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.

Jack in Chaak Tun Cenote

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.

Stalactite formation in Chaak Tun cenote

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

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).

Light source in Chaak Tun

The only natural light source in Chaak Tun

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.

Inside Chaak Tun

Inside Chaak Tun - Dark, dark, dark

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.

Jill in front of some formations, Chaak Tun

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.