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!
Whether you’re looking for a refreshing swim, a lovely place to relax or a great snorkeling experience, Gran Cenote in Mexico should be in your Yucatan itinerary.
Check out a few other beautiful cenotes near Gran Cenote in this video below.
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 Azul located between Tulum and Playa del Carmen.
• 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 Zaci.
• 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 Oxman, located near Valladolid, 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 Gran Cenote, Tulum
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 near enough to Playa del Carmen too) and we usually prefer less frequented places such as Cenote Calavera or Cenote Carwash. But most sites are popular for a reason, and Gran Cenote was often mentioned in the must-dos.
We had a couple of hours left in the day, and we weren’t at all in the mood of going back to chill at the hotel. 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, el 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. 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 makes it perfect for those who aren’t confident swimmers or if you’re traveling with kids.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Why You’ll Fall in Love With Cenote Nicte-Ha
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 than at Cenote Dos Ojos.
There are bathrooms and changing rooms on site as well as lockers to keep your belonging safe. You can also 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 equipment if you can. If you plan to rent equipment or a locker, make sure you have your ID to leave it as a deposit.
If you’re hungry, there’s a small shop selling snacks and drinks and picnic tables in the shade. It is allowed to bring your own food inside the cenote. Otherwise, there are plenty of restaurants in Tulum just a few miles away.
How much does it cost? The Gran Cenote entrance fee is MX$180 (or $10, they accept dollars) and renting snorkeling kit costs MX$80, the locker is MX$30, and a life jacket is MX$50.
Where is it located? Gran Cenote is only 5 kilometres away from Tulum town centre, on the highway leading to Coba, making it the perfect day trip from Tulum. Here you can see it in the map:
Gran Cenote Opening hours? 8 am to 4.45 pm (the final entry is at 4.15 pm).
How To Get to Gran Cenote, Tulum
Rent a car
We rented a car for our entire holidays in the Yucatan Peninsula. We found it was the best way to explore as many places as we could without spending too much time organising transport. When you’re traveling as a couple, it’s not that expensive to rent a car in Mexico. The drive from Tulum to cenote Grand Cenote is straightforward: you’ll find it on your right approximately five minutes after leaving Tulum.
You can also easily explore Gran Cenote from Cancun and Playa del Carmen: Playa del Carmen is about one hour away, Cancun two hours away.
Join a Tour
If you prefer to shave the hassle and join an organized tour, there’s no problem. You’ll find multiple tours including the Gran Cenote; these two are my favorite ones.
– Tulum, Grand Cenote, and Snorkeling Tour, which combines the Gran Cenote with the Mayan ruins of Tulum and beach time at the beautiful Playa Paraiso.
⇒ BOOK HERE THIS TOUR
– Cenote Trail: Caves Visit and Bike Tour, which will bring you to discover some of the most beautiful cenotes in Tulum (Gran Cenote, Cenote Escondido & Cenote Cristal) all in one day
⇒ BOOK HERE THIS TOUR
Rent a car with a private driver for the day
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. If you’re traveling as a group, this may be affordable and more convenient than looking for a taxi each time you change attraction.
Take the ADO bus
The ADO bus from downtown Tulum will stop at Gran Cenote if you ask.
Rent a bike
You can easily cycle from Tulum town centre to Gran Cenote. It would take approximately 30 minutes at a leisurely pace. Add around 10 minutes if you’re coming from the hotel area near the beach.
Take a taxi
A taxi from downtown Tulum would cost around MX$100. If you’re coming from Cancun, first check out how to get to Tulum from Cancun.
Pros and Cons of Gran Cenote
- Gran Cenote is excellent for both unconfident swimmers and avid snorkelers
- Gran Cenote one of the easiest cenotes to access from Tulum
- You don’t often get the cave feeling in cenotes without scuba diving
- The turtles are cute!
- Gran Cenote is known to be one of the most expensive cenotes in the area
- Many visitors come to Gran Cenote, including tours, and it can get very crowded
- The staff isn’t very welcoming
Although Gran Cenote isn’t the wildest cenote we explored, we loved the cave experience it provided while snorkeling. If you manage to avoid the crowd by going there early or just before it closes, you’ll have a great time there.
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