This ecopark’s claim to fame is the unique bell-shaped rock formations – known as “Hells Bells” – which can be reached by divers at around 30m underwater. Scientists are still puzzling over how they were formed, with several theories under debate. It is a unique feature that you won’t find in any other cave dive in Mexico, where the speleothems fan out like bells and are hollow.
The cavern is like an hourglass; once you descend through a narrow pass, the cave opens up beneath with a hydrogen sulfide layer and light filtering from above. Tree trunks, up to several meters long, rise through the cloudy layer to add to the mystical scenery. It is better to dive early before the swimmers and tours arrive.
Ruta de los Cenotes km. 19
Website, 9am–6pm, 400–600 MXN for dive entrance
The hydrogen sulfate cloud in Angelite Cenote is one of the thickest (3m/10ft) and most prominent – it sits suspended at around 30m deep, with hardly any light piercing underneath, keeping the fresh and salt water apart. Through the opaque cloud rises the top of the collapsed cenote ceiling, with tree branches and roots adding to the eerie effect.
Angelita – “Little Angel” – is basically a 60m vertical cylinder straight into the ground. Divers simply descend in a spiral until they reach the cloud, then pass through to the darkness below. It’s not challenging or technical, yet it easily becomes one of the most unique and memorable experiences.
Swimmers can also cool off, and besides divers, there are not typically a lot of people here. It’s about 17km south of Tulum, on the road to Chetumal.
Best cenote in Tulum for: diving
The Blue Abyss
In the San Actun cave system, you can find the morbidly named Pet Cemetery Cenote, which is the common entrance to reach the Blue Abyss.
The cenote starts with a shallow dive between spectacular rock formations – with an average depth of 3m, you need great buoyancy control to avoid hitting the stalactites and stalagmites. After a challenging dive squeezing through the formations, you’ll find yourself in a vast underground cavern, living up to its name the Blue Abyss.
Experienced cave divers can reach the Blue Abyss by either by the longer Diaz line (double tank configuration) or the X line (sidemount configuration; it’s shorter but you need to take off your tank to squeeze through certain crevices).
You enter via the Dos Ojos cenote park, but don’t buy your ticket there; you get it at the entrance to Pet Cemetery. It can only be visited on a tour and is recommended for advanced divers.
Best cenote in Tulum for: advanced diving
8am–5pm, 450 pesos
Look for Dos Ojos sign
El Pit Cenote
Part of the Dos Ojos complex is the deepest passage in Quintana Roo – an almost 400-foot deep cavern called the “Cenote Pit,” although dive tours only go to around 40m. The entrance is narrow and opens into a huge underground cavern – large enough to fit a jumbo jet and still have room – complete with a halocline where the fresh and salt water mix, and a cloud of hydrogen sulfur. A pillar of light penetrates below these lines, creating amazing light effects as you look up.
It’s best seen on sunny days, or during the drier months from November to March. You drive 3km into the Dos Ojos complex, and it’s about 15 minutes farther into the jungle. You can book a diving tour at Dos Ojos, although diving tours will combine a couple of dives and organize all your transport.
Best cenote in Tulum for: only advanced diving
Dos Ojos, 9am–5pm, 600 pesos.
Similar to the other dives in the San Actun system, Dreamgate is a ornate cenote that takes you on a buoyancy journey through stalactites and stalagmites. In the center is a giant air dome, where you can see roots pushing through the rock to reach water and the special effect of the tips of stalactites growing into the surface of the water. You’ll also meet the resident bats and maybe even a blind fish or two. Dreamgate appears in BBC’s “Caves” episode in the Planet Earth documentary series, and the “Secrets of the Maya Underworld” episode of the Natural World series.
There are two dive routes, which are short (30-40 minutes) but intense for the navigation required around the rock formations; added to the adventure is the need to pulley your gear down to the platform on the water. If you go with a dive company, you might have to prove your skills first; besides potentially damaging the delicate structures, the bottom is also a fine silt and the cenote is shallow (7m/23ft). It’s a signposted road located around 1km south of the Dos Ojos Cenote, and around 4km into the jungle via a dirt road. You can also swim and snorkel there, plus there are tables if you want to bring a picnic.
Best cenote in Tulum for: advanced diving
Around 300 MXN
Tajma Ha Cenote
It’s easy to combine a dive at Tajma Ha and Eden Cenote in same day. Tajma Ha Cenote – or Taj Mahal – is a cavern dive that ticks all the boxes: a distinct halocline, laser beams of lights, fossils, limestone halls, speleothems, open surfaces, and air domes.
It’s really three cenotes that are connected underground: Tajma Ha, Sugar Bowl and Esmerelda. In the Sugar Bowl, to see the light piercing the water, you need to arrive late morning to early afternoon. With a sawtooth profile, the regular up and down can be a little difficult for new divers or those with sensitive ears, but it’s also one of the easier cave dives in the area.
Carwash Cenote’s Room of Tears
There’s no secret to how this cenote was named: it was once used to wash taxis. This cenote looks like a large open pond, with water lilies and fish to keep snorkelers entertained. You may be lucky enough to spot a tiny crocodile or turtles. It’s not the most spectacular cenote, but it tends to be less crowded and great for a peaceful cooldown. If there are crowds, you can walk around the cenote to find a special chill spot away from the main platform.
In summer, light effects play off the blooming algae, which appears as a thick orange-green layer on the surface through which the light filters to create a spooky and cloudy emerald green. Underneath the water it’s crystal clear down to a depth of 16m/53ft, with tree branches, roots, vegetation for plenty of photo opportunities. Cave divers can also access the Room of Tears.
It’s located on the road to Coba, around 15 minutes outside of Tulum, and is easily combined with a trip to Calavera Cenote. As an open cenote, if it rains, the water is not as clear.
This cenote makes the list for beginner divers. If you’re not ready for the more complicated cavern dives above, Casa Cenote offers enough thrills in a safe environment, with an average depth of around 7m. You can swim through limestone passages and watch the light effects as sunbeams pierce through.