Visiting the Cuzama cenotes is one of our favorite day trips from Merida, Mexico. The cenotes themselves are absolutely stunning. But what makes the cenotes around Cuzama really unique is the form of transportation to get to each cenote: by horse cart!
On A Random Recommendation: Three Cenotes of Cuzama
During our first roam around the Yucatan in 2014, a local guy we had met in Merida highly recommended for us to visit the cenotes outside the village of Cuzama. The cenotes we visited near Valladolid were such a highlight of our trip so far that we heeded his advice in order to explore more cenotes. The man in Merida told us to go to the old hacienda a few kilometers south of Cuzama. His recommendation was quite enthusiastic. So we drove around the rural Yucatan countryside in search of these Cuzama cenotes.
A Surprising Ride to the Cuzama Cenotes!
After passing several competing cenote complexes all around Cuzama, we finally arrived at the hacienda. Sure enough there was a man there asking us in Spanish if we’d like to go to the cenotes. We had no idea what we were in for.
We had figured he was going to walk us to these underground natural swimming holes. Perhaps he would simply point us into the right direction after collecting our fee. So we were a bit confused when he then directed us to two young boys (my guess of their age is 10 and 6). They were on something that looked like a mining cart on rails that was connected to a horse.
So we hopped on the cart with the boys and were quickly whisked away on a bone-rattling ride deep into the Yucatan jungle! What a thrill!!!
A few kilometers later the niños stopped the cart and motioned for us to get out, then they led us down a path to the first Cuzama cenote. It was a beautiful underground cenote and we didn’t hesitate at the opportunity to swim around in for a while.
Visiting Each of the Three Cuzama Cenotes
The boys then walked us over to what simply looked like a small hole in the ground. I guessed they just wanted us to have a look into this cave. After peering over the edge, I noticed an old homemade wooden ladder that vertically stretched down into the pitch black, beyond what I could see. So we proceeded to climb down, found another ladder and continued climbing down into this Cuzama cenote until we reached a pool of water for the splashdown off the ladder!
It was, in fact, the second Cuzama cenote!
There’s no place to stand. You go directly from ladder to water. To our surprise, once we got to the bottom of the ladder, the underground cenote was beautifully lit. There was a light connected to a generator, which was strung by long extension cords to the surface.
Equipped with a mask I had brought, I attempted diving down this somewhat narrow pool of water and after about only 10 feet or so it becomes eerily pitch black. It was disorienting and a bit scary to be underwater in this total darkness. Maybe stick to the surface.
This particular cenote was not as visually impressive or picturesque as the other two Cuzama cenotes we visited. But it was a very cool experience to submerge on down into this abyss!
It was then back onto the cart. The two boys and their trusty horse pulled us along to the third Cuzama cenote. This was probably the most scenic of the three Cuzama cenotes and it had a nice deck to sit on or jump off. We did the latter.
Visiting the three Cuzama cenotes was a great experience that I’m so thankful was suggested to us. We likewise strongly recommend visiting the Cuzama cenotes if you ever find yourself in the Yucatan.
If You Go to the Three Cuzama Cenotes:
What to Pack for the Cuzama Cenotes:
Wear a bathing suit and consider bringing a change of dry clothes to change into. There are life jackets available to rent at each of the Cuzama cenotes but no masks and snorkel.
Mask & Snorkel: If you go to the Cuzama cenotes, we strongly suggest packing a mask and snorkel so you can see all the rock formations lit up in this crystal clear water. There are fish swimming around to see too! And although there wasn’t much to see in the black abyss of the second Cuzama cenote we visited on this excursion, there was lots lit up in the other two. Masks were not available to rent. So be sure to pack one. This US Divers Mask is an excellent quality mask for its inexpensive price.
Biodegradable* sunscreen is very important to bring if you plan to go into the areas cenotes. Regular sunscreen causes damage to the cenotes, kills the fish, and add chemicals to the fresh water. So please use biodegradable sunscreen, which can be difficult to find in Merida. This Alba Botanica Hawaiian Sunscreen SPF 45 is a great choice on Amazon, has consistently great reviews, and is inexpensive too. Many cenotes around the Riviera Maya are now requiring this or showering before entering. They’re imposing such requirements on at the Cuzama cenotes, so it’s up to you to be a responsible traveler.
Natural mosquito repellent. During our last visit to the Cuzama cenotes there were lots of mosquitos and some vicious horseflies too. So if you’re susceptible to bugs bites (like I am), bring some spray. Again, we strongly urge natural products as DEET repellent is really harmful to the cenotes and kills fish. This natural Repel Lemon-Eucalyptus repellent works well, isn’t as harsh on your skin, and better for the environment when you enter those fresh water cenotes all around Merida.
Towel: You’ll probably want to dry off after visiting each of the Cuzama cenotes, but your hotel may not appreciate (or allow) taking their towels with you. We love these lightweight microfiber travel towels
Waterproofing: If you’re nervous about leaving your expensive phone in a dark cave as you swim around the cenotes, you may want to just bring it in the water with you. You actually can with a good waterproof case for your cell phone like this It is worth every penny of its $10 price to give you the peace of mind of not ruining your phone. The strap lets you go hands-free too as your crawl down those ladders.
Directions: How to Get from Merida to Cuzama Cenotes:
There are three completely separate cenote complexes around Cuzama run by three entirely different cooperatives: X’Tohil, Cuzama, and Chunkanán. It is very easy to get them confused with one another. All three Cuzama cenote cooperatives provide similar experiences with a horse-pulled cart ride, yet they simply visit different cenotes. Competition is fierce and you’ll experience people flagging you in as you approach. Since we first wrote about our Cuzama cenote experience in 2014, we’ve been back personally been back to check out another one and found experiences at both to be similarly great. (Update coming soon about the other Cuzama cenote we visited). We’ve also heard the same about the other (X’Tohil).
So which of the Cuzama cenotes to go to? That’s entirely up to you. There’s really no bad option. The cenotes at all complexes are fascinating and each have their own appeal. These recommendations may help you to decide.
On a tight budget: We recommend Chunkanán, as it is $100-pesos less than the other two.
Longest horse-cart ride: We suggest Cuzama cenotes as it gives you the most time being pulled around on the carts.
Coming by public transport: We advise X’Tohil, as it’s most convenient to reach by bus or colectivo from Merida.
The cenote complex that was described in this article is the Chunkanán cenotes of Cuzama.
Here’s exactly where each of the three Cuzama cenote complexes are located:
🚗 Self-Driving from Merida to Cuzama Cenotes: From Merida Centro it takes about an hour or so to reach Cuzama. Directions are here on Goolge Maps. Those directions take you past the X’Tohil Cenotes, to the center of Cuzama town. Make a right, to head towards Chunkanán. Within a few kilometers you’ll see a Cuzama cenote complex on your right. Another kilometer or so past that is the final Cuzama cenote complex of Chunkanan. You’ll have no problem finding any of the three sites as there are ample flaggers and even kids on bikes directing you.
🚌 Colectivo or Bus from Merida to Cuzama Cenotes: Buses to the town of Cuzama depart the Noreste terminal, located here on calle 67 and 50. The bus to Cuzama costs $20 pesos each way and takes 1.5 hours. The Cuzama buses depart at these times: 7:45, 9:15, 10:45, 12:30 and 14:30 (at last check, times may change). Alternatively there are colectivos that depart across the street from the Noreste terminal on calle 67. If you are using public transport to reach Cuzama, you may want to ask the driver to drop you off at the X’Tohil cenotes before reaching the town of Cuzama. Otherwise, you’ll need to walk or take a motor taxi the additional 2+ km south of the town, to reach the other Cuzama cenotes.
🚕 Taxi from Merida to Cuzama Cenotes: From the taxi stand at Santa Ana in Merida, expect to pay $1,000 pesos round trip from Merida to Cuzama, including waiting time. But it may require some negotiating to reach that rate.
🚐 Day Tour of Cuzama Cenotes: You can book this well-priced adventure tour to the Cuzama cenotes ($55 USD) that includes hotel pick-up, guide, the horse ride, all entrances, a visit to the town of Acanceh and even lunch too!
More Awesome Day Trips from Merida Mexico:
If you’re looking for day trips from Merida Mexico, be sure to check out our big travel guide that discusses the best ruins, beaches, cenotes, caves, and haciendas throughout the Yucatan.
Continue reading here: 15 Best Day Trips from Merida, Mexico
- We outline how to do all of those excursions from Merida and so many more here: 15 Best Yucatan Adventures
- And if you’re staying in Merida, check out our other travel guide: Top Things to do in Merida, Mexico.