Earlier, I wrote here about past mixed experiences with while exploring Mexico’s cenotes, an ancient system of caves and underground rivers only found in this part of Mexico: Dzitnup was a dud, but Aktun Chen was a major must-do.
Now, in my latest installment of Homebody in Motion’s Unofficial Guide to Cenotes, I bring you dispatches from Cenote Dos Ojos near Tulum, a great pick for a couple-hour adventure.
Coordinating multiple cars in our wedding-weekend caravan, we rolled into Cenote Dos Ojos, first stopping at a station along the road to buy tickets.
Each was more than $30 per person to explore two cave sites (the two “eyes” in the “dos ojos”) — at first that seemed steep compared to the much smaller fee to swim in just the smaller one alone. But it turned out the full tour is key to the experience.
I also inquired about scuba diving, which was more than $90 USD. Avid divers will prefer to strap on tanks if given the option, but I’m not sure it would have enhanced the experience. (By the way, I’m citing prices in USD, but always pay in pesos for a better exchange rate — at the time of our visit, the exchange was about 15.5 pesos to USD, but you got only 12 if you paid in dollars. Big difference.)
The cave system north of Tulum in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico has been under exploration since 1986, and nearly 40 miles have been discovered so far, making it one of the top 10 longest underwater cave systems in the world. (Which is so cool. A major personal goal is to make that word “caving” over in the tag cloud on the right ever bigger as I go along writing this blog!)
The name refers to the two adjacent cenotes that connect into a big shared area. We strapped on our masks, snorkels, and fins (we brought our own masks, but all are provided with the tour experience), and climbed into the first one. The water is super clear, and it’s kind of neat, but at this point I was prepared for another seen-one-cenote-seen-em-all experience. Let’s blow this joint and get back to the beach. But no…
The next stop is the jaw-dropper. At first, the plunge into the water feels jarring: It’s about 24 degrees Celcius, or 75 degrees Farenheit. But that’s far from properly cold! (In comparison, I earned my dive certification in 52-degree water… although that was a death wish I wouldn’t have wished on my worst enemy.) But in no time it feels great, and super refreshing compared to the hot air and stifling humidity outside.
We made our way through the system with a guide, who also provided flashlights that made it much easier to navigate in the darkness underground. With them, we could spot a few kinds of fish in the strikingly clear water.
Some of the passages were tight squeezes, a bit of an extra thrill a la the ATM Cave in Belize (which still takes one of the top two spots on our most-loved adventure travel days ever, alongside rafting the Telaga Waja river in Bali at the end of the rainy season).
We also surfaced into a cave in which an army of bats take up residence — for an entirely different kind of Batcave experience compared to ours back home in L.A. We spent about an hour exploring this second cenote.
Those friends in our big group who skipped out on the full tour met us afterward in a restaurant there on site, which looked good, with its heaps of fresh guacamole and fresh cocos. (But instead we headed into town for 20-peso tacos and 40-peso cocos bigger than our heads.)
All told, an A+ experience in just about two hours… with plenty of time left in the day for siesta and cerveza.
Last, I’ll leave you with a couple of fun facts, as noted on the cenote’s official website:
- Dos Ojos contains the deepest known cave passage in Quintana Roo, at nearly 400 feet deep.
- “Some of the underwater cave were featured in an IMAX Film in 2002, Journey Into Amazing Caves. Parts of the Hollywood 2006 movie The Cave was filmed in the Dos Ojos cave system. However this movie really sucked.” The more you know!