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Forget the tacos…if you ask our kids about the best thing about Mexico, they’ll probably all tell you, it’s the cenotes (but the tacos are a close second)!
Surprisingly, most people aren’t aware that most cenotes are surprisingly kid friendly. I mean, they’re all essentially swimming holes in the middle of the jungle, so it’s hard to get more kid friendly than that. (and despite what your hotel tells you, don’t go on a tour – just get a car for the day and drive out so you can spend as much time as you’d like!)
After living in Mexico for 3 months in 2018, we got to visit A LOT of cenotes, and we’re so excited to share with you our favorites (and ones that you should skip altogether).
Also, just for a reference, when we were there our kids were 10, 8, 5, 3, and 1 so we have a really wide range that we were looking to please.
Where are the best Cenotes in Mexico located?
If you’re looking for where the best cenotes in Mexico are located, head to the Yucatan penninsula and the Riviera Maya area. There you’ll find a high concentration of Mexico cenotes and can easily visit several in one day. Most of the best cenotes to visit with kids are located in the Yucatan and Quintana Roo areas of Mexico. You’ll find a high concentration of family friendly cenotes between Cancun and Tulum (and all the way south to Bacalar).
While you’re visiting the best cenotes Mexico has to offer, I highly recommend also visiting the Island of Cozumel for some of the best diving and snorkeling we’ve ever found as well as a beach vacation to Isla Holbox.
Map of the best Mexican Cenotes with kids
Things to take with you when visiting cenotes with kids:
- Goggles or mask and snorkel (some cenotes allow fins and others don’t) We’ve been using this affordable snorkel set for our kids for the last 7 years and love it (the dry top snorkel is the best we’ve found for kids)
- Biodegradable Sunscreen – To visit a kid friendly cenote, you always need to be wearing biodegradable sunscreen to help protect the plants and animals there. You can buy cenote friendly sunscreen at most local supermarkets, or buy this sunscreen before you go.
- Life Jackets for younger kids – many have adult life jackets and occasionally a couple larger child ones, but we almost always needed our own for our younger kids. We’ve traveled with this quick drying toddler life jacket for years and it’s been great for us.
- Quick Drying Towels – We always took some quick drying towels with us and they were an absolute life saver. We used them every day of our trip, and loved that they rolled up super small and didn’t add any significant weight to our luggage.
Best Cenotes to Visit with Kids
All cenotes in Mexico are beautiful, but not all are well suited to kids. To find the best centoes Mexico has for kids, we’re detailing the specifics of each cenote so that you and your family have a wonderful experience.
Best for: All ages can go here, but it is better for kids who are comfortable swimmers (not baby friendly)
Price: 70 pesos for just the cenote or 100 pesos for the cenote and pool
Location: Located just outside of the town of Valladolid, on the way to Chichen Itza
Where to Stay: Casa Valladoilid is a cute litlte boutique hotel that’s great for families. Right in Valladollid, you’ll experience the best of the town while still being super close to the cenote.
As far as beauty goes, this one was our absolute favorite. It’s a deep pit with vines covering the walls and perfectly blue water. It’s very deep so all swimming you do will be without touching, so kids need to be competent swimmers or wear a life jacket.
There is a rope swing that’s about 8 feet above the water that our older kids absolutely LOVED! When we went the cenote only had a few other people there which gave us a lot of freedom to do what we wanted with the kids, which always makes things easier. To make the area more kid friendly, there is a swimming pool next to the entrance to the cenote that you can use as well.
Cenote Verde Lucero
Best for: All ages can go here, but it is better for kids who are comfortable swimmers (not baby friendly)
Price: 200 Pesos
Location: about 20 minutes west of Puerto Morelos on the Route De Cenotes
Where To Stay: Nearby Puerto Morelos is one of our favorite little Mexican beach towns, and you’ll love staying at the Epic Oceanfront Hotel. Not only are you close to Cenote Verde Lucero, but you’re within walking distance of “downtown” Puerto Morelos.
As far as cenotes that aren’t major tourist attractions, this was the best that we found. It’s another deep cenote, and when we went there was a small kayak available for us to use, which made it much easier for the younger kids. It’s also the best snorkel near Puerto Morelos.
It’s surrounded by jungle and if you’re feeling adventurous, go ahead and jump off the 8m platform into the water below. There is also a zipline there that is included in your entrance, that you can ride to drop into the middle of the cenote.
Best for: All Ages, including baby
Price: 100 pesos
Location: Between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum, next to Jardin Del Eden Cenote.
Where to Stay: The Barcelo Maya Palace is less than a mile away and is one of the most affordable all inclusive resorts in the area. Kids will love the easy beach access and the pools!
This was the best cenote that we found for truly all ages, mostly because there are lots of shallower sections and places where it’s easy to get out. With walkways to help you get around, it was easy for us to keep an eye on the kids, but also safe enough that we could give them some freedom. Overall, it was the best cenote in Mexico for a baby or toddler.
There were plenty of places where we could sit on the edge and let the baby play or walk around in the water with him as well (though do make sure to wear shoes as there is a lot of algae you can slip on). All 4 of our older kids loved jumping off their little cliff that was about 2.5m high (yes, even our 3-year-old). The only problem with this cenote is that it gets VERY CROWDED. I advise to go there as soon as it opens and leave once the crowds really pick up.
Best for: All ages, including baby
Price: 100 Pesos
Location: About 3 km south of the Dos Ojos cenote complex
Where to Stay: The villas at The Yellow Nest are near Yax-Kin and Dos Ojos and have such a dreamy Tulum vibe. The bogger rooms have their own private plunge pools – perfect for the kids!
This cenote truly felt like a secret gem and is an excellent cenote for toddlers and all ages. It was mostly locals there, and the area around the cenote was clean and well set up with lots of palapas and lounge chairs available. Of all the cenotes we visited, this was by far the most baby friendly. Our little guy wasn’t walking yet and there was a large area that was really shallow that he could just crawl around and splash in.
This cenote is a bit harder to find, so make sure to find it on a map before hand instead of just relying on signs. There wasn’t as much to do for more adventurous kids (besides lots of swimming which is still amazing), but it’s an excellent fit for the younger crowd.
We also consider this the best cenote for learning how to snorkel. If you’re teaching your kids how to snorkel, this cenote has lots of things for them to look at, as well as varying depths that make it an amazing cenote for snorkeling with kids in Mexico.
Cenotes Samula and Xkeken
Best for: Xkeken is good for all ages, Samula is good for confident swimmers
Price: 80 pesos for one cenote or 125 pesos for both
Location: a few km southwest of Valladolid on route 180
Where to Stay: This hotel is only a couple of miles from both cenotes and is absolutely STUNNING!
These cenotes are located right next to each other, so it’s worth doing both when you’re there. Xkeken is in a cave with stalactites all over and has a really cool feel to it. There are shallower areas where you enter where kids can play, although it is a bit rocky. Once you move into the middle, be prepared for a chill since these waters never get warmed by the sunlight, the farther out you go the colder it gets.
Cenote Samula is a really large cavern with one small hole at the top to let light in. Again, this is a deep cenote so it’s best for kids who are comfortable in deep water. Both of these cenotes provide the cool experience of swimming underground which our kids just thought was the coolest, just make sure to bring some towels since everyone will be really cold when they get out.
These cenotes are in a large complex, and it felt like wherever we turned, someone was trying to get us to spend money (handmade goods, snack vendors, horse rides, atv tours, animal pictures), which is unlike most other cenotes we visited.
What Cenotes should you skip with kids?
Although the cenotes below are very popular, we actually recommend NOT going to them with kids. They are both expensive, and crowded and there are so many better options, so we suggest skipping them.
Gran Cenote outside of Tulum is pretty, but it is also very small, very popular, and as a result was VERY CROWDED! Many people consider it one of the best cenotes in Tulum. My kids kept having people slam into them while they swim and actually asked if we could leave after about 30 minutes. It’s also more expensive at 180 pesos, so it really doesn’t feel worth it. If you’re looking for things to do in Tulum with kids, I recommend visiting Cenote Azul with kids. Although this tulum cenote is a bit north, it’s well worth the drive.
The other cenote we recommend skipping with kids is Dos Ojos. While this Tulum cenote is amazing and it’s underwater cave system is one of the largest in the world, the thing that makes it special is the deep cave scuba diving which kids aren’t going to be doing. When were there this cenote in Mexico cost over 300 pesos to get in, so we skipped it and took the kids to another (sending Dad the next day on a cave dive – and yes, he said our decision was the right one – this cenote is fine on the surface, but not worth the high price just for a snorkel).
Head over here for more suggestions on other great cenotes to visit while you’re in Mexico.
The best cenotes with a baby in Mexico are Cenote Yax-Kin and Cenote Azul. Both have shallow areas where a baby can splash around, though the zero depth entry of Yax-Kin is more suitable to younger babies.
If you are looking for an excellent Mexican cenote to take toddlers to, Cenote Azul is a great place to go. It has several shallow areas, as well as a few deeper pools where they can practice their swimming with a life jacket on. If your toddler is already a confident swimmer with a life jacket, most cenotes are suitable for them.
No, in fact a cenote is a great place for kids to just swim. If your kids are wanting to learn to snorkel, a cenote is an excellent place to teach kids to snorkel since the water is warm and generally calm (especially compared to the ocean).
Cenotes are home to a variety of wildlife, including fish, turtles, and birds. In the more secluded cenotes, you might even spot bats or small reptiles.
We typically just wear swimming clothes and sandals with straps to keep them on (see our top sandal recommendations here). You’ll want to wear sunscreen unless your underground, but make sure you have a reef safe sunscreen.
A cenote is a natural pit or sinkhole that forms when limestone bedrock collapses, exposing the groundwater underneath. Cenotes were sacred to the ancient Maya and are found all over the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.
1 thought on “Best Cenotes in Mexico to Visit with Kids (and which ones to avoid)”
Love this post!! Thank you for sharing – also your post on the alternative to croco cun zoo. Really useful. I’m currently investigating whether it’s a good idea to take my 3 year old on holiday to Mexico and I think it’s a yes 😀