The world is a classroom.
There is much to explore in the Riviera Maya — from the rich, Mayan culture encapsulated in the Mayans that dot the coastline to the vast, underground network of rivers and caverns.
We love cenotes because they are lush, beautiful areas that showcase the environmental diversity of the Yucatan Peninsula. Nowhere else in the world will you see cenotes and caverns like these, which is why they draw swimmers, divers, and snorkelers from all over the globe.
Parents looking for a great, day excursion where their children can learn about the historical and spiritual impact of the Maya while having fun should look no further than cenotes. Each cenote has singular features. Some caverns with an overhead environment while others have an open area and feel like an expansive swimming pool.
For parents with small children, you want to look for cenotes with areas where they can play safely and those with a platform, and a ladder to enter and exit the water.
With so many options, it’s challenging for parents to know which cenotes are best for family fun. That’s why we asked local parents for their recommendations on the best cenotes for the entire family. Here are their top picks:
Visiting Cenote Dos Osos is an all-day cenote that makes for a great family excursion.
Dos Osos, which means “Two Bears,” not to be confused with Dos Ojos Cenote, is 10-minute ride south of Tulum. A fresh-water cenote, Dos Osos is a large, circular river with an island in the middle full of water slides. Kayak, swim, snorkel, and eat at this full-service cenote and water park.
All equipment can be rented on site. Bring your bathing suit and towel and get ready to enjoy the day. There is a restaurant on site with both food and drinks.
Location: Cenote Dos Osos is located nine km south of Tulum just after Cenote Angelita. Take public transportation or rent a car. The walk into the cenote is a short distance.
Santa Cruz Cenote near Akumal is known for its deep caverns and limestone formations that look like other-worldly cathedrals.
Part cave tour and part cenote, admission to Santa Cruz is by reservation only. Tours are about 2.5 hours long, and groups are kept small to personalize the experience.
The water’s edge at the entrance to the open mouth cave is safe for smaller children to play. Give them a flashlight and watch their faces light up as they discover a world of fish. Older kids can wear life jackets and floats supplied by the owners and participate in the cave tour. The water does get a little deep.
With advance notice, the owners have been known to prepare lunch for guests at an outdoor grill. You can also pair the Santa Cruz Cenote Tour with a trip to the nearby Akumal Monkey Sanctuary.
Location: Cenote Santa Cruz is in the jungle behind Akumal Pueblo. The owners will arrange transportation to and from the cenote from Akumal upon reserving your spot.
Cenote Manatee in Tankah Bay, also known as Casa Cenote, is surrounded by mangroves and has both fresh and saltwater fish. Its name comes from the manatees who once lived there.
It’s a great option for families with small and older children. The smaller children can play on the beach side of the area while older children and adults can go paddle-boarding and snorkeling in the cenote.
If you get hungry, you can go to the Casa Cenote restaurant, known for its Texas BBQ and ceviche. Restrooms are also available at the restaurant.
One local parent suggested pairing a visit to this cenote with a morning tour of the Tulum Ruins.
Location: Tankah Bay. Unless you are lucky enough to rent a vacation home in this idyllic location, your best bet is to use a taxi or rent a car to get to Cenote Manatee. You can get there by public transportation and be dropped off at the entrance of Tankah Bay. But be prepared for a long walk to the cenote.
Gran Cenote near Tulum is as popular as Dos Osos.
One side of the cenote is a sand bottom and shallow, making it a great place for kids to explore. Adults and older children can venture to the opposite side, which is much deeper with lots of vegetation and fish.
The diversity found in this cenote is wonderful. The limestone formations are wonders, seen both from the surface and under the water. It is here that you truly understand how the jungle interacts with the freshwater pools and underground rivers.
There are lots of natural wonders to see about the cenote. The owners have made this a fun location above and below.
Location: About seven km west of Tulum on the Coba Road. Ample parking and lots of shade. Affordable taxi ride to this cenote.
Need help with cenote tour reservations or have questions about which cenotes are best for families with small children? Contact Paulina, our concierge, will be happy to help. You can also chat with our reservations team about reserving your spot at a lovely vacation rental near one of the many cenotes in the area.