Swing into Mexico’s aquatic underground: The Yucatán Peninsula’s many cenotes supply thrilling locations to swim

Slivers of vivid daylight illuminate my face as sweat runs into my eyes. I squint via hanging tree roots and see my son, Noah, placing on a yellow life vest and fastening it firmly. He tosses me an identical vest and shouts, “We now have to swing off the rope and leap in!”

Peering into the darkish watery abyss that awaits, I catch the vest however shake my head firmly to the rope swinging, and he rolls his eyes at my staunch refusal in the best way solely youngsters can. Again in my youth I wouldn’t suppose twice about swinging right into a cenote in the midst of a Mayan forest, however as of late I’m a bit extra cautious.

Noah and I’ve been travelling collectively, simply the 2 of us, since he might wheel his personal baggage, and there’s nobody I’d fairly discover the world with. Like most individuals, over the previous two years we’ve needed to put our adventures on maintain, and we selected the Riviera Maya as our “get-back-to-travel journey.”

Positioned in the midst of the northeast Yucatán Peninsula in Quintana Roo, it’s a magical vacation spot with sunshine and white sand, historic archeological websites (together with Chichén Itzá, as soon as the guts of the Mayan empire), lovely wildlife (coatis!), and pure wonders resembling coral reefs, caves and cenotes. I’d solely seen the well-known cenotes in pictures however dreamed of visiting in actual life. They’re the doorway to Mexico’s mysterious aquatic underworld that I’ve all the time needed to swim in. Or not less than stick my foot in.

Cenotes are pure, deep-water formations formed by collapsing limestone bedrock and the percolating of rainwater and currents of underground rivers via cracks over time.

These ensuing pits and sinkholes, which vary in dimension, expose the groundwater beneath. Within the Yucatán Peninsula alone, there are greater than 6,000 cenotes, named after the Yucatec Maya phrase “D’zonot” — a spot with underground water. Notable ones embrace the particularly stunning Cenote Ik Kil (close to Chichén Itzá), Río Secreto (a spectacular cave and cenote system in Playa del Carmen), and the well-known Gran Cenote in Tulum (additionally a prime diving and snorkeling spot).

Eight hours earlier, on the break of day, Noah and I boarded a tour bus from the Arduous Rock Resort Riviera Maya for a guided day journey full of adventures, together with a cease at Cenote Oxmán, a 15-minute drive from the colonial metropolis of Valladolid and two hours from Cancun. It’s situated inside an property property, Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxmán, a former agave plantation courting again to 1746.

Upon arriving at Cenote Oxmán, I rapidly swap jean shorts for my bathing swimsuit and rinse off within the showers. (On any tour, guarantee your sunscreen is biodegradable and eco-friendly to assist defend the cenotes, coral reefs and water reserves in Riviera Maya.) My mouth waters as I cross the snack bar’s recent coconuts, with their tops sliced off and straws protruding. However the name of the cenote is powerful. Coconuts should wait.

This cenote is open to the sky (not like cave cenotes, with largely intact ceilings), permitting for a putting view from the platform above. The water appears to be like virtually black from up right here, however it’s truly crystal-clear turquoise.

Accessing a hid “Indiana Jones”–type entrance via a hut, we descend all the best way down 73 twisting steps into the underworld. I lean in opposition to perspiring rocks and take all of it in: the tree roots dangling from above me like a fringe curtain, the cascading leaves wrapping across the cenote, the scent of every part recent and inexperienced.

There are two methods into the water: the adrenaline-inducing rope swing, or the slippery and considerably uneven staircase. Straightforward choice. I crawl down the steps on all fours like our cat and cautiously make my approach into probably the most refreshing, purest water, the place innocent, little fish welcome me with bubbles.

I search for simply as Noah swings like a monkey and lands with a dramatic splash. With my head bobbing above the cool water and the remainder of my physique submerged, I grasp onto my life vest and paddle to him laughing.

We float subsequent to one another and search for from our gap deep within the earth. Daylight sprinkles in from a blue sky and birds circle above. I’m so grateful to journey once more. I flip to Noah.

“OK, I’ll do the rope swing. However first, we drink from coconuts.”

Author Miriam Porter travelled as a visitor of Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, which didn’t evaluate or approve this text.


Conversations are opinions of our readers and are topic to the Code of Conduct. The Star doesn’t endorse these opinions.


Leave a Reply