Tulum (Gran Cenote, Cenote Escondido & Cenote Cristal) all in one day. You’ll explore the cenotes by bike and learn about the area from your guide as you swim and snorkel in the crystal-clear waters. Brunch in a jungle lodge is included. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
➤ The Cenote Triple Adventure Tour in Tulum combines free-diving, snorkeling, and cliff jumping in three different and very unique cenotes: Casa Cenote, Cenote Cristal & Escondido, and Gran Cenote. This half-day tour includes snacks and bottled water to refuel during the activities and roundtrip transportation from Tulum. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
➤ The Best Cenotes Private Tour takes you and your group to three different types of cenotes, so you experience them all in one day. You’ll get to swim and snorkel before enjoying lunch in a local restaurant. Snorkel equipment and roundtrip transportation from Playa del Carmen are included. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
➤ The Tulum, Cenote, and Turtle Snorkeling excursion is a private tour. You’ll visit the Tulum archaeological site with an exclusive guide, and then head to Grand Cenote for a swim and some snorkeling. If the option is chosen, you’ll also get to snorkel with turtles at Akumal. Private transportation is included from Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Cancun. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
How To Get To Gran Cenote
RENT A CAR OR CAR WITH A PRIVATE DRIVER
We rented a car for our entire trip to the Yucatan Peninsula. This way we could explore as many places as we wanted with no issue. The drive from Tulum to cenote Grand Cenote is straightforward: you’ll find it on your right approximately five minutes after leaving Tulum.
If you plan to visit a few sites around Tulum and don’t want to drive, ask your hotel for a quote to rent a car with a driver for the day.
RENT A BIKE
You can easily cycle from Tulum town center to Gran Cenote. It takes 30 minutes (40 minutes if you’re coming from the beach hotels). There are many bike rentals in Tulum where you can rent one for the day or morning/afternoon.
TAKE A TAXI
A taxi from downtown Tulum will cost around 100 MXN.
Pros and Cons
Pros of Gran Cenote, Tulum
- Gran Cenote is excellent for both unconfident swimmers and avid snorkelers.
- Gran Cenote is one of the easiest cenotes to access from Tulum.
Cons of Gran Cenote, Tulum
- Gran Cenote is one of the most expensive cenotes in the area.
- Many visitors come to Gran Cenote, including tours, and it can get very crowded.
Although Gran Cenote isn’t the wildest cenote we explored, we loved it!
Frequently Asked Questions
As of 2022, the entrance fee for Gran Cenote is 500 MXN (25 USD) per person.
Yes! Gran Cenote is a great place to snorkel with turtles, explore the underwater caves, and also visit with children since there are shallow areas to swim in. Make sure to visit early in the morning or just before closing time to avoid the crowds, though!
Absolutely, you can swim in Gran Cenote and also snorkel to explore the underwater caves. If you’re lucky you may even get to swim with turtles!
No, Gran Cenote charges a fee of 500 MXN (25 USD) per person at the time of writing.
You can buy drinks and snacks from a small shop in the cenote, but you’re also you’re allowed to bring your own food.
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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