One thing that the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico is most known for (aside from its beaches!) is its cenotes. If you haven’t heard of them, cenotes are formed when a portion of a cave collapses and fills with water. What’s left is a beautiful turquoise pool that is so clear you can see straight to the bottom. They are an absolute must-see while you’re in the Yucatan Peninsula, so when I was planning my trip there, exploring cenotes in Tulum was #1 on my list.
After researching companies, I decided to go with Adventure Tour Center for a couple of reasons.
One – they have great reviews on Trip Advisor. Two – the description of their cenote tour sounded really appealing. I liked that three very different cenotes were included on the tour and that cliff jumping was promised. Three – Adventure Tour Center has a very well-done website compared to the other centers I looked at. And although most of the time, this isn’t a great indicator of tour quality, I admit that I am truly a marketer’s dream and factor things like this into my decision-making…
The morning of our tour, my friend and I arrived at the Adventure Tour Center about 20 mins before our tour started. Alex, our (hilarious) guide for the day, held our luggage while we roamed to grab some much-needed iced coffee.
Once back at the Tour Center, we were fitted for snorkel gear and jumped into a van with our buddies for the day – Alex and two other boys that we ended up becoming good friends with. I loved the size of the group. Because there were only four of us on the tour, we became close quickly. Alex was able to be attentive with all of us, making sure we were comfortable and having a good time.
He also told me that Adventure Tour Center limits their groups to ten people, meaning that whenever you go, you are certain to have a personalized, fun experience!
While driving to our first stop, Alex explained the importance of cenotes in the region. Turns out there was a lot that my quick Internet research did not tell me!
Firstly, I was unaware of how important these cenotes were in Mexico’s history. The ancient Mayans used them as portals to the Gods, places to go to feel closer to the divinities. They were so fascinated by them that the skeletons of those curious Mayans are still found to this day…
Secondly, I was under the impression that cenotes were only isolated bodies of water. I had no idea that the cenotes (hundreds of them, by the way) are all connected underground. In fact, it’s likely that wherever you are in the Yucatan Peninsula, you are standing right over an underwater cave.
People come from all over the world to scuba dive in these caves and are hugely respected for it. It takes an incredible amount of skill and psychological control to be able to navigate the underwater systems. Even the slightest wrong move with your flipper or the smallest panicked breath can send your expedition in a bad direction. But those who do dive the cenotes are absolutely entranced with them.
Luckily for me (and my skill level), we weren’t going to be attempting any cave diving during the tour. Just snorkeling and free diving!
The first cenote we visited on our tour was Casa Cenote, a mostly open body of water with some mangroves to explore and swim through. Here, we were able to adjust to the temperature of the water and practice our free diving before moving on to the others.
Case Cenote is also a great example of the hidden underwater caverns I previously mentioned. Look at the below photo of the main entry point of Casa Cenote. Then scroll up to the photo above. As a scuba diver, you can swim about 200 feet through a cavern leading from Casa Cenote right into the sea. Pretty crazy, right?
Gran Cenote is among the top three most popular cenotes to visit while in the Yucatan, and for good reason. The water is incredibly clear and you can see straight down to the bottom of the cenote about 20 feet. You can also swim along sea turtles and swim under flying bats in the caves. Compared to the other cenotes on our tour, Gran Cenote was noticeably more popular and packed with visitors, but it had more wildlife and crystal clear water to enjoy. Cenote Calavera
We ended our tour on an adventurous note at Cenote Calavera (Skull Cenote). It’s appropriately named for its three entrance holes that resemble a skull.
I enjoyed this cenote the most because I was able to jump in! Flip into the larger hole and pencil jump into the smaller ones.
And here are some embarrassing videos of me jumping into Calavera!
Overall, I had the most incredible day exploring with Adventure Tour Center. I am so happy that we were able to see three unique cenotes and that I was able to improve my free diving skills!
Have you visited a cenote before? What was your experience like?
( Disclaimer: I was a guest of Adventure Tour Center, but as always, all opinions are my own. )
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