I have seen one too many jaws movies. Or crocodile movies. Or movies where something is in the water waiting patiently for the innocent splashing bikini-clad blonde girl. Fortunately my blonde hair is fading, since the Bangkok stuff up in September was the last time I had my hair done & I wasn’t in a bikini. But still the imagination wonders…
It has been 5 days since we arrived in Play Del Carmen. Over the last 5 days we have been catching up on rest, relaxation, tanning via pure laziness. Mornings at the beach or pool or both. Afternoons watching movies, sleeping. Dinners eating out or in depending on how the naps went.
On the evening of Day 5 we knew laziness had come to an end and after spending a few hours reading a few blogs from people who had been travelling in Mexico we decided our first tourist job we would need to visit a cenote.
What the heck is a cenote (pronounced say-no-tah)?
"A cenote is a deep natural pit, or sinkhole, characteristic of Mexico, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath." Well that’s what Wikipedia says. I say it’s a big and beautiful hole in the ground filled with crystal clear fresh water, fish and at the bottom limestone rocks covered in moss.
Our taxi driver was a lovely guy this morning. He knew a lot about Mexico and was actually Mayan. Our 15-minute journey to Cenote Cristalino passed with lots of conversation and cost 200 pesos ($15).
We were dropped off in a non-descript place. Gravel road and a small white shack selling tickets and snacks. The tickets were 80 pesos ($6) per adults, 50 pesos ($3.80) for Mia and Caius was free. And with that she pointed down a rocky path.
Following the limestone path through a jungle with no expectations is rather exciting. The kids thought we were going on a Dora adventure so we had to think of three things to do on the adventure – walk the yellow path, climb over a bridge and enter the water. Say it three times with me.
As we followed the path around we came across a beautiful natural pool. Crystal clear water allowing perfect views of the limestone rocks at the bottom covered in a bright green moss. Catfish, small fish, blue fish with yellow spots darting between the blocks and the more courageous to the surface.
The pool was surrounded by trees, but remained suspiciously leaf-free. Suspicions confirmed when we spotted local staff dutifully cleaning them out.
Following the path further the pool went into a dark cave and came out the other side. You could then climb stairs for an aerial view of the pools and what seemed to us a jumping point. Least that is what we assumed since it was the only spot without a rope. There must have been about 5/6 pools in total.
We eagerly sat on the edge and placed our feet in the water, but soon the kids were screaming and backing out. Ever been to a fish spa? Well the idea must have come from here. I’ve never paid for one and now I don’t need to, here it was included. Those little black fishes loved having a nibble at our toes or as I told my daughter, giving her millions of kisses. She wasn’t convinced. She learnt if she kept moving they would stay away from her so if she wasn’t swimming she wasn’t in the water.
We had beautiful time swimming, snorkelling, relaxing and just taking in the overall serenity of the situation. The 3 hours we were there, not another living soul (other then the cleaning man) ever showed up. We had the whole cenote to ourselves and it was magical.
My husband attempted a swim through the pitch-black cave, his bravery only sufficient through my encouragement and demand for photos. There was no way I was going in there. He said it was beautiful and scary at the same time. He consistently attempted not to think about crocodile horror films.
Josh was quite stirred by the overall experience. The pool was very deep and it’s been a long time since my husband has been in a pool he couldn’t touch the bottom of.
Josh's Video Plunge & Pictures
After swimming with kids and exploring the caves he decided he had to jump. He headed up the path and effortlessly launched himself off the edge into the deep, dark waters below.
My 2 Yr Old's Video Plunge & Pictures
The kids loved it and my 2-year-old son demanded to go. So up he went with his Daddy. Josh was contemplating holding his hand or holding him in his arms. Caius made the choice cause at the top his courage fled and he clutched his Daddy in desperation. So Josh took him with him, while Mia and I counted them down. As you can see in the video Caius loved it and wanted to do it again.
My 4 Yr Old's Video Plunge & Pictures
Mia by now was laughing with so much enthusiasm and could not wait for her turn. So up again Josh goes with his daughter. Her reaction at the top is completely different to Caius. She is laughing and giggling and excited. Now my daughter can swim, but we ask her to put on the floaties anyway since it’s a big jump and Daddy was getting exhausted swimming with a child on him. 3, 2, 1 and they jump. At the bottom Mia is not as happy as Caius. She went in knee first instead of feet first and the sting hurt. After 3 minutes she had forgotten all about it, but did not want to go again.
My Video Plunge & Pictures
So there is nothing left to do. My 2 year old had jumped, my four year old had done it, and now it was mummy’s turn. From the bottom it doesn’t look high, when you get up there all of a sudden I’m back at Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon!
As I’m looking down I’m thinking several thoughts all at once:
‘My kids did this, you can do this.’
‘Blackmore Reach in Perth, Australia was way higher than this and you use to jump that all the time.’
‘Yeah when I was like early 20’s.’
‘You have to do it, they are all waiting.’
Mia screams up at me, “Come on mum.”
Josh tells me he is not stopping the video and because I don’t want to put an ultra long video on my blog I jump.
It’s better than a waterslide, what a rush. I make for the ladder asap cause I’m still scared there is something lurking in those waters I don’t want to know about, but I’m happy with myself. I’m relieved to have met my family’s expectations. And I’m stoked to be able to show it to you.
Isn’t my face really something? Terror! Honestly it was barely 4 metres high, haha.
Anyway I had brought some snacks and we have a bit to eat while the kids pretend to be lifeguards and Josh takes some magical photos. While we are lounging around a man invites us to his restaurant next door when we are finished.
Just as we are packing up a few people arrive and we are stoked with our timing. It was a fairly sunny day with the occasional sprinkling of rain. It was on the cool side, but the water was surprisingly refreshing. It wasn’t cold, nor was it warm, it was just right. Still the cool day must have scared most people away.
After our Mexican lunch we decide to take the bus home having spotted several of them going by very often. A colectivo is a form of transportation in Mexico that is found along the highway every 10 minutes or so. Quite often the colectivo is a mini-van.
We stood on the side of the road we wanted to go and within seconds a van flashed its lights at us and we waved at it. He pulled over, we hopped in and off it went. There was no communication or anything. We managed to ask the girl next to us how much and it’s 35 pesos each ($2.68). The kids were on our laps so we did not pay for them. On further research the bus is 35 pesos no matter how far you go. If you do the full journey from Playa Del Carmen to Tulum it’s 35 or if you only go 1km it’s 35 - I should note that tourists are often told 40 or higher and I believe locals pay less than 35, I think 30. So just pay 35, don't ask.
He drove us to a “bus station”, which was nothing more than more of the vans parked on the side of the road and motioned us to get out. We paid the fare, hopped out and got straight in a taxi. Usually the taxis around Playa Del Carmen are 25 pesos ($1.90).
The kids had fallen asleep on the bus and were still asleep when we got home. It had been an uber fun day and we were quite impressed with our first cenote. I want to see so many more. There are cenotes where you have to repel 90 feet to get into the pool and there are cenotes that are huge.
Cenote Cristalino was a great starting cenote. Especially with kids. It was easily accessible and noticeably quiet. There are actually 3 other cenotes right beside it as well if you have the inclination to visit more than one in a day.
Just try not to think about any underwater horror movies as you swim through those waters and you will be in heaven.
We took so many photos of this beautiful Cenote. You can check them out here.
Reader Comments..."I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" - Josh Bender
Wow, the cenote looks so beautiful. What a fantastic day for your family. :-).
Oh, I am SO jealous! When we went to a cenote, it was closed for the Spring Equinox!?! I could never have jumped, but I'm sure my hubby would have been exhausted taking the little ones for a jump. What fun!
That looks beautiful! What a fun day. You are so funny, it looks to be about 10-12 feet high. I would be nervous too but I;d do it I think;)
My teens splashed in a cenote while I allowed the little fishes to nibble on my toes. I was leary at first but after that first little nibble, I found it incredibly relaxing.
We are heading for riviera maya in April so I decided to get some info on denotes. I couldn't believe when I went through your blog and found the very same denote we had visited on a previous visit. We had done the same as yourselves and hired a taxi and driver from cancun ($150 for 4 adults) to go to Tulum then the denote then PDC. He took us to cristalina and we had a great time there.
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