Explore Riviera Maya cenotes at Sandos Caracol!
If you’ve ever traveled to Mexico’s Riviera Maya, you may have heard about the area’s famous cenotes. These natural phenomenons are essentially sinkholes turned into beautiful springs. But how are these breathtaking bodies of water created? The entire Yucatan Peninsula is made up mostly of porous limestone, with an immense underground river system flowing beneath its surface. Over millions of years, rainfall and erosion cause the limestone ground to open up, revealing the waters below.
Riviera Maya cenotes are situated in a region inhabited by the Mayan people. Even the word cenote comes from the Mayan word “dzonot”, which means “sacred well”. Centuries ago, the ancient Mayans of this area used them as their main source of fresh water, and they also considered many cenotes to be sacred. The cenotes were seen as a gateway to the underworld known as “Xibalba”, and the Mayans used the cenotes to communicate with their gods. Some were even used for sacrifices to the gods; even today, divers still discover Mayan sacrificial offerings like pottery, gold necklaces and even the skeletons of human sacrifices.
Today, the Yucatan Peninsula has an estimated 7,000 cenotes. Some of them are completely enclosed within a cave, while others are completely open like a small lake. When exploring many of the underground cenotes, you might even see stalactites and stalagmites. These were formed during the ice ages, when parts of the underground river system would dry up and the water dripping through the limestone left beautiful formations of mineral deposits. The underground river system eventually connects to the Caribbean Sea, and some Riviera Maya cenotes near the coast even have tunnels leading out to the ocean.
There are three kinds of Riviera Maya cenotes based on their shape:
1. Open cenotes that are completely uncovered and open to the sky, like a lake.
2. Semi-open cenotes that are partially open and have higher walls.
3. Cave / underground cenotes that have a horizontal cave entrance and are almost completely enclosed. Some even have dry areas where you can walk around.
Today, Riviera Maya cenotes have become a fun tourist attraction that adds a unique touch to your beach vacation. They’re popular spots for snorkeling and swimming thanks to their calm, clear and cool waters, and some of the deeper Riviera Maya cenotes are also breathtaking scuba diving sites. Divers have the opportunity to explore deep pools of water and sometimes even explore the tunnels of the underground river, with a variety of cenotes for all diver skill levels.
At Sandos Caracol Eco Experience Resort, we have seven cenotes right on our property! While most of our cenotes are small and not suitable for swimming, the large Cenote Cristalino is a picture perfect snorkeling spot located right by the main lobby. We provide our guests with life jackets and snorkel masks, along with showers by the cenote entrance to make sure you have no chemicals like sunscreen when entering the water. After a meditation session in our traditional Mayan temazcal sweat lodge, you can enjoy a refreshing dip in one of our smaller cenotes in the jungle… a surreal experience!
To experience Riviera Maya cenotes along with a wide variety of other eco activities, book your vacation at Sandos Caracol Eco Experience Resort.