Day two with our car rental in Merida we decided to set out and explore the local cenotes we had heard so much about. A cenote, meaning sacred water, is a sinkhole created from collapsed limestone exposing groundwater underneath. There are over 6,000 cenotes in the Yucatán peninsula.
There were several tours offered through our hostel Nómadas, signing up for tours through hostels is a really great way to explore the area. They usually pick you up in the morning and drop you back off at your hostel in the afternoon. You’ll also be with other travelers from your hostel so it’s a great way to get to know people while traveling alone.
As I mentioned earlier there are literally thousands of cenotes to choose from in the Yucatán but we had heard great things about the three cenotes of Cuzama. They are located just outside the village of Cuzama about 1.5-2 hours outside of Merida.
Driving to the village we passed through several pueblitos where young boys were standing in the road next to speed bumps aggressively yelling and chasing down our car, trying to offer us tours of the cenotes. Do not stop for these boys if you end up driving there yourself. Wait until you reach the old mining tracks and an old Mayan home made from mud and straw to start the tour.
When we finally arrived to Cuzama we quickly learned that the only way to reach the cenotes was on a horse drawn mining cart cart on tacks. The mining carts looked like they were going to fall apart if you put any weight on them. The set price was $800 MXN (about $40 USD) spilt between five people.
The five of us carefully loaded into the cart, scared it would break from the weight of all of us. We headed down the tracks towards the cenotes bouncing and shaking so hard we thought for sure the cart would collapse. I’ve quickly come to learn that in Mexico there are no safety regulations and anything goes.
When we arrived to the first cenote I realized I had no idea what a cenote was. We went inside a dark cave, down some makeshift wooden stairs to a small pool of water. You want me to swim in that? I thought. Apparently I was the only one who thought it was weird. Everyone else quickly got into their swimsuits and jumped in. Water I can’t see the bottom of scares me, water I can’t see the bottom of in a cave scares me even more.
After the first cenote we walked over to the second. This one looked like a small hole in the ground with a wooden ladder to climb into it. At the bottom of the water there was no place to stand, you just had to jump. Not wanting to be the odd man out again I decided to jump in. The water was most the beautiful color of blue I have ever seen. There was just a small sliver of water in which you could swim in but it was deeper than you could even imagine. They call the water sweet water or dulce agua because the water that fills the cave is rainwater that has been slowly filtered through the limestone making it extremely fresh and clean.
After swimming in the dark hole for about 30 minutes, we hopped back on the horse drawn mining cart that was about to fall apart and headed to the last and final cenote. This one was the biggest of them all. It was HUGE! We walked down the steep stairs to a wide opening. The water was the most intense shade of aquamarine I have ever seen.
Everyone jumped in and we were the only ones swimming about for about an hour. There were little fishes in the water that would nibble at us but this place was too amazing to let something like that bother you.
Getting to The Three Cenotes of Cuzama:
Driving from Merida to Cuzama:
Take Highway 184 to YUC 10 toward Cuzama. When you arrive to the center of town, look for the sign that says “Chunkanán” and take a right. You should arrive at the old Mayan style mud and straw home in approximately 2 miles. There you’ll find people ready to take you on the horse cart to the Cuzama cenotes.
Bus from Merida to Cuzama Cenotes:
You can catch a bus to Cuzama at the Noreste bus station located on the corner of Calle 67 and 50 in downtown Merida. The bus will take you to the town of Cuzama.
From Cuzama it’s another 2 miles to the cenotes.
The bus costs $18 MXN (less than $1 USD) each way taking approximately an hour and a half. You can depart at: 7:45, 9:15, 10:45, 12:30 and 14:30. It’s a good idea to check bus schedules beforehand as they are subject to change.
Colectivos from Merida to Cuzama Cenotes:
The colectivo station is located opposite the Noreste bus station on Calle 67.
It costs $24 MXN (about $1.25 USD) per person, each way.
As with the bus, the colectivo, will drop you off in the center of Cuzama and you will need to take a motor taxi to the entrance of the cenotes at $25 MXN (about $1.25 USD) per person each way.