Story 13: Cuzamá Cenotes

We visited Los Tres Cenotes de Cuzamá during Christmas/New Years week 2021. Here’s a Google Maps link, and higher resolution versions of the photos are available on our Flickr page.

Cuzamá is located just west of Homún, but these days is much less marketed. We chose the Los Tres Cenotes de Cuzamá. There would be a group of five us us, and a WhatsApp conversation with them ensured that their “horse and buggy” trip would accommodate us.

It’s great to drive into this area with your location preselected, because you get to ignore all the touts jumping off the curb waving color signs for cenote tours at you! Drive carefully, because some of them get dangerously close.

Let me preface by saying This was a great day. We really enjoyed ourselves! But I must then add a caution: two of the three cenotes are accessed via almost-vertical steel ladders. The ladders are very strong, but anyone with bad knees or a fear of heights is NOT going to be going down into those holes. (The other cenote is a steep stairway, but at least it’s a stairway; photo below.) Also, you will not take anything down with you; any bag with towels or anything else will be left on the cart or at the top. (If you want to carry a camera, have it in a pocket or some kind of case you can have over your shoulder.)

You’ll change into your swimsuit in the baño after paying your 150 pesos per person (we all decided at the end of the day that the day is underpriced). Your driver/guide will have lifejackets on the cart for you.

Here’s a photo of the “buggy.” Really this is a small steel-wheeled cart that will ride on rails left over from the hacienda days. There are two benches facing each other, and a fifth person can ride on a platform in back.

This is a bumpy ride! The horses get into a pretty good clop sometimes, especially downhill. Some of the turns are pretty jarring; the cabellero is not kidding when he tells you to “Hold On!” There’s a 10-second video of the ride on our Flickr page.

The ride to the first cenote is about 20 minutes. Actual time depends on whether you have to stop to allow another cart to pass the other direction; one cart will unload, everyone gets off, the caballero lifts the cart off the tracks and pulls it to the side so the other can pass. One of a dozen such pauses is shown in this photo.

(The horses take all this in stride. I realized after returning home that they probably think that they have trained the drivers really well to stop, let them take a break and chew some grass, and then continue on.)

I’ll call our first stop Cenote #1 as it is the first in the chain. It is a steep climb down; you face the ladder.

At the bottom, you follow a big red arrow to this concrete stairway, and descend a few steps into the water. Unlike most cenotes, this really feels more like you’re exploring a cave. You can see in the photos how narrow this is as you swim or float through it.

(Wear your rubber-sole shoes for entering this and all the cenotes. Your driver will take them from the start to the end of this cave for you.)

Our caballero then drove us past the second cenote (I’ll call it #2), all the way to the far end of the rail line, Cenote #3. As I warned above, this photo shows the way you get down to the cenote. This vertical steel ladder is 31 steps straight down.

You land on a platform, take a few more steps down and then a short ladder or steps into the water. OR you can jump off that platform, one of very few cenotes in Yucatán that allows that!

Cenote #3 is a big, deep, totally enclosed dome. But there are two small holes in the roof that let in sunlight during some moments of the day; if you’re lucky with the Sun’s angle, the effect is magical. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. (There are higher resolution versions on our Flickr page.)

Now we head back towards the Cenote #2, stopping several times to allow incoming carts to pass. This one is more of a zoo than we’re used to. We suspect there may be some groups that only visit this one, because it is the only one where the entrance is a stairway, not a ladder.

“Cenote #2” (the last one we visited)

Our caballo and caballero got us back to the starting point, where we changed and headed out to find some lunch.

And here is some more trip advice: PACK A LUNCH! We thought it would be easy to find some good sandwiches or salbutes in Cuzamá, but there was NADA; the whole town was closed in the midafternoon. We drove the mile or so into Homún, where the well-known Cenotes Santa Barbara restaurant was packed. (When there are four full-size tour buses and a completely full parking lot, that is NOT a “back roads” scene.)

Driving through Homún also found nothing open except the Cenotes Santa Rosa complex, which is just a step less crazy than Santa Barbara. We did find a table there and were able to get something to eat. But a far better option would have been to bring sandwiches from home or buy some in Merida and bring them along in our cooler. There are a few tables at Los Tres Cenotes where you can picnic, and a little stand sells drinks and chips.

That’s it! About a 90-minute drive back to Progreso and our day is done.