Rays of sunlight shine down through a small opening. They strike the water below, igniting a magnificent teal color throughout. Swallows swarm the ceiling above, chirping away in a symphony of sound. Roots and stalactites stretch from the roof all the way down to the water’s surface.
Cenote Dzitnup is incredible. It includes two different cenotes: Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Samula. We love cenotes and go to them every chance we get. But these two are something special.
Whenever you’re in the Valladolid area – just outside of Cancun, Mexico – and are looking for a spot to cool off, make sure you head to Cenote Dzitnup for a great experience.
How to Get to Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Samula near Valladolid, Mexico
These two cenotes are near the village of Dzitnup, just a few miles south of Valladolid. The archeological ruin sites of Chichen Itza and Ek Balam are just a few miles away, while the busy cities of Cancun and Merida are just a couple hours by car.
If you’re coming from Cancun or Merida via car, you can squeeze these cenotes into a full day of visiting ruin sites and the charming town of Valladolid. You can easily find them on GPS by using Cenote Dzitnup in your search.
If you’re already in Valladolid, you can take a colectivo, a taxi, or our favorite method: ride a bike. Bike rentals are plentiful all over town for about $100 pesos per day, and some airbnb rentals include them. The ride takes you past the convent in Valladolid, then onto a lovely bike path next to Highway 180.
After riding southwest on Highway 180 for about 1.5 miles, make a left (south) onto Dzitnup Road. You’ll pass by Hacienda Selva Maya (which has its own small cenote) and you’ll see signs for X’Keken Ecopark (which is another name for Cenote Dzitnup). Continue along the bike path for one mile until you reach the cenotes on the right side of the road. The whole trip takes about 25 minutes.
If you prefer, the Cenote Dzitnup has a large parking lot to drive yourself. Or colectivo taxis will take you here for less than $30 pesos each. A full taxi (4 people) should cost around $100 pesos.
Arriving at Cenote Xkeken & Cenote Samula
This place is meant to handle a lot of tourists and the entrance area shows it. After the ticket counter, they’ll ask to take your photo which you can buy afterward – sort of like an amusement park roller coaster (superimposed on a background of the cenotes). They even have a couple of brilliantly colored macaws you can pose with.
Then you’ll step into one of three shopping areas with a large fountain in the middle. (Did I mention this place can host a lot of tourists?) To the right is Cenote Samula and to the left is Cenote XKeken.
You have the option of buying entrance to one cenote for $80 pesos or both for $125. We recommend doing both, but they are somewhat similar. So if only one fits your budget, I’d say check out Cenote Samula. Keep reading to find out why!
If you arrive early and there aren’t a lot of people there, start off at Samula and do Cenote XKeken after. Samula is the more spectacular of the two, especially if you the early morning sun is still coming down at an angle.
You’ll turn to the right and go through the large, circular shopping area. Many stalls selling textiles and trinkets of all sorts are here.
Cenote Samula – Rays of Light
Before you reach the entrance, make a quick stop at the two small rock walls just before the entrance. The small rectangular square area surrounds a large hole looking down into the Cenote Samula. You can peek in and see the stairway and water below. You’re standing on the top of the roof of the cenote!
Next to it is a small well-like structure. It’s also a small hole looking down into the water.
Quickly head over to the staircase and make your way down. As you enter the main part of the cave, you’ll be near the ceiling of Cenote Samula. The view is incredible so take a moment to absorb it.
Light comes streaming in through the large hole in the ceiling. It shines in the thick air. The beams of light stretch far down below to the blue water and hit it like a spotlight on the main stage. A small group of swallows flies around the ceiling, dipping in and out through the hole of light. It is beautiful.
Hike down the rest of the stairs, strip down into your suit, and climb in. The water is cool – not cold – and covers nearly the entire floor of the cenote.
The entrance area is shallow, but the ropes lead to deeper sections. If you want to bring some snorkel gear, go ahead and throw it on. (We love our Oceanic masks; Cressi is a very popular brand as well.) There is a small island right under the opening, but climbing on it is prohibited.
Relax in the water, get blinded by the light for a few seconds, then make your way back out.
After climbing up the stairs, make your back toward the front entrance. Then through the walkway to the left, across a small road, through ANOTHER shopping area and you’ll reach the entrance to Cenote XKeken.
To the right of the entrance area is a small cave. It’s half-open to the air and a quick visit is all you need. Turn back around then down the stairs to the left and into Cenote Xkeken. The stairs aren’t as grand as the Cenote Samula ones, but a short flight leads you to a wide landing area.
The blue pool of water covers half of the large floor. The real treat here is the stalactites and root systems hanging down from the ceiling. The right side has a massive stalactite formation that drops down like a willow tree. It’s mesmerizing.
Other roots stretch down all throughout the pool. They look like ropes that are dying to be climbed up, but of course, you can’t do that.
But you can swim out into the dark blue water. Hang out on the ropes stretching across and if you’re really lucky and arrive when few people are there, it might make for a great photo opportunity. Our Sony mirrorless camera goes everywhere with us and we couldn’t recommend it more. We were able to go to both cenotes at Cenote Dzitnup before 10 am and had great opportunities for photos at both sites.
Other Tips for Cenote Dzitnup
Since this is so close to Valladolid, a popular tourist area, we highly recommend coming here early in the day. We got to the gates around 9 am and there were less than 5 people in each Cenote Samula and Cenote Xkeken. Everyone was being quiet and the silence was incredible.
Kristina had visited one other time when tour buses had arrived. While it was still incredible, there were a lot of kids splashing around, crowds along the bases, and a lack of early morning sunlight.
The bike ride is great. We don’t often recommend biking because the streets can be a bit tight, but here there is a great bike path nearly the entire way, and it was quite enjoyable.
And if you need to wear sunscreen, make sure to use mineral-based ones that are less toxic to the fragile cenote ecosystem.
Summary of Cenote Dzitnup: Cenote XKeken and Cenote Samula
Check out these two incredible cenotes at X’Keken Ecopark, also known as Cenote Dzitnup. The two cenotes here (Cenote Samula and Cenote XKeken) are amazing. Skip the crowded cenotes in the town of Valladolid and make the short trip out on a bicycle. Soak in the light beaming down and enjoy the massive stalactites that make these two cenotes unique.
Do you like to wake up early to avoid the crowds? Where have you gone early morning to avoid the tourist crowds? Leave us a comment below to share your thoughts!