When I first saw the word Cenote, I immediately thought of a $100 bill. After asking a Mexican local to repeat the word several times I finally learned how to properly say it (say-no-tay). What is a Cenote? It is an open water pool most likely formed from the collapse of the roof of a cave. Over a period of roughly 6500 years, these geological events and other forces of nature created over 300 miles of interconnected passageways and cave systems in the Yucatan Peninsula. Cenotes are specific to this area and offer up the chance to explore crystal clear waters and encounter geological formations such as stalactites and stalagmites – some of the most unique natural wonders of the world.
Snorkeling or diving in one of these underground wonders is a must do if you are in or nearby Cancun, Cozumel, Playa or Tulum. The one challenge you will face is determining which one to explore – there seems to be hundreds of them in the area. We asked a few American ‘locals’ and they all recommended Dos Ojos (Spanish for two eyes). Apparently there is an IMAX film floating around out there called ‘Journey into Amazing Caves’ that features Dos Ojos. If you can find it, it will give you an idea of what to expect. I have not seen it yet, but would say if it has an IMAX tag associated with it, it has to be pretty sensational.
Dos Ojos is one of the longest underwater cave systems in the world so it is primo for SCUBA diving. If you don’t dive, don’t let this fact intimidate you, snorkeling is just as enjoyable. If you SCUBA, you must have a guide, if you snorkel, you have the option of hiring a guide or going at it on your own. I typically don’t enjoy the whole guide thing, but we decided to hire one anyway. Mostly because we got there an hour before they closed and we wanted to maximize our visit and squeeze in as much snorkeling as possible. It turned out to be a good idea as he took us to parts of the cave I am pretty sure I would not have ventured to for fear I would not get out alive. It was totally cool – we saw the geological formations I noted above, and can fully validate the water is amazingly crystal clear. There is also a small bat population dwelling in the caves – I don’t know what it is, but I am always completely fascinated by those little creatures.
Key Tips: The water temperatures are supposed to be constant at 77 F, but I found after an hour or so of being underground, I got a little chilly. If you have a tendency to get cold, I would bring a swim shirt. They do offer wetsuits but that seems to be a little excessive. If there is a chance you are claustrophobic, let your guide know. We found ourselves squeezing between some tight spaces that got my blood flowing.
Visiting the Yucatan Peninsula doesn’t have to be all about lying on the soft, white sand beaches and relaxing in the sun with a good book and a margarita in hand. If the sound of that bores you in any way, you can get a bit of an adrenaline rush with visit to a Cenote.