Cenote Samula, Valladolid: Ultimate Guide (2020)
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Cenote Samula, part of Cenote Dznitup, is a cave cenote close to the city of Valladolid. Swimming in Cenote Samula is a unique experience both for the dazzling light beams and the cascading vines which descend through the small opening in its roof into the cenote waters below.
Having visited Cenote Samula at the beginning of 2020, these are our tips and guide to visiting Cenote Xkeken to help your plan your own visit.
Cenote Samula is an underground cave style cenote set in a limestone cave with a small opening in its roof. When the sun is directly overhead, dazzling light beams stream through the opening and illuminate the cenote waters creating a magical effect. Hanging vines cascade from the ceiling and almost touch the waters below. Swimming in the clear waters of Cenote Samula with the sunbeams dancing and the hanging vines cascading into the water is is an amazing experience.
Cenote Samula is a large cenote and the water can reach up to 35 meters in depth.
Located in the town of Dzntiup, Cenote Samula is often referred to as Cenote Dznitup and is part of a complex of two cenotes. Its neighbor, Cenote Xkeken, is set in a closed cave adorned with stunning rock formations.
Cenote Samula tip: There are single and double cenote ticket options available at the entrance meaning you can visit Cenote Samula and Cenote Xkeken together or just visit one of the cenotes in the complex.
What are Cenotes?
A cenote, pronounced seh-NO-tay, are water-filled sinkholes that naturally occur in limestone rock when an underground cave collapses in on itself and exposes the groundwater underneath. There are thousands of cenotes dotted around the Yucatan Peninsula and many of the cenotes are extremely popular with locals and tourists alike.
The water in the cenotes tends to be cool as the water comes from underground so they are great for a refreshing swim to cool off from the hot Mexican sunshine.
In Mayan times a number of the cenotes were used for sacrificial purposes and objects such as gold, pottery and even human and animal remains have been found at the bottom of some cenotes.
The cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula are a mix of open, semi-open or underground:
- Open cenotes: these are caves which have completely collapsed in on themselves and are exposed to the sky. These are our favourite as you can swim under the blue skies, the water is a pleasant temperature and there are usually lots of areas to relax by the water. The Ek Balam Cenote Xcanche is open air. Our other favorite open cenotes are Cenote Azul, one of the best Playa Del Carmen cenotes, Gran Cenote and Cenote Carwash in nearby Tulum and Cenote Oxman near Valladolid.
- Semi-open cenotes: these cenotes are mostly underground but have small openings in the ceiling where light and fresh air come in. These cenotes can be particularly beautiful as the light beams illuminate the crystal clear water below. Our favorite semi-open cenote is Cenote Ik Kil which can be visited as part of a day trip to Chichen Itza and Cenote Samula, a cenote near Valladolid.
- Underground cenotes: these cenotes are completely underground in a cave system and have no natural light to illuminate the cenote water. The three cenotes near the Coba ruins (Cenote Choo-Ha, Multum-Ha and Tamchach-Ha) are amazing underground cenotes you can easily visit from Playa Del Carmen on a longer stay.
Visiting Cenote Samula
Cenote Samula and Cenote Xkeken share a ticket office which is located adjacent to the car park for both cenotes. After paying the entrance fee ($80 pesos for one cenote, $125 pesos for both), Cenote Samula is a short walk from the entrance.
Cenote Samula tip: it’s likely that you will be encouraged to join with a guide to visit Cenote Samula and Cenote Xkeken. We prefer to explore independently and found it easy to navigate both cenotes. We’ve included details of getting to the cenote so you know what to expect on your visit.
The path starts from the fountain area beside the main entrance and a signpost for Cenote Samula leads off to the right.
After walking through the visitors center you will reach a jungle path which leads to the cenote. Currently, the visitors center it is a mostly empty building with some stalls where you can rent a life jacket for use in Cenote Samula.
There are bathrooms, showers and changing rooms on the way to the cenote. Make sure to shower before you enter the cenote: a shower is required at all cenotes to protect the water and the fragile ecosystem from harmful chemicals.
You will soon reach the steps which lead down into Cenote Samula. The stone stairway to Cenote Samula is quite steep and uneven and can be slippery so be careful when descending down into the cenote.
After reaching the entrance to the cave, wooden steps lead directly down to the cenote waters.
Cenote Samula tip: there are two wooden platforms on the way down to the cenote. The first platform has a lovely view so make sure to stop and admire the cenote from above.
Swimming in Cenote Samula
With its turquoise waters, hanging vines and small opening in the cave, Cenote Samula is a great choice for swimming close to Valladolid. The light beams and cascading vines make swimming in Cenote Samula a unique experience. If you visit on a bright day when the sun is directly overhead, the effect of the light beams is mesmerizing. However, its waters are slightly cooler than the neighboring Cenote Xkeken and we only managed a short swim!
Cenote Samula tip: when we were there in January 2020, the light beams shone into the cenote between 12pm and 2pm.
There are two guide ropes across the cenote for when you want to catch your breath and. As with most of the cenotes, when you take a break, small fish will likely have a nibble at your toes!
What to bring when visiting Cenote Samula
Visiting a cenote is a little different from visiting a regular swimming pool and these are some things which we highly recommend taking with you when visiting Cenote Samula.
Many cenotes, especially the smaller cenotes, don’t accept credit cards. If you need to rent a life jacket or buy any snacks or drinks you’re likely going to need cash. Generally speaking, we found it easier to have pesos with us.
Some of the larger cenotes may take credit card for entry, however once inside the cenote area cash is usually the only option.
Some of the larger cenotes offer towel rental however we found it easier to bring our own large microfiber towels. Microfiber towels are fantastic as they pack small and dry super quick, making them great for the cenotes where you will be hopping back in a car after your swim. We take ours one every trip and we always end up using them – check prices on Amazon!
You can snorkel in most of the cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula and, while you can rent them in some cenotes, having your own is invaluable. It’s also a much cheaper option if you visiting a few cenotes. The crystal clear waters of the cenotes make for incredible snorkeling although Cenote Xkeken wasn’t one of of favorite for snorkeling – check prices now!
Swim shoes are great as they give you more grip on the wooden walk-ways around the cenotes. They also help a lot for the shallower entrances at some cenotes where you have to walk on submerged rocks. Make sure to throw them in your bag before you visit the Yucatan! – check prices now!
While you cannot wear sunscreen or mosquito spray in the cenotes while swimming, you’ll likely spend some time chilling in the sun after your swim.
An action camera such as a GoPro or an Osmo Action is great for snapping photos and video. We loved having our Osmo Action Waterproof camera with us when visiting the cenotes. It allowed us to take some really fun video and photos while swimming in the cenotes – check prices now!
Tips for Visiting Cenote Saamula
Below are our tips to help you make the most of your time at Cenote Samula
1 | How to get to Cenote Samula
Located 10 kilometers south of Valladolid, Cenote Samula is easily accessible from the city.
1 | How to get to Cenote Samula
This is the easiest way to get to all of the cenotes in Mexico. There is a large car park at Cenote Samula. We rented a car for our time in the Yucatan and highly recommend it to our readers.
Visit Cenote Samula tip: It’s around a 15 minute drive from Valladolid to Cenote Samula so it’s very easy to drive
A bicycle ride is a popular way to visit the closest cenotes to Valladolid. The trip out takes about 40 minutes by bike.
Taxi is also an option given how close Cenote Samula is to Valladolid. The journey out should cost around $100 pesos. Expect to pay double on the way back as you will have to call a taxi to come from Valladolid – you will have to pay the fare for both ways of the trip making it double the outward trip.
Shared colectivos depart from opposite the bus station in Valladolid and cost around $35 pesos.
2 | Cenote Samula Price
There are a variety of ticket options available at the entrance to Cenote Samula which included food, bikes, ATVs and even horse rides! The most popular tickets are:
- Single Cenote ticket for Cenote Samula: $80 pesos
- Double Cenote ticket for Cenote Samula and Cenote Xkeken: $125 pesos
We recommend having cash (preferably Mexican pesos) with you when visiting all the cenotes in Mexico and Cenote Samula is no exception.
3 | Cenote Samula Opening Hours
Opening hours: Cenote Samula and Cenote Xkeken are open from 9am to 5pm.
4 | How long to spend at Cenote Samula
We spent around 2 hours between Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Samula.
Cenote Samula tip: it’s a short walk between Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Samula and they share a car park. It is easy to visit both cenotes.
5 | Best time to visit Cenote Samula
For most cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula we recommend a morning visit at opening as the best way to avoid the crowds. However, the light beams at Cenote Samula mean that a late morning/afternoon visit is best. It’s incredible to see the light beams illuminating the cenote waters and the cenote takes on an other worldly feel.
This is also a busy time at the cenote and, although we always suggest trying to avoid the crowds, this is one instance when the most popular time is also the best!
Cenote Samula tip: we visited on a weekday afternoon and the crowds were high.
6 | What’s not allowed in the Cenote Samula
As we mentioned above, visiting the cenotes is a little different from a traditional swimming pool so there are some different rules to follow when visiting. Cenote Samula rules were as follows:
- Showers – You are required to take a shower before you swim
- Sunscreen / Mosquito repellent: You are not allowed to wear sunscreen or mosquito repellent before you enter the water at the cenote. This is to preserve the quality of the water for everyone.
7 | Jumping
There are are no opportunities to jump or dive into Cenote Samula.
Facilities at Cenote Samula
Cenote Samula has pretty good facilities
8 | Changing rooms and lockers
There are bathrooms, showers and changing rooms available. Lockers are available to rent at an additional charge. At less busy times you can bring some things down to the cenote.
9 | Life Jackets
Life jackets are available to rent before descending the steps down into the cenote.
Cenote Samula tip: if you rent life jackets be aware that they can only be used at the cenote where you rent them. They can’t be taken between Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Samula.
10 | Parking
There was a large parking lot shared between Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Samula.
11 | Food and Drinks
There is a stall selling snacks and drinks at Cenote Samula.
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