Our favorite leisure activity in the Yucatan is swimming in Cenotes, and Cenote Oxman (pronounced osh-mon) outside of the beautiful Pueblo Magico of Valladolid is one of the coolest ones we’ve found so far.
There are thousands of cenotes in the Yucatan. Some of them are more touristy and developed, others are rustic gems in someone’s backyard, some are so hidden they haven’t even been discovered yet, but swimming in a cenote is always a magical experience.
If you’ve never been to a cenote and you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry. I’m going to explain everything in this short guide, including what a cenote is, why we love them so much, and what makes Cenote Oxman such a great cenote to visit on your trip to Mexico.
WHAT IS A CENOTE, ANYWAY?
If you’re new to the Yucatan, it’s quite possible that you’ve never heard of a cenote before. Well allow me the honor of introducing you to one of the coolest things Mother Earth has given us. The cenote!
Cenotes are huge holes in the Earth’s surface (or under the surface) that act as gigantic natural swimming pools or wells. Imagine swimming 75 meters below the Earth’s surface and looking up at the sky through a giant hole as dangle-y vines stretch down to the water like a curtain.
The cenotes were critical to the Mayan civilization and their ability to survive on the peninsula. They were often the only source of water, and their deep caves, the perfect place to find shelter. Some cenotes are like a straight, open column that leads to a pool (see Cenote Ik Kil), others are hidden deep in caves or just under a few surface layers, with just a ladder leading down. Cenote Oxman is located within the grounds of a historic hacienda.
HOW WERE CENOTES FORMED
Millions of years ago the Yucatan peninsula was actually under the ocean and covered by a great coral reef. With time, the coral and sea creatures broke down and became limestone. When the ocean level lowered, slightly acidic rainwater was able to dissolve huge underground channels through the limestone. The result was huge beautiful underground caverns.
In some places the roofs of these caverns have collapsed, leaving behind the deep open holes like Cenote Oxman. Today the surface of the Yucatan is like a sponge, with lots of holes all interconnected by underground freshwater rivers. Not all cenotes are open at the top, though. Some are completely underground or deep inside of caves. We’ve been in about 10 cenotes now, and they’re all vastly different from one another. Read more about it here.
GETTING TO CENOTE OXMAN
Cenote Oxman is located just a few kilometers outside of Valladolid centro at Hacienda San Lorenzo.
We took a taxi from centro for about 80 pesos. The taxi ride back was double because we had to have the hacienda staff call a taxi from town to come pick us up.
If you’re planning on stopping by Cenote Oxman on the way back from a day at Chichen Itza, make a right when you get to the ring road around Valladolid. You’ll see a sign there that points to F. Carrillo PTO 295. Take the next left to enter the hacienda.
If you’re traveling around in Mexico by car, we highly recommend downloading the Maps.me app to save offline maps.
ENTRANCE FEES AT CENOTE OXMAN
At Cenote Oxman you have three different choices for entrance.
70 Pesos ($3.60 US)- Access to the cenote only. No discount in the restaurant.
100 Pesos (about $5.50 US)- Gives you access to the cenote, and a 50 pesos discount in the restaurant.
150 Pesos (about $8 US)- Gives you access to everything and 150 pesos discount in the restaurant.
We were already planning on eating and drinking some margaritas by the pool so the 150 pesos option was a no brainer for us.
HOURS OF OPERATION
Hacienda San Lorenzo and Cenote Oxman opens at 8am and closes at 6pm daily. The kitchen closes at 4:30.
When is the best time to go?
In the past, Cenote Oxman was one of the best kept secrets of the Yucatan. These days some tour busses have been making regular stops in the later afternoon. We recommend coming earlier in the day for lunch. Spend a few hours hanging out by the pool or down in the cenote, then you’ll be ready to leave if the tour busses arrive that afternoon.
Additionally, the positioning of the sun later in the afternoon makes it quite difficult to photograph down into the cenote from above. Earlier in the day may give you better lighting conditions.
HACIENDA SAN LORENZO
Hacienda San Lorenzo was originally a hennequin processing plantation which made strong rope from an agave fiber called hennequin. This fiber was responsible for a huge economic boom and subsequent collapse, and is an important part of the history of the Yucatan.
These days, you can spend an afternoon enjoying the beautiful scenery of Hacienda San Lorenzo poolside while you sip margaritas and eat guacamole to your heart’s content. If you’re spending time in Valladolid, Hacienda San Lorenzo is a great option for a relaxing day out of town.
We spent the afternoon there with some of our Valladolid expat friends. We had a really great time eating and drinking, swimming in the cenote, then drinking a bit more. We met people there from all around the world. It was a very cool vibe with people of all ages relaxing together.
*Tip* If you’re going to swim at the pool, watch out for the bees. Bees are very important to the yucatan, and honey is one of their biggest products. There are often local bees enjoying the water around the pool. If you’re not paying close attention, and you happen to sit on one, you might get stung on the butt.
The main thing that instantly set Cenote Oxman apart from the other cenotes we’ve been to was the presence of a rope swing. The moment of weightlessness when the rope reaches the peak of its arc is so exhilarating you’ll be climbing the stairs and going back again and again.
To get to the cenote, you can walk straight past the pool and around to the right. From here you can look down into the cenote from above. Continue around behind where the bar area is to find the showers and the staircase.
It is requested that you shower off to remove any insect repellent or sunscreen you may have on your body. The cenotes are a part of a delicate ecosystem that we want to preserve for many generations to enjoy.
The staircase is wide and well constructed and delivers you to the platform level, 3 meters above the surface of the water.
Once you get to the platform level you’ll have the choice of entering the water via the rope swing, jumping straight in from the platform, or taking the somewhat less trustworthy, wet, wooden staircase to the water.
I asked the guy working there, and he told me that the water is 45 meters deep.
Let that sink in as you’re paddling about.
The water is a really comfortable temperature, not too cold like you might expect, and very clear. There’s a series of ropes strung across the cenote underwater that you can stand on. You might notice the little fish nibbling on your toes as you swim around. Then you might notice bigger fish, then you might begin to wonder what else might live down there…
All in all, we had an amazing day spent relaxing at Hacienda San Lorenzo and Cenote Oxman. The cenote is one of the best we’ve seen so far (out of ten), and having the hacienda and pool there means that if your friends aren’t cenote people, they’ll still have an amazing time.
This is the second hacienda/cenote we’ve been to, and we really appreciate being able to combine our cenote experience with sunbathing, pool, and cocktails.
Tips for visiting Hacienda San Lorenzo and Cenote Oxman
- Go for the 150 pesos entrance fee with the 150 pesos restaurant credit.
- Come earlier in the day. Tour busses may arrive in the afternoons after 3:00.
- Being snorkeling gear or goggles if you want to see down into the water.
- Watch out for bees around the pool.
- Lifejackets are available for you to use (and possibly mandatory if there are tour buses)
- There probably won’t be any taxis waiting outside Hacienda San Lorenzo when you leave. You may have to ask the hacienda staff to call one for you from town.