Cenote Diving Playa Del Carmen
…a step beyond normal scuba diving…
When I first came to Playa Del Carmen all the locals were coming up to me and saying “cenote.”
“See who?” I asked.
“See you later…” more like.
They said something about “cenote” being underground, so I thought they meant a local den of naked women.
Finally I listened to one of them and visited a cenote.
I’ve been hooked on them ever since.
They’re natural underground pits or sinkholes, and swimming in them them has become a de facto Playa del Carmen experience.
But don’t just visit the cenotes on the standard bus tours.
The best way to experience the cenotes is to go diving and explore these incredible underground caves for yourself.
Cenote? What’s That Then?
From a more technical perspective, cenotes are natural pits in the landscape caused by the collapse of limestone bedrock.
They provide a surface connection to subterranean water.
Enough of the science Rufus!
Okay, a cenote is like an underwater cave full of crazy rock formations.
From above they often look like a swimming pool hidden amongst the jungle.
Thousands of people come swim in them every year, and one of them is the venue for the Red Bull extreme diving competition.
They’re very sacred to the Mayans, especially the ones at Chichen Itza.
So What Will I See If I Go Cenote Diving?
Beneath the water is an underground maze of caves, jam packed with stalactites and stalagmites.
In fact, these fascinating rock formations are above and below the water level.
They were formed during the last ice age and continue to slowly erode.
It’s like exploring an entirely different world, full of tunnels and passageways that bring more and more stunning examples of beautiful rock.
Think of something like the book or movie, Journey to the Center of the Earth.
The warm water is soothing and still, and if you’re lucky you might come across an on old fossil or two beneath the surface.
Sounds Pretty Neat. Can Anybody Go Cenote Diving In Playa Del Carmen?
To go diving in one of the caverns, a diver will need his/her open water diving qualification.
Divers must have very good buoyancy control.
If you’re bouncing up and down in the water like a deluded whale then you need to give the cenotes a miss.
In open water the sky is above your head.
But in the cavern you’ve got a different overhead environment.
Last time I went I lost my buoyancy and smacked my head on the rock. Not fun.
Narrow passageways require divers to control their body positions in the water.
And the Mayans will curse you if you keep banging into the unique rock formations.
People who want to go on a long cave exploration will need a cave diver certification.
If you need it, some of the dive schools here offer it.
So Where Are The Best Cenote Dive Sites?
There are over 3000 cenotes around Playa del Carmen, so it’s good to get a heads up on which ones are the essential dive sites.
Gran Cenote Island is a fantastic beginners’ dive.
Dive below the giant lily pads and into an underwater disco of passageways and chambers.
How good is your Spanish?
“Dos ojos” anyone?
It means two eyes and is probably the most famous cenote dive in Playa Del Carmen.
It’s the deepest and widest so perfect if your buoyancy isn’t great.
I’ve become a fossil hunter, so my personal favorite is Tajma Ha, where the interconnected sinkholes reveal a bottom that’s full of these old skeletons.
Fresh and salt water meet at Calavera, a place where a collection of different holes have a spooky adventurous feel.
Also recommended is Chac-Mool, a cenote that’s part of the jaguar system and full of intrigue and peculiar formations.
What Else Do I Need To Know?
Remember that cenotes are underground pits.
So sometimes the water can be eerily dark and quiet.
But I know you can all handle a bit of darkness.
The important facts concern the diving environment.
When you’re deep in a cave it’s not so easy to reach the surface.
That’s why 1/3 of the tank air is reserved for any emergency and the minimum tank pressure on exit will be 80 bars.
Rather than dive with a buddy system, divers follow the guide in single file.
Plus a safety line always connects divers to the surface.
Fresh and salt water are going to mix.
So you’ll need to listen to your guide about what this means for your dive.
Shut up with this boring stuff Rufus!
I want more cool facts.
Well, cenotes are located in the jungle so getting to the dive site often involves an atmospheric walk through the greenery.
I’m Up For It. How Much Does Cenote Diving Cost?
After diving in different places around the world I was shocked to discover how much it costs to dive in Playa del Carmen.
It’s so cheap!
Cenote diving requires the guide to have a special qualification and equipment, but two tank dives cost just $130.
Many people go for a package of cenote and ocean open water diving.
It means you get to mix up the rocks with the fish.
For example, 4 ocean dives and 4 cenotes dives will cost around $365.
Those who want to go into the caverns will need a cavern diver course.
It takes 2 days and includes 4 dives for $450.
How Should I Pick A Dive School?
In Playa del Carmen there are lots of dive schools offering cenote diving.
But it’s a dangerous dive if the guide doesn’t know what they’re doing.
Some schools are just after money.
The good schools will have guides specially trained in guiding in the caverns.
Cenote diving is very technical so guides should have full cave certification.
They also will have all the extra equipment, like double tanks, double regulators, and cave reels.
Fortunately there are plenty of good schools and you can experience the full wonders of cenote diving in Playa del Carmen.
I hope to see you here soon!
Lots of love,
Do you have a cenote diving story that you would like to share with the rest of us? Leave it in the comments section below!