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Tulum, Mexico absolutely stole my heart. I have visited three times, and I fall more in love every time. From the jungle vibes to the crystal clear blue cenotes, there is so much to do and explore. This guide will cover everything you need to know about one of Tulum’s most popular attractions, Gran Cenote (Grand Cenote).
What are Cenotes?
The first question you probably have is what the heck are cenotes? Cenotes (pronounced sei-now-tay) are sinkholes that were created by the ceiling of caves collapsing. This results in sinkholes that hold salt-free water, making them great areas of swimming, diving, and scoping out the wildlife. Seriously, these cenotes are some underground magic. The water in any of these cenotes tend to me quite cold, but often a refreshing break from Tulum’s heat. There are actually three different types of cenotes. There are covered cenotes, open air cenotes, and a mix of the two (the best of both worlds).
Cenotes are extremely popular in Tulum, and throughout the Riviera Maya. I think it would be impossible to visit the region with hearing about these water pools, and they are definitely something that should be on any Tulum itinerary. I usually just stick to swimming, but there is tons of wildlife from fish and turtles to alligators, so grabbing some snorkeling gear or booking a dive session is totally worth it.
This guide will cover everything you need to know about visiting Gran Cenote, but here are a few other cenotes to add to your Tulum itinerary:
- Dos Ojos
- Casa Cenote
- Cenote Calavera
- Cenote Carwash
- Cenote Choo Ha
Why visit Gran Cenote?
Gran Cenote is easily the most famous cenote in the Tulum. I typically try to avoid the overly popular destination spots, but Gran Cenote is definitely worth a visit in my opinion.
Despite the name, Gran Cenote is not actually all that large. There are about 140 square meter for swimming, which includes a large cave, a smaller cavern and a middle area where you can sit and take pictures. There are two sinkholes, separated by a small tunnel. I recommend heading to the second sinkhole first, as it is the best for pictures and tends to be less busy.
How much does it cost to enter Gran Cenote?
The cost to visit Gran Cenote was recently increased. The current entrance fee to enter the cenote is MX$300 (or about $15). This is quite a bit pricier than any of the other cenotes in the area. Additionally, it is cash only, but they do accept US dollars as well. If you’re interested in renting additional gear you can do so for an extra cost. Gran Cenote is definitely one of the most popular spots to snorkel, but the water is seriously so clear that you can see the wildlife without even putting your head under the water.
Things to know before visiting Gran Cenote
It’s always best to know what you’re getting yourself into when visiting a tourist attraction. Here are a few things you should definitely know:
- There are bathrooms, changing rooms, and lockers on the premises. There is a cost to use the lockers, but it’s worth it if you’re carrying any valuables.
- There was recently a rule implemented that prohibits you from entering with a camera or tripod. This is most likely to limit the number of photographers and content creators taking photos at this famous Instagram spot in Tulum. However, you are still welcome to snag a photo with your phone.
- You are required to shower off before entering the cenote. So don’t waste your time doing your hair!
- The super clear water makes it perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving.
How to get to Gran Cenote
Gran Cenote’s popularity is partially due to its proximity to Tulum city center. Located just 3 miles (5 kilometers) away from Tulum city center, it can be reached by car in approximately 10 minutes.
If you’re visiting Tulum on a budget, you could also bike in approximately 30 minutes, but be mindful of the busy road. There are some guided bike tours that cover the cenote, so this might be a good option for you if you’re less comfortable biking alone.
Another option is to take the ADO bus to Gran Cenote. Just make sure to chat with the bus driver to drop you here.
Tulum by Taxi
Taxis in Tulum can be quite pricey, so it is important to make sure that you are getting the right price! On my recent trip to Tulum, I had a great experience with a local taxi driver, Juan de la Cruz. You can trust that he will provide a reasonable rate and a safe ride. You can reach Juan on WhatsApp at +52 984 137 7794. Note, Juan does not speak any English so all communications will need to be in Spanish. But hey, that’s what Google Translate is for, right?
What time does the Gran Cenote open?
The cenote used to open at 8AM open, although that was recently changed to 10AM. I recommend arriving early (preferably before opening time) to avoid the crowds.
The cenote is definitely busiest during midday, when it is often packed with various tour groups.I have also heard that the late afternoon could be a good time to visit as well.
My Gran Cenote Packing Essentials
Protect the Cenotes
Because of the sensitive nature of the cenotes, and the large amount of wildlife, it is important to protect the cenotes. Here are some simple, responsible guidelines:
- Don’t touch or interact with any of the wildlife
- Wear reef-safe sunscreen. BioClarity has a great option for face and body. Many cenotes require this in order to protect the sensitive reefs and corals.
Exploring Tulum? Here are some other articles to check out:
- Tulum on a Budget
- Tulum Solo Travel Guide
- Best Tulum Instagram Spots
- 7 Best Restaurants in Tulum, Mexico
- The Ultimate Tulum Itinerary