Cuzama Cenotes


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Bus ride to Cuzama from Merida

Today we undertook a grand adventure to Cuzama to see its famous cenotes. Appealing factors for visiting these cenotes is that you are taken from cenote to cenote via ‘trucks,’ which are little cars pulled along rails by horses over 7 kilometers. This is an old sisal plantation of the Yucatan and offers people a chance to see its three cenotes: Chelentun, Chansinic’che, and Bolonchoojol which are all located on an old sisal hacienda which is now in ruins.

This is an adventure we tried to have last week but we went to the wrong bus terminal. This week we had the right bus terminal, Noreste, and were on the way. There are tours available from Merida if you do not care to ride on the bus, but to us the bus was half the adventure.

We arrived at the Noreste terminal at calle 50 and 67 in Centro where we purchased our bus tickets to Cuzama. The tickets were 18 pesos each and the kids were half price, so the total for the bus ride was 54 pesos ($4.42 CDN) for the almost hour long bus ride heading east from Merida. Now this is what is considered a 2nd class bus, not a chicken run bus! The bus itself was great and air conditioned but it was not ‘directo’ and managed to stop in almost every little village along the way and the road was shared with a lot of bikes and it seemed every other minute we were slowing down for another speed bump. But for the price, it was worth while seeing all the villages and the different landscape from Merida. Once again, I would recommend getting the front seats on the bus. They were great.

Once we arrived in Cuzama, we were greeted by a long line of bikes with buggies on the front, some were motorized and some were not. We managed to get on some motorized ones, at a cost of 25 pesos per person ( $2.05 Cdn) with two people per bike (100 pesos one way) and raced about ten minutes along the streets of Cuzuma to the entrance to the cenotes. Now I know there are two different entrances to the cenotes but I was unsure as to which one I was ‘supposed’ to go to so we just went where they took us. One is apparently more politically correct than the other (if anybody can post here which is which that would be terrific!). Next time we go we will go to the second entrance which is run by the folks from Chunkanan, which is where the tour originally started from.

We arrived at the beginning of the cenote tour and were greeted by a long line of tour guides to take us on our way. Felipe was our guide for the day and we were loaded onto a cart, which resembled an old carriage, and was to be pulled by a tiny little horse. At this time we thought it would be a nice little ride to the cenotes… It proved to be about a 20 minute ride to the first cenote, the first five minutes were quite fun but the rest was just long. Not a Disney approved ride of course with no seat belts, no safety checks, no concern for safety at all really, and took too long of course but the end result was worth it! The price we were told at the beginning of the tour was 250 pesos ( $20.52 Cdn) for the four of us to tour all three cenotes. The time spent at each cenote is really up to you, but on busy days they restrict you to 30-45 minutes each one. Luckily for us it did not seem that busy on the Thursday afternoon we went, although it was busy enough for us ~ I am not sure I would have liked to share the ‘landings’ with many more people.

Evan jumping into first cenote

The first cenote, easily accessible for most everyone, had a staircase (well, lets call it a staircase) leading down into the “wide open” space of the cenote with lots of space to prepare yourself for swimming. This cenote had a couple of ‘booths’ at the top which could sell you beverages, snacks, rent you goggles and lifejackets. Everyone loved the first cenote and had a great time swimming with the fish in the fresh water and watching the birds overhead. My pictures cannot do this justice, I will try to get back to get better pictures at a future date. Evan, Noah, and myself all jumped from the ledge to the nice fresh cool water.

The second cenote had a smaller opening… When I say smaller I mean when you are going down the stairs if you are over five feet tall (most Mayans are not this tall) you will actually need to sit down on the step as you avoid smashing your head on the rocks above. Once you circumnavigate this part of the stairs, the rest seem quite easy – well until you get to the bottom and the last few steps are wet and very slippery but there are sturdy railings to grab hold of. At the bottom of this stair case (using that term quite liberally) there is a landing. Hmmm, well sort of a landing I guess. The stairs do end, and there are boards laid around protruding rocks with gaping holes in them, but if you are careful it is somewhere to stand. Oh, and this is where you ‘get’ into this cenote. Ok, maybe not ‘get’ but, this is where you jump the 15 feet off the ‘landing’ to the water below. The exit from this cenote is a ‘ladder.’ Well ok, again it may not be a ‘ladder’ one would find at Home Depot, but instead a series of branches ‘secured’ to posts to climb to a landing.

"Steps" from second cenote

Ok, again, maybe not a series but, at one time it may have been a series, now there are some steps missing and this lower landing is mostly where you try to scramble over the top from the steps below and roll on your stomach. Kind of like when your ladder doesn’t quite reach the top and you need to hoist yourself up by your hands and flat on your stomach while groping around for a handhold on a very wet piece of flat wood.

And once you get out, your heart desires to jump in one more time! So in we go, I am waiting in the water for Evan to jump in, when all of the sudden he dives into the pool headfirst. Now I am in the water, and it is high enough that I am thinking “WTF” as people are gasping and clapping on the platform. His dive was exceptional but I think it even surprised him as he came up gasping for air. I will give him this, there were no tears but he did not do it again.

At this point we were off to the third cenote which we had already heard was a ladder going down a hole to the cenote 24 meteres below… Just for fun we had our guide take us there to see it but needless to say with the young boys along we did not venture into the tavern. It was a hole in the ground about a meter in diameter with a ladder going straight down to the cenote. I guess once you are down there it is quite big but not much light…just the sunbeams coming in from above. I am not sure I would have gone anyways, but maybe next time. This cenote looked beautiful from above, we did get to look into it as there was just a little hole in the ground letting light in.

Then we took the same route back to where we would take the bus to Merida. The guys driving us in the buggy attached to the skooters dropped us off at the “bus station”. The “station” here in Cuzuma is not labelled so look for an empty looking store on a corner kitty corner to the church in the main plaza…it was just an empty room with some plastic chairs and a few snacks and drinks for sale. The guy there was wearing a FUTV cap which I think is the terminal name. We were early for the bus (it was scheduled for 3:00) but he said there was a collectivo we could take ( for 19 pesos pp- $1.55 Cdn). The “collectivo is a passanger van that holds about 15 people. We opted for this choice as we didn’t want to wait the extra 1/2 hour for the bus….which we think was coming at 3 but our spanish was meager to say the least and the guy at the terminal did not speak english. Not sure what we were getting into we were pleasantly surprised… the van was faster and didn’t stop as often…but not quite as cool and comfortable. So we arrived back in Merida about 40 minutes later and took a cab back to our house!

I would highly recommend this trip to anyone looking for something different and to see more of the Mexican way of life.

Suggested items to bring with you for this trip:

  • Water, lots of water
  • Sandwiches and snacks (especially if you have kids) you can eat these on the carts between cenotes
  • Water Shoes – for walking around the cenotes for sure footing
  • Goggles, Snorkles, Masks, Flippers if you really want to explore the cenote
  • Life Jackets are available for rent but you may bring your own.
  • Water wings – our youngest found the water very deep and was much happier with the water wings on.
  • Water shirts for everyone for quick drying between cenotes
  • Apple for the horse
  • Towels, but I would recommend the ‘shammy’ style to save space
  • Camera (I would recommend a tripod to get the best pictures in the cenotes)
  • Backpacks, there is very little area to store your stuff on each landing but you can leave them with your cart
  • Cooler: for people who want a colder lunch and beverages you can strap a cooler to your cart




8 Responses to “Cuzama Cenotes”

  1. Jackie says:

    Looks so awesome guys! Glad you had a good time and found some freshwater for swimming! :) I may mark this one down as something I’d like to do when we come visit…

    • Kurt says:

      This one looks like it will be a most popular trip for the adventurous! We cannot wait to get down the ladder to the 3rd cenote and see what awaits below. We have found other cenotes which are above ground and will be great for the less adventurous.

  2. Grandma and Grandpa says:

    Well you might get Grandpa to participate in this adventure, but beautiful though the water looks, I think Grandma will stay at the museum while you go! The ladders look a bit challenging and the close spaces are scary to me. Great pictures of the boys jumping into the water. We got a good laugh reading your description of the cenote adventure. We want to know why there are no pictures of Lyn jumping into the water or crawling out on her belly?

  3. Robin says:

    “Kind of like when your ladder doesn’t quite reach the top and you need to hoist yourself up by your hands and flat on your stomach while groping around for a handhold on a very wet piece of flat wood.” Oh my! Did the boys actually find a hand hold, did anyone fall back into the pool?

    Yes, I agree with Deb, I see lyn on the journey and in the pool, but none of her getting in. Is there an alternate way in?
    Already the first cenote has a small opening, looking up.
    Great Pictures and descriptions. I’ve sent your website to several people. Truly and out of the ordinary adventure.
    Did you leave a geocache at these sites?
    Love the transportation!

    • Kurt says:

      All of us went into the first cenote and it was great! Evan and I were the only ones to lauch the fifteen feet into the second cenote and climb out on the ‘ladder.’ I was there to help Evan over the edge and managed to pull myself up.
      There are other cenotes which are more ground access friendly where we will take people to that cannot brave the ladders and stairs. I think mom could do the first cenote fine, she did get in the submarine at Disneyland after all!
      No geocaching so far, I left the gps at home so far, maybe next time.

  4. Mohamed says:

    The article was great and convinced me to go to Cuzama as well. However I ran into a few challenges…

    1. You need to leave Progreso early if you want to catch the bus leaving Merida to Cuzama at a decent hour. I left Progreso at 11.30am and landed in Merida at 12.30pm. The afternoon bus to Cuzama left at 2.30pm.

    2. The road to Cuzama is under construction and the ride can take 2 hours one-way.

    3. Coming back there is no bus at 7pm, but there was a Collectivo at 7.30pm. I was told to rush through the cenotes so I could make the connection. Luckily the guides understood the time crunch and made sure I wasn’t late.

    BTW… I believe the unofficial entrance is used by the boys who hold the red flag. The original entrance is found if you tell the bike guys you want to go to the Hacienda Chunkanan.

    • Kurt says:

      Thank you for the great information Mo! It was a pleasure meeting you and I hope you have a great trip back to Edmonton! Hope you enjoyed your trip to the Yucatan, the drive sounds like it was a great adventure with lots of scenery.

      Yes, I did forget to mention that the road to Cuzama was under construction when we went the first time, but it did not slow us down at all as they had just started the construction. We got lucky because our kids would not have done well with a two hour bus ride. The next people who go may have a two hour bus ride, or it may be a nice smooth road!

      We did take the first bus out of Merida as we knew we had to be heading home before 3pm and did not want to spend the night in Cuzama (not even sure that is possible). This is definitely a tour to be started first thing in the morning unless you have your own transportation. I should have mentioned this in the article – LEAVE EARLY!

      Ok, I also missed the horse flies. You are traveling on ‘trucs’ on a dusty railway track with horses on them all day. There is bound to be some horse flies. Fortunately we did not get bit when we were there, Mo was not so fortunate today and received a couple of bites. This is a warning supplied to everyone who may undertake this adventure, bring ‘AfterBite’ just in case!
      When we go next time with guests, we will follow your advice and find the Hacienda Chunkanan entrance.

  5. Julia says:

    Hello and welcome to Merida :) I was looking up info about the ice skating at Liverpool when I came across your blog. I am always amazed at the amount of Canadians and Americans that are moving here! We are from Florida and have lived here since November of 2008. We really like it here (though the heat takes some getting used to!) I don’t think the heat is near as bad in Progreso though as it is in Merida.
    We have 3 children as well and we live very close to Liverpool. I am actually taking my 9 year old daughter and her cousin to skate today.
    If there is anything we can do to help you as you get adjusted, just ask! Would love to meet you sometime… Have a great week :)


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