The Yucatan is famous for its spectacular underground freshwater systems called cenotes. These extraordinary sinkholes are representative features of this part of the Caribbean coast. The word ‘cenote’ comes from the Mayan word ‘T’z oo not’ and it means ‘well’. Mayans believed that cenotes were passages to the underworld which was home to gods, spirits, and demons.
Divers who are interested in exploring cenotes should be at least Open Water Certified. Also, it´s essential to know the difference between cave diving and cavern diving. Cavern divers are able to see natural light from outside, while cave divers go hundreds of metres down where daylight doesn´t reach. Divers who plan to go cave diving must use highly specialised equipment in order to reduce the risks they encounter. For cavern diving, on the other hand, divers can use standard scuba gear with tiny modifications so buoyancy level can be controlled and the body´s position in the cavern can be properly adjusted.
This is our subjective list of the best cavern cenotes to dive in Riviera Maya:
Cenote Angelita is one of the deepest cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula. Experienced divers will be hooked by this unique underwater scenery. The only way to dive is straight deep down to 60m, there are no passageways.
Depending on the air-consumption, the ascent can be done slowly winding up alongside the walls. Some huge stalactites hanging from the edge of the cenote remind us of times when the water level was much lower.
In this cenote, divers will find a natural phenomenon between salt and sweet waters called hydrogen sulfide. Once the dense cloud appears, it feels like entering into the world of fantasy, hence, a surrealistic experience occurs.
Cenote Angelita is a diving spot for experienced divers because of its depth. Most commonly it is dived to a depth of 40m. This cenote is also popular for technical dives.
Cenote El Pit
The Pit is the largest underwater cave in the world! It´s a deep and rugged gash in the jungle floor, part of the Dos Ojos cave system. Divers will be amazed by fascinating light beams that penetrate the cavern for more than 40m down.
The entrance is steep and narrow, but once divers are inside the cavern, they appreciate peaceful surroundings by circling around. It is the perfect surroundings to explore enormous stalactites and spectacular formations shaped over the centuries.
Cenote Tajma Ha
Cenote Tajma Ha has much to offer for both cavern and cave divers, is situated 26km south of Playa del Carmen and 5km south of Puerto Aventuras. The cavern tour takes the diver from the entrance into a wide room underneath an air-filled bat cave. Here light enters through holes in the ceiling and penetrates the water like laser beams during the summer months. Along the cavern floor, divers will find hundreds of stalactites lying in the sediment.
Continuing the dive they enter the sugar bowl, a second small cenote where they can see an amazing light show on sunny days.
Cenote Tajma Ha is famous for its stalactites, stalagmites, its spectacular lights effects and its fossil shells. Divers can also discover large rooms of limestone, speleothems, ceiling collapses and a dense halocline. Haloclines in the deeper areas create an interesting mirror-like effects as divers penetrate the layer of salt water, which is below the fresh water.
Cenote Chac Mool
Cenote Chac-Mool is one of the caverns which has a halocline. This is where salt and fresh come together creating fascinating visual effects. With its large rooms and a maximum depth of 12m, Chac Mool is perfect for any novice cavern diver. It also offers long penetration for cave divers and is home to the largest underwater stalactite in the world. The entrance to this cenote is about 100 metres South of Puerto Aventuras. Along the opening of the main entrance, trunks and branches reach into the water. It is here where on a sunny day a stunning laser light show takes place.
A large and beautiful cenote, like a swimming pool in the middle of the jungle. Big rocks covered by mosses and plants on the bottom of the cenote are home to a variety of fish, freshwater eels and abundant aquatic plant life. This makes Pon-da-Rosa a perfect place for snorkelling and swimming as well as for diving courses on days the ocean is too rough to dive.
For inexperienced cavern divers, this cenote is ideal. A halocline stretches through the cenote at 10m. For cave divers there are many different passages to explore, often connected to nearby cenotes.