Swimming in the Grand Cenote in Tulum
Tulum Travel Guide
Day 1: Arriving in Tulum
We left work and rushed straight to the airport (a reoccurring theme with us these days) with the excitement of exploring a new destination together. Our flight was a quick ~2 hours to Cancun Airport and upon entering, we cleared customs and immigration in a breeze. We then waited for my dad and brother to join us, having booked a different flight into the peninsula around the same time.
We headed out the airport doors into the madness that is better known as: the airport pick-up area. Thankfully, the shuttle we booked through our Hotel was waiting in the exact spot they mentioned in the welcome email. Our driver greeted us with cucumber scented hand towels, miniature water bottles, and the comforting reassurance we would arrive at our hotel in a mere 1 hr and 45 minutes. The shuttle ride flew by and we decided to use some of that time to plan the next day’s adventures.
Upon checking in at Kasa Tulum (now known as Kasa Hotel Parota Tulum) around 10:30 PM, we dropped our bags in our rooms and headed to Chacabar, the only restaurant open in the area at the time. Much to our surprise, there were many individuals still eating and socializing at the outdoor restaurant. Chacabar was the first of many delicious meals in Tulum, and like a lot of the food options there, it did not disappoint!
Day 2: Tulum Ruins
We woke up early to get a head start and beat the crowds at the Tulum ruins. We indulged in the complimentary breakfast Kasa provided us and then headed out.
The ruins were incredible to see! Years of an ancient Mayan civilization preserved–it was fascinating to take in. The gorgeous Caribbean waters served as a backdrop to the ruins and it was so refreshing to head down to the beach after exploring the ruins in the sweltering heat.
After taking full advantage of the cooler morning, we exited the ruins and hailed a taxi to head back to Kasa just as the sun and heat hit its peak. After an overly ambitious attempt to ride bicycles down to the main beach strip in Tulum, we turned around and opted for a taxi ride down to Ziggy’s Beach Club for lunch instead. Kasa Tulum is a gorgeous hotel and much more affordable than beachfront properties, but biking 15-20 minutes to the beach strip in the heavy heat was not as easy as we initially thought.
At Ziggy’s, the view could not get any better. We took a seat under delicately hung Italian lights and admired the ocean’s shades of blue from afar. After indulging in our fair share of guacamole, we strolled along the beach down to Matcha Mama for a refreshing fruit smoothie and Acai Bowl.
The post-lunch exhaustion hit us hard after we finished our smoothie bowls, so we decided to head back to Kasa for a mid-day swim before going to Sri’s restaurant of choice for his birthday dinner.
We ended up heading back to Chacabar, as it was so delicious and within walking distance from Kasa. During our second time there, we ended up meeting the owner of the restaurant who conveniently happen to be from Texas as well! His story was equally facinating and inspiring to hear. Having purchased property in the area some 10 years ago, he only recently decided to pursue his dream of a building and opening a restaurant in the rapidly growing Aldea Zama neighborhood of Tulum.
Day 3: The Gran Cenote
Our third day in Tulum was just as eventful as the previous two. I was told it is better to head to the cenotes early in the day to avoid crowds and the sweltering heat, so we woke up early once more and made our way down to the Gran Cenote.
Cenotes are the epitome of Mother Nature’s natural wonders. Nestled in lush, tropical foliage and lying deep below ground level, cenotes are naturally occurring sinkholes caused by the collapse of bordering limestone. With crystal clear water, you can see an array of fish, turtles, and other aquatic life swimming all around you.
After paying our entrance fees, we were instructed to rinse off before entering the pristine water. In order to take full advantage of what lay below the water and in the sinkhole, we opted to rent snorkel gear and lockers for our belongings.
Crystal Clear Waters At The Gran Cenote Tulum
An important part of planning our itinerary in Tulum was choosing which cenote to visit. With time to visit only one, we faced a bit of difficulty choosing the right cenote for us. We were torn between the Gran Cenote and Dos Ojos but soon settled for the Gran Cenote, as I read in multiple blogs and reviews that Dos Ojos is preferred by divers. You can certainly snorkel at both cenotes but the Gran Cenote seemed like a great place to start.
Aside from being crystal clear, the water in the cenote was so cold! It took a few deep breaths before I forced myself to get in but after seeing how much fun Sri and my brother were having, my dad and I couldn’t resist. We originally were not going to snorkel and instead just wade in the water, but snorkeling in the Gran Cenote is a must and the rentals are so convenient and right near the water.
Once fully submerged, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I completely forgot about how cold I was in the water when I saw how deep and impressive the cenote was below the water. Stalactites and stalagmites hung in the submerged cave as fish and turtles swam all around us. The sinkhole went far below what the eye could see and my brother and Sri even found a small opening in the cave walls that led to a different, covered part of the cenote.
The Gran Cenote Tulum
Arrive at the cenote early to beat the rush of tourists.
If we were given underwater flashlights, we could’ve gone farther than anticipated but what we covered was large enough. We spent about 2-3 hours total at the Gran Cenote and could’ve spent more had we brought lunch with us. After exploring the cenote in all of its glory, we decided to dry off and see other parts of the cenote grounds.
After lounging in the grass and under the palms above the cenote, we decided to head back to Kasa just as buses of tourists began to arrive. We all gave ourselves another pat on the back for arriving early and enjoying the cenote with a small amount of people in it.
Once back at Kasa, we caught the free beach shuttle to Mia’s Beach Club, a beachfront restaurant that the hotel has a partnership with. Instead of laying on the beach after lunch, we decided to head back to the hotel and swim in the rooftop pool before getting ready for the evening and heading back down towards the beach. Kasa Hotel is gorgeous and very affordable compared to nearby beachfront resorts in Tulum, but it is a bit far from the beach itself. We had to plan our days out around when we headed to the beach versus came back as we didn’t want to take too many taxi rides back and forth.
We stayed at the Penthouse Suite at Kasa Tulum and were blown away by the luxury feel of our temporary home. The Penthouse Suites are actually owned condos and are rented out to visitors accordingly. Our suite had more than enough space to entertain guests, should you host an event or get together. Aside from the balcony and dreamy hammock stationed there, the Penthouse Suite boasts a second story. A spiral staircase will lead you to the top of the property where you have views of the jungle for as far as the eye can see. Swimming in your own, private rooftop pool was just the icing on the cake! The best part was that the Penthouse Suite was extremely affordable for what you received and the included amenities. Complimentary breakfast, private rooftop pool, hammock and balcony, and a full kitchen – staying at the Penthouse Suite at Kasa Tulum was the best decision we made.
At Azulik Tulum
As the evening approached, I made plans to take the boys to Azulik for drinks. Azulik is a trendy, tree house inspired hotel and restaurant that I thought would make the perfect place to celebrate the end of a great trip to Tulum. Originally, I planned on making reservations for Azulik’s renown restaurant, Kin Toh, but after seeing there was a $20 cancellation fee applied per person and small portions of food, I thought we would be better suited for a quick drink and appetizer there instead.
You do not need reservations at Kin Toh to grab drinks there and instead, it is seating at a first-come-first-serve basis. We were dropped off at the impressive entrance to Azulik, lined with tiki torches and a soft sand walkway. Upon entering, we were blown away by the treehouse itself and all of the details that attributed to the exotic jungle vibes. We crossed a bamboo bridge that bridged across a man-made stream which weaved itself throughout the hotel lobby and entrance.
A wooden, spiral staircase was lined with dimly lit candles and after reaching the top of the treehouse, we turned around to admire a large, woven net that lay across the canopy of trees. The pillows looked so inviting and would soon beckon us to lounge across the tropical canopy.
Sri, Peter, and my father kept me focused on finding seating to get drinks and appetizers, as Azulik was a playground for my wandering photographer eye! We soon nestled into a cozy booth and grabbed tangy drinks of choice to add to the tropical ambiance.
As the sun set across the carribean, we made our way down the road to Posada Margarita but decided to stop at a restaurant we saw along the way for an authentic Mexican food meal instead.
Day 4: Departing Tulum
Our time in Tulum was short and by all means, I could’ve stayed a week longer or more! However, seeing how close to our home this coastal city is, I was positive we would return in the future.
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