Scuba diving the Cenotes of Tulum

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
9
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
3
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
8
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
7
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
4
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
10
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
85 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
North America
country
Mexico
Length of time
1 day or less
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 220
Time of year visited
June
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
15th/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 5% SUMMARY RATING: Unmissable

Summary

I know there are so many dives in the world that are “must do’s”, but the Cenote dives near Tulum really are “must do’s”.   As you drive through the scorchingly hot, thick Mexican jungle, one of the last things you’ll be expecting is to go scuba diving.  Yet, after only a few minutes of getting your gear on and pushing through the undergrowth, you find yourself transported to another world of intricate underwater cave systems with mysterious depths – no wonder the Mayan thought they were entrances to the underworld

The whole experience is unique.  But the highlight is the Angelita Cenote – a circular sink hole in the middle of the jungle that, due to the different densities of the salt and fresh water and a 3m / 10ft hydrogen sulphate layer, gives the impression of flying above dark clouds of some otherworldly swamp land – a bit like a combo of the Mayan Underworld and that scene in the swamp from The Empire Strikes Back.  Unique and a must do if you’re a diver in this part of the world

highlights

#1 Floating above what feels like the underworld in the Angelita Cenote - one of the most otherworldly scuba diving experiences out there

#2 Diving into the depths of The Pit Cenote, with its dramatic drop into the caves below

#3 That crazy feeling as you go from the desert heat, to the refreshing cool water of the Cenotes

#4 Making your way through the detailed cave system of The Bat Cave within Dos Ojos

Travel Tips

  • Dive shop – we went with Koox Diving, who were great.  US$220 for the three dives in one day, including all dive equipment, lunch and transport from Tulum to the 3 dives sites and back
  • We dived:
    • The Pit – 27m / 90ft deep dive.  The name serves it right – a giant pit 110m deep with bands of light breaking through and illuminating certain parts of the cave
    • The Bat Cave at the Dos Ojos cave system – shallow dive at 8m / 25ft.  You work your way through the cave system, emerging at an (air-filled) cave with only a very narrow exit for the bats to escape. Very cool to be floating there knowing the cave can only be accessed by diving
    • Angelita – the highlight.  40m / 130ft deep so obviously only a short time at the bottom.  It really feels like 4 layers – a 3m / 10ft layer of murky water at the top that reduces the light entering the rest of the cenote; the freshwater for 30m / 100ft which is clear; the 2m / 6 ft hydrogen sulphate layer formed from the decaying organic matter that looks like a cloud; and the salt water underneath which is pitch black.  The whole thing makes you feel like you are passing different layers on your way to the underworld
  • For the town of Tulum, here are some tips:
    • Tulum is best known for its Mayan ruins by the coast.  See Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Tulum for an entry specifically about the ruins.  The ruins are definitely worth checking out if you’re already in Tulum or have a spare morning / afternoon from the likes of Cancun.  But, if you like Mayan ruins, do make sure you visit Chichen Itza (see an entry Best way to see Chichen Itza from Cancun for more details on visiting), or head into Guatemala for the #1 Mayan site of them all in Tikal (Mayan Ruins of Tikal for more details) or, if more adventurous, exploring by helicopter the (relatively) newly-discovered El Mirador from an earlier period of Mayan history and buried deep into the jungle north of Tikal (more details – Helicopter trip to El Mirador in the heart of the Guatemalan Jungle).
    • Make sure to try the outdoor restaurant spot of Taqueria Honorio restaurant – super local place that just does the most amazing tacos
    • We stayed at Hotel Panacea Tulum, which was nice and with a lovely pool area in the courtyard
  • Broad points for this Yucatan part of Mexico:
    • Safety – we felt safe at all times.  The violence that is happening in so many other unfortunate areas of the country has thankfully not spread to this part of Mexico.  The same as in your home country cities, use common sense and you should be fine
    • Note on the sargassum (seaweed) – unfortunately the beaches in this part of Mexico have been hit hard over the past years by strong blooms of sargassum (with varying theories as to why).  Have a quick research before you go as to how strong the bloom is and the approach the place you’re staying has to dealing with it because it really does change the vibe of the place.  The large hotels have armies of staff removing it from their beaches, but the surrounding areas don’t and so the mounds of sargassum will dominate your beach experience both in terms of visually and the smell
    • Ubers were abundant and the easiest way of getting around
    • Don’t expect everything to be dirt cheap.  This part of Mexico has some world famous attractions and is a natural destination for many tourists from the US, so prices reflect this

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone