Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula is famous for its cenotes, covered or partially open swimming holes fed by underground springs. You can find literally thousands of cenotes in the peninsula, but many of the best are the cenote near Valladolid, Mexico.
Because Valladolid is located in the center of the peninsula, with a slightly higher elevation than the coastal towns of Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum, the cenotes in and near Valladolid tend to have more dramatic drops to the water level. There are also more fully covered underground cave cenotes, which give off the vibe of something in an Indiana Jones movie.
If you’re visiting Valladolid, then hitting a few cenotes is an absolute must-do thing for your itinerary. The only question is: which Valladolid cenotes are the best?
Never fear, because I’m a Valladolid travel expert. I travel there frequently and have visited dozens of cenotes. Here are my 11 favorite cenotes to visit in the Valladolid area:
Table of Contents
- 12 Best Valladolid Cenotes
- Tips for Visiting Cenotes from Valladolid
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12 Best Valladolid Cenotes
Cenote Saamal (Hacienda Selva Maya)
Best Cenote for Groups (Open Cenote)
📍 Google Maps | Distance from Valladolid: 6 km | Entrance: 150 pesos, or 250 with buffet | Hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily
At times, Cenote Saamal can attract just a few too many tourists for my taste. But, if you come in the late morning before the tour buses roll in, it’s probably the most beautiful cenotes to swim in. The main feature here is the (artificial) waterfall, which adds to the ambiance when you’re swimming in the cenote.
Cenote Saamal is located in Hacienda Selva Maya, which features solid facilities with lockers and outdoor showers. I recently visited with friends, and we really enjoyed it. The buffet was quite expansive and surprisingly delicious. For 250 pesos, we got admission, a buffet, lockers, plus life jackets (which are mandatory). There is also a zipline available for an extra fee.
All in all, if you’re with a group, Cenote Saamal is a great one to visit. I’d suggest coming in the morning, taking a refreshing swim before it gets crowded, then hitting the buffet afterward.
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Best Cenote to Avoid Crowds (Underground Cenote)
One of the newest cenotes to open in the Yucatan, Cenote Chukum is one of the most beautiful cave cenotes I’ve seen in all of Mexico. There are just a couple of openings in the ceiling, where the light shines through to illuminate the clear water inside.
Plus, Hacienda Chukum offers the most modern facilities of any cenote I’ve visited near Valladolid. The lockers and showers are new and spacious, there is plentiful parking, and the cenote itself has a zip line and even a kayak you can take out into the cenote. Plus, perhaps because of the (relatively) high entrance cost and distance from Valladolid, we even had the cenote all to ourselves!
Honestly, I did find the buffet a little paltry (especially given the price). But considering just how beautiful the cenote is, and how modern the facilities are, Cenote Chukum is for sure one of the best Valladolid cenotes!
Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman
Best Pool + Cenote (Semi Open Cenote)
📍 Google Maps | Distance from Valladolid: 6 km | Entrance: 80 pesos | Hours: 9 am – 6 pm daily
What I love about Cenote Oxman is that it’s located in a hacienda featuring a nice pool, bar, and several little cabana huts. There is a buffet in a separate building nearby, though personally, I’d recommend the option they give to take a hut by the swimming pool and just order food and drink directly.
Cenote Oxman itself is a beautiful cenote partially covered and sunken pretty deep in the crowd. You walk down a winding staircase, put on the mandatory life jacket, and then can either ease into water or grab the rope swing and jump right in.
Cenote Oxman is not the largest Valladolid cenote on this list, and so even with fewer swimmers, it can start to feel a little crowded inside. But I’ve been several times, and it always has a fun party vibe. The crowd loves cheering as people take turns on the rope swing!
Overall, Cenote Oxman is a great choice if you also want the benefit of the swimming pool, the large hammocks, and the decent drinks from the bar.
Most Instagrammable Cenote in Valladolid (Underground Cenote)
📍 Google Maps | Distance from Valladolid: 8 km | Entrance: 120 pesos | Hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily
Cenote Suytun is easily the most famous cenote in Valladolid. Just trying searching Instagram for “cenote” and you’re likely to pull up thousands of photos (far better than my shot above) from the many influencers around the world who flock to Cenote Suytun to get the ‘gram.
Cenote Suytun is undeniably the most beautiful cenote in the Valladolid area, though be advised that sometimes the line on the stairs to take a shot can back up during peak periods.
Though you can swim in Cenote Suytun, just be aware this is really more of a photo spot than anything else. For optimal chances of getting the perfect shot, considering staying a night in the adjoining hotel so you can enter before the crowds roll in. Also, ask the owners and try to time your shot for when the sun shines through the single opening in the top.
Also note that during the rainy summer season, the water levels can sometimes result in Cenote Suytun’s platform being submerged and thus inaccessible.
Cenote Secreto Maya
Open Cenote With Excellent Pool & Restaurant
📍Google Maps | Distance from Valladolid: 33 km | Entrance: 150 pesos (cenote only) or 500 pesos (day pass including pool & restaurant) | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily
This cenote is a little further from Valladolid (about a 40 minute drive). But it’s worth the drive and, as Cenote Secreto Maya’s name suggests, it’s a bit of a secret still – you won’t have compete with as many crowds. You have the option of just paying 150 pesos to use the cenote, or you can spring for a day pass and lounge out at the beautiful pool and enjoy the restaurant.
The cenote itself is stunning. It’s large, with several platforms for taking photos, jumping, or swinging on a rope swing. After several attempts of mustering up the courage, my partner Clara finally gave it a go!
If it were closer to Valladolid, this cenote might just top this list. But, if you don’t mind the drive, it’s well worth a visit!
Underground Cenote Near Ek Balam
📍 Google Maps | Distance from Valladolid: 17 km | Entrance: 100 pesos | Hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily
If you’re headed to Ek Balam, considering adding in a stop to Cenote Hubiku along the way. This is a large cave cenote, with a small opening to the sky above. There is a large platform for entering the cenote, so it’s one of the better options if you’re visiting with kids.
There’s plenty of parking, an adjoining restaurant, Mayan performers, and decent facilities. Sure, it’s a little touristy, but Cenote Hubiku is still one of my favorite cenotes near Valladolid.
Cenote Samula (Dzitnup)
Underground Cenote in Dzitnup
📍 Google Maps | Distance from Valladolid: 8 km | Entrance: 80 pesos for adult & 50 pesos for children | Hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily
Cenote Samula is one of two underground cenotes near Valladolid that together make up the Dzitnup cenote complex, along with Cenote Xkeken. You can get a combined ticket to enter both cenotes, though annoyingly you have to separately rent a life jacket at each.
In all Cenote Samula was my least favorite of the two, though that may have been because there was a very upset child swimming whose cries echoes through the cave walls. So I snapped a few photos and hiked over to Cenote Xkeken quickly.
The Dzitnup complex is located close to Hacienda Selva Maya, and so a lot of tourists come through these popular cenotes. On the path to the entrance, you might be flagged down by other tour operators selling everything from ATV rides to ziplines. Just politely decline and continue on to the entrance, where you’ll find lots of parking.
Cenote Xkeken (Dzitnup)
Underground Cenote in Dzitnup
📍 Google Maps | Distance from Valladolid: 5.4 km| Entrance: 80 pesos for adult & 50 pesos for children | Hours: 9 am – 6 pm daily
This is the other Dzinitup cenote, and Cenote Xkeken is definitely my favorite of the two. It’s located in an underground cave but only requires a short flight of stairs to access.
My friend Christopher and I visited during a rainstorm, which made for a pretty special experience as water poured down through the narrow opening in the cenote opening. We saw more than a few fish swimming in the waters. Plus, the stalactites that dangle from the cave roof are pretty dramatic!
Cenote in Valladolid City Center
📍 Google Maps | +52 985 856 0721 | Entrance: 30 pesos or free with meal purchase | Hours: CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS AS OF FALL 2021
You won’t have to go far to find the most popular Valladolid cenotes. Conveniently located just a five-minute walk from the city square, Cenote Zaci is a gorgeous oasis offering a relaxing way to quickly retreat into a bit of nature.
Cenote Zaci is a large open cenote that is partially open to the sky. It’s one of the easiest cenotes to access, as the stairs down to the surface are well paved. There are changing rooms, optional life jackets available for an additional 30 peso rental, and a platform where daring adventures can jump into the water below.
I recommend timing your visit to Cenote Zaci for lunch at the nearby Restaurant Zaci. It’s not only one of the top restaurants in Valladolid, but your cenote entrance ticket will come free with the purchase of a meal.
Note: As of my last visit in fall 2021, Cenote Zaci was temporarily closed for renovations.
Cenote Ik Kil
Open Cenote Near Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins
📍 Google Maps | Distance from Valladolid: 38 km | Entrance: 80 pesos | Hours: 8 am – 5 pm daily
Cenote Ik Kil is definitely the most crowded of the cenotes near Valladolid, owing to the fact that many Chichen Itza tours stop here and unloaded hordes of visitors coming up for day trips from Cancun or from Playa del Carmen to see the famous Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza.
But don’t let Ik Kil’s popularity deter you from visiting! You just have to time your visit for the early morning or late afternoon, when the tour buses aren’t at Cenote Ik Kil.
It’s worth visiting Cenote Ik Kil because it is probably the most beautiful of the open cenotes near Valladolid. There are dozens of tree roots that dangling down to the water, making Ik Kil an absolutely beautiful setting (when the cenote isn’t packed with hordes of swimmers, anyway!).
Open Ek Balam Cenote
📍 Google Maps | Distance from Valladolid: 28 km | Entrance: 70 pesos | Hours: 8 am – 5 pm daily
Sometimes referred to as the Ek Balam cenote, Cenote Xcanche is located literally within the Ek Balam ruins complex. While honestly not the most beautiful of the cenotes near Valladolid, you can’t argue with the convenient location. It’s a reasonably large open cenote that can make for a great way to cool off after a hot morning spent exploring the ruins.
Note that Cenote Xcanche does carry a separate entrance fee from the Ek Balam ruins.
Open Cenote with an Island
📍 Google Maps | Distance from Valladolid: 29 km | Entrance: 190 pesos for entrance to cenote, cave, and kayak | Hours: 8 am – 5 pm daily
Cenote SAC-AUA is one of the more unique cenotes to add to your Yucatan itinerary. What separates this from other cenotes near Valladolid is the island in the middle of Cenote SAC-AUA, which was formed when the cave roof collapsed upon the cenote below. Several trees have even grown on the island, and you can take kayaks or swim around it.
You’ll also have the option of visiting a nearby cave that was recently opened and features various sacred Mayan artifacts nestled amongst the stalactites. You visit as part of a tour that involves strapping on a helmet and navigating your way through the cave complex. If you’re physically able, it’s definitely a unique experience!
Other Cenotes Near Valladolid
While the above are my top 11 recommendations, there are so many amazing cenotes in Valladolid to consider. If you have extra time to visit more, here are a few other Valladolid cenotes to add to your list:
- Cenote Agua Dulce (Google Maps) – Cenote Agua Dulce is a convenient underground cenote if you plan to visit Chichen Itza.
- Cenote Palomitas (Google Maps) – Located next to Cenote Agua Dulce, Cenote Palomitas is another underground cavern to consider if you are visiting Chichen Itza.
- Cenote Sagrado (Google Maps) – Located right next to Chichen Itza, this large open cenote had significance to the Mayans. Today it gets mobbed by tour groups daily.
Tips for Visiting Cenotes from Valladolid
How to Get to Cenotes from Valladolid
The best way to visit the many amazing cenotes near Valladolid is to rent a car in Cancun or Merida upon arrival and drive yourself. Most of the cenotes offer free parking, the roads near Valladolid are wide and well paved, and using a car will give you the freedom to time your trip to avoid the crowds.
You can find excellent car rental deals by searching the Discover Cars search engine, which lets you compare lots of different agencies and their reviews (Mexican rental car agencies are known for shady practices, so pay close attention!).
Another option is to simply hire a taxi in town, have them drop you off, and then get their number or arrange for a time for them to come pick you back up. Just be aware that taxi drivers have a tendency to bail (happened to me several times). If that does happen, though, most cenotes have staff that will call you a taxi – you just might have to wait a bit.
Finally, if you don’t mind a little exercise, some cenotes (especially the Dzitnup cenotes and Hacienda Selva Maya) are fairly easy to access via bike trails from Valladolid, Mexico.
Cenote Tours in Valladolid
If the thought of driving in Mexico scares you, another way to visit many cenotes in one go is to join a guided tour to various cenotes. If you’re visiting Valladolid from Cancun, check out this highly rated cenote tour from Viator.
If you’re staying in Valladolid itself, there surprisingly aren’t many cenote tours to choose from. Your best bet is to join this cenote bike tour, one of the few running directly from Valladolid to the nearby cenotes.
Is it Safe to Swim in Cenotes?
Cenotes are regulated in Mexico and are generally very safe to swim in. Most cenotes require the use of life jackets, and personal flotation devices are a good idea even when they don’t in order to minimize your risk.
Are There Crocodiles in Mexican Cenotes?
Though divers have reported seeing a crocodile in a cenote near Akumal, this is an extremely rare occurrence and most Mexican cenotes – including all cenotes near Valladolid – do not contain crocodiles.
Are Cenotes Free?
Most cenotes that you can swim in are privately owned and carry some sort of entrance fee, though often this is a relatively small fee of as little as 30 pesos ($1.50 USD). With that said, the Yucatan peninsula is home to literally thousands of cenotes, located in everything from schools to Costco parking lots, so it is possible to find some cenote without an entrance fee.
How to Get to Valladolid
Owing to its location smack in the middle of the Yucatan peninsula, Valladolid is pretty easy to access from Merida or the Riviera Maya. You can get to Valladolid by renting a car and driving, taking the ADO bus, or via tour.
Many tourists choose to just visit Valladolid as part of a day trip from Tulum, Playa del Carmen, or Cancun, often in combination with a tour to Chichen Itza.
Personally, I really think Valladolid deserves at least one night to experience it fully. There are so many incredible – and affordable – hotels in Valladolid to choose from, most of them locally owned. Check out my full guide to the best Valladolid hotels to find the right one for you!
That’s it for this guide to the best Valladolid cenotes! I hope it helps you to find a relaxing cenote to swim in, and I hope you love Valladolid as much as I do.
👉 Before you go, be sure to check out my mega guide to Valladolid Mexico – it’s filled with tons of useful information!