In our unending quest to find the best activities in Tulum, it’s impossible to overlook the fact that the world’s largest underwater cave system - which are known as cenotes in the Riviera Maya region of Mexico - lis close by, offering ample opportunities for snorkeling and diving in the clean fresh water. As the cradle of Mayan culture, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is also home to many different ancient archaeological zones that marvel visitors from around the world with their ancient mystique and breathtaking architecture.
The countless cenotes (pronounced se-noh-tays) that dot the lush coastal Caribbean jungle landscape today also served as sacred sites, where the ancient Maya came to worship and perform rituals. Most recently, the world’s largest cenote (underground freshwater cave) was discovered near the city of Tulum when the Underwater Exploration Group of the Great Maya Aquifer Project (GAM) found a subterranean passageway that stretches 215 miles, linking two of the largest previously known flooded cavern systems in the world, cenotes Sac Actun and Dos Ojos.
“This immense cave represents the most important submerged archaeological site in the world, since it has more than a hundred archaeological contexts, among which is evidence of the first settlers of America”, writes National Geographic explorer Guillermo de Anda, who also serves as the director of the GAM.
You can enjoy both snorkeling and cave diving at cenote Sac Actun, which lies just a half hour from downtown Tulum close to cenote Dos Ojos. Snorkel gear and a life vest will be provided and there are guides available for hire when you arrive. Tour groups are typically kept small and are not rushed. This experience actually includes both Sac Actun and Pet Cemetery cenote, which are both natural caves accessed by steep ladders and steps that are easy to navigate for most visitors. Although the tour never requires you to crawl or squeeze through tight passages, travelers who are claustrophobic or afraid of water probably won’t enjoy this trip.
Situated less than a mile and a half from Sac Acun, Cenote Dos Ojos is a must-do for divers who are looking for something different, but this is also an amazing place to swim and snorkel. There are actually two sinkholes here that lie about 70 meters apart and are connected by a winding 400-meter submerged passageway. Visibility under water is amazing at Dos Ojos, which is actually Spanish for “Two Eyes.” Snorkeling equipment is available for rent and this site caters to serious divers. There are two main platforms where you can enter the crystal-clear water, which stays a consistent 77 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius) and is very comfortable for swimming - especially after coming in from the heat outside!
“Tulum has become a mecca of cave diving”, writes National Geographic. “Underwater explorers from different latitudes have dedicated a great part of their lives to exploring this landscape”.
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Want to see more of the best things to do in Tulum, Mexico? Check out our blog, 18 Reasons to Love the Lifestyle in Tulum, Mexico!