Continuing on our cenote reviewing, we checked out 3 more yesterday and boy were they different. We were so happy to explore the cenotes with our friends The Scotts, from Oregon. We used to live across the street from them when we lived in Oregon and our kids did a lot of playing on long summer nights. They are here in Cancun for a little vacation (minus their older daughter who is on an educational program to Costa Rica this week) and we arranged to meet up. We thought they might enjoy seeing a few cenotes with the
Cenote Hunters Shermans so they rented a tiny little Chevrolet Spark that we nicknamed Sparky. The Scotts’ son, Nicholas, had to be taught how to operate the windows with the manual handle and Erik had to be reminded how to use a clutch. A few times.
This time we decided to cenote-hop on a road called La Ruta de Cenote (Cenote Route) which logically would have a bunch of them on it. These cenotes are closer to Cancun but they all tend to be be further off the main paved road. Good news… less crowds. Bad news… the roads are pretty bad. Little Sparky made it but the Scotts felt like a Scott Milkshake after awhile. But with the entire peninsula receiving massive tourists during Semana Santa – Mexico’s Spring Break – it was worth it to try to avoid the crowds.
We chose the first cenote because it looked interesting and had a big sign. They advertised bathrooms, parking, a zip line and hammocks. All of this sounds just great so we paid ($8.50 USD per person) and the guy told us to drive down the dirt road about a mile. This was no problem in our Honda CRV but Sparky needed a little coaxing on some of the bumpy parts. At a few points we wondered if we really should do this (Daniel didn’t of course, but I did)… it seemed far away and we really had no idea what we’d find. But we had already paid and were already on the road so we just kept going. We probably were not the first person to get suckered into that “well, we already paid…” thought. But in the end we are so glad we didn’t turn back. We got to the open area for parking, walked down a very nice path and within 30 seconds we looked out on a very large cenote. We saw lilly pads over to one side but the other side was clear, and the best part was a zip line, a parallel rope for climbing and a rather tall diving platform. Oh and about 5 other people total in the entire place, none of whom were in the water. Love it!
Erik was the first to try out the zip line but I followed shortly after because I will overthink it if I wait too long. The water was not cold per se, but it was chilly at first. It became comfortable fast. Lisa (the Scott mom) was hemming and hawing so her husband Erik took care of that and just pushed her in. I guess he knows how to cut through the red tape. Pretty soon we were all in the water and having a blast.
It’s amazing how much time you can spend on just a few water toys. The zip line, the jumping, the ropes, we just goofed off and had a ball. It was a bit overcast but the temperature felt great. It was a great facility with decent bathrooms, shaded tables to put your stuff, lifejackets in good condition and a grill where they made empanadas. But we had only come a short way along Cenote Route so we decided we needed to keep going and check out another one. The guys at the first one told us to go to Kin-Ha, a few kilometers down the road. So off we went.
We turned off the road not too much further but then had to travel about 6 kilometers down another very rocky road to get to the actual cenote. It was a much bigger facility, with a big covered area with tables, nice bathrooms, a restaurant and a bar and you could even rent ATVs for ATV tours. They said they had 2 cenotes there and told us about the zip lines, diving platforms and ladders (he said about the ladders; “for those of you who want to enter the cenote like a chicken”). Me! I do!
So we paid the higher price for both cenotes, which was NOT cheap ($20 USD per person for the 2 cenotes). We get our lifejackets and follow the guy to the first cenote. We expected to walk down a path and find an open area that we could wade into like the others that we had visited but this one was…. well, for lack of a better term.. a hole in the ground. Actually two holes in the ground, side by side. We all looked at each other and had that “oh hell no” look on our faces. But we were there and AGAIN we had already paid. I sense a trend here.
At this point we asked about the other cenote that we had paid for and they said when we were ready they will take us there. It’s a 20 MINUTE DRIVE AWAY!! And of course, the only way to get there was for them to drive us because the roads were simply TOO bad for regular cars to drive on. Daniel: “Are you kidding?” Them: Shakes head no. It was already very late in the day, about 3:50pm by this time and they said they close it all down around 5 or 6pm. Okay. well, not much else to do but move forward with the plans.
That’s where things got hinky.
So we psyche ourselves up to enter the demon hole to hell. I take the
chicken way ladder down and… WOW!! It’s basically a clear blue swimming pool in a cave. It was so incredibly beautiful. Shortly thereafter Erik, Daniel and Nicholas (their 12 year old son) took the brave warrior way (guess who wrote that part?) quick way down and jumped from the open hole in the ground into the cave/pool. They couldn’t really see what they were jumping into from above so we were impressed. It’s about a 20 foot drop, give or take a few hundred feet. Eventually, we all got in and swam around. There were only 4 or 5 other people there at the same time. So it wasn’t crowded at all. There was a small zip line, a root that had busted through the ceiling of the cave and grown all the way down to the water and of course, what cenote/cave experience would be complete without some bats? Only this time, it was WAY creepier. You could see them staring at you from their upside down Dracula hanging positions. So we swam around for a bit in water that was a bit more chilly (direct sunlight isn’t as plentiful to warm it up). It was dark but they had a few lights strung up. I was praying for no power outages at that moment.
After only about 20 or 30 minutes, we needed to beat cheeks to the next cenote before they closed it up. We climb into a passenger van that looks like it was used on the bombing range 20 years ago. The last row of seats were actually just set in there from another van without being bolted down or anything. Yeah, it was a doozy. So off we go. It was only a few kilometers away but the road was so bumpy it forced us to go very slow. The van had the glass completely out of the windows on one side and the back and it was literally held together in the back by a bungy cord. We bounced around like jello and we admired the driver’s mad skills when we met another van head-on on a narrow jungly dirt road. It was a bit of a crazy ride, but 20 minutes later, we arrived.
Our 3rd cenote for the day was a lot like the first one in the day. There was an open clearing to park, you go over and find yourself peering into a small lake / large cenote. It was almost completely surrounded by high cliffs, too. But there were plenty of walkways and stairs and ladders and planks and rock steps… the list goes on. This one had 4 different zip lines at different heights and tons of jumping platforms. Again Erik is the first one in and I am the second (do. not. overthink). Again, Lisa needed
a shove assistance getting into the water. The water was chilly but felt fine once you were in. Dan and Nicholas jumped off some of the higher platforms. We tried the different zip lines (except the tallest one, which was quite literally stupid to even attempt it) and had some good fun with the place all to ourselves. Our driver said that because we were there at the end of the day it was empty, but that morning it had been very busy. Perfecto!
It’s getting late so we decide it’s about time to go and we start heading to the van when the driver comes back and says we have a “problemita” – a little problem. A tire is flat. Really flat. Like, not-going-anywhere, flat.
So I start asking questions.
Me: Has this ever happened before?
Mr. No-Back-Up-Plan Driver: No.
Me: Well surely you have a spare tire?
Mr. No-Back-Up-Plan Driver: No.
Me: OK, but SURELY you have a radio, cell phone, conch shell, flare gun… SOMETHING to call attention to our plight, right?
Mr. No-Back-Up-Plan Driver: No.
Me: Can we drive on it anyway?
Mr. No-Back-Up-Plan Driver: No.
Me: Well…. what do you suggest?
At this point I want to yell at him like I do the kids during homeschool sometimes: “Why am I doing more work here than you?”. But it feels like he’s our lifeline at this point so best not to piss him off too much.
So he says he’s going to have to go to the main area and get another vehicle and come back and get us. That 20 minute drive away. He says he’s going to run. So off he goes. We debated on staying put and playing awhile longer, sitting in the nasty van or starting off on foot ourselves and we decided on the latter. Thankfully we were all wearing water shoes which were not great on the feet but 100% better than bare feet. We were thankful for a lot of things at that moment. I had bug spray, but there were no bugs, I had trail mix but no one needed it, Lisa had water but no one needed it, the kids were energetic and excited, we did not have heavy bags, it was not hot nor rainy and there did not seem to be any animals that were roaming through the jungle looking for a human snack. It’s all bueno. And we also reasoned that we were not travelling all that much slower than the van was so perhaps we would make it back to the main area by sun up tomorrow.
We walked for awhile and it wasn’t bad other than the tender water-shoe-covered feet stepping on sharp jagged rocks. We then got to the larger road so we knew we were about halfway back. Then a truck came by and we all waved him down and asked for a ride back to the main entrance. Seven wet gringos wearing water shoes, hitchhiking in the jungles of Mexico. What could go wrong? “Sure,” they said. “Climb in.” And what do we find in the back of his truck? A rather large picnic table. How convenient! So we sat down at a very comfy picnic table and he took off. It was way more comfortable than walking and immeasurably more comfortable than the war-torn passenger van. It was like a mobile picnic! It didn’t take long before a van from the cenote company was barreling toward us. He saw us in the back of the truck and got a good laugh at the resourceful gringos. So at that point we switched vehicles, got in a nicer van this time and off we went to the main lodge area. We thanked the mobile picnic truck with a little tip and lots of “gracias” all around.
We got back and used their great facilities to change into dry clothes and ended what has been one of our best cenote days. We’ve kind of lost track of which cenote is our favorite so far, but today’s experience will definitely be the most memorable. We loved the zip line and the parallel ropes of the first one. Of course, the underground cave cenote is a MUST SEE. And the one we had to trek back to with the 4 ziplines and different diving height platforms was also very cool. So it just depends on what you’re looking for on any given day (or see all three!). But whatever you do, wear water shoes or have shoes with you. You just never know when you’re going to be hiking unexpectedly. And if you can fit a spare tire in your backpack, it wouldn’t hurt.
Here is some video of our day.