Cenotes are one of the most iconic attractions of Mexico. The visit to one of these magical places is a MUST during your stay in Riviera Maya.

Today in our Destino Riviera Blog, we bring you THE COMPLETE GUIDE OF THE CENOTES.

What are cenotes?

Technically, cenotes are freshwater wells at a certain depth, which are fed by the filtration of rain through the earth’s surface and by underground rivers.

Cenote is a word from the Mayan term tz’onot that translates to well with water.

Tourist in Cenote 2 Ojos

How were they formed?

The formation of cenotes emerged millions of years ago, specifically in the Pleistocene Ice Age.

At that time, the Yucatan Peninsula emerged from the depths of the sea, carrying with it the remains of animals, corals and countless marine sediments, which created a flat surface of limestone.

This surface, when merged with the rains and with carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, started a chemical process that eroded the rock, creating tunnels and holes in the Earth’s surface, known today as cenotes.

What types of cenotes exist?

The cenotes are classified according to their age or time of existence. The cenotes are divided into:

Cave cenotes:

These are the youngest amongst the group and the most impressive to visit because they are made up of caves that are quite an adventure for the bravest. They have countless stalactites and stalagmites.

Rio Secreto

Semi-open cenotes:

These are from the middle ages because they are partly open and partly closed, making them an ideal oasis for families to visit without having to fight your fears.

Cenote Suytun

Open cenotes:

These are the oldest and since due to erosion at some point, their roof collapsed leaving them open to the outside creating a natural pool. This type of cenote is ideal for everyone since sunlight can be seen on its entire surface.

Why were cenotes very important to the Mayans?

The cenotes were a very important element in the Mayan culture as for many years, the cenotes were their main source of water. This is the reason why the vast majority of Mayan settlements have been found close to these.

In addition, the cenotes were a symbol of life for the Mayans since for them it was the entrance to Xibalba (world of the dead). In many of them, rituals and ceremonies were carried out accompanied by sacrifices resulting in the discovery of countless Mayan remains and human remains.

Human skeletons & mayan remains discovered

Cenotes Today

More than thousands of cenotes have been discovered in the Yucatan Peninsula, including in Guatemala and Belize. Scientists found that a lot of them are connected between tunnels and caves, creating an underwater world.

Here in Riviera Maya, the cenotes are one of the most visited natural tourist attractions, which you cannot miss during your visit.

The experience of swimming or diving in the crystal-clear waters of the cenotes is something unique and unforgettable.

Close your eyes and imagine taking a refreshing swim now that you know part of the wonderful history of these magical places. What an experience!

Scuba diving in cenote
Destino Riviera


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