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Cenote Calavera: A Spectacular Swimming Spot in Tulum, Mexico

Cenote Calavera: A Spectacular Swimming Spot in Tulum, Mexico

A middle aged Mexican man greeted us at the front gate of Cenote Calavera (also known as the Temple of Doom) and proceeded to lead us through what looked like his backyard.  We walked through the dry, desolate surroundings until we came to something that we really weren’t expecting – an exotic little swimming pool which looked like a portal into another dimension. We knew we were going to a cenote, but the unassuming entrance and the lack of other tourists meant our expectations were low.

Cenote Calavera blew those expectations away, and after a hot day of cycling between the beaches and ruins of Tulum, a swim in the refreshing water was the best thing imaginable. We were actually looking for another cenote but this one was a lot closer to town and once we saw how awesome it was we had no intention of leaving.

You can jump into the refreshing water below or there is a slippery wooden ladder you can climb down. I’m still not all that confident in the water so I chose the ladder, but jumping did look fun. There is a rope in the middle of the cenote where you can chill out without having to tread water, or there’s a small inflatable boat that you can take for a spin – the cenote isn’t very big but you can see some nice cave formations and the occasional bat.  It’s the ideal place to bring few friends and have a couple of relaxing drinks by the “pool”.

Swimming at Cenote Calavera, Tulum, Mexico

Diving in Cenote Calavera

We heard a strange bubbling sound during our relaxing swim in Cenote Calavera. We thought for a minute it was some kind of monster intent on eating us, but then 2 divers emerged from the depths.  It turns out this is actually quite a famous dive site – there are some old Mayan relics down there and according to one of the divers the water is almost as clear as air. If you’re a diver and you’re looking for something a bit different it might be worth checking out.

What is a cenote?

Cenotes are flooded sinkholes and you can find them all over the Yucatan Peninsula, apparently there might be as many as 7000 of them. We visited 5 of them during our time in the Yucatan Peninsular and Cenote Calavera was probably my favourite. Some of the cenotes get pretty busy, especially the ones close to Chichen Itza, so if you’re looking for a more laid-back cenote experience I’d definitely recommend Cenote Calevera.

Strange light at Cenote Calavera, Tulum, Mexico

Getting to Cenote Calavera

Bicycles seem to be the best way to get around Tulum, so hire a bike and head out on the main road towards Valladolid (read Gia’s post about cycling around Tulum here). Look for a sign with a skull on it (calavera means skull in Spanish – its shape when viewed from above gives it its name), pay the small entrance fee (around $80 pesos) and enjoy one of the most scenic swimming holes the world has to offer.

Have you been to a cenote in Mexico? How was it? Let me know!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.


Monday 11th of January 2016

1. As a cave diver with tens of dives in the quintana roo province of yucatan (including calavera cave , the one you call "temple of doom"); 2. As a tourist with a strict ethic and interested in respecting local populations, cultures and biodiversity; 3. As a fully-grown human believing that the mission of a "teacher" is precisely to teach "ethics" and respect other people and for their environment.....

...i am far from being convinced that a cenote is an ideal place for a "pool party" where to bring beers, getting drunk, pee in the water, turn that perfectly clear and protected water into a sewage and seriously impact on those unique systems...without mentioning potential incidents or accidents (drawning etc.).

My advice for this kind of tourism is:

1. stay at home, because there is no point in going to mexico (cenotes) to do this, or; 2. stay in cancun and just get drunk with your US neighbors during their so amazingly stupid "spring break" event

Mexico and cenotes are unique and should be respected as such, should you be a diver and or a "simple" tourist".

Jon Algie

Monday 11th of January 2016

Wow, what a smug comment! I'm not sure what your idea of a pool party with a few friends is but mine involves none of that -- if you assume that's what would happen then you have obviously lived a very different life to me. Making wild, offensive assumptions about people and the way they travel seems like a strange ethical stance to take, but each to their own I guess.


Friday 15th of May 2015

I swam in a cenote close to Chichen Itza a few years ago, and it was amazing, but really busy. It was a little freaky to see the catfish swim right next to me, because the water was so clear. If I went back to Mexico I'd definitely check out a less busy cenote like Calavera.

Jon Algie

Friday 15th of May 2015

I probably swam in the same one too, the cenotes close to Chichen Itza are definitely busier but are still great places to visit.

Ryan Biddulph

Monday 11th of May 2015

Way cool Jon! Caldera's really do fascinate the stuffing out of me. Maybe it's from my geology classes, back when I was getting my meteorology degree LOL. Really stunning shots and a must see place, as well as a must do activity. Marked for my travel list. AND we're going to Mexico in September; perfect timing ;)

Thanks for the fun share.


Jon Algie

Thursday 14th of May 2015

Try and go to as many as you can, they were my favourite thing about Mexico and all the ones we went to were really different.