Cenote Diving – the 8 best Cenote Dives


Diving, Adventure Travel, Mexico, North America

written by: Steph Kloeckener

Diving in cenotes is an incredible experience and something many scuba divers dream of. Here's everything you need to know about cenote diving in Mexico – unique cenote cavern dives, who to dive with, how much it costs and more

Earlier this year, I announced that I would be hopping over the pond for some scuba diving, but at that point, Mexico was not my intended destination. Diving in cenotes was not part of my travel plans for quite a while. Then, my plans changed in the blink of an eye, and suddenly I was diving in the cavern zone of Mexico’s cenotes. A place, I can only describe as a magical scuba diving wonderland.

And I do not regret a thing, as the cenotes dives were an experience beyond my wildest dreams. They are definitely among the best dives I have ever done, and there is a good chance they will stay near the top of the list forever.

It is impossible for me to say which dive I loved the most, as every single cenote was different and had its own appeal. If I had to create a shortlist that allows divers to see a variety, I’d say Cenote Car Wash with its water lilies, Cenote El Pit with its breathtaking light beam, and Cenote Taak Bi Ha with its delicate structures.

But then again, only diving in these three cenotes would mean you are missing out. Therefore, I can only encourage you to explore all cenotes mentioned below, so you can see it for yourself – that is if you have the proper training to do so.

light rays seen while diving in cenotes in Mexico
Diving in Cenote Ponderosa

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through a link. Please see the full disclosure for further information.

At a Glance: Diving in CEnotes

Dive Center: Ko’ox

Where to stay: The Fives Downtown Hotel or Luxury Condo Boutique

Experience Required: AOWD + Depth

About Cenote Diving

If you have never been to the Yucatan Peninsula, you might be wondering what cenotes are, and why it is so great to dive in them. The short answer is that they are among the most diverse dive sites on earth as the different cenotes offer everything from marvelous formations to haloclines, breathtaking light effects, and in some cases flourishing aquatic life.

Cenotes (pronounced ‘seh-‘no-tays‘) are water-filled sinkholes that were formed due to the dissolution of the limestone bedrock of the Yucatan Peninsula by water. Over the course of time, underground chambers were formed, and when their roof collapsed, the cenotes were formed.

Getting to dive in cenotes is a unique, thrilling experience and I believe that it is one of the most compelling reasons to become a certified scuba diver.

Cenote Dos Ojos Barbie Line edited
Barbie line’ – one of the two cavern lines of Cenote Dos Ojos

For many divers, it is the closest they will ever get to cave diving as special regulations are in place to make the cavern zone of some cenotes accessible to regular divers.

However, divers should never forget that diving in them is a privilege and not a right. In order to maintain that privilege, every single diver must do what they can to avoid damaging or disturbing the environment of the cenote and follow the rules.

Many of the cenotes near Tulum are connected and are a part of one of the two largest known underwater cave systems in the world.

Sistema Sac Actun is at least 229.2 miles (368.8 km) long and incorporates more than 200 cenotes near Tulum. It includes many of the popular cavern cenote dives including Dos Ojos, El Pit, Nicte Ha, Taak Bi Ha, and Calavera, as well as the mostly-open Casa Cenote.

Cenote Taak Bi Ha Columns

More than 140 cenotes south of Tulum are part of the Ox Bel Ha system, but to my knowledge, none of them are currently open to regular divers. While Cenote Angelita is located in this area, it is not connected to this system.

What is the Best Time to dive in cenotes?

You can scuba dive in cenotes year-round and there is no best time to dive in cenotes if your main goal is seeing the speleological structures.

However, the summer months from April to September are the best time for cenote diving if you want to see the light effects. During these months, the sun is in the best position for the enchanting light beams and rays. Hereby, May is the ideal month, as the wet season usually does not start until mid-June.

Water Temperatures

While the first few meters (or feet) can be influenced by the ambient temperature, the water temperature below two to three meters tends to be relatively stable throughout the year. Hereby, the water temperature of the freshwater in cenotes is between 24°C and 26°C (75.2°F to 78.8°F). The temperature of the saltwater below the halocline varies a bit more and can be up to 27°C (80.6°F) in the summer months.

What is a halocline?

A halocline is a density interface that divides different salinity levels in the water column. In the case of cenotes, the halocline divides the freshwater at the top from the salty seawater at the bottom.

If you look around above and below the halocline while diving in cenotes, you will notice that structures like stalagmites and stalactites slowly corrode in the saltwater below the halocline, while they are preserved in the freshwater. Additionally, it is noticeable that the cave is carved out at the halocline due to mixing corrosion.

Crucial Cenote Diving Rules

While it is always crucial to dive within the limits of your training and to follow the local rules, it is even more important to do so while diving in cenotes. After all, they are fragile environments, and given that you will very likely be diving in an overhead environment, not following the rules can have disastrous consequences.

If you are not a certified full cave diver, you have to follow certain rules in addition to the basic rules of cavern diving:

  • You have to be accompanied by a guide who is a certified full cave diver and at least a dive master.
  • There are not allowed to be more than four divers per guide, with the guide being in the first position.

Basic Cavern Diving Rules

While you do not have to be cavern-certified to dive in cenotes, you have to follow the basic rules of cavern diving. Not following them, can easily be disastrous for you and the environment you are exploring, so, please abide by them.

Cenote Diving Rules
Cave Diving Warning sign
  • You have to follow the rule of thirds. The turning point is 2/3 of the tank volume (2000 PSI / 140 bar) and you should exit the water with at least 1000 PSI / 70 bar.
  • Do not venture into the area behind cave diving warning signs.
  • Never be more than 1 meter away from the line and always keep an eye on it.
  • Do not touch any of the structures or take anything (unless it is trash).
  • Do not stir up silt. In order to avoid doing so, you have to do a frog kick while scuba diving in cenotes.
  • Only dive through restrictions where two divers can pass at the same time.
  • Be mindful of where your hoses and other gear items are. Otherwise, you could accidentally destroy something.

Cenote Diving Certification Requirements

If you are wondering how experienced you should be before diving in cenotes, there is no definitive answer. After all, there are different cenotes ranging from easy open cenotes to very challenging ones that require absolute buoyancy control.

Therefore, I would not say that there is a specific number of dives after which you are ‘ready’ to go diving in cenotes. It all depends on your skills, prior experience, and even your mindset. And of course, also on which cenote dive you want to do.

If you do not feel ready or do not yet know how to frog kick, it is likely best to stick to open cenotes for the time being. I recommend having a chat with the dive center of your choice about which type of dive you feel comfortable doing, and they will be able to tell you which cenotes are suitable for you.

With that being said: If you want to make the most of your Mexico trip and want to dive in a variety of cenotes, you should at least be AOWD or depth certified. Otherwise, you won’t be able to dive in Cenote Angelita or El Pit.

Cenote Diving with Water Lilies Car Wash
Cenote Car Wash – a great cenote dive for newer divers

At the end of the day, you have to feel ready to give it a try and there is no certification level or amount of dives that magically ensures you are ready.

If you are not sure if you are ready, it might help to hear what my first cenote dive was like. You can read all about it by clicking on the (+) sign below.

This dive is the reason why I believe that having the right mindset is crucial. And while I am not proud of how I went into this dive, I believe that it at least partially helps convey why you have to mentally prepare yourself for all diving in cenotes entails:

I tend to consider myself a relatively good diver and already had done some minor diving in overhead environments. But when I did my first cenote dive, I admittedly felt overwhelmed by the new environment. I was terrified of accidentally destroying the fragile stalagmites and stalactites in the cavern zone. I started the dive feeling anxious and could not shake that feeling throughout the dive.

Due to this fear, my first cenote dive was definitely not my best dive. I was so focused on that fear, that I was unable to properly focus on why my trim was more than off. As it is, it was only some weights being in the wrong location, but during the cenote dive, it did not even cross my mind. Usually, it would have been obvious.

Thanks to prior experience, I was able to continuously push myself into a better trim through fin movement, but it was not ideal. I only realized what had happened once I had completed the dive without destroying anything as I has feared. And then I reflected on how I went into the dive and tackled that fear ahead of the next dive. And let me tell you that all cenote dives after that were much more pleasant.

Based on that, I personally would not recommend diving in cenotes too early in your ‘scuba diving journey’. It is all too easy to accidentally crash into a structure if you are distracted by something, or even endanger yourself. Having the experience to react without a lot of thinking thanks to prior experience can be quite good.

So do not rush into it and dive at these amazing dive sites another time: that way, you will have a much better time and can actually enjoy the experience.

Cenote Dives for Recreational Divers

While cenotes are usually categorized based on their age, a different way of categorizing applies when it comes to scuba diving in cenotes. After all, different cenotes are known for a variety of attributes as well as different levels of difficulty. Hereby, some cenotes are suitable for different skill levels as they are diverse enough to offer two different types of dives as it is possible to have a fantastic cenote dive without entering the cavern zone.

Right now, most reputable dive centers and independent instructors dive the cenote dives that are suitable for recreational divers into three levels of difficulty. As you begin diving in cenotes, you will first have to dive in a level one cenote, before you can continue to the next level.

An even more detailed, shared difficulty framework with four levels is currently being established, but as of now, every dive center tends to classify the cenote dives on its own.

Cenote Dives for less experienced Divers

If you are a relatively new diver and have not yet mastered your buoyancy skills to the level required when diving in cenotes with overhead areas, it is best to stick to open cenotes or cenotes that are amazing even if you skip the cavern line.

They are ideal if you are in the area and do not want to miss out on the entire cenote diving experience. These newer diver-friendly cenote dives will grant you a glimpse of what it is like to dive in cenotes and you will have a great time without endangering yourself or the cenote environment.

These cenotes are also good starting points if you are already an experienced diver, but are worried about accidentally bumping into structures as you have not been diving in a while.

Casa Cenote (level 1)

maximum depth: 8 m (26.2 ft)

Casa Cenote is good for Open Water Divers as it is an open cenote. While it is possible to explore a cavern zone, it is not necessary in order to have an interesting dive. As you dive, you are surrounded by mangroves and can see their roots reaching into the water. Something, that makes this cenote dive very different from other divable cenotes.

Located only 50 meters away from the beach, it is directly connected to the ocean by a small cave that experienced divers can swim through. Therefore, it is possible to encounter saltwater fish like Atlantic tarpons and in rare cases even Manati in this cenote. Blue dancing crabs can usually be found near the rocks and if you are lucky, you can see Panchito, a friendly Morelitii crocodile relaxing at the surface.

Casa Cenote Snorkeling
Casa Cenote Diving Mangroves
Freediving Casa Cenote

While the bottom is sandy, there is a small current, which means that silt tends to clear out by less experienced divers. This makes it the most popular cenote for Discover Scuba Dives or Open Water courses.

It is one of the best cenotes for snorkeling and also a nice freediving spot. In fact, I only snorkeled in this cenote and did some basic freediving. While the visibility is not as perfect as in other cenotes, it is still good. You can easily observe the halocline while freediving or scuba diving in Casa Cenote.

Cenote Car Wash (Aktun Ha) (level 1 – 2)

maximum depth: 15.5 m (50.8 ft) 58 minutes

Cenote Car War (Aktun Ha) might have been named after the taxi drivers that used to wash their cars here as it is close to Tulum and the road, but this cenote is much more than that.

Most of the year, it is a wonderful dive for newer divers as the open area is full of colorful fish and water lilies. It is a stunning underwater scenery full of aquatic life. There are fish everywhere, and you will find a very large school swimming around the branches at the entrance of the cavern zone.

Cenote Diving Car Wash
Cenote Car Wash Diving Fish
Cenote Car Wash Diving Fish Swarm

If you have a keen eye, you will also be able to spot red-slider tortoises swimming between the water lilies.

More experienced divers who have some cavern experience can also explore the cavern zone which has great decorations. To explore this area you need solid buoyancy skills. But while it is great to get to follow the cavern line, doing so is not necessary to enjoy diving in this cenote.

I, myself, spend far more time taking photos in the open area than exploring the cavern zone as this cenote is a photographer’s dream.

Water Lilies Cenote Car Wash Aktun Ha
Cenote Car Wash Water Lilies
Cenote Car Wash Diving among Water Lilies

In the summer months from June onwards, Cenote Car Wash starts to change its appearance and turns into an otherworldly dive site. The temperatures cause algae growth and the first two meters to get cloudy and turn green. And once it has rained, the water can even turn orange or yellow. 

Thanks to the fact that the water below 2 meters (6.7 ft) remains clear, it suddenly looks like you are diving in a colorful environment under a cloud.

Unique Cenote Dives

While every cenote is more than just a ‘hole in the ground’, some of them have features that make them stand out. These features make them the only cenote dive where one can have a certain experience, Therefore, you should definitely add a dive in them to your Yucatan itinerary if you are a certified diver.

Cenote Angelita (level 2 + AOWD)

maximum depth: 32.9 m (107.9 ft) 34 minutes

Cenote Angelita is best known for its 3 meters (9.8 ft) thick hydrogen sulfide cloud that rests on the halocline and can be considered a bucket list dive site. Thanks to the white cloud and the many tree branches that rest on the debris mount, this cenote has an eerie atmosphere that is unlike any other cenote dive.

At the beginning of the Cenote Angelita dive, divers descend down to around 25 meters (82 ft) to explore the debris mount that resembles an island situated in a white sea. And if you hover just above the cloud, it is easy to imagine that you are floating above a river inside of the cenote.

In order to see a mostly undisturbed hydrogen sulfide cloud, it is best to arrive early. If you arrive later in the day, other divers will have already stirred it up while entering and exiting it to catch a glimpse of the pitch-black area below it. Try to be among the first divers on site.

Cenote Angelita Looking Up
Dive Cenote Angelita
Cenote Angelita Debris Mount

Given the depth of this cenote’s main attraction, it is only suitable for divers with an AOWD or Depth certification. The depth of this dive site makes it one of the shorter cenote dives, which is why divers usually extend the dive by diving through a short tunnel at a depth of 13 meters. There are also some stalactites near this tunnel, including the name-giving ‘Angel stalactite’.

Cenotes known for their Light Effects

While most cenotes have some sort of light effects, there are some cenotes near Tulum that are famous for them. They are the sites of award-winning underwater photography, and while these photos are amazing, it is even better to get to see the light effects with your own eyes.

In some cenotes, you will encounter lightsaber-like beams, while others have curtains of light. And as you dive in these cenotes, the light will gently dance around you and illuminate the dark – it’s a marvelous sight you should not miss.

Cenote El Pit (Pat Jacinto) (level 2 + AOWD)

maximum depth: 29.6 m (97.1 ft) 50 minutes

Like Cenote Angelita, Cenote El Pit (or The Pit) is a deep dive and there is a debris mount, but the real highlight of this cenote dive is the light rays that illuminate the water.  While they are already visible from the surface, the real magic of these light rays that reach down all the way to 30 meters (98 ft) is only visible once you are below the surface.

Best to dive here on a sunny day in the late morning as it’s when the light rays are at their peak. However, this is also when most divers are in the water, so it is ideal to time it in a way where you enter the water just as those who started their dive around 10 AM are leaving. Otherwise, you might only see a curtain of bubbles.

Cenote El Pit Diving
Cenote El Pit Light Rays
Cenote El Pit Dive

If you are looking for amazing photo framing, you should capture the stalactites at a depth of 13 meters (42.8 ft) while facing the opening and the light rays. Be mindful of the halocline between 12 to 15 meters.

Cenote El Pit is cylindrical and has a diameter of around 60 meters. Only 20% of them are open. With a depth of 119 meters (390 ft), it is the deepest cenote in Quintana Roo. However, you will only be diving down to 30 meters where you will find a hydrogen sulfide halocline and a debris mount.

Two tunnels on the side of the mount lead down to the maximum depth. Ancient remains of a giant slot and humans have been found at a depth of 35 meters and 45 meters.

Formations Cenote El Pit
Cenote Diving El Pit Rays

Be sure to check out the ancient pottery that can be found in a nice at the end of your dive. It’s at a depth of 4 meters, which makes it the ideal thing to see during your safety stop.

To get to the water level, you have to walk down steep stairs. If you do not want to walk down with your gear, you can ask for your gear to be let down with a pulley for 50 MXN.

Cenote Tajma Ha (level 2)

maximum depth: 14.3 m (46.9 ft) 66 minutes

If you want to see rather unique light effects, then Cenote Tajma Ha is perfect for you. Just know, that it is a more advanced dive site, as there are a lot of changes of depth during this dive. 

This can make the dive hard for those who have trouble with equalizing. According to a local dive center, these depth changes also mean that divers who have yet to master their buoyancy also tend to end up at the ceiling.

After starting the dive at a very small open area where fish will give you a free fish spa visit if you are not wearing boots, you can start by following the cavern line left or right. 

Cenote Tajma Ha Diver Light Beam
Halocline Diving Cenote Tajma Ha
Cenote Tajma Ha Points of Light

If you start on the left, you will start with the highlight of this cenote. Known as the Points of Light room, this area has an air dome like the Batcave of Dos Ojos. Thanks to this, the light that enters through two small holes in the ceiling looks like laser-like beams.

In order to see them at their brightest, you have to dive here around mid-day from March to September. If you start your dive after 12 PM, it is highly recommended to start the dive on the left. Otherwise, you can also start on the right.

While diving in this cenote, you will also see two other cenotes, that are connected by 15 meters deep tunnels. In these tunnels, you will find a halocline that is always between 12 and 13 meters (39.5 ft – 42.8 ft). Out of the cenotes I have dived in, it is the best place if you want to take a photo of a halocline.

Tower of Pisa Cenote Tajma Ha Dive
Diving in Cenote Tajma Ha
Cenote Ponderosa Diver

The first cenote in Cenote Sugar Bowl, where you can see some light rays, and the second smaller one is Cenote Esmeralda. While this one is a great photo spot, you have to be careful, as there are a lot of branches and debris that can easily be stirred up with one wrong fin movement.

In addition to the light effect and the halocline, this dive also features some interesting speleological formations including one that resembles the Tower of Pisa.

Cenote Ponderosa / Jardin del Eden (level 1)

maximum depth: 11.6 m (38 ft) 58 minutes

Cenote Ponderosa, also known as Jardin del Eden, is a real paradise as there are animals all around this cenote. And once you descend below the surface, you will be surrounded by small fish in the open area.

The cavern line does not start in the open area, so your guide has to use the safety reel to create a temporary connection from the open area to the beginning of the cavern line.

The first part of the cavern line will lead you through a dark wide chamber where you might spot crayfish and will encounter a halocline. This halocline is situated between 10 to 12 meters, and the temperature difference can be up to 2°C.

At the end of the passage, you will reach Cenote Corral. As you dive alongside the opening of this cenote, you will see a curtain of light on sunny days. Be sure to also look down and up in order to see a lot of fossils and some stalactites.

Cenote Ponderosa Crustatians
Diving Cenote Ponderosa Fossils
Cenote Ponderosa Light Rays

Cenotes with impressive Structures

While all cenotes on this list have some structures, the following cenotes have the most intricate and impressive ones. These cenotes have stalagmites, stalactites, and columns in many sizes and shapes, and it is truly marvelous to get to see these intricate features.

Given that the structures are fragile, you have to be particularly careful when diving in these cenotes even if one of them is technically suitable for divers that have no prior experience diving in an overhead environment.

Cenote Dos Ojos (level 1*)

maximum depth: 7.3 m (24 ft) 59 minutes

Cenote Dos Ojos (eng. Two Eyes Cenote) is among the most popular cenotes for diving and snorkeling and is the most visited cenote of Parque Dos Ojos. Diving in Cenote Dos Ojos is all about speleological features while being a cenote diving-newbie-friendly dive. 

The divers are usually very close to an open area, which makes it an ideal cavern cenote dive for beginners. After all, it is possible to abort the dive at any point without having to cover a larger distance. Additionally, there are rocks on the ground, which means there are no extreme silt issues if your frog kick is not perfect.

There are two cavern lines, and most people start with the Barbie line which is named after a barbie in the mouth of a plastic crocodile at the midway point of this cavern line. Starting out at the First Eye in the east, this dive will take you through a tunnel to the western Second Eye where you do a loop before returning to the starting point. There are four exceptional speleological highlights.

Cenote Dos Ojos Formations WAD
Cenote Diving Dos Ojos WAD
Cenote Dos Ojos Divers WAD

The Batcave Line is usually done as the second dive and is longer and marginally deeper than the Barbie Line. Starting out in the First Eye, you will dive to the Batcave and surface there to look at the bat swirling in the air dome. There are some fossils and five particularly impressive speleological structures. If you do not feel like doing another dive, you can do a guided snorkeling tour to the Batcave.

The Dos Ojos Barbie line dive is the one cenote dive I wish I could redo. It was my first cenote dive and I was too worried about bumping into the structures to fully enjoy it. Based on that experience, I would actually not recommend selecting it as your first dive in a cenote if you are worried about the same thing.

(*) This cenote might be considered a level 1 cenote, but if you need some reassurance that your skills are good enough, you might want to dive in one of the level 1 light effect cenotes like Ponderosa first. Otherwise, you will likely miss out on what this dive is all about: marveling at the structures inside Cenote Dos Ojos.

Things to know:

There are photographers that work for the cenote photo store in the water, so ensure that you have paid the camera fee if you want to take photos at any point during the dive.

Be sure to also walk around the dry area of this cenote. You will see swallows flying around and there are a lot of fossils that are embedded in the walls.

Cenote Taak Bi Ha (level 3)

maximum depth: 7.62 m (25 ft) 56 minutes

The dive in Cenote Taak Bi Ha is the most challenging cenote dive on this list, as it requires excellent buoyancy skills and a good sense of situational awareness. After all, a dive in the cavern zone of this cenote combines very shallow areas where your tank surfaces while you dive, mild restrictions, and a lot of fragile formations.

I would say that it is the cenote dive for recreational divers that is the closest to actual cave diving, and there is no way one could or should dive here without knowing how to frog kick.

As you dive in this cenote, you will see intricate stalactites, stalagmites, and columns, which makes it a photographer’s dream. There is also a large fossilized snail near the midway point of the cavern line.

Cenote Taak Bi Ha Shallow Area

While the cavern line is supposed to be a short line that can be completed in 20 minutes, I highly recommend taking your time while you dive here, so you can take in the detailed formations around you. There is a lot to see all around you and even the surface is a wonderful sight as it acts as a mirror.

Cenote Taak Bi Ha Light Plays
Cenote Taak Bi Ha Dive
Cenote Taak Bi Ha Dive Cavern Line

Which Dive Center should you choose?

There are plenty of dive centers and independent instructors in Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and the surrounding area, and it is up to you to choose the option that is best for you.

Hereby, it is crucial to find a reliable and trustworthy dive center or independent instructor as cenote diving for recreational divers is often cavern diving and therefore comes with additional risks to you and the environment. So do not hesitate to ask some questions before booking your cenote dives and only venture into the wonderful world of cenote diving with a certified guide you trust.

If a dive center agrees to take you to a level 2 or level 3 cenote right away, I recommend walking away and looking for another dive center. After all, a certification level and even the amount of dives you have done only say so much about your skills. It is crucial that the dive center has seen your skill level before taking you on more challenging cavern cenote dives.

Based on my own experience, I fully recommend the following options:

Ko’ox Diving

Ko’ox Diving is a Mexican-owned dive center with an international team. With the main dive center in Tulum, and offices in Playa del Carmen and Cancun, they are a good option regardless of where you are staying.

Koox Dive Center Van

Ko’ox’ is Mayan for ‘let’s go’ and perfectly conveys the adventure spirit that is connected with diving in cenotes. Hereby, the Ko’ox team put an emphasis on having fun in a safe way that is sustainable.

I did most of my cenotes dives with them and got to dive with several of their guides and instructors. And let me tell you that all of them do an excellent job.

Ahead of the first diving day, we met up with them at their Playa office and discussed which cenote dives we would love to do. Based on that, the team helped us figure out an itinerary and even recommended cenotes we had not previously considered. It was obvious they are very knowledgeable and I highly recommend having a chat with them if you are new to diving in cenotes and are not sure which cenotes you want to explore.

On the morning of the diving days, you will meet up at the office and will then be driven to the cenotes. 

Independent Instructors

Christine Loew of Diving Caves is an independent cave diving instructor and has been living in Mexico since 2004, so she knows the popular cavern lines like the back of her hand. She is very passionate about cenote diving and it is great to hear her talk about it if you are feeling nervous.

I did my first cenote dive with her and more than appreciated her intense and informative dive briefing that put a strong emphasis on safety procedures and what to look out for.

It was the ideal preparation and I am incredibly happy she uses her years of cave diving experience to introduce divers to the cenote cavern zone.

While independent instructors like Christine might not always be available as they do not have a team like dive centers, they do know other great independent instructors who can introduce you to cenote diving or who can guide you during your dives.

Diving in Cenotes Independent Instructor

When I return to Mexico and want to work on my skills or just want to do a cenote dive with an instructor and Christine is not available, I would fully trust whoever she recommends to me. And you can do the same. Send her a message via WhatsApp (you’ll find the number on her website) or via social media.

In addition to guided cenote cavern dives, she also teaches a variety of courses including full cave diving. Christine can do courses in English, Spanish, and German, and can do normal dive briefings in French and Italian.

FAQ about Cenote Diving

Is cenote diving cave diving?

While cenote diving can be cave diving, you will only be exploring the cavern zone unless you are fully cave-certified. The cenote dives offered by local dive centers are therefore not cave dives but cavern dives. This means you will stay within the cavern zone and never be more than 60 meters away from the nearest surface point and within the daylight zone.

Can you dive in cenotes if you are claustrophobic?

If you have a fear of enclosed or tight spaces and will likely have a panic attack, diving in cenotes where a large part of the dive consist of following a cavern line is likely not for you.
However, there are also pit-like cenotes like Angelita and El Pit, that do not have (real) overhead areas. Additionally, you can also enjoy diving in the open areas of cenotes like Car Wash and Casa Cenote.

$$Scuba Diving in Cenotes Costs

The costs of cavern cenote divers vary between dive centers, but two dives in one day usually cost between 175 USD and 215 USD.

Hereby, some dive centers offer different packages based on the entry fee of the cenotes you want to dive in, while others have a fixed price or exclude the cenote entry fee from the listed price. Additionally, some dive centers include free gear rental, while others ask for up to 25 USD if you need a complete set of rental gear.

Diving Cenote El Pit Magical Light Rays

Based on this, it is crucial to ask or research what is actually included in the cenote dive package before you book your dives. Otherwise, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise.

All dive centers have discounts if you book several days of diving, so it is best to book all of your dives with one company.

Overall, cenote dives are more expensive than ocean dives, and oftentimes, it is less expensive to arrange diving days that start in Playa del Carmen instead of Tulum.

While many of the cenotes you will be diving in are closer to Tulum, the competition is higher in Playa, as there are more dive centers and independent instructors in town. This, and the existence of central filling stations in Playa, lead to this unexpected difference in prices.

Cenote Camera Fees

Thanks to social media and award-winning photography of cenotes, nowadays, most owners of cenotes have implemented camera fees. These fees apply both to landside and underwater photography and the only way to avoid these fees is to use your phone when taking photos. However, that usually means you will not be able to take photos while you are diving – that is unless you have an underwater housing for your phone.

The camera fees are not included in the dive packages offered by dive centers and have to be paid in cash at the cenote. Therefore, it is crucial to bring enough money if you want to take photos while scuba diving in cenotes.

While I always try to keep my posts updated, cenote diving camera fees can change without prior notice, so please know that the fees listed below might have increased.

Casa Cenote: 100 MXN (5 USD) for GoPros & 500 (25 USD) for all other cameras

Cenote Car Wash: 150 MXN (7.50 USD)

Cenote Angelita: 500 MXN (25 USD)

Cenote El Pit: 300 MXN (15 USD)

Cenote Tajma Ha: 200 MXN (10 USD) for small non-professional cameras & 500 MXN (25 USD) for professional cameras

Cenote Camera Fees Diving

Cenote Ponderosa: currently no camera fee; only phone photos are allowed until you are underwater

Cenote Dos Ojos: 300 MXN (15 USD)

Cenote Taak Bi Ha: 200 MXN (10 USD) for small cameras & 300 MXN (15 USD) for large cameras

Cenote Zapote: 700 MXN (35 USD) – the most expensive cenote camera fee

If you are planning to do a lot of cenote dives, the cost of camera fees can easily rack up, so contemplate if the additional expense will be worth it. After all, the cenotes are darker environments, which means having good video lights or flashes and at least a higher quality camera is crucial if you want good photos.

Some cenotes distinguish between professional cameras and small action cameras such as GoPros, so consider just using the camera in those cenotes if you want to save some money while still having some underwater photos.

Cenote Diving Trip Packing List

While most dive centers have rental gear and sometimes even include it in the dive costs, it is always best to bring your own scuba gear. After all, it is the setup you are used to, which should make you feel more comfortable while exploring this new world of cenote diving.

Diving in Cenotes Packing List
  • mask Also pack antifog spray if you need it.
  • fins & boots Frog kicking is crucial when you are diving in cenotes, so I recommend Apeks RK3 fins.
  • regulator set – Some dive centers have yoke tanks, while others have DIN tanks, so be sure to bring your DIN-to-Yoke adapter!
  • wetsuit – Given the water temperature in the cenotes, it is best to wear a 5mm or 7mm wetsuit.
  • BCD Back-inflating BCDs like the ScubaPro Hydros Pro or wing/backplate sets are ideal for cenote diving.
  • torch Unless you only dive in shallow open cenotes, it will be dark, so you need a good diving torch. Also, bring a backup if you have one.
  • dive computerAs always, it is crucial to have a good and reliable dive computer.

Here are some things that you are not allowed to bring on a cenote dive if you are a regular diver: gloves and knives. Additionally, you should not bring an SMB as you won’t need it and it will only be another thing that could get caught in the formations.

Where to Stay

Price-wise, it is cheaper to stay in Playa del Carmen. After all, the competition of dive centers makes booking a cenote dive from Playa cheaper than from Tulum.

Akumal and Puerto Aventura are interesting options if you do not want to be surrounded by the bustle of touristic places. However, you need a rental car to get around or ask the dive center or your independent instructor to pick you up (which might come with an additional charge).

Fantastic accommodations in Playa del Carmen: The Fives Downtown HotelLuxury Condo Boutique

Great hotels in Tulum: Luhme CabinsDos Ceibas Eco Retreat

Planning a trip?

Check out these useful websites and resources I use to plan my own adventures.

Wanderlust edited

Photo credits: Thanks to my dive buddy and friend Florine of World Adventure Divers and Andres of Ko’ox Diving for providing images of me diving in cenotes. In total, six photos were not taken by me.

Roundup: Scuba Diving in Cenotes

As you can see, cavern diving in cenotes is amazing and very diverse. It is a small glimpse into cave diving without the intense training requirements and yet a safe activity as long as you follow the rules. It is an intense experience that can feel like you are exploring another planet while highlighting how beautiful our planet is and what it has to offer.

With their formidable structures, light effects, and fossils, the cenotes in Mexico are a dream destination for adventure lovers. And I can only encourage every passionate diver (who is not claustrophobic) to dive in at least one cenote. I promise, that you will not regret it!

More about Diving

If you love scuba diving, you might also be interested in these diving guides:
Diving in Cozumel
Liveaboard Packing List

Did any information about Diving in Cenotes surprise you?

Let me know in the comments down below!

Pin this information about Diving in Cenotes for later use!

3 images that show what cenote diving is like
unique cenote dives

This post about cenote diving has been created in collaboration with an independent instructor and dive centers in Playa del Carmen. As always, all opinions expressed are my own and are not influenced in any way.

I am the founder of A Nomad's Passport and a solo traveling digital nomad, photographer, and writer. Originally from Germany, I have lived in several countries including Australia & Mexico.

As an outdoor lover and culture enthusiast, I love writing about all forms of adventure travel ranging from outdoor activities like scuba diving and hiking to cultural experiences, alongside road trips and itineraries that combine these elements.

A Nomad's Passport is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

1 thought on “Cenote Diving – the 8 best Cenote Dives”

Leave a Comment