Cenote Yax-kin Near Tulum, México

Cenote Yax-kin near Tulum

Finally! Finally made it to a cenote! I’ve been living in Playa del Carmen for over three months now and had failed to make it to a cenote. I just couldn’t figure out how to get there without buying an expensive tour package. Once my friend in Ixtapa helped me figure out the colectivo van service in México (Thanks, Friend!), I knew I had to make it to a cenote.


Cenotes are formed from limestone that has collapsed to expose fresh groundwater. They come in all shapes and sizes and there are thousands throughout the Yucatán Peninsula here in México. Some are just a small hole in the topsoil that leads into a large, dark cave filled with crystal clear water and cool rock structures. Some are more like natural swimming ponds surrounded by amazing limestone surfaces.

Dirt path to cenote
Into the woods we go! Luckily the turns to the cenote were well marked.

There are a ton of different activities available at cenotes, but you have to do a bit of research to find what you are specifically interested in. Cave scuba-diving? Buy a tour that takes you to cenotes with elaborate cave systems. Jumping off cliffs? Go to a deep cenote with a diving platform. Instagram photos? Go on a sunny day (for those gorgeous sunbeams) right when they open on a weekday to avoid crowds. Crocodiles? They have ones with those too!

My goals for the cenote were not too expensive, did not require life-vests, easy to get to, clear water with hopefully some snorkeling, and, most importantly, it had to have a bathroom (or equivalent). You never know when you are going to need to poop! I decided on Cenote Yax-kin near Tulum. It had a bonus of also having a restaurant that looked rather good. I figured if I went early on a school-day there would be hardly any children.

Getting there

After a bit of research, a friend and I headed to the central colectivo station near my apartment. They had vans leaving for Tulum or Cancun about every 5-10 minutes for around 50 pesos per person (~$2.50 USD). We immediately jumped on one heading to Tulum, filling up the last two seats. It was very cozy and hot and I was glad we were wearing masks. It’s still COVID times after all.

We stopped along the route and picked people up or dropped people off. The driver would yell out major attractions and you could yell to be let off at anytime. At mile marker 242, we yelled to be let out by the side of the highway. The cenote had a large sign, so it was easy to find. The gatekeeper gave us a note to give to the cenote operator (basically stating we were two people with no car, so we didn’t have to pay for parking), and we started walking down a dirt driveway into the woods.

Mrs. ItchyFeet at Cenote Yax-kin
I wore a sunshirt and hat because sunblock is really bad for the creatures that live in this delecate ecosystem.

There were signs directing us which ways to go at each turn and we didn’t get lost even once. That’s a kind of rare thing! We finally made it to the cenote booth where the operator let us know where everything was and that we could rent snorkel gear, life-vests, and that he sold snacks. It had just rained, and we were both getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. Time to hit the showers and jump in!

Are we all alone?

After showering off any traces of chemicals that could damage the delicate cenote ecosystem (and peeing in a toilet manually powered by a bucket), we wandered down to the water. We were completely alone. Like there was this gorgeous pond with crystal clear water in the middle of the jungle and there was no one else around. Crazy!

Then we touched the water. Crap nuggets! So cold! So so cold! But so neat. You could see all kinds of fish and snails and cool rock formations. We put on our snorkel gear and floated all around. I was both hoping that a crocodile had made its way in during the night, but also hoping that we didn’t die. No crocodiles, but I saw a turtle, which is all you can really ask for in life. Love reptiles.

We snorkeled for a bit, then just swam around watching the dragonflies catching bugs near the water. There was a noticeable lack of mosquitos in the area. One dragonfly kept trying to use our heads as a landing pad, which was very cool. While it was very exciting to have the entire place to ourselves, I’m pretty social, and I was bummed we didn’t have any strangers to talk to.

Cenote Yax-kin
How gorgeous is this!?! What a fun cenote!

Cold! So cold!

I got so cold! Teeth chattering, fingers numbed, lips blue, cold. I’m going to bring my wetsuit next time. I had to get out and warm up on the hot rocks surrounded the cenote. Luckily, some visitors from California joined us. We chatted them up for a bit. They were only in town for a couple days to sign some paperwork to buy some property, and also visit a couple cenotes! I love meeting new people and hearing all about what they are up to in this crazy world.

After that, it was time for lunch. I put on some dry clothes and slathered on some picaridin mosquito repellent. Ha! Take that mosquitos! The restaurant had great food and was not very expensive at all. Nice and convenient. The serving sizes were just right as well, so we didn’t waste anything. Noms! That break for lunch allowed me some time to warm up and get feeling back into my fingers. I never thought I would be cold in the tropics.

The mosquito repellent was well worth it, but we had to wash it off before heading back into the cenote. No lotions, sunblock, bug spray, or other chemicals in the water system sustaining the Yucatán Peninsula. Very important! We rinsed off in the showers and headed back into the cold, cold water.

Headed home

It started raining while we were swimming. This sent the dragonflies into hiding and the mosquitos came out in force. A few more people came and went, but I think the weather was keeping people away. I couldn’t take the cold for too much longer. We dried off, added bug repellent to our bodies, changed into clean clothes (no changing stations meant we had to do it all secret-secret under our towels!), and headed out.

Mrs. ItchyFeet at Cenote Yax-kin
The water was cold but really fun to swim and snorkel in. Would do it again!

Now for the tricky part. We had to make it across a very busy freeway to catch a colectivo van on the other side. Danger! There was a median, so we just ran for it to the median and waited for another break in traffic to make it the rest of the way. Just about a minute after making it across the freeway, we spotted a colectivo and flagged it down to pick us up (we took the last two seats!).

The ride to Playa del Carmen was uneventful and cost the same as the ride to the cenote. So easy! We were glad we brought water for the whole day. I drank a grip of it walking the rest of the way home from the colectivo station (about a 25-minute walk). It was a lovely day and we will probably do it again soon. I might try a different cenote just for funsies… and bring my wetsuit!

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