Last Updated on February 22, 2023 by Nellie Huang
As an expat living in Mexico, I’ve explored more than 20 cenotes. Cenote Azul in Playa del Carmen is the one that we keep returning to. Here’s why.
With shimmering aqua blue waters in large, shallow freshwater pools, Cenote Azul is one of the best cenotes in Playa del Carmen in my opinion. What I love most about Cenote Azul is just how open and big it is. At 600-feet wide, Cenote Azul is said to be one of the largest cenotes in Mexico.
Unlike the typical cenote, the ceiling of the cave has collapsed, giving way to big, shallow freshwater pools that make for excellent natural playgrounds. Plus, you can tread the short hiking trails surrounding it and visit the tiny cenotes dotted around the jungle.
If you’re looking to experience the wild side of the Riviera Maya, I highly recommend including Cenote Azul in your Yucatan itinerary. Here’s more information to help you plan a trip to Cenote Azul.
Table of Contents
- Cenote Azul Essential Info
- Why Visit Cenote Azul?
- What is a Cenote?
- The Importance of the Cenotes to the Mayan
- What Type of Cenote is Cenote Azul?
- Entrance Fees for Cenote Azul
- Cenote Azul Opening Hours
- Location of Cenote Azul
- How to Get to Cenote Azul
- Cancun to Cenote Azul
- Tulum to Cenote Azul
- Which Cenote Azul Tour to Take?
- Things to Do at Cenote Azul
- Scuba Diving
- Facilities at Cenote Azul
- Is Cenote Azul Safe?
- Cenote Azul with Kids
- Rules at Cenote Azul
- What to Pack for Cenote Azul
- Is it Worth Visiting Cenote Azul?
Cenote Azul Essential Info
Why Visit Cenote Azul?
Cenote Azul translates to mean “Blue Cenote” and it’s easy to see how it got its name. The water in the freshwater pool is blue as can be, with shades of indigo to sky blue. (Not to be confused with the Cenote Azul at Laguna Bacalar.)
Tucked right in the middle of the forest, the natural freshwater pool has clear-as-glass water, with plants growing in it and underwater rock formations blanketed in green moss. It’s kept in its original, natural environment – exactly the way I like it.
At just 20 minutes from Playa del Carmen, this cenote is easy to get to by car or colectivo (you don’t need to book a tour to visit). It’s located along the drive from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. And it’s right next to three other cenotes: Cenote Jardin del Eden, Cenote Cristalino, and Cenote Kantun Chi. You can easily make it a full day excursion by visiting all of them in one day.
What is a Cenote?
Let’s back it up a bit and dive into what a cenote really is. A cenote (pronounced as “seh-no-tay”) is a natural freshwater sinkhole formed when limestone caves collapse. The natural sinkhole is fed by the filtration of rain and by the currents of underground rivers. That is why when swimming in a cenote you feel so much freshness. The water never gets above 75°F (23°C)!
The Yucatan Peninsula is scattered with over 7,000 cenotes and caves. This vast network of fractures drains the rainwater from the surface into many vast underground river systems. You can find cenotes all over the world, but only in the Yucatan Peninsula and especially the Riviera Maya can you find concentration of cenotes in one area.
The Importance of the Cenotes to the Mayan
The word cenote comes from the Maya word “D’zonot” or “Ts’onot”, which means “well”. The ancient Mayans believed that the cenotes were a portal through which they could communicate with the gods. They performed rituals in the cenotes which were considered sacred to them.
These days, cenotes are popular attractions in the Riviera Maya that appeal to outdoorsy travelers and adventurous families. If you’re looking to steer off the beaten path, a visit to the cenotes will definitely help you get acquainted with the raw, natural side of the Riviera Maya.
What Type of Cenote is Cenote Azul?
Cenote Azul is an open cenote, which means it resembles a massive natural swimming pool. The visibility of the water is the best I’ve seen in all cenotes, you can see right through the bottom.
This cenote has both deep ends (where scuba divers go) and the shallow areas suitable for the little ones. You can go snorkeling or cliff jumping into the main pool that measures around 10m/33ft deep. Kids will love enjoy wading off the shallower ends and seniors can enjoy a free fish pedicure from the garra rufa fish.
Entrance Fees for Cenote Azul
Adults pay 150 MXN (US$7), and Quintana Roo residents pay 100 MXN (US$5). Only cash is accepted! Remeber to bring your ID if you’re a Quintana Roo resident
Parking is free and you can rent both snorkeling gear and life jacket if you want for 50 MXN ($2.50US) each. When you rent life jackets, you’ll have to leave an ID as a deposit. If you do not have anything on you, then you’ll need to pay a refundable fee of 400 MXN (US$20).
At the entrance of the property, there’s a small toll office where you pay the entrance fees and take your bracelets. Continue driving further and you will reach the main carpark.
Cenote Azul Opening Hours
Cenote Azul is open from 8.30 AM to 5 PM everyday.
To avoid the crowd, I suggest visiting the cenote in the morning. It tends to get busy around noon. And if you come too late in the afternoon, you might not be allowed to enter as they’ve reached their maximum capacity (my friend was just turned away at the gate recently.)
Try to visit during the week as it will be packed on a weekend.
Location of Cenote Azul
Cenote Azul is one of the closest cenotes to Playa del Carmen. But you can also visit it if you’re staying Tulum or Cancun. As mentioned, it’s a good idea to visit Cenote Azul along with Cenote Jardin del Eden and Cenote Cristalino in one day trip.
Click to see its location on Google Maps.
Here are the driving distances and time taken:
- From Playa del Carmen – 16 miles (26km); 28-minute drive
- From Tulum – 25 miles (40km); 33-minute drive
- From Cancun – 57 miles (92km); 1.5-hour drive
How to Get to Cenote Azul
By Car Rental
It’s cheap and easy to rent a car in Playa del Carmen, Tulum , or Cancun. An economy rental car in Mexico averages just $200 for a whole week, which is less than $25 a day. The current price for gas is 16.50 pesos per liter (about $2.50 per gallon). We always use DiscoverCars.com as they’ve consistently given us the best prices and customer service.
To get here, you need to drive south via the 307 highway from Playa del Carmen. Once you pass Puerto Aventuras, the cenote is only 5 minutes away and its entrance is along the highway. There is free parking on-site.
Sadly Uber doesn’t work in the Riviera Maya, but taxis are readily available. That said, it can be difficult to find a cab driver that’ll give you a reasonable price. From Playa del Carmen a taxi ride to the cenote will cost about 300 MXN (US$15) each way. Try to arrange with the driver to pick you up in the evening if you plan to visit nearby Azul and Cristalino.
From Playa del Carmen, take a colectivo from 2nd Street in Playa Del Carmen bound for Tulum. Colectivos usually leave only when they’re full. Let the driver know you’re going to Cenote Eden and he’ll drop you right in front. A single ride is just 30 MXN (US$1.50). Look for the large Eden sign and walk down the dirt road to the cenote.
Cancun to Cenote Azul
As mentioned, the easiest way is by renting a car from Cancun Airport. But those who don’t drive can easily take the ADO bus from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, then take the colectivo explained above to get to the cenote.
Tulum to Cenote Azul
From Tulum, you can also take the ADO bus from Playa del Carmen, then take a colectivo to get to the cenote.
Which Cenote Azul Tour to Take?
If you prefer someone to take care of the logistics, it is possible to visit Cenote Azul on a tour. Check out this Marine Turtle Observation tour that will bring you to Cenote Azul and also swim with turtles in Akumal. Akumal is a protected area where turtles are often found feeding on the seagrass in the bay. BOOK IT HERE.
Alternatively, this 4-Cenote Adventure tour from Tulum will also bring you to Cenote Azul and three other cenotes, as well as a Mayan village where you’ll enjoy a traditional lunch. Transport included. BOOK IT HERE!
Where to Stay near Cenote Azul
Cenote Azul is actually located across the highway from the Barcelo resorts and you can walk here in just 5 minutes! Just be very careful when crossing the highway as cars go real fast!
Consider staying at these hotels if you want to explore all the cenotes near Playa del Carmen as they’re just walking distance away:
- Barcelo Maya Palace All-Inclusive
- Barcelo Maya Beach All-Inclusive
- Barcelo Maya Riviera Adults-Only
- Barcelo Maya Colonial
- Barcelo Maya Caribe
Things to Do at Cenote Azul
The cenote is a natural freshwater pool, and the water is so pristine and crystal clear it’s perfect for snorkeling. Visibility is particularly good here (compared to its neighboring cenotes) and you can see the swaying sea grass, moss, and fish clearly.
As mentioned, you can rent a snorkeling mask and life safety vest for 50 pesos ($2.50US) each. I usually bring my own googles from home and they work better than crappy snorkeling masks.
There are some small cliffs where you can jump from. The cliff is about 10-feet (3m) high, and there’s a platform from which you can jump. Before jumping, make sure to check if there are people beneath you.
This is the only cenote in the area that allows scuba diving. There are caves that extend deep under the ground, which make for an excellent diving spot. Scuba diving allows you to explore the incredible underwater stalactites, stalagmites, and other incredible formations . Besides, with over 500 feet (150m) visibility, the cenote is a diver’s dream!
To scuba dive here, you need to have a PADI open water certification. Be sure to book a tour in advance (you can’t just show up at the cenote). Check out these tours, which all include two dives in different cenotes, one of which is Cenote Eden.
- Cenote 2-Tank Dive $146
- Cenote 2-Tank Dive $149
- Cenote 2-Tank Dives + transport from any hotel in Riviera Maya $174
Facilities at Cenote Azul
You can easily get into the water here at Cenote Azul without climbing any steps. There are several benches and tables surrounding the cenote; you can easily leave your belongings on the benches nearby.
There are no wooden decks or lounging space unlike next-door Cenote Jardin del Eden, but it is easier to get into the water here.
There are toilets, changing rooms and outdoor showers, but don’t expect hotel standards! Facilities at these natural cenotes tend to be very basic, unlike those at the Disneyfied Cenote Ik-Kil next to Chichen Itza.
Is Cenote Azul Safe?
I can see how those who aren’t confident swimmers might be nervous getting into a cenote because of the big boulders and plant life that lie underwater. But put on a life vest, calm your nerves, and you’ll see what a gorgeous, mystical world this is.
For me, the natural setting of a cenote is what appeals to me. Here is where you can get away from the resorts and get to know the wild and natural side to the Yucatan Peninsula. If you’re looking for a more developed, commercial setting, then the Cenote Azul is not for you.
Cenote Azul with Kids
Because Cenote Azul is an open cenote with some shallow areas, it is suitable for kids. There are mnay shallow areas that are great for kids to frolick inThere are small garra funa fish in the water that can give you a free fish spa! Their nimbles don’t hurt, they tickle.
I’ve brought my 7-year-old daughter to many of the cenotes in Riviera Maya. Cenote Azul is her favorite and the one she’s most comfortable in. The water is too cold for her at times, but other times she has a ball. Even when she doesn’t swim, she likes traipsing on makeshift bridges, climbing trees, and chasing after the iguanas (sorry iguanas!).
Rules at Cenote Azul
To protect the environment, Cenote Azul has introduced several rules:
- It is NOT allowed to use sunscreen here. Sunscreen, even reef-friendly ones, can be toxic to the fish and underwater plants here.
- Fins are not allowed.
- It’s mandatory to take a quick shower before entering the cenote. The showers are by the entrance.
- It’s not permitted to bring your own food. There’s a kiosk that sells tacos al pastor and burritos, so you can easily have lunch here. I saw people not following the rule, please don’t be a jerk like them.
- Don’t litter at the cenote and be sure to take your trash with you.
- No pets are allowed at the cenote.
- Drones are not allowed here.
What to Pack for Cenote Azul
Pack all your essentials for a day at the pool such as towel, bathing suit, sunscreen, sunglasses, and dry clothes to change into.
For those who burn easily, I recommend bringing sun-proof rashguards that can protect their skin. Wearing waterproof sandals or water shoes will also be useful, especially in the water (the stairways can be slippery). Don’t forget your GoPro for waterproof photos/videos!
PACKING LIST FOR CENOTE AZUL
- Bathing suit
- Microfiber quick-dry towel
- Water shoes
- Waterproof sun hat
- Breathable, quick dry t-shirts
- Waterproof dry bag
- Waterproof phone holder
- GoPro & charger
- Power bank
- Book or Kindle
Is it Worth Visiting Cenote Azul?
I personally think that Cenote Azul is the best cenote in Playa del Carmen. It’s pristine, natural, and unique; perfect for outdoor-loving grownups and adventurous families with tiny tots.
To summarize, here’s what I like and dislike about Cenote Azul. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions.
What I Like about Cenote Azul:
- It’s one of the most kid-friendly cenotes in the Rivera Maya.
- Fantastic visibility which makes snorkeling here such an amazing experience.
- I like the short hiking trails surrounding the cenote; particularly fun for kids.
- The small cenotes that are off-shoots of the main pools are usually empty.
- Great facilities that are in better condition than that of next-door Cenote Eden.
- Cheap entrance fee!
What I Don’t Like about Cenote Azul:
- There’s a carnival-like atmosphere and it can get crowded even on weekdays.
- No food or snack bar at the cenote.
For those who are planning to travel more of the Riviera Maya, check out other articles:
- 10-Day Yucatan Road Trip Itinerary
- 35 Fun Things to Do in the Yucatan Peninsula
- Where to Stay in Tulum
- 15 Cool Things to Do in Cozumel
- My Complete Guide to Bacalar Lagoon
- Isla Holbox Travel Guide
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links i.e. if you book a stay through one of my links, I get a small commission at NO EXTRA COST to you. Thank you for your support!
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