Cenotes are magical places!

Visiting a cenote for the first time is awesome!

Did you know that cenotes were considered sacred by the ancient Maya civilization? They are a fundamental part of their culture since they represented the entrance to the underworld (Xibalbá). Cenotes were considered portals to the world of the dead. In addition to their spiritual importance, they were fundamental to their existence as they provided water to drink and for crops. If you’re visiting a cenote for the first time, you need to read this!

Today, cenotes continue to be of great importance in the Yucatán Peninsula. Multiple investigations are carried out to find archaeological and anthropological remains inside them. If you have already decided to visit a cenote but you don’t know what to expect, here I will answer these questions that you will ask yourself when visiting a cenote for the first time.  

Imagine this scenario: You are walking in the jungle, you have not had any kind of sign for at least half an hour, the tour guide told you that you are going to see something that looks like a sinkhole, very beautiful, but no matter how hard you try to find water, you look around you and you see nothing but green trees. Suddenly, the guide says that to reach the cenote, you must go through a small cave on the floor and down a few meters. This is the first time you’re visiting a cenote!  

1.- Is the water in a cenote cold?  

On average it is usually 75°F, which may seem cold, but believe me that in spring, summer, and autumn in the Riviera Maya, it will hardly be enough to cool you off from the heat that is usually between 100°F and 107°F.  

Their temperature remains cold because they are fed by underground rivers that have little or no contact at all with solar energy, therefore, it does not raise the temperature of the water.  

cold water

2.- How deep is a cenote?  

The depth of the cenotes can vary greatly. In Riviera Maya they can reach between 32 and 131 ft deep. Although the deepest cenote in the world is in Zacatecas. It is called “El Zacatón” and it has a depth of 1,112 ft.   

It is important that when you swim in them you take all possible precautions. Remember that although they do not have many currents, they are fed by underground rivers that can pull you in. Always wear a life jacket.  

How deep can a cenote be?

3.- Why are cenotes like an under the ground sinkhole?  

The soil of the Yucatán Peninsula is called “limestone”. It is a porous material that allows water filtration. The cenotes were formed due to these rainwater seeps that for thousands of years were forming the huge wells that we know today as cenotes.  

Its formation is directly related to the decline in sea level of the Pleistocene period that began 2.5 million years ago and ended in 10,000 BC.  

4.- Why is the water in the cenotes so crystal clear?!  

In reality, not all cenotes have crystal clear water, but most and the ones that attract the most attention do. Those that allow you visibility of 5 meters or more, is because inside there is little flora and fauna that “contaminate” the water. In addition, remember that its water is filtered by the rocks, so it is almost free of sediment and, the few that remains in it, goes to the bottom of the cenote because there is not much current. All of this results in incredibly crystal-clear water that you’ll love if you’re visiting a cenote for the first time.

5.- What does the word “cenote” mean?  

The word “cenote” comes from the ancient Mayan “dzonoot” which means “hole with water”. When the Spanish arrived to conquer Mexico and impose their language, some words remained in common use and others were adapted. One of them is “dzonoot”, which evolved into “cenote”. 

What does cenote mean?

6.- What are all those plants hanging from the ceiling?  

The roots you are seeing are from a tree considered sacred to the Maya! They are ceiba tree roots, a tree that needs a lot of water to survive. Also, you can find different types of climbing plants, lilies, and more that need large amounts of water.

Plants of cenotes

7.- Could a crocodile come out when visiting a cenote for the first time?

Yes! And sharks and even dinosaurs. Just kidding! It’s not true. Cenotes don’t have much fauna. Some turtles, catfish, and little fish that “clean” your feet in Playa del Carmen. You can feel completely calm by swimming and exploring the cenote amongst its tranquility. 

The fish that inhabit its waters are very shy, so they usually keep their distance. It will be very rare if you are able to see any at all. However, in cenotes like the Gran Cenote in Tulum, you can find river turtles that live there and you can swim with them (remember not to disturb them and respect their space, we are visiting their home).  

Could a crocodile come out when visiting a cenote for the first time?

Another animal that you can observe is the bat. Due to the geology of the cenotes, it is perfect for them to find refuge since the caverns of the cenotes are humid, cool, and dark places. The ideal home for bats!

Cenotes are much, much more than you think. They are magical and beautiful! Enjoy them and visit them whenever you can. If you are in Cancun or near Cancun, you’ll be able to find Ruta de los Cenotes in Puerto Morelos, where you’ll find many cenotes along the road. Just choose the one that catches your attention and voila. Go swimming! You can also find many in Playa del Carmen, Tulum, or Yucatán, each with its own particularity that makes them beautiful.

Another way to get to know them is with the Tour Xenotes, in which you will get to visit the four types of cenotes in a single day. You will do many activities such as rappelling and kayaking as well as being able to explore an underwater garden in a cenote. Don’t miss them!  

If you have more questions about visiting a cenote for the first time, leave it in the comments!