Tulum: Cenote Paradise

After exactly a month in Canada, riding, hiking and sight seeing, we flew from Calgary, via San Fransisco, to Cancun in Mexico.

We’d been told by friends to get out of Cancun as quickly as possible, so we aranged to go straight to Tulum, south of Cancun, as soon as we arrived. We were planning to get an ADO (Mexico’s budget bus company) straight from the airport when we arrived at 6am, but as we soon discovered the first bus wasn’t until 9am and it would only take us to Playa Del Carmen, where we would them have to get a connecting bus to Tulum. At least that’s what we thought as it was all in Spanish and the extent of our Spanish at this stage was limited to Gracies, Como estats ?? and no entiendo (very important).

It was within the first 20 minutes of landing in Mexico that we realised learning Spanish was almost a non negotiable, considering we were to be spending the next 5 months in central/South America, and if English was hard to come by in a tourist hub like Cancun, then it would be even less known in a little town some where in Ecuador.
We got our two buses without too much of an issue and after getting off on the outskirts of Tulum, due to yet another language barrier, and paying another $5 for a Collectivo (shared taxis’) to town, we had arrived in Tulum, hot, tired and relieved.

Our Air Bnb was hard to find but it was beautiful and exactly what we needed after a long two days of travelling. Tulum is a small fishing town that has one Main Street, a beautiful beach and is surrounded by many Cenotes. Cenotes are these amazing underwater cave systems that are either open or closed and vary greatly in price depending on the popularity and the complexity of the cave system.

The next 5 days were spent swimming for hours on end, a nessecity when it was 32 degrees Celsius with +80% humidity.

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Top Cenotes in Tulum:

1. Dos Ojos: this Cenote is amazing for scuba diving and snorkelling as long as you have a flash light. I went scuba diving here and I can 100% reccomendations it as its like another world as you dive and explore the underwater cave systems. Diving in Tulum is expensive however (around $100+USD for two Cenote dives) but I was very glad I did it.

  • Cost: $300 pesos ($$$)

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2. Grand Cenote: this Cenote is an easy 4km bike ride out of Tulum (collectives are also available for 20 pesos). This one is really nice as long as you get there early. We got there when it opened around 8:00am and we had it all to ourselves, however around 11:00am hordes of tourists arrived and you couldn’t swim without touching someone else. Defiantly get there early. This cenote has a bit of everything it’s predominantly an open cenote, but there are caves you can explore and there are also little turtles swimming around

  • Cost: $120 pesos ($$)

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3. Cenote Casa: this one is different to all the others. It’s about 15minutes via Collectivo from Tulum, but then there is quite a walk from the highway to get to the entrance. This one could be mistaken for a river, rather than a Cenote, and it’s connected to the ocean so the water is a mix of fresh and salt water boasting a very strong current running towards the ocean. Loved this one!

  • Cost: $100 pesos ($$)

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4. Cenote Axul: this Cenote is around 30minutes out of Tulum towards Playa De Calman, but only 10 minutes away from Akmal beach (where you can swim with turtles, wouldn’t recommend it) so if you do plan on going to the beach I would go to this Cenote in the afternoon to hang out, swim, jump off some cliffs and have a picnic. Spent a whole afternoon here and it was bliss.

  • Cost: $50 pesos ($)

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5. Cenote Cristal: this one is only worth visiting if you have enough time and just want a cheap place to swim and escape the heat. We spent a hot afternoon here and for just $30 pesos you get entrance to two cenotes, that are opposite each other. It’s not as impressive as the other ones but it’s about 5km out of Tulum towards Bacalar (we rode bikes but you can easily catch a collective), its very cheap and much less busy than some of the bigger ones. Its really where locals go on their days off!

  • Cost: $30 pesos ($)

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Tulum was amazing, we spent 5 days there before we reluctantly moved on to Lake Bacalar via a ADO bus.

  • Accomodation: we stayed in an Air BNB for around $30 each a night for an apartment. We then moved to Hostel Shack which was basic but nice enough for budget accomodation. You can pay anywhere from $8 a night to $100+ if you wanted to go all out
  • Food: we cooked for ourselves a lot by going to the massive supermarket in town and stocking up on fruit, vegetables and rice. Food here was expensive though, ranging from $3 for some tacos up to $1-15 for a sit down meal at a western restaurant.
  • Activities: our main activity here was swimming in Cenotes and bike hire to get around. Bike hire is around $100 pesos a day and you often need to leave your passport as a deposit. Cenotes rang from $30 pesos to $300+

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