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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 29 May, 2023
Expert travel writer: Alex Robinson

This unique cenote, also known as Cenote Dzitnup, feels like a secret swimming hole. Set in a low-lit cavern dripping with stalactites, hidden 60ft underground, Xkeken looks like a film set from an Indiana Jones movie. There’s only one small, single opening in the ceiling to allow light in – around mid-morning, a single shaft of sunlight shines through, lighting the cavern in brilliant colours.

With small bats nesting on the ceiling, turquoise water and overhanging limestone formations, it’s an atmospheric place for a swim.

But much photographed and much visited, it can get very crowded. So come early or late and you’ll share it only with the black cave fish, who gently nibble your feet as you swim.

While you’re there

Just across the road from Xkeken, the Samula cenote is almost as beautiful and has much better swimming. Combined tickets are available at either site.

Price from: £3
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 4+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

The cenote is easy to visit from either Valladolid (10 minutes by cab) or Chichén Itzá (a 30-minute drive). Xkeken is 3km from Valladolid town and 39 km from Chichén Itzá, sitting 1km south of the Valladolid-Chichén Itzá Highway 180, on the road to Dzitnup village.

There are rental lockers, life jackets and changing rooms, and simple food stalls outside the entrance. Steps down can be very slippery so take care.

When to do it

The cenote is open all year round, seven days a week. Visit as close to opening hours as possible to avoid crowds, or after 4.30pm.

The weather in the Mayan Riviera is generally good all year round, and the water is always warm enough for swimming. The rainy season from May through October sees the fewest visitors to Mayan Riviera – and fewer crowds at the cenotes. The dry season – November through April – gets busy. If you can, avoid peak season in December to January, when it gets oppressively crowded, especially around Christmas and New Year.

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Mayan Riviera

Talc-white beaches, reefs teeming with life, ruined temples in misty rainforests – the Riviera Maya offers a family or romantic beach holiday with a dash of Indian Jones adventure.