Playa del Carmen, Mexico
We were feeling somewhat lukewarm about Playa del Carmen. Until we stumbled upon Chaak Tun cenote – it’s so awesome we can say it ‘made’ the Playa for us. For us, Chaak Tun is the best cenote in the whole Yucatan.
Like any awesome find, I want to keep this gem for ourselves. But just like any other awesome finds – I love sharing them as well.
Things We Love About Chaak Tun.
One is that it’s relatively unknown. Nobody is hawking tours to this place anywhere in the Riviera Maya (unlike Xel Ha, Xplore, and all of the other inclusive resorts). But they do sell their tours to the cruise ship groups so get there early or late in the afternoon if you want the place for yourself.
It’s so unknown that people working in our hotels and taxi drivers don’t even know about it.
Two, Chaak Tun has the most impressive stalactites I’ve seen compare to any other cenotes in the region. Granted, we never splurge for those in all inclusive resorts and I hope for the USD $80 that these other places charge, their caves are better be exceptional. (For that price, I’m expecting a take-home stalactite).
So I guess I should say, Chaak Tun has the most impressive stalactites formation than any other cenotes that charge 100 pesos entrance, including Dos Ojos near Tulum and Dzitup near Valladolid.
Update 2019: The entrance fee is now 30 USD
Related: 5 Best Cenotes in the Yucatan
Chaak Tun cenote consists of 2 caves. The main one only has one light source – a hole on the ceiling. Not unlike Dzitnup or Samulak near Valladolid. But Chaak Tun’s main cave is much, much bigger with hidden dark corners, nooks and crannies, and mini-chambers. Many parts of this cave just do not get enough of the scattered natural light.
Unlike Dzitup with its neon-colored artificial lights (seriously, what were they thinking?), Chaak Tun was conservatively lit – giving the whole cave a mystery, spooky, kind of feel. It’s horribly bad for taking pics (as you can see) but it was great for exploring Indian Jones style. It’s not for those who are afraid of the dark, or those who are claustrophobics (although the main chamber is pretty big).
When Jack and I went we were the only one there. Which made for a spooky swimming experience. As we plunged into the cold, clear water my biggest fear was the lights to go out, leaving us in near total darkness. All alone. Thinking about it was enough to give me a short panic attack.
Another thing we love about Chaak Tun is that no sections are off limit. No roped off sections. No ‘guide only in this part’ sections. You were free to explore as long as you don’t step on the formations.
The second cave (on the left side of the reception) was equally impressive. It is a lot larger than it looks – it actually connects to the ranch on the other side of the road. But you need a strong headlight to explore this connecting section since this cave has even less lights (both natural and artificial) than the main cave. The guys who work there assure me that you don’t need to dive down, ever. But I’m telling you, it’s a pitch black and forbidding looking area. We didn’t even get near it.
Tip for visiting Chaak Tun cenote
Bring waterproof lights (or you can rent them from the office).
Don’t touch the formations and don’t break a stalactite and take it home with you (like I’ve seen people do in other caves). That would be really, really mean and travel karma will get back at you sooner or later.
We could’ve stayed there for much longer but for a couple of things: it was really cold in there, and our taxi was waiting for us. Still dripping wet (we forgot to bring a towel) we climbed into the taxi, still awed by what we saw.
So, if there’s one cenote we can recommend you visit in Yucatan without paying a boatload of money for – it’s this one. But please don’t tell too many people.
Let’s keep it between us.
Everything about Chaak Tun Xenote
How to get to Chaak Tun cenote from Playa del Carmen
Take a taxi to the end of Juarez road on the other side of the freeway, away from the beach. It should cost no more than 70 pesos. Ask the taxi to come back to pick you up.
How much is the entrance?
100 pesos and it includes life jacket and a hard hat.
Update 2019: The entrance now costs 30 USD
Limited time in Yucatan?
We recommend this Viator tour that visits 4 different xenotes.
[…] than others, visitors are free to explore the nooks and crannies at their leisure whilst staring in awe at the stalactites. Don’t go if you’re scared of the dark, and be warned that is does get chilly inside the […]
This looks amazing! I really want to get to Yucatan.. it is next on my list!
Let me know if you find yourself in Korea anytime soon 🙂
Hi Jack and Jill!
I was wondering, if I wanted to save money by not renting a locker, where would I put my stuff? What do you guys usually do?
Dear Jack and Jill,
We decided to visit this cenote after reading your very entertaining blog – and you are absolutely right; It was truly amazing and the best one we've seen so far.
A couple of 2014 updates; many taxi drivers in playa now know this one and will try to charge around 300 pesos for taking you there and back. We, holding on to out pride and the fact that it's quite close by, decided to rent a scooter. We saved 30 pesos, our dignity and had much more fun.
The admission now costs 240 pesos per person (we had our own snorkeling equipment). At first we were told that this is the cheapest admission, and includes a life vest and a helmet (…..what?) and a flashlight. Then, all of a sudden, the same "head guy" told us that all inclusive price is 360 pesos, and the flashlights were not included in the admission anymore, but he could rent us the flashlight for 100 pesos per flashlight. I went berserk about it and said some less friendly things.
After that, we got the nicest tour guide, Carlos. He didn't make us use the tedious life vests or helmets, showed us where to go, including a dive throug an underwater tunnel (a little panic-provoking but fantastic) and in the end, left us completely alone with two flash lights to explore the amazing caves and tunnels that we almost got lost in.
There are alltogether three separate larger caves, two of them can be explored diving through the underwater tunnel, and one (the one on the left side of the reception) having endless small passages that can be explored with a flash light, partly by foot (shallow water) and partly by swimming. I suppose there is more artificial lighting in the smaller passages nowadays, but large parts are still pitch black, with some backround screeches from the bats flying above.
I doubt that any cenote open to public will top this one. Be careful with the prices, but enjoy some serious cave-exploring!
Thanks so much for the update. It saddened me to hear that things have changed somewhat for the worse in terms of price gouging. But glad to hear that you girls had a good time (and hopefully found it worth the hassle).The underwater tunnel sounds freaky – gave me goosebumps thinking about it!
This is awesome. We should be heading out to playa in a week or so. Exploring the Yucatan by motorcycle is amazing! Thanks for all of the great recommendations!
We visited this cenote on 9-19-2013, and we were thrilled at the experience! We booked an excursion from the cruise ship, and it far exceeded our expectations! Simply beautiful and easy to do, as long as you can climb steps. Tranquility at its finest…
I would highly recommend a visit to this wonderful park, as it was the highlight of our trip!
[…] The Diversions • Spa at the Reef Playacar • Mayan Ruins of Tulum • The Jungle Place • Cenote Chaak Tun […]
Excellent work Jack & Jill!
If you go anywhere off the beaten trail you hit a less beaten trail that will lead to a cenote(s).
The highway from Tulum to Coba is very good for exploring.
Have gifts and small amounts of USD for make yourself at home experience.
Tip, anywhere that has a sign for “Car Wash”
will have a private cenotes.
I am not a diver but have heard many first hand stories of how a fantastic experience turns to tragedy. Do not dive cenotes unless qualified and have a local guide.
It is not unusual for unattended vehicles parked near a cenotes to alert locals that another amateur dive group is stranded
in a cavern separated from the world above,
Also leave No trace of your experience,
Better yet, take in some garbage bags and on the hike out pick up some previous litter bugs
Really love your photo images.
When I visited Cozumel and Playa last year we only had time to fit one cenote in and that was diving Dos Ojos.. an incredible experience! We'll be living in Playa for at least the entire month of July this year and can't wait to see all the other cenotes.. this one included! Looks awesome!
I just wanted to update anyone who comes across this post that Chaak Tun now charges 200 pesos entrance, although they really push you to go for the 360 peso package that includes snorkel gear, torch, drinks, and locker.
Thanks so much for the advice! We absolutely loved Chaak Tun. We were the only ones there and the natural beauty of the stalactites and crystal clear water were unbelievable.
Thanks for the great tip, guys! We'll be spending a few days in Playa in September and we'll check out this cenote for sure – went to several cenotes near Merida and Valladolid, but not around Playa. Looking forward to returning to the Yucatan 🙂
There is also one just outside of Valladolid that is fantastic and you don't have to pay.
Ahhh I'm so jealous. I spent 3 weeks in Playa and didn't make it to a cenote. I think it may have been from the exhaustion I had from my brothers wedding weekend there, but still. The good thing is that it's a cheap flight from Houston and will be able to visit often when I am home if I want.
So beautiful! The cenotes in the Yucatan are on my list! I went to Playa del Carmen and Tulum a few years ago and only made it to one cenote (at Sian Ka'an), it was outdoors so less impressive than the caves and about 50 ft deep, so I was a too scared to go in. Looks like you guys had life jackets? That would have made me feel better.