Cenote Samula is a large cavernous cenote just outside of Valladolid, Mexico. This fantastic lofty chamber space, complete with dreamy turquoise waters, is part of the Dzitnup Cenote complex, which also includes the more well-known Cenote Xkeken. Visiting Cenote Samula is a wondrous experience, and one of our favourite cenotes to date! Below, we’ll explain everything you need to know about visiting this excellent Valladolid cenote.
But first, what are cenotes?
Read our ultimate guide to Mexico Cenotes here!
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What are Cenotes?
Cenotes are incredible natural sinkholes that are typically found throughout Mexico. The name comes from the Mayan word tsʼonoʼot, which literally refers to any place with accessible groundwater. The term ‘cenote’ has become more common to describe other similar sinkholes too, in places like the USA and Australia.
Cenotes usually form when limestone above an underground water chamber erodes and collapses, exposing the pool below. The cenotes are often entombed in a cave, although over time, and with further erosion, they can be exposed to the open. To that end, there are a few different types of cenotes to be found.
- Closed Cenotes: these underground cenotes are concealed in a cave and are thought to be the youngest type of cenote. Cenote Samula is a closed cenote, as is its neighbour Cenote Xkeken.
- Semi-open Cenotes: with semi-open cenotes, some of the limestone cave roof has collapsed, meaning the cenote is partially exposed to the open. Tulum’s Gran Cenote is a great example of this.
- Open Cenotes: the vaulted roof of open cenotes has completely collapsed, but the cenote is still enveloped by rock walls, on all or some of its sides. Cenote Cristalino, close to Playa del Carmen is a good example of this.
- Ancient Cenotes: these cenotes are the oldest and more resemble lagoons and open swimming pools. They have no cave to conceal them. Some of the best examples on the Yucatan Peninsula can be found in Bacalar, Quintana Roo.
About Cenote Samula, Mexico
Cenote Samula is a large cave (or closed) cenote outside of Valladolid, Mexico. It’s part of the Dzitnup Cenote complex, which also includes Cenote Xkeken. These two cenotes are some of the best to be found around the city of Valladolid.
Unlike Cenote Xkeken, which features long jagged stalactites protruding from its cavern ceiling, Cenote Samula features a vast cave chamber that’s much larger and imposing. There’s a small opening in the cave ceiling. Here, the overhead sunlight shines through, dancing across the cenote as the day goes on.
From the entrance of Cenote Samula is a wooden staircase that leads down to the cenote’s turquoise waters. At the pool’s edge is a wooden platform with small benches to leave your belongings. Entering into Cenote Samula involves a quick jump or clambering down some slippery wooden ladders.
With your life jacket on, you can simply lie back as you examine this incredible underground world that the Mayans deemed such a sacred place.
Where Is Cenote Samula?
Cenote Samula and Cenote Xkeken (Dzitnup Cenotes) are located just outside the small town of Dzitnup, 7km southwest of Valladolid, Mexico. It’s certainly one of the easiest cenotes to visit in the Yucatan Peninsula, with a simple 10–15 minute drive from the centre of Valladolid town.
Cenote Samula Map
Feel free to click on the interactive map below to see the location of Cenote Samula and the Cenote Dzitnup complex in Valladolid, Mexico.
Things to Know Before Visiting Cenote Samula
So, now you know where Cenote Samula is, let’s take a look at some useful things to know for your visit.
Cenote Samula Opening Hours
Cenote Samula is open from 8am to 5pm, every day. We arrived bang on 8am and had both Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Samula to ourselves.
Cenote Samula Price
The Cenote Samula entrance fee is $125MXN ($7.50USD) per person. This price is to see both of the Dzitnup Cenotes (Xkeken and Samula). We highly recommend this option as both Cenote Xkeken and Samula are spectacular in their own ways. But, if you only want to visit Cenote Samula, then the price is $80MXN ($4.50USD) per person.
The price of a children’s ticket is $50MXN ($3USD) for one cenote, or $80MXN ($4.50USD) for both of them.
There is one ticket office that serves both Dzitnup Cenotes and is next to the main car park. Additionally, bring pesos to pay for the entrance fee.
Facilities at Cenote Samula
There are a range of basic facilities at Cenote Samula and the Dzitnup Cenote complex. You’ll find toilets, changing rooms and lockers before you head down into Cenote Samula. You MUST shower before entering the Dzitnup Cenotes. This is to ensure any sunscreen and deodorant you’re wearing are washed off before entering the water. This helps to prevent polluting of the cenote with harmful chemicals, upsetting the fragile ecosystems.
Life jackets are compulsory for swimming in Cenote Samula. If you don’t purchase one before entering, there’s an opportunity to rent one before getting into the water. Life jackets are also great for ensuring a relaxed visit as you can float and chill out. They cost $30MXN ($1.75USD) per person. Annoyingly, you can’t rent one life jacket for both Cenote Samula and Xkeken. You have to rent separately at each cenote. So, if you’re visiting both Dzitnup Cenotes, expect to pay twice.
As you walk through the entrance to the Dzitnup Cenotes, towards Cenote Xkeken and Samula, you’ll pass a number of market stalls selling souvenirs and clothing. There’s also the odd stall selling food, but menus are limited, so we recommend taking any food and drink with you.
Cenote Samula Photography
The cave chamber of Cenote Samula is vast and somewhat better-lit than Cenote Xkeken. As you enter into the cavern, you’ll arrive through a hole at the top and enter onto a wooden platform. This is the best place to photograph Cenote Samula to ensure you capture as much of the chamber as possible. Swimming in the water below also gives a great perspective as to the size of Cenote Samula.
Incredibly, Dan and I enjoyed Cenote Samula to ourselves. It was quite the experience. The overhead sunbeam was extra special, but as it was early in the morning, it wasn’t shining directly down. If you want to see the light beam point straight down onto the water, you’ll need to time your visit around midday.
Cenote Samula Swimming
Cenote Samula is an incredible sinkhole to swim in. Tightly enclosed by the imposing cavern walls, the practically circular pool is delightful. The water isn’t deep. You’ll be able to easily see the bottom of the cenote. There are a couple of ropes to hold on to as you swim away from the platform.
The water is cool and refreshing, which is rather nice in Mexico. There are plenty of small black catfish waiting for you to enter, but they’re pretty harmless. They’re just looking for a quick toe nibble (which I hated).
If you’ve chosen not to use a locker, your belongings can be left at the edge of the pool on wooden benches. As it was early and quiet, that’s exactly what we did.
Cenote Samula Snorkelling, Jumping & Diving
We wouldn’t recommend snorkelling at Cenote Samula. There isn’t much to see in the water except the catfish and a few rocks here and there. Jumping is of course permitted and recommended! Given the lack of jagged rocks in the water, it’s quite safe to jump in and make a splash.
Cenote Samula is not a deep cenote, so it’s not one you’ll come to for the diving experience. Cenote Samula is for swimming and relaxing.
Check Out Cenote Xkeken (the Second Dzitnup Cenote)
Once you’ve enjoyed your visit to Cenote Samula, be sure to visit the second Dzitnup Cenote – Cenote Xkeken. This incredible cenote features large stalactites and is more enclosed than Cenote Samula. Indeed, it’s amazing to experience two very different cenotes during one visit.
How Long to Spend at Cenote Samula?
A couple of hours max will be enough time to enjoy both Cenote Samula and Cenote Xkeken.
Best Time to Visit Cenote Samula
If you want to beat the crowds at Cenote Samula, then aim to arrive as soon as the Dzitnup Cenote complex opens at 8am. Dan and I did this and were first in. Also, any tours heading to the Dzitnup Cenotes will arrive by mid-morning, so you can be in and out before they arrive. Weekends are also more likely to be busier with locals visiting, so try to go on a weekday.
If you want the sunbeam pointing directly down into Cenote Samula, time your visit around midday. But, expect there to be more people.
How to Get to Cenote Samula, Yucatan
So, now you know what to expect, let’s take a look at how to get to Cenote Samula from Valladolid, Mexico.
Travelling from Valladolid to Cenote Samula and the Dzitnup Cenotes complex via taxi is possibly the easiest way to arrive. Dan and I took a taxi for the short 10–15 minute journey and paid $100MXN ($6USD) to get there and $120MXN ($7USD) to return. You’ll find taxis dropping new visitors off throughout the day, so you should have no trouble getting a taxi to take you back to Valladolid.
Also, you’ll find most hotels in Valladolid will happily book a taxi for you. Or, you’ll find plenty on the main streets and around the central plaza.
Taking a Colectivo from Valladolid to Cenote Samula is also very easy and cheap. You can pick up a Colective here, opposite the ADO bus station. The price is around $20MXN ($1.50USD) per person.
Renting a bicycle and cycling to Cenote Samula from Valladolid is an increasingly popular option. Given the cycle takes no more than 30 minutes and the route is very straightforward, it’s certainly a very cost-effective way to travel to the Dzitnup Cenotes. You’ve also got the freedom to work to your own schedule. At Cenote Samula and the Dzitnup complex, you’ll also find a designated parking area for bicycles, which is very handy.
Bicycles are available to rent from many stores in the centre of Valladolid. Remember to ask for a bike lock too. Prices generally range from $100–150MXN ($6–9USD) per day.
Of course, renting a car and driving yourself to Cenote Samula in Valladolid, Mexico is one of the easiest ways to visit. If you want to hire something, we recommend hiring a car using Rentalcars.com. You’ll find a variety of cars on Rental Cars, which are very easy to book online. Personally, Dan and I have used Rental Cars plenty of times and never had any problems. Drive times and distances are as follows.
Parking at Cenote Samula
If you’re driving, there’s a large car park as you enter the Cenote Dzitnup complex, next to the ticket office.
Cenote Tours from Valladolid
As Cenote Samula is so easy to reach independently from Valladolid, we don’t recommend taking a tour. If you want a more private experience, then simply take a taxi.
But, if you’re coming from further afield in the Yucatan Peninsula, like Cancun or Playa del Carmen, or simply enjoy the ease of taking a tour, then GetYourGuide offers some fantastic tours to many of Valladolid’s most popular cenotes such Cenote Ik Kil, Cenote Yokdzonot and Cenote Hubiku.
Where to Stay Near Cenote Samula, Mexico
As the closest city to Cenote Samula, we recommend staying in Valladolid for your visit. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the best budget, mid-range and luxury options.
- Budget – Hostel Candelaria: a backpacker’s budget will be thankful for this excellent accommodation option. The Hostel Candelaria features comfortable dorm rooms, a communal kitchen and a welcoming common space.
- Mid-range – Hotel Zazil-Naj: Dan and I stayed at Hotel Zazil-Naj. We loved the location. Plus, the room was huge, whilst the en suite bathroom was clean and modern. The hotel staff are also very attentive and helpful.
- Luxury – Hotel Meson del Marques: you can look forward to authentic colonial-style decor and a truly luxurious stay at Hotel Meson del Marques. This five-star hotel features pretty gardens, a rooftop terrace with city views and a wonderful restaurant.
Other Things to Do Near Cenote Dzitnup
- Explore Valladolid: this colourful town deserves its own exploration. There’s much more to Valladolid than just the cenotes surrounding it. Read our guide to Valladolid here.
- Chichen Itza: as one of the Seven Wonders of the New World, you haven’t been to the Yucatan if you haven’t seen Chichen Itza.
- Ek Balam: we loved visiting the fascinating Ek Balam Ruins, which include some unique features not seen at other Mayan ruins in Mexico.
Other Cenotes Near Valladolid
Some of the best cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula are found around the city of Valladolid. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the best Valladolid cenotes, after you’ve visited Cenote Samula and the Dzitnup Cenotes complex.
- Cenote Suytun: easily one of the most visually stunning (and Instagrammed) cenotes in Mexico.
- Cenote Xkeken: the second of the Dzitnup Cenotes features massive stalactites and crystal-clear water.
- Cenote Xcanche: also known as the Ek Balam Cenote, you can visit this sinkhole on a visit to Ek Balam Mayan Ruins.
- Cenote Saamal: a large open cenote with a small cascade that you’ll pass on the way to Cenote Samula.
- Cenote Zaci: in the heart of Valladolid is this semi-open cenote complete with a lovely outdoor restaurant.
- Cenote Ik Kil: a stunning open cenote complete with dripping vines close to Chichen Itza.
- Cenote Oxman: a rope swing into this Yucatan cenote.
Additionally, some of our favourite cenotes throughout the Riviera Maya include the Coba Cenotes and Cenote Toh, which are both close to Tulum.
Travel Essentials For Cenote Samula
These are our travel essentials for a visit to Cenote Samula in Valladolid, Mexico.
- Swimming gear: for obvious reasons.
- Quick-dry towel: we travel lightly, so a small, quick-dry towel is much more convenient for a trip to Cenote Suytun than sneaking the hostel/hotel’s bath towel out.
- Biodegradable sunscreen: be sun safe and environmentally friendly all at the same time. Just remember, only apply once you’ve left Cenote Xkeken.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for day tripping, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- Camera: you’ll definitely want to document your visit. Bring the tripod too to help capture clear pictures in the dimly lit cavern. A GoPro is also a great kit addition whilst in the water.
Travel insurance is a real necessity, especially when travelling through Central America and getting a little off the beaten track.
SafetyWing is an excellent budget-friendly travel insurance provider. Personally, Dan and I have used SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance many times to insure our trips. The Nomad Insurance is fantastic value for money with a smaller additional cost to add a partner. Unlike most other insurance companies, there’s an option to pay on a monthly basis, similar to having a prepaid phone plan. Better yet, there’s no lock-in contract. In addition, you can cancel at any time, which will take effect the month after.
For shorter trips, it’s also possible to use Nomad Insurance for trips lasting just days or just 2–3 weeks. Indeed, SafetyWing is cheaper than almost all other travel insurance policies and covers just as much and sometimes more.
SafetyWing is a modern travel insurance company that is certainly leading the way in terms of how travel insurance should work in the future.
- Remember, no sunscreen: chemicals from sunscreen, deodorants and makeup can negatively impact the ecosystems of cenotes, so be sure to shower before you enter Samula.
- Arrive early: remember, arrive early to beat the crowds. It’s not uncommon for people to be queuing down the steps into Cenote Samula and Cenote Xkeken.
- Make the most of Valladolid: there are plenty of other awesome things to do in the Valladolid area. GetYourGuide offers some pretty cool tours which might be worth checking out.