Looking for a way to escape the punishing Mexican heat? After a month exploring the country, here’s our list of the most wanderlust-inspiring cenotes and waterfalls in Yucatán & Chiapas.


Mexico has stunning beaches. Long stretches of golden sand dotted with palm trees frame clean blue oceans. Comfy loungers, with cocktails on hand, provide the perfect vantage point for people watching.

But deluxe beach clubs are not the only way to cool off in Mexico.

Just off the Yucatán coast near the biosphere reserve of Celestun, the cenotes of  are natural sinkholes created after limestone bedrock collapsed, exposing the groundwater underneath. Vines from the trees above stretch down their long cavernous walls reaching cool clear water at the bottom.

Further inland the remote territory of Chiapas has some of the best waterfalls in Mexico. Water cascades over deep valley walls into pools surrounded by lush vegetation and boulders big enough to carry a sunbather.

So put down the cocktail and try some remote and wild swimming. After a month on the road, here are our favourite cenotes and waterfalls in Mexico.

BEST CENOTES & WATERFALLS IN MEXICO

MISOL HÁ / Tropical oasis with beautiful water

CASCADA EL AGUACERO / Deep canyon adventure

AGUA AZUL / Trademark blue water in lush jungle setting

CASCADA DE LAS GOLONDRINAS / Powerful waterfall to test your swimming

SAN LORENZO / Fun cenote complete with swing rope

IK KIL CENOTE / Beautiful Icy dip near Chichén Itza

X’KEKÉN CENOTE / Almost completely enclosed underground swimming cave

1 / TROPICAL OASIS OF MISOL HÁ WATERFALL IN MEXICO

Misol Há is a 35-meter waterfall set deep in the jungle of Chiapas. It drops into a perfectly formed circular pool, surrounded by rocks and lush vegetation. A path runs directly behind the falls and leads to a small cave providing great views through the water. It is a cool spot yet, thanks to the lack of facilities, doesn’t get inundated with bus groups.

A high concentration of mineral deposits maintains the water’s clear, brilliantly blue lustre. This makes Misol-Há the perfect spot for a refreshing dip before unwinding and warming yourself on one of the large rocks framing the pool. In the late afternoon, the sun filtering through the falls creates a mesmerizingly tranquil scene. For the sheer beauty of the place, and the pristine water, Misol Há is easily one of our favourite waterfalls in Mexico.


Details / Misol-Há is 20 kilometres from Palenque on the road to San Cristóbal | Address: Camino a Cascada de Misol-Ha, Chiapas | Hours: 06:45 – 19:45; There’s a small fee for entry and parking.

2 / CANYON WALLS AT CASCADA EL AGUACERO

Set deep in the Río La Venta canyon, Cascada el Aguacero is one waterfall in Mexico that can be tricky to get to. It’s located at the end of a tiny makeshift road that was in desperate need of repair decades ago. Your car’s suspension will be relieved when the twisting and turning down the steep rutted concrete ends at a car park. Here, a cheery Mexican will request 35 peso per person and promise to keep an eye on your car.

But, what makes Cascada el Aguacero one of our favourite waterfalls in Mexico is its stunning location. From the car park, 700 steps lead to the valley floor where steep canyon walls rise on either side and a small river winds past large boulders. If the water is high it’s a 30-minute hike through the jungle. But, from Dec-May, a 15-minute walk along the valley floor will take you directly to the waterfall, where long silvery strands cascade over mossy rocks.

A number of paths lead to hidden caves and an underground river. Bring a picnic lunch and a couple of beers to truly enjoy this relaxed atmosphere. Just keep in mind it’s 700 steps back up to the car park, so not too many beers.


Details / Cascada el Aguacero is about 1-hour drive from Tuxtla, look for the turn-off about 15km west of Ocozocoautla on the 190 (not the 190D) | Address: Cañón Río La Venta, Cascada El Aguacero.

3 / AQUAMARINE WATERS OF AQUA AZUL

Just under 40 miles from Palenque, the bright blue waters of Agua Azul cut a striking scene through the Lacandon Jungle. Numerous cascades race over orange rock, diverting then reconnecting, before forming pools of turquoise waters throughout the jungle landscape. The colour and the namesake comes from the high mineral content of the water, making Agua Azul one of the most striking waterfalls in Mexico.

Being so close to the ruins of Palenque it’s not exactly off the beaten track. Rows of tourist-targeted restaurants and trinket shops line the path. But if you’re not expecting to have the place to yourself Agua Azul is well worth the visit. Continue past the shops and eventually the path becomes more natural, the crowds disappear and you’ll realise why it is one of our favourite waterfalls in Mexico.

The top of the path is a great place for a swim and once you’ve worked up an appetite in the waters of Agua Azul, there’s plenty of restaurants to choose from on your way back to the car park.

ITINERARY / TWO WEEKS IN MEXICO


Details / Agua Azul is 40 miles from Palenque off Hwy 199.

4 / ENERGISING SWIM AT CASCADA DE LAS GOLONDRINAS

Between the popular ruins of Palenque and the slightly less popular archaeological site Yaxchilán, Cascada de las Golondrinas provides the setting for a great afternoon swim in one of the most energising waterfalls in Mexico. Here two cascades dramatically meet in a beautiful pool, surrounded by verdant jungle.

After a short walk up from the car park and along wooden boardwalks you will find picnic tables and easy access to the turquoise pools. But swimming at Cascada de las Golondrinas is more a test of strength than relaxation. Fast flowing water pushes even the strongest of swimmers away from the base of the waterfall, hurtling you back towards the edge of the pool.

Fortunately, the pool is big enough to avoid the strong currents and a rope and netting provides assistance if you fear being swept downstream. It’s a fun way to cool off from the heat of the day. But, if you don’t feel like testing your swimming strength, some basic facilities are available for you to enjoy a picnic at a beautiful waterfall in Mexico.


Details / Cascada de las Golondrinas is 56 km from Frontera Corozal (the entry point for Yaxchilán), and 128 km from Palenque. It’s a10km drive off Highway 307.

5 / HACIENDA SAN LORENZO OXMAN CENOTE IN YUCATAN

In addition to the deluxe waterfalls in Mexico, there are around 6000 cenotes in Yucatán. The one at Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman is our favourite. Deceptively deep and fully collapsed, roots twist their way down its entire length, collecting water for the trees growing around the rim. Plants cling to the moss-covered rocky walls with water trickling down from above. It’s a beautiful cavernous swimming hole.

Like most cenotes in Yucatán the water is clean (showering is compulsory before entering) but extremely refreshing. A rope hangs over the water, and it’s great fun to swing across and drop yourself into the pool to the approval of the cheering crowd. On our visit, we saw kids – particularly devoid of sanity – jumping in from the top.

Next to the cenote, there is a pool that visitors can use with a well-stocked bar. With the swing rope, the crazy base jumpers and the poolside bar, Hacienda San Lorenzo has more of a party vibe than relaxing chill out and is all the better for it.


Details / 8:00 – 17:00 (Mexican hours); Cost: 30 peso per person | Getting there: Hire a bike in Valladolid for around 80 peso for the day, otherwise parking is included in the entrance fee. Taxis are easy to order from the hacienda | LocationCalle 54, Valladolid

6 / IK KIL CENOTE

If you find yourself hot and sweaty after exploring Chichén Itza make your way to the wonder of Ik Kil Cenote. This particularly attractive cenote – sacred to the Mayans and used for ritual services – is a 26-metre climb down spiral stone stairs to get to the 40-metre deep swimming hole.

The steep walls and deep water make it particularly icy, but once you brave the temperature, the beautiful clear water, small waterfalls trickling down the rocky walls and vines descending from the surface, all make Ik Kil an atmospheric cenote that really shouldn’t be missed. Bring a pair of goggles to spot the friendly fish that have made this place their home.

As Ik Kil is only a 10-minute drive from Chichén Itza and has tourist facilities including a restaurant and a gift shop, you won’t exactly have it all to yourself. But on our visit, there were more people in the gift shop than the cenote.


Details / 8:00 – 17:00; Cost: 70 peso for adults, 35 for children; Getting there: Many tour operators run from Chichén Itza, however if you have your own car it’s a very easy drive | Location: Hwy 180, Km 122.

7 / X’KEKÉN CENOTE IN YUCATÁN

For a different experience to the other cenotes or the waterfalls in Mexico, Cenote X’kekén, is an almost completely enclosed cenote with just a small opening at the top letting in a dramatic shard of light. It lacks the vines and roots growing down from the top but it makes up for it in the uniqueness of swimming in an underground cave. Stalactites dangle gracefully from the limestone ceiling and the water is cool, clear and packed with inquisitive fish.

There is second cenote, Cenote Samulá, a 5-minute walk away. But although it is larger it’s much less attractive. Over recent years, facilities have started appearing at X’Kekén including a gift shop, lockers, bathrooms, showers and food stalls. Lifeguards are on duty in the cenote. Try to arrive late morning/midday when the sunlight is streaming through the opening.


Details / Entrance for 1 cenote: 80 pesos for adults, 50 for kids; entrance for both cenotes: 125 adults; 50 kids | Getting there: 3 km from Valladolid

WHERE NEXT?

Fitting all these sights into a trip to Mexico is difficult. But we saw them all on our rewarding yet challenging 1 month Mexico road trip. You can read about the challenges (such as avoiding separatists holding ropes, cutting down trees and wielding machetes) in our driving in Mexico post and about the rewards in our top experiences post.

If you are looking at a shorter trip, check out our 3 days in Mexico City or our 2 week Mexico itinerary, which includes all the highlights from our 1 month on the road. Or you could simply peruse all our other Mexico articles, including an insight into the Aztec and Mayan ruins that pepper the country.

If you have questions please leave them in the comments section below – we always reply. But before you go any further why not follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and sign up to our monthly newsletter.

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The best waterfalls and cenotes for amazing wild swimming in Mexico. #chiapas #yucatan #cenotes #waterfall

The best waterfalls and cenotes for amazing wild swimming in Mexico. #chiapas #yucatan #cenotes #waterfall

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