If you have made plans to stay in one of the luxury rentals during your visit to the Riviera Maya, you will be surrounded by beauty and comfort. Each property is close to beaches and natural scenery, historical sites, and lovely towns or small cities. You can enjoy days spent leisurely by your private pool or in the shade of your comfortable patio, but you do have to dedicate a bit of time to day trips in the surrounding region.
Why? This is home to some of the most amazing ruins dating to the Mayan civilization, there are remarkable natural preserves and mountain scenery, desert areas, and then there are the “cenotes”.
Pronounced “say-NO-tays”, they are entirely natural features that the Mayan people considered holy places. As one expert explains: ” Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula is low and relatively flat with no surface rivers or streams. However, below the ground run the three longest underground water systems in the world… A cenote is a natural sinkhole created where a cave ceiling has collapsed, a window to this spectacular world.”
The ancient people thought that a cenote was the entrance to the underworld, where gods dwelled, but today we understand them to be wonderful and unique ecosystems as well as time capsules. Located in jungles and some distance inland, many cenotes contain fossils of marine life, proving that they were once part of a enormous reef.
As someone who has chosen to holiday in the Riviera Maya, you must make a point of visiting some of the best cenotes of the region. They vary in size and “development.” Some, such as Rio Secreto are heavily developed with many tourist amenities and tours. Most sites require an entrance fee and some have facilities where you can dine or find food and drink.
Among the most beautifully preserved and worthy of a visit are:
Near the impressive area of Tulum, this is an easy to find spot that offers a small restaurant, some changing rooms, and rest rooms. You will want to pay a visit if you were hoping to enjoy views of stalactites in addition to clear waters. This is also a place where sea turtles are frequently encountered.
Ponderosa El Eden Cenote
This requires a short hike to reach the main entrance. This is a rarity as there are no dining facilities, so be sure to pack a picnic. There is an island in the middle of the cenote, and the water is noted for its stunning clarity. There are many plants, eels, fish and turtles to discover.
Dos Ojos Cenote
This is a good spot for those who enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving. It consists of two cenotes that are joined by a massive cavern between. There are wooden decks and stairs, and even picnic sites with hammocks. Be sure to arrive early, though, as this is a popular spot.
Chaak Tun Cenote
This is near Playa Del Carmen and requires a lengthy drive on a dirt road to reach it. It is popular with tourists, but most are gone by early afternoon. When you purchase your ticket, you will be given safety gear and will have to follow the wooden walkway into the cave. You will enter a courtyard and a lush jungle area full of native birds. Snorkeling is safe, fun and easy here, and you will want to look for the statue of the Virgin of Guadelupe that is tucked into the bottom of this cenote.
The cenotes are amazing and unique, and your Isle Blue concierge can help you plan a visit or even arrange for some snorkeling or diving at lesser known spots.