Heading to Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula? Then don’t miss these seven beautiful cenotes near Valladolid.
It was hard to break away from a place as perfect as Tulum, but with Chichén Itzá, one of the new seven wonders of the world just a few hours away, we thought we’d make a day trip out of it. As if some of the most impressive ancient Mayan ruins weren’t enough of a draw, we soon found out that this area of Mexico has so much more. We walked the colorful, bustling city streets of Valladolid, visited one-of-a-kind churches and swam in Mexico’s version of a natural swimming pool: a cenote.
Cenotes are natural wells and sinkholes found throughout the Yucatán Peninsula, opening up to the underground river that flows beneath. Most of the cenotes near Valladolid are caves that require a long set of stairs to access, with stalactites dripping from the ceiling, slowly forming over hundreds of years. If you want to know why the Mayans thought cenotes served as an entrance to the underworld, it’s easy to see the mystique once you make your way down into one of these incredible caverns.
You probably won’t have time to visit all of these cenotes near Valladolid in just a day (there are hundreds in the area and thousands across the Yucatán), so we’ve come up with a list of the best ones here. If you want more time to explore the area, booking an Airbnb or hotel in Valladolid is a great idea. The town itself is worth a visit all its own. If the list below is enough to convince you to stay in the area for a while, then see the list of Airbnbs and hotels at the end of the article.
The water in most of these underground cenotes is cool, but not freezing, and the fish aren’t much to speak of; usually, it’s some small black catfish. What is incredible are the rock formations and the blue-green color of the water, which you can see below for yourself.
Read next: The 8 Best Cenotes Near Tulum, Mexico
Cenotes near Valladolid, Mexico
1 Cenote Suytun
If you’ve been stalking Instagram photos of Tulum and the Yucatán, you’ve probably come across this scene: someone, all alone, walking down a stone platform that juts out into a pool of blue-green waters. They’re in a huge cavern with massive stalactites hanging from the ceiling. Well, this is the place. Descending the steep and slippery stairs really felt like we were making our way into the underworld, or Xibalba as the Mayans call it.
Cenote Suytun may have been off the radar a few years ago, but with the increasing popularity of nearby Chichén Itzá and that Instagram bump, this place is anything but undiscovered. There’s a snack bar and if you want to swim in the cool water along with the little black catfish, orange life vests are required. If you do want that solitary moment, get here first thing in the morning (opens at 9 am), or opt for late afternoon. We arrived around 3:30 pm when the last few swimmers were packing up. It’s supposed to close at 6 pm, but they said sometimes they close earlier if no one is around.
If you plan it right and the weather is in your favor, there’s a point in the day where the sunlight will stream directly down onto the center of the platform. It looks otherworldly. It was overcast by the time we arrived, but pretty magical even without that glow.
Price: 70 pesos
How to get there: Cenote Suytun is about 15 minutes directly east of Valladolid. Drive down the 180 and the cenote is located on the south side of the road.
2-3 Cenote X’kekén and Samula
Some of the cenotes in Mexico have been developed into a full on water and jungle park. X’kekén and Samula were probably the most commercialized cenotes we visited, included as part of a larger “jungle” park. Because we visited around 5 pm, we had about an hour until close (6 pm) when the cenotes were almost completely empty. These are both underground cenotes with amazing rock formations. It takes a few minutes to walk between the cenotes, so you can easily visit both. Cenote X’kekén is also known as Cenote Dzitnup.
Price: 80 pesos for one, 120 pesos for both
How to get there: Head west out of Valladolid down the 180, then make a left down a road called Dzitnup. The cenotes are about 15 minutes out of the center of Valladolid. When looking at the map, I also saw X’kekén called Cenote Dzitnup, so just know that they are the same cenote.
4-5 Cenote Palomitas and Cenote Agua Dulce
I’m not sure if this is really a pattern, but many of the cenotes around Valladolid seem to come in pairs. Cenote Palomitas and Cenote Agua Dulce are both underground caverns with a few overhead openings with natural light streaming through.
Price: 120 pesos for Agua Dulce, 90 pesos for Palomitas
How to get there: Cenotes Palomitas and Agua Dulce are about 35 minutes outside the center of Valladolid. Head east on the 180 for 11.6 km. Then, turn left onto an unnamed road, and take it for 11.6km. Since the road isn’t named, it’s easiest to follow the directions on Google Maps here.
6 Cenote Zací
Cenote Zací is literally right in the center of Valladolid, so if you’re short on time you can still squeeze in a quick visit. This cenote has a larger opening, so you can swim in the sun and then hang out on the leafy, shady edges of this oasis in the middle of the Valladolid.
Price: 30 pesos
How to get there: Cenote Zací is just a few blocks off the main square in Valladolid between Calle 37 and Calle 39
7 Cenote Ik Kil
Ik Kil may look like an undiscovered cenote in the pictures, with shrubs and bushes growing around the edges and vines hanging down its vertical rock walls, but it is actually one of the most popular cenotes in the Yucatan. Located just a few minutes away from Chichén Itzá, it is a common stop for a lot of tour buses after they visit the Mayan ruins. Go first thing in the morning or after 4:30pm if you don’t want to wait in a long line of swimmers clad in bright orange life vests.
Cenote Ik Kil is a massive opening 60 meters wide with tall walls that go straight down to the water. The bright blue waters are about 40 meters deep, so don’t plan on reaching the bottom here unless you came with your diving gear.
This cenote served as a sacred place for human sacrifice to the Mayan rain god, as evidenced by the bones and jewelry found at the bottom of the cenote by archaeologists.
Price: 70 pesos
How to get there: Cenote Ik Kil is about 8 minutes down the 180 before you reach Chichén Itzá.
Airbnbs and Hotels in Valladolid, Mexico
By now, I’m sure you’ve realized that Valladolid is worth more than just a day trip. If I would’ve known that Valladolid not only had so many amazing cenotes nearby but that the town itself is worth a visit, I definitely would’ve booked at least one night in town. Staying in Valladolid makes it easier to get an earlier start at Chichén Itzá, or popular cenotes like Ik Kil. Plus, a decent hotel in Valladolid will run you about $45 compared to an average of $125 a night in Tulum. Here are some great hotels and Airbnbs in Valladolid.
Casa Valladolid Boutique Hotel – This hotel is located only a few blocks off the main square in Valladolid with prices starting at $40 a night. There is an open-air pool and an on-site restaurant serving breakfast. Family rooms are available that accommodate up to four people. Check here for rates and availability.
Casa Tia Micha – This is a small, boutique hotel is a bright, colonial-style building with spacious rooms and a lot of charm. Located only a few minutes’ walk from the San Gervasio Church in the city center, the surrounding garden transports you out of the busy city. Prices start at $65, which typically includes an authentic Mexican breakfast. Check here for rates and availability.
Hotel Zentik Project – The owners of the Hotel Zentik wanted to create a living gallery of sorts; where its guests could sleep, dine and swim among beautiful artwork. There is an outdoor pool and an underground cave with heated salt water, which might be a nice change after swimming in some chilly cenotes. The rooms are bungalow style and built with Mayan techniques and local materials. If you’re looking something a bit stronger than your usual morning coffee, try the ‘Zentik Coffee’, which includes a splash of tequila and a bit of honey. Prices start at $115. Note that this is an adult only hotel. Check here for rates and availability.
Check out the apartments in Valladolid here (and if you’re new to Airbnb, get $40 off your first booking by signing up with our referral link here).