In preparation for my trip to Mexico I read about cenotes (pronounced say-no-tays) and knew I had to check one out while in Playa del Carmen. There are literally thousands of them in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and many are easily accessible as a day trip. For those who don’t know, a cenote is a freshwater-filled sinkhole which forms as limestone bedrock is eroded by underground river systems. The Mayans considered them sacred passageways to the underworld and many were used as sites of sacrificial offerings.
Choosing which cenote to visit can be a challenge. Some are enclosed in caves while others are open-air, more like a lake. While both types offer their own appeal, we ended up deciding on Cenote Cristalino due to its popularity and close proximity to Playa del Carmen.
We were not disappointed.
We spent the better part of a Saturday afternoon swimming, exploring, and watching people jump from the 12-foot-high cliff. It was a perfect way to spend a hot day and I’d highly recommend it to anyone traveling to the area.
Check out the pictures below, and scroll to the bottom for more information about doing this as a day trip from Playa del Carmen.
If you sit with your feet in the water the fish will swim up and give you a pedicure
Watching people getting ready to jump in
Cenote Cristalino has a partial cave to explore
How to do this as a day-trip from Playa del Carmen:
Cenote Cristalino is located just off Highway 307, only 25 kilometers from Playa del Carmen, about a 20 minute drive. It is right next to Cenote Azul and Cenote Jardín del Eden, which we didn’t get a chance to check out but all three could easily be done in a full-day outing.
By car – take Highway 307 south of Playa del Carmen for 25 kilometers. To your right, you will see signs for all three cenotes mentioned above. There is a parking lot at the entrance to Cristalino.
By taxi – You can take a taxi for about 300-400 MXN one way. However, I did not see any taxis waiting around at the entrance so be prepared to return to Playa via collectivo or be willing to pay your driver to wait for you.
By collectivo – these shared mini-buses can be caught in Playa del Carmen around Avendia 15 and Calle 2. Tell your driver you want to get off at Cenote Cristalino. To return to Playa del Carmen, work up the nerve to cross the Highway and catch one heading back the other direction. You just have to stand on the side of the road and flag them down. If they have room, they’ll stop. If they drive right past you, don’t worry, there will be another one along shortly. Cost is about 35 MXN each way, per person.
By tour: there are tour operators offering trips to a number of different cenotes. These often involve multiple stops and other activities such as zip-lining. Prices vary. If you’re looking to have a relaxing afternoon, I’d recommend doing it independently and keeping your schedule flexible.
The entrance fee to get into Cenote Cristalino is 150 MXN for adults; 100 MXN for children. This includes the use of a life jacket, if desired.
Locker rentals are available for 50 MXN
Things to know:
- it is recommended that people do NOT use lotions, sunscreens, bug sprays, etc. as they negatively impact the ecosystem and clarity of the water. There is plenty of shade available so try to hold off on applying sunscreen until after you swim.
- drinks and snacks are available for purchase
- there is a public bathroom at the entrance to Cristalino.
- cenotes are a popular spot for families and can get crowded, especially on Sundays. If you want it to yourself, get there early. Hours of operation for Cristalino are 8 AM – 6 PM.