Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is a cenote?

Cenote comes from the Mayan word “dzonot”, which means sacred well. The cenotes are beautiful natural swimming holes accessing the underground rivers, filled with crystal clear mineral rich fresh water on top of the salt water.

The ground where these cenotes are found is made of mainly porous limestone. Slightly acidic rainfall dissolves the alkaline limestone forming underground rivers. At periods that the water table sinks below the ceiling, the limestone roof collapses forming a cenote. Cenotes are a type of solution cave.

Cenotes are sacred to the Maya providing not only access to water but are also the entrance to the largest underground rivers in the world. The Maya connected with their Gods at the cenotes and followed a wide variety of rituals to honor them. When you visit the cenotes, please consider yourself as a guest and act accordingly, while enjoying your experience.

What is the best time (temperature and visibility) to see the cenotes?

Good news, the cenotes offer all year-round great conditions to go out and explore. The visibility is excellent, you can see as far as the light will reach. The water temperature is stable 25 to 27 degrees (75 – 80 Fahrenheit). Perfect for exploring since there is also not much flow.  Although the weather doesn’t affect the cenotes as they do elsewhere, below you’ll find all details to plan your trip to all your preferences.

The Yucatan Peninsula has two seasons, a dry and wet season. During the dry season algae will start blooming in some cenotes. Dry season start in November when the weather cools down to 23 degrees, with a bit of wind coming from the North. November is still “low” season and therefore offers better deals for accommodation and less crowded. December to April is high season. It brings some more wind and is generally dry. May is the end of the dry season and the weather cools down again.

The wet season starts in June. Typical in the rainy season is the yellow-brown (tea-like) color that can sometimes be seen, caused by tannic acid. Currently there is more chance on rainfall, with some wind. July and August are typically hot, with more locals going to the cenotes to cool down. This blue-greenish algae bloom can reduce the visibility at the surface, but as soon as you descent it is crystal clear again. September and October is low season, with a bit cooler weather around 24 degrees and chance on rain. Generally, there is less crowd at the cenotes and better options for availability. October is the end of the wet season.

In the Graphs below (Source: NOAA) you’ll see the temperatures and rainfall on land.

What certification and experience do I need to dive cenotes?

Cenote diving differs from ocean diving, because the environment demands more precise skills. While there is plenty of daylight it’s not always possible to immediately ascent to the surface.

Therefore, to book a guided cenote tour, we require a minimum of 20 dives and Open Water certification. Additionally, your last dive is not more than six months ago and have good buoyancy. A good solution is to take either a refresher or buoyancy class, to ensure your safety and comfort.

Finally, for some cenotes the conditions such as depth, visibility and overhead will require to be at least an Advanced Open Water diver with a minimum of 25 dives.

How safe is Mexico?

We ‘ve all probably read about terrible stories of the Mexican drug war or seen the series ‘El Chapo’.

In spite of all the violence you see on TV, this is for most part limited to drug related violence and not aimed for tourists. The Yucatan Peninsula is, unlike some of the border areas, on a day-to-day base quite safe, especially around the cenotes.

Notwithstanding in every city there can be theft and robbery taking place, as in most places around the world. Taking precautions is never a bad idea, including:

  • Avoid walking in potentially dodgy areas;
  • Use official taxi’s;
  • Leave valuable in a safe place (including at the cenote, consider a dry bag);
  • Don’t keep any valuables in open view.

Do I need a permit for the cenotes?

Many cenotes are located on private property, others are owned by the government. The landowner is responsible for maintaining the cenote, reducing damage and make sure that everything is under control. In order to do so many cenotes require permission.

This permission can be in the form of a permit or fee. The permission is dependent on the activity that you will undertake at the cenote and often requires a professional cave guide. With any of our cenote experience, there will be a recognized cave guide available to obtain this permission for you.

What do I need to bring for cenote snorkeling, freediving and diving?

Apart from being in a good mood, we can provide you with anything you need. First check out the activity that you like to do, because it may already be (partially) included! However, we understand nothing fits more comfortable as your own personal gear. Take a look at our retail shop to help you making the right choice. Below we have a checklist ready to make your experience more complete.

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What is the difference between snorkeling, skin diving and freediving?

Snorkeling, skin diving and freediving often gets mixed up. That is understandable because all three definitions have somewhat of an overlap. To make it even worse different training organizations can have slightly different interpretations. With that as disclaimer, you will find the main distinctions below.

Snorkeling

Everyone with basic swimming skills and no health complications can enjoy snorkeling. Without too much preparations, planning or procedures you can already get started. The only equipment you’ll need is a regular mask, fins and snorkel. During snorkeling you will stay at the surface, using your mask to look what lies underneath, while breathing through your snorkel and finning.

Skin Diving

Skin diving goes beyond snorkeling. Unlike snorkeling, skin diving does not only stay at the surface. In addition to your snorkel gear some use weights. With some basic techniques and equalization, you briefly dive below to get closer to nature, and is a good way of seeing more of the environment from different angles.

Freediving

Freediving is not only an activity, it is a healthy natural lifestyle to explore underwater. In contrary to snorkeling and skin diving freediving consists of various disciplines. For freediving you have specialized equipment, such as a ultra-low volume mask, streamlined skinsuits and long- and monofins. Together with using the right techniques the freediver’s focus lies underneath the surface.

It is not uncommon freediving underwater for several minutes at the same depth as a regular scuba diver. Although it’s often thought these are superhuman beings, it’s simply a matter of getting your techniques right. With good swimming skills and the right motivation, you will be surprised of your own capabilities.

Want to know more, check our activities and courses: snorkeling, skin diving and freediving.

What do I need to consider when driving in Mexico?

Having a car in Mexico offers you more independence of the public transportation and freedom. It allows easier to access the cenotes. If you haven’t arranged any transportation yet and you need help with booking, click here. Although with some adjustments Mexico is generally not more difficult to drive than other countries, before renting a car in Mexico you need have the following considerations. 

General rules and safety

Generally, both Yucatan and Quintana Roo it’s quite safe to drive during day and first hour(s) after the sunset. We don’t recommend driving at nighttime due to more aggressive driving, not always proper illumination available, speedbumps, animals crossing, and police/military roadblocks looking for weapons and contraband. Driving takes place on the right side of the road, and the speed limits are generally marked by signage. In the city the speed limit ranges from 30 km/h till 50 km/h. On the highways it varies from 80 km/h till 120 km/h. In the city there are many roads one-way direction and on the highway U-turns.

Rent

First when renting a car make sure that you bring your driver’s license (mostly there is no international driver’s license requirement). Second you need your passport. The age to rent a car is 21 and some policies demand that the driver is at least 25 years old. Third you will need a (worldwide accepted) credit card.

Insurance

Having a liability insurance is important, so you don’t risk imprisonment (until all damage and fines are paid) when you have an accident. Therefore, adequate coverage is necessary. There are also additional insurances for more coverage of third party as well as personal damage.

 Fuel

Fuel is easy to find on the major roads but can become a problem on more remote places. Both Diesel and Petrol can vary from 16 pesos until 23 pesos. Normally the gas is fueled by an employee of the gas station, who expects a small tip. Before returning your rental car, it’s expected that at least the same amount fuel in the tank.

Car trouble

When you’re having car trouble, make sure that you have a phone with you to call in for help. While there are the Green Angels that can help tourist making repairs, it’s rare that they will be there at the exact time your car broke down. With some rental car companies, they can provide you with extra service for a surcharge.

 Be aware!

Make sure you do your research when renting a car. There are some unreliable car rental companies.

Often there can be problems with booking online. While the rates look awesome, it’s usually to good to be true and when confirmed to get the car you can be confronted with some hidden costs. Another issue that is common with cheaper rates is a compulsory expensive insurance or details written in the fine letters. Finally, it’s always a good idea to take some pictures of the car before renting, to avoid liability for pre-existing damage (or better yet through a car inspection form). If you need help to get a reliable car, please click here.

Ready?

Explore Mexico’s Ancient Cenotes
With Maya Blue Dive Center