When it comes to a great day trip in the Riviera Maya, Cenote Santa Cruz is one of many things must-do, must-see adventures in the Riviera Maya.
We recently visited Cenote Santa Cruz and here’s what we found.
After finishing a hearty breakfast in Akumal Bay, cross 307 into Akumal Pueblo, and quickly find your guide waiting at the designated meeting point. He drives you and your party west, and concrete rapidly transitions to jungle as the guide begins a friendly briefing of what you’re about to experience.
Fifteen minutes later, you’ve arrived and step out of the vehicle into the Yucatan jungle. Making your way down perfectly manicured paths, you notice that the bustling sounds of the pueblo have been left far behind, replaced by the calls of Yucatan Jays, Mockingbirds, and the elusive Chakalaka.
Motmot birds announce their presence with their signature call, waving their pendulum-like tails at you as the trade winds gently whisper through the jungle canopy far above. After a short hike, you are gazing down at an opening in the lush vegetation. Gazing into the cavern, the first thing you notice is a blast of cool air coming from below, an immediate relief from the tropical heat. Could the Mayan gods be calling to you?
Your guide is the first down the stairway, ensuring you and your party safely descend into the cavern. Clicking on your flashlight, you look around, mesmerized as you view age-old limestone formations that give the place the look of an other-worldly cathedral. Viktor, your guide smiles. “Welcome to Cenote Santa Cruz. The best is yet to come. Follow me!”
Cenotes, fresh-water sinkholes once thought to be portals to the underworld ruled by Mayan gods, are wonderfully mysterious places.
Thousands of them can be found all over the Yucatan, and many more are yet to be discovered. They are manifestations of an incredibly vast coastal aquifer system, consisting of networks of caves which reach hundreds of miles underground, and are still being explored and mapped.
Cenotes have for generations provided fresh drinking water. Among the known cenotes, Cenote Santa Cruz is perhaps one of the Yucatan’s best-kept secrets. It’s been open for over 15 years, however, the owners are very ecologically minded and are careful to limit the size of each tour to very small groups and only three tours per day.
Unlike many other cenotes which are in many cases large open water pools where tourists splash about, Cenote Santa Cruz is a tiny entrance that begins in a dry cavern, and winds you through a unique 2.5-hour journey back in time.
Making your way through the various water-filled chambers, the guide thoroughly explains the flora, fauna and cave formations, answers any questions you might have and is more than happy to assist with photographs. The average water depth is waist-high for an adult but can be deeper in other portions of the cave system after rainfall.
As you explore Cenote Santa Cruz, you’ll discover beautiful rock formations dating back 60 million years, clear pristine water, and several species of fresh-water fish and crustaceans.
The simple beauty and tranquility of Cenote Santa Cruz are what make it truly unique. Located on private property, the cenote is carefully managed. Admission is by reservation only, and only very small groups are allowed at one time. The result is an unhurried, amazingly intimate and private immersion in the ecology of the unspoiled Yucatan ecosystem.
When you visit Cenote Santa Cruz, you’ll want to wear a swimsuit or shorts and water shoes.
A mask and snorkel for viewing the aquatic life and other underwater features are encouraged. Swim fins are not necessary, and life vests and flashlights are included in the admission fee. Sunscreen and insect repellent are not allowed, as they upset the very delicate balance of the ecosystem.
If you bring a camera, make sure it’s waterproof. Again, the guides here are very friendly and more than willing to take pictures of you and your party as you journey through the cenote and caves. Don’t forget towels, as you’ll be wet when you exit the cenote. Bring your own snacks, and bottled water is a must, as you’re going to work up a thirst.
The staff at Cenote Santa Cruz speak English and will be more than happy to answer your questions.
You can make reservations through Paulina, our concierge. To reserve directly, contact Cenote Santa Cruz via e-mail at [email protected] Or, you can contact Viktor directly. From a North American-based number, dial 011-52-984-188-9017.
Tour hours are 9 am, 12 pm and 3 pm daily. They only accept very small groups per tour slot, so it’s best to make your reservations as early as possible.
If you’d like more information on Cenote Santa Cruz or other cenotes in the Riviera Maya, contact Paulina, who can help you sort through the wide variety of options and make reservations for your next adventure here in the Mexican Caribbean.
All photos are courtesy of Cenote Santa Cruz.