There are plenty of excellent cenotes littered around Valladolid, Mexico. But, one of the best is certainly Cenote Xkeken. The impressive closed (or cave) cenote of Xkeken is actually part of a complex of two cenotes known as Cenote Dzitnup. The other is Cenote Samula, which is an even larger cavern just a short distance away. In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about visiting the crystal clear waters of Cenote Xkeken.
But first, what exactly are cenotes?
Read our ultimate guide to Mexico Cenotes here!
Table of Contents
What Is a Cenote?
Cenotes are incredible natural sinkholes which are typically found throughout Mexico. Having said that, the name ‘cenote’ is also used to describe other similar sinkholes in places like the USA and Australia. Cenotes usually form when limestone above an underground water chamber erodes and collapses, exposing the pool below. Most cenotes are connected via underground stream systems, keeping the water moving and super fresh.
There are a few different types of cenotes to be found.
- Closed Cenotes: these cenotes are concealed in a cave and are thought to be the youngest type of cenote. Cenote Xkeken is a closed cenote.
- Semi-open Cenotes: here, some of the limestone cave roof has collapsed, meaning the cenote is partially exposed. Tulum’s Gran Cenote is a great example.
- Open Cenotes: the vaulted roof of open cenotes has completely collapsed, but the cenote is still enveloped by rock walls, sometimes requiring a ladder to get into. Cenote Cristalino, close to Playa del Carmen is a good example.
- Ancient Cenotes: these cenotes are the oldest and 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 Xkeken, Mexico
Cenote Xkeken (sometimes written as Cenote X’keken) is often mistaken as being one and the same as Cenote Dzitnup, but this is incorrect. Cenote Xkeken is actually one of two incredible cavern pools found at the Cenote Dzitnup complex. The other is Cenote Samula.
Cenote Xkeken is a closed cenote, featuring long jagged stalactites protruding from the cavern ceiling, almost reaching the beautiful turquoise hues of the pool below. There’s a small opening in the cave ceiling, creating a playful skylight that highlights different spots in the cenote as the sun moves overhead.
There’s a stone staircase that leads down into the Cenote Xkeken chamber. At the pool’s edge are benches to leave your belongings before entering the water via a set of wide stone steps. The base of Cenote Xkeken is rocky but simple enough to walk on until you are able to swim.
As cenotes go, Xkeken is by no means the largest, nor the deepest. In fact, Cenote Samula, next door, is much larger. But, what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in atmosphere. As you float around the sacred Mayan waters, you can lie back and admire the impressive stalagmites and stalactites. All whilst playful fish swim by for a little investigation.
Where Is Cenote Xkeken?
Cenote Xkeken is 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 Xkeken Map
Feel free to click on the interactive map below to see the location of Cenote Xkeken and the Cenote Dzitnup complex in Valladolid, Mexico.
Useful Things to Know Before Visiting Cenote Xkeken
So, now you know where Cenote Xkeken is located, let’s take a look at some useful things to know for your visit.
Cenote Xkeken Opening Hours
Cenote Xkeken is open between 8am to 5pm, seven days a week. We arrived bang on 8am and had Cenote Xkeken to ourselves for a short while. Sometimes it pays to be the early bird.
Cenote Xkeken Price
The Cenote Xkeken entrance fee is $80MXN ($4.50USD) per person. But, if you want to visit Cenote Samula too, and see both of the Dzitnup Cenotes, then you’ll pay $125MXN ($7.50USD) per person. We highly recommend this option as both Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Samula are spectacular.
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 (Xkeken and Samula) and is next to the main car park. Additionally, make sure to bring cash to pay for the entrance.
Facilities at Cenote Xkeken
There are a range of basic facilities at Cenote Xkeken and the Dzitnup Cenote complex. You’ll find toilets, changing rooms and lockers before you head down into Cenote Xkeken. 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, helping to prevent any polluting of the cenote with harmful chemicals that might upset the ecosystems.
Life jackets are compulsory for swimming in Cenote Xkeken. They’re also great for ensuring a relaxing visit of just floating in the water, admiring your surroundings. Life jackets cost $30MXN ($1.75USD) per person. Annoyingly, you can’t rent one life jacket for both Cenote Xkeken and Samula. You have to rent separately at each cenote. So, expect to pay twice.
As you walk through the entrance to the Dzitnup Cenotes, towards Cenote Xkeken, you’ll pass a number of market stalls selling souvenirs and clothing. There’s also the odd one selling food, but menus are limited, so we recommend taking any food and drink with you.
Cenote Xkeken Photography
The cave chamber of Cenote Xkeken is dimly lit and so your best photographs will be with the aid of a tripod. Additionally, if you want perfect mirror reflections and clear views of the rocks below the surface, you’ll have to time your visit with opening. Dan and I were incredibly lucky to be first in the pool, and so could enjoy setting the tripod up to snap the perfectly still emerald waters of Cenote Xkeken.
Cenote Xkeken Swimming
Once you’ve made it down into the cave chamber, it’s time to take a dip in the cool yet refreshing waters of Cenote Xkeken. It’s a wonderful experience. The waters in Cenote Xkeken are never too deep, and the addition of a life jacket offers welcome rest from swimming. The cave waters are free to explore and enjoy at your leisure. There is no time frame. There are ropes that cross the length of Cenote Xkeken. These are to hold on to if you need a break whilst out swimming.
As you swim, you’ll likely spot little black catfish milling around and becoming animated as you move in the waters. They’re harmless enough.
If you’ve chosen not to use a locker, your belongings (towel, camera, flip flops) can be left at the edge of the pool on wooden benches. As it was early and quiet, that’s exactly what we did.
Occasionally, you will see members of staff popping in and out checking everyone is okay.
Cenote Xkeken Snorkelling, Jumping & Diving
Many people do in fact use snorkelling equipment at Cenote Xkeken. As mentioned, we saw small catfish and some interesting rock formations under the water, which are most impressive to view in the shallow waters. In the deeper sections of the cenote, you’re unlikely to see much as the light in the chamber is not strong enough.
Jumping is not a good idea due to the hidden rocks below the surface of the water. Use the steps to enter into Cenote Xkeken.
Also, because Cenote Xkeken is not a very deep cenote, it’s not one you’ll want to come to for diving into the depths of the Yucatan. This one is purely for swimming.
Check Out Cenote Samula (the Second Dzitnup Cenote)
Once you’ve enjoyed your visit to Cenote Xkeken, be sure to visit the second Dzitnup Cenote – Cenote Samula. This outstanding Valladolid cenote is within an even larger cavern, and just like Cenote Xkeken, there’s a hole in the cavern ceiling creating a stunning spotlight inside. A wooden staircase leads you down to the mesmerising turquoise waters.
How Long to Spend at Cenote Xkeken?
You likely won’t need more than a couple of hours to enjoy both Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Samula.
Best Time to Visit Cenote Xkeken
If you want to beat the crowds at Cenote Xkeken, then aim to arrive as soon as Dzitnup 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.
How to Get to Cenote Xkeken, Yucatan
So, now you know what to expect when you get to Cenote Xkeken, let’s take a look at how to get there from Valladolid, Mexico.
Travelling from Valladolid to Cenote Xkeken and Dzitnup complex is very straightforward with a taxi. Dan and I took a taxi for the short 10–15 minute drive and paid $100MXN ($6USD) to get there and $120MXN ($7USD) to return. You’ll find taxis dropping new visitors off throughout the day, so should have no bother getting one to take you back to Valladolid.
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 Xkeken is also very easy. 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 Xkeken from Valladolid is actually a fairly popular option. Given the cycle takes less than 30 minutes and the route is very straightforward, it’s certainly a very cost-effective and freeing way to travel to the Dzitnup Cenotes. There’s also a designated parking area for bicycles once you arrive.
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 Xkeken 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 Xkeken
If you’re driving, there’s a large car park as you enter Cenote Xkeken, next to the ticket office.
Cenote Xkeken Tours from Valladolid
Cenote Xkeken is very easy to reach independently from Valladolid, so we don’t recommend taking a tour.
But, if you’re coming from further afield in the Yucatan Peninsula, 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 Xkeken, Mexico
As the closest city to Cenote Xkeken, 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: this fantastic hostel will appeal to those on a backpacker’s budget. The Hostel Candelaria features 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 and the room was huge with a great en suite bathroom. The hotel staff are also very helpful.
- Luxury – Hotel Meson del Marques: expect authentic colonial-style decor and a luxury stay at Hotel Meson del Marques. This five-star hotel features pretty gardens, rooftop views and a wonderful restaurant.
Other Things to Do Near Cenote Dzitnup
- Explore Valladolid: this colourful town deserves some exploration.
- Chichen Itza: as one of the Seven Wonders of the New World, you must visit this hugely impressive Mayan ruin.
- Ek Balam: an underrated hero in the Valladolid area, we loved visiting the fascinating Mayan ruins of Ek Balam.
Other Cenotes Near Valladolid
Some of the best cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula are around the city of Valladolid. Below, we’ll take a look at some excellent options for Valladolid Cenotes, after you’ve visited Cenote Xkeken and the Dzitnup Cenotes.
- Cenote Suytun: easily one of the most visually stunning cenotes in Mexico.
- Cenote Samula: the second of the Dzitnup Cenotes is equally as impressive as Cenote Xkeken.
- Cenote Xcanche: you can visit this cenote on a visit to Ek Balam Mayan Ruins.
- Cenote Saamal: a large open cenote with a small cascade that you pass on the way to Cenote Xkeken.
- Cenote Zaci: in the heart of Valladolid is this semi-open cenote with a lovely outdoor restaurant.
- Cenote Ik Kil: a stunning open cenote complete with dripping vines. It’s often visited on a trip to Chichen Itza.
- Cenote Oxman: a rope swing at this cenote at Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman is the only fun way to plunge in.
Travel Essentials For Cenote Xkeken
These are our travel essentials for a visit to Cenote Xkeken 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 Xkeken.
- Arrive early: remember, arrive early to beat the crowds. It’s not uncommon for people to be queuing down the steps into 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.