Best Cenotes in Mexico to Visit with Kids (and which ones to avoid)

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.

Things to take with you:

  • Goggles or mask and snorkel (some allow fins and others don’t)
  • Biodegradable Sunscreen – yes they will ask if you have it and just FYI you can get it at about any supermarket
  • Life Jackets for younger kids – many have adult life jackets and occasionally a couple kid ones, but we almost always needed our own for our younger kids.

Best Cenotes to Visit with Kids

Cenote Oxman

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.

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

 

Cenote Verde Lucero

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 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 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

 

Cenote Azul

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.

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: Between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum, next to Jardin Del Eden Cenote.

Cenote Yax-Kin

This cenote truly felt like a secret gem.  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.

Best for: All ages, including baby

Price: 100 Pesos

Location: About 3 km south of the Dos Ojos cenote complex

 

Cenotes Samula and Xkeken

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.

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

 

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!  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.

The other cenote we recommend skipping with kids is Dos Ojos.  While this 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 it 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).

 

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