Cenote Calavera is one of the most popular cenotes in and around Tulum, Mexico for both leisurely swimming and cave diving. It has crystal clear water, underground flooded caverns for diving (for those with their PADI certification), cool rock formations, fish, bats, and swaying hammocks hooked between the surrounding shady trees.
Many people refer to Cenote Calavera as the Skull Cenote or Skull Cave because indeed, its shape takes the form of a skull face – two small holes for the eyes and one large hole for the mouth.
You will also often hear it being called the Temple of Doom cenote named after the cave system with the same name, however, now Cenote Calavera is simply connected to the Sac Actun cave system which makes up one of the longest subterranean rivers in the Yucatan Peninsula and in the world.
Here is everything you need to know to visit, play, splash, jump, or dive in the Cenote Calavera in Tulum!
Ultimate Guide to Cenote Calavera Temple of Doom in Tulum
How to Get to Cenote Calavera
Getting to Cenote Calavera is fairly easy seeing as it’s one of the closest cenotes to the Tulum Pueblo. It is only 1.5 miles (2.5 km) away from the center and takes roughly 5 minutes by car and 10 minutes by bike to get there, depending on where in Tulum you start out.
From Tulum town, take the Coba Road (QROO 109) toward Coba. If you are coming from Tulum’s hotel zone, you will already be on Avenida Coba – just go straight in the opposite direction of the beach.
Biking: We always went to Cenote Calavera by bike. It is a 10-minute bike ride from downtown Tulum pedaling at a brisk pace (though it feels longer than that sometimes, lol). Be careful if you choose to bike to Cenote Calavera – you will be biking on the side of the highway and big trucks do pass you. Don’t worry, though, they often see hikers and bikers on this road and they give you lots of space. It is still wise to be wary of your surroundings at all times, though.
Walking: If you want to save on the taxi fare, you could technically walk to Cenote Calavera. It’s close enough and takes around 30 minutes. We’ve seen many people do it. But again, you’ll be walking on the edge of a busy highway. I recommend covering up a little (dress appropriately) even if you are going for a swim later. Nothing will happen to you, but I know that it personally makes me feel more comfortable walking/biking in public when I know people in their cars are less likely to stare at me if I’m dressed more low-key.
Car/Taxi: If you have a rental car in Tulum and are going with a group of friends or family to Cenote Calavera, it’s easiest to take the car. There is a small (free) parking lot at the entrance. Otherwise, if you don’t have a car and aren’t feeling like renting a bike either, then hopping in a taxi will be the second-best option for getting to Cenote Calavera. However, if you take a taxi there you will need to wait alongside the road for an available taxi to take you back into town.
Prices & Hours
Cenote Calavera is one of the most expensive cenotes in Tulum. The entry fee for adults costs $250 MXN pesos per person (as of Jan. 2021). Cash only.
On top of the admission fee, if you want to use your professional camera or underwater camera (GoPro or Osmo Action) in Cenote Calavera then you will need to pay an extra $200 MXN pesos. (I don’t think drones are allowed). Also, the staff does routine checks while you’re swimming to check if anyone is using a camera without having paid and they’re very quick to call you out.
However, it’s completely FREE to take photos and videos on your phone. In that case, you may want to buy and pack a waterproof phone pouch for visiting Cenote Calavera. With the clear water, cool jumping holes, and pretty light streaks, you’ll definitely want to take your phone in the water with you.
Cenote Calavera opens at 9 AM and closes at 5 PM. I would recommend getting there right between 9-10 AM to have the swimming hole mostly to yourself.
Swimming & Jumping in Cenote Calavera
After you pay, you will be asked to shower and rinse off in the outdoor bathrooms before you enter the cenote.
Note: This is required no matter which cenote you visit in Mexico because it helps protect the cenotes’ fragile ecosystem. Please make sure to rinse off any lotions and sunscreens. (Yes, even biodegradable sunscreens too!)
If you are afraid to get sunburned then wear a loose shirt or sunhat and spend more time in the shade than in the sun. (Also, like many cenotes, Cenote Calavera is considered a sacred cenote by the Maya. It’s worth protecting and abiding by the rules!)
After your tour to the showers, you can now jump in the Temple of Doom… If you dare… hehe!
From what I remember, there are no lockers nearby the showers so you just need to take your backpack with you and set it down on one of the lounge chairs, hammocks, or tables that are dotted around the main entrance of the cenote.
Cenote Calavera has the main entrance with a big wooden ladder for exiting, and two smaller holes nearby it ideal for jumping in.
When you’re in the water, you’ll see that there’s ample swimming space for snorkeling and exploring. The cave also is home to lots of bats and birds, who fly around and nest in little holes in the rock ceiling.
BE CAREFUL when jumping into the “skull eyes” – the two smaller holes – as they are not very big and a forceful jump could end badly (scraped knees and foreheads are common).
That said, to play it safe, instead of jumping in the two small holes just kinda take a step and fall in. You will splash into the water moments later (it’s about a 10 ft drop).
You should also plan to bring your snorkel mask (I use the electric blue Beuchat dive mask) to see the bottom of the cenote and the light rays that enter through the cenote holes and penetrate through the water.
The water inside the cenotes is so crystal clear, so investing in a snorkel mask for your time in Tulum is super worth it (probably seeing as you will visit more than one cenote too).
Diving in Cenote Calavera
Don’t forget that Cenote Calavera is a diving cenote! In fact, it’s one of the most exciting locations for cavern diving because of the unique rock formations, tight tunnels, and a spooky halocline layer created whenever freshwater and saltwater meet.
It costs 10 USD to dive in Cenote Calavera, plus whatever you pay for the tour. You cannot go scuba diving inside this beautiful cenote without a dive instructor or dive shop.
If you are new to cenote diving, then Calavera won’t be a good option for you (I don’t want you to get your hopes up!). Only advanced cave divers with their Open-Water PADI Certification with good buoyancy are allowed to go diving inside this underground cave. Even if you are a pro cave diver, note that Calavera has some tight spots that claustrophobic persons might not handle well.
When diving, you will need to do a 3 m (10 ft) giant stride into the main cenote entrance. Once inside, you’ll see plenty of fruit bats and birdies nesting in the rock ceiling. Below the surface, your descent into the cavern line will begin at around 6 m (20 ft) and will go to 16 m (53 ft) max depth.
What to Wear & Bring to Cenote Calavera
When planning your adventures to this nice little cenote you should consider your gear, clothes, and back-up dry clothes to change into (depending on what you plan to do after your swim).
Here is what I would recommend packing for Cenote Calavera:
- Bathing suit
- Loose romper or cover-up dress
- Phone + waterproof case
- Hat + sunglasses
- Microfiber towel
- Reusable water bottle
- Camera / Underwater cam (optional)
Remember: You don’t need to pack sunscreen for the cenote, but take it just in case you are walking/biking back to town afterward since you will be in full sun on the road.
Responsible Tips for Visiting Cenote Calavera
Pack in, pack out all trash: While Cenote Calavera is on its way to becoming one of the more developed of the cenotes in the Riviera Maya, it still has lots of room for improvement. If you bring trash in (plastic bags or bottles), make sure to pack them out with you and dispose of them properly at your hotel or Airbnb in town.
Don’t wear sunscreen: Just to reiterate one more time that wearing sunscreen in the cenotes is polluting them, creating algae blooms, and harming the critters that make the cenotes their home. Even though people know this, they STILL put on sunscreen after “fake showering” first. Please don’t do that!
Rinse off all makeup and lotions: Makeup and lotions/deodorants are just as full of chemicals as sunscreens. If you are thinking “It’s just me, one person” then consider that 90% of people are thinking like that, too. Times one person by 1000 and it really adds up!
I hope this guide to Cenote Calavera in Tulum helps plan your trip! Cenote Calavera isn’t my all-time favorite cenote, but it IS a really fun cenote thanks to its good jumping options. I think I would like it better if I went back to do the underwater cave dive!
Whether for diving, snorkeling, or swimming, here are 25 more cenotes in and around Tulum to check out!
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