Cenotes are the gorgeous sunken swimming holes you’ve probably never heard of. These sinkholes are the result of collapsed rock that reveals groundwater. You can swim in many of these natural pools. Some cenotes are also perfect for cave diving if you’re the adventurous type. Mexico has earned a reputation for its large number of cenotes, but you can find these naturally occurring pools all over the world. Here are seven different spots for your newly created cenotes bucket list.
The Calavera cenote is located in Tulum, Mexico. This one isn’t for the faint of heart. Calavera translates to “skull” in Spanish, and the cenote’s nickname is the Temple of Doom. It’s a nearly 10-foot drop from the entrance of the cenote to the water below. If you’d prefer to skip the plunge, you can use a ladder to climb down into Calavera. Once you’re in the water, look up to see the light filtering through the holes in the ground above. The eerie effect creates the cenote’s namesake skull. You can free swim in the caves deep, warm waters. Certified cave divers can descend beneath the water’s surface to four different entrances that lead to underwater caverns and tunnels.
Cenote Angelita (Little Angel) is located in the middle of the jungle near Tulum, Mexico. This cenote is for advanced divers only. The sinkhole reaches approximately 200 feet in depth. You can dive deep enough that you’ll need your own lights to find your way. This cenote does not have any cave passages. Instead, it is a straight descent in open water. The first 100 feet or so you will be diving in fresh water. Then you will come to a layer of hydrogen sulfate that separates the fresh water from another 100 feet of salt water. This separating layer creates the otherworldly appearance of an underground river.
Cenote Nohoch Nah Chich
Cenote Nohoch Nah Chich is part of a large, underwater cave system that features more than 30 different cenotes. This particular cenote, the Giant Bird Cage, is located on a private, family-owned ranch. You will need to arrange your dive with a guide ahead of time. Prepare to lug your dive equipment on a mile-long walk before you reach Cenote Nohoch Nah Chich. This particular cenote is not as deep as some others, but it is extensive. You will spend most of your dive with stone above and beneath you. As you glide through the water, you’ll have to navigate the stalactites and stalagmites that proliferate in the cenote.
Ik Kil Archeological Park is home to a cenote of the same name. This cenote is a popular swimming spot less off the beaten path than some of the other spots on this list. You can eat at an on-site restaurant and rent a cottage if you want to stay in the park. When it comes to swimming at Ik-Kil, you’ll have to climb down about 100 stairs to reach the water. Sunlight and vines tumble down toward the water creating an Insta-worthy tableau. If you’re craving some extra excitement, you can leap off of the cenote’s diving platforms. Ik Kil’s cliff diving is famous enough to have been included in the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series for three years.
Jardin del Eden
Jardin del Eden, named for the mythical garden of Eden, is every bit as beautiful as its name suggests. A lush jungle surrounds the cenote’s gorgeous waters. You can enjoy a simple swim, rent snorkel equipment on-site, or scuba dive beneath the crystal clear waters. For an extra thrill, you can leap from the boughs of a tree that hang over the water or from the side of cliff. Jardin del Eden is located a shorALl tt drive away from Playa del Carmen.
Lea Lake is a part of Bottomless Lakes State Park in New Mexico, a few miles away from Pecos. The park has a total of nine cenotes, but Lea Lake is the only one open to swimmers and divers. The steep rock walls that once surrounded Lea Lake have eroded, meaning you don’t have to prepare yourself for steep descent or climb down to the water. The cenote even has a sandy beach. The state park has campgrounds and places to eat.
Little Blue Lake
Little Blue Lake is located in the Mount Gambier region of southern Australia. This cenote, sometimes affectionately known as Baby Blue, is open to both swimmers and divers. Its deepest point is about 150 feet down. The spot’s popularity means you have access to a pathway to the water and a floating pontoon out on the water.