Too much choice is not always a good thing, especially in this case.
The plethora of signs all the way along the motorway stretch of the Riviera Maya, coaxing you into one or another cenote,(natural water sink hole) is quite frankly too overwhelming, particularly if you tend to shy away from decision-making, for fear of making the wrong one, like yours truly!
Cenote Dos Ojos, Cenote Cristalina, Cenotes Aktun Chen, and the list goes on. All tempting, and many with beautiful images of people having a whale of a time. So, how best to solve a dilemma such as this? Well, we found our only way out was to simply pick the next one we came to, no questions asked, and no looking back…and the next one just happened to be Kantun Chi.
We then found ourselves on a twisty, gravel lane, which deceivingly passed by the entrance to another smaller cenote with no noticeable name; but we had made up our minds, and nothing was going to change them at that point. A little further along the track, we found a nicer area to park, and some wooden signposts leading the way to the reception area.
With literally no idea what the eco-park had to offer, we basically had the receptionist tell us all our possible options: either visit the four cenotes (1 open, 1 covered and 2 semi-open) at our own pace; or have a guided tour of the underground river and grottos, as well as the cenotes. Perhaps the big difference in price settled it for us, but to be honest, it was the best thing we could have done, especially since we had arrived about midday and it closed at 5pm. However, we would say it is worthwhile if you get there earlier (which would also have been a better idea) and make the most of the whole place. In both cases, you are obliged to wear a lifejacket, which are conveniently provided at the entrance.
The huge illustrated map is fairly easy to follow and the logical thing to do was to head to the nearest cenote, “Kantun Chi”. This was semi-open, in other words the water was inside a cave, but a gaping hole at one side allowed easy access. The water was cold, hence the squeals were loud, but it was the perfect way to escape the sticky jungle heat. What’s more, there was a random yellow kayak floating about, which we quickly took advantage of – once we located the also floating paddle! We thoroughly enjoyed it, and wondered how the beauty of this cenote could be topped, until we headed off number two, “Sas Ka Leen Ha” (meaning ‘transparent water’).
We didn´t stay at this one very long, not because it wasn’t incredible, but because we were getting a bit cold! An even less semi-open cenote made for even cooler water. What can we say… we must be just too warm-blooded!!!! “Sas Ka Leen Ha” is actually the largest cenote of the four, and most definitely transparent, making for some great underwater pics, pulling silly faces.
“Uch Ben Ha”, or cenote number three, was hands down our favourite, right from the very moment we caught sight of it through the trees. A huge, fully open cenote with two islas de hamacas (hammock islands) in its midst, and speckled with lovely water lilies; perfect for a spot of snorkelling, kayaking and hard-core relaxation. There were even rocky ledges at one side with sun beds, creating a natural sun terrace. It is really a wonderful idea, as by this point you are ready for a break after swimming in the first two. We could easily have spent the rest of the day here and very nearly did, but we dragged ourselves away before the park shut, in order to say we had see them all.
Lastly, and in complete contrast, was “Zacil Ha”, a cave cenote with subtle artificial lighting inside so you can see where you are going. We were surprised that it was so shallow in places and that it had a soft, sandy floor beneath the water. It was here where we decided to make a human pyramid in the water for some bizarre reason, which was good fun until everyone collapsed on top of the ones forming the base!
They finally got us out of the park, a little after closing time, feeling tired, but wholly refreshed; much more so than when you go to the beach. The temperature and shade provided by the cenotes was just what we needed to cool down and we wholeheartedly recommend doing the same, particularly when the sun is at its hottest, in the summer months.
Our tip: if you have water shoes or similar, take them. There are rocky paths leading down to the cenotes, and you will be in and out of the water all the time!
Ask you concierge for more info on visiting Eco Park Kantun Chi.