Riviera Maya''s Cenotes

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Scattered all over the Yucatan Peninsula, the cenotes are underground, fresh water pools formed by the complete or partial collapse of cave roofs. Many tap into larger cave and river systems that go on for miles, some not yet fully mapped.

The Mayans used to believe cenotes were gateways into the afterlife and made offerings and performed rituals in these natural structures. Remnants of the ancient Mayan presence can be found in and around many cenotes. Our guide led us to one pool in which the base stones of an ancient Mayan steam house once stood. A cave painting decorated the wall to our right and bats nestled in the ceilings ahead. It was beautiful.

Here in the Riviera Maya, Mexican land owners are opening up their properties to the public and allowing visitors entrance to the cenotes. Aware of the potentially harmful impact from sharing this natural inheritance with so many people, property owners only permit the use of biodegradable sunscreen and eco-friendly bug spray in an effort to keep this type of natural tourism sustainable.

Many places that have cenotes also offer a range of companion activities. At Hidden Worlds, you can sky-cyclle through the Mayan jungle to a large cenote where you can go snorkeling in the cave’s river. The cool, underground water served as a welcome contrast to the hot sun and pointy jungle leaves.

Some of the more expansive cave networks have been developed into giant adventure parks like Xplor, where visitors can participate in a variety of activities, including an underground river swim or raft trip. The stalactite formations form an amazing sight.

There are thousands of cenotes dotted all over the Yucatan,and they range from being unknown to family managed, to professional parks. Good cenotes in the Riviera Maya include Cenote Azul, Cenote Cristalino and Kantun-Chi.