When visitors think of the Yucatan, the beautiful white sands beaches of Cancun, Cozumel, and Playa del Carmen immediately spring to mind. What doesn’t often come to mind, unless you’ve visited the Yucatan, are the Yucatan’s numerous cenotes (limestone water-filled sinkholes). Cenotes take a variety of forms. Some are like caverns, necessitating some degree of climbing and clambering to get down to the water’s edge. Others, like Cristalino Cenote (or Cenote Cristalino), are pools accessed at ground-level. The Yucatan is littered with dozens, if not hundreds.
Read on for key visitor information and what to do at Cristalino Cenote.
Cristalino Cenote Visitor Information
Getting There (and Back)
Cristalino Cenote is located on the Riviera Maya and easily accessed 15 miles south of Playa del Carmen, right off of the Carretera 307 (the main highway connecting Playa and Tulum). The best way to access Cristalino Cenote is by private vehicle. However, you can also take a colectivo from Playa del Carmen (starting at 2nd Street), or hire a taxi. Getting back to Playa can be a bit more challenging, but northbound taxis can be flagged on the main highway (307).
Fees & What’s Included
Like most other cenotes in the Yucatan, Cristalino Cenote is a small, private operation, so there is an entrance fee for visitors (150 pesos in 2018). In addition to access to the cenote, your entrance fee also gets you a life jacket and access to toilet and changing facilities. The main office also doubles as a small snack shack.
Pools & Surroundings
The walk from the parking lot to the pools is less than 100 yards (100 meters) down a gradual slope. Cristalino Cenote is actually a series of natural pools connected by small mangroves. As you enter the complex, you are greeted by the smallest of the set — as you go to your left, the pools get larger and more spectacular.
Paving stones border the pools making for a nice walkway, with aluminum ladders into the water at three different points. There are numerous shaded sitting areas with wooden benches, and a lounging area in the upper portion accessible by a gravel path and stone staircase. On some days, it appears there is a lifeguard on duty, but there wasn’t one on the weekday we visited.
We felt really fortunate on this particular day, as there was only one other person in the entire pool complex when we arrived (around 9:30am), with no more than 4-5 people in the water during the busiest time. Granted, we were there on a pre-Spring Break weekday in late February, but it still could have been much busier. We hear that Cristalino Cenote can get very busy, especially on Sundays when local families tend to visit, and as things heat up later in the day. The water may have been a bit brisk at 9:30am, but it was well worth it to have the cenote essentially to ourselves.
What to Do at Cristalino Cenote
After arriving, it was difficult to decide what to do first. Given the time of day and temperature of the water, we decided the modest jumping cliff was a good place to start.
Not to be out-done by my wife, I busted out my finest form. However, it took four jumps to finally capture it on camera. By that time, my form could have placed me into Olympic medal contention…given the right group of judges, of course
Natural Fish Spa
Another fun thing to do at Cristalino Cenote is to get your feet cleaned “Dr. Fish”-style. The fish were hungry that day, my friends…which surprised me a bit given that the place wasn’t deserted later in the morning when the fish had a variety of feasting options.
A few particularly large fish enjoyed their mid-morning snack a little too much, if you ask me, and were absolutely insatiable. I usually do alright with the small guys, but the big guys tickled to the point of holding back tears.
Lori’s mom indeed proved much stronger than myself as she was able to sit there for what seemed like hours and just let the fish go about their business. I, on the other hand, could only last in 1-2 minute increments. Shameful.
Lori’s dad enjoyed the show from the bench, but eventually got in the game to check out the tropical feet-nibblers himself. I didn’t hear much giggling, so either the man has nerves of steel or the fish wanted nothing to do with him. I’d like to think the former.
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Jumping off rocks and getting your feet nibbled on is fun and all, but the real draw to Cristalino Cenote might just be the surprisingly amazing snorkeling, as the water, true to the cenote’s name, is crystal clear. Depths reach about 20 feet (6 meters) and visibility on this particular day was virtually unlimited.
In addition to the foot nibblers, we saw catfish and an array of small, colorful fish which we weren’t able to readily identify. We also came across a turtle about 6-8 inches long, milling about, getting into to trouble.
While none of the fish were as large as what you might typically find in the waters off the Yucatan seashore, the abundance of small fish and otherworldly environment made it a very unique experience — not quite like anything we’ve ever done before, definitely making Cristalino Cenote a worthwhile visit.
Have you visited Cristalino cenote? What did you think? What is your favorite cenote in the Yucatan? Let us know in the comments below.