Discovering New Cenotes, Westward from Tulum

Perhaps this is your third or fourth trip to the Riviera Maya and you want to escape the turquoise waves crashing outside your hotel room and explore the hidden treasures that lie further inland. But, you’ve already visited the mesmerizing Mayan ruins of Coba, Chichen Itza, and Ek Balam and their well-known neighboring cenotes. Follow me as we meander down the Coba Road and investigate a couple of new cenotes that have recently opened.

Pass up the beautiful but often crowded Grand Cenote on your right at Km 4 and continue a few more kilometers until you see a sign for Ak Tun Ha or Carwash Cenote on the left. Look for the sign next door that says Zazil Ha Cenote. Turn left and drive 200 meters up the bumpy road until you catch a glimpse of a pastel-colored chapel draped with a Mexican banner. Park your car and enter paradise!

Multi-tiered palapa-covered decks furnished with tables and chairs carved from native hardwood trees or colorful swinging hammock chairs have been built around the small blue cenote, and sandy paths beckon you to stroll further to see more of the native jungle plants and animals. Several wooden staircases descend down into the inviting water of the cenote where a floating island invites you to relax after a refreshing swim. The mouth–like opening to an underwater cave reminds you that the Mayans believed that cenotes were portals to the underworld.

The caretakers working busily on the grounds informed us that a snack bar would be providing food and beverages in the near future. But don’t linger too long at Zazil Ha Cenote, for another surprise of nature awaits you just 25 km away, about one half hour, beyond the Coba ruins. Continue driving on the Coba road through three intriguing pueblos and follow the signs at the roundabout to the Coba ruins.

Drive past the parking lot at the Coba ruins and continue on around the lagoon for a short distance. When you see the sign for “Cenote,” turn left and creep through a sleepy pueblo. Tu