The rickety mining cart rattles fiercely down the track as the horse gallops down the gravel trail towards the first of the three Cuzama cenotes right outside of the small town of Cuzama, Yucatan. I hold my toddler tight wondering what the heck I was thinking as the cart screeches and turns around sharp corners for what seems like an hour but is probably more like 30 minutes before slowing down and pulling up to the first cenote. If this sounds like your type of adventure, keep reading because this is your ultimate guide to visiting the three cenotes of Cuzama.
Day Trip From Merida
When Single Moms DO Travel Member, Erin, who was staying in out single mom cooperative suggested we go with her and her two kiddos to a cenote, I had no idea what we were in for. I couldn’t resist her energy so I said, yes.
My three girls and I plus her and her two kiddos all piled into her littler rental car true Mexico style and started the hour journey to the small town of Cuzama. The hour road trip from Merida was so much fun! The girls and I are always up for an adventure and being able to get a small tour of true Mexico life is something dreams are made of.
Here are some things you can expect to see on this day trip from Merida. In the smaller towns around Mexico, you tend to see a lot of motorized cart taxis. These are so fun to see and even more fun to ride. There is a motorcycle and on the front is a cart which can hold an entire family.
The towns we passed through were full of these motorized carts.
We also found ourselves fascinated but all the people out and about. Kids play barefoot in the streets with smiles on their faces.
Adults stand around each other cooking together on small outdoor stoves. There is a sense of family, friendship, and love in these small towns and I can’t even begin to explain how much joy this brings me.
On our recent visit to the United States, I was shocked to see that no one was outdoors even with the beautiful weather we had on our visit.
I kept feeling like I was in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and any second a horde of zombies was surely going to swarm us and eat us in my mothers’s neighborhood in San Antonio, TX.
Mexico is so full of life and the day trip from Merida was just what I needed to show me once again why I love Mexico so much and call it my home.
The drive is easy from Merida. We passed by some one of the many ruins in the Yucatan right in a small town with a beautiful center that showcased a stunning yellow cathedral. I highly regret not snapping a photo because this town was definitely picturesque.
The girls and I had a discussion about the ruins we saw. I accidentally called it a pyramid and my daughter Alaya quickly corrected me and told me it was not a pyramid but ancient Mayan ruins, duh mom!
A Wrong Turn
Okay. You are going to want to pay attention to this part so you do not end up making the huge mistake that we did!
The GPS address that another blog told us about led us to a gravel road where guys with those motorized carts I was talking earlier waved us down and tried to sell us tour packages.
This is not where you want to go.
You will take only main paved roads to get here not gravel or dirt roads that will threaten to destroy your tires and ruin your day.
Needless to say we took a wrong turn and instead of these gentlemen telling us the gravel road was not designed for cars but only for horse-drawn old mining carts, they let us turn down the road.
We quickly realized we had made a mistake but there was not way to turn around so we kept going forward praying we would not pop a tire.
It was actually a lot longer drive on the gravel road and there were definitely some freak out moments but Erin who was driving remained calm and we finally got to a clearing where to the left of us were the horses and mining carts and to the right was a parking lot with a clear view of the road we were actually supposed to take to get to the Cuzama cenotes.
As scary as drive on the gravel road was, we couldn’t help but laugh when we pulled up. Everyone was staring at the idiot tourists who definitely took a wrong turn.
By the grace of sweet baby Jesus. we did NOT pop a tire or scrape the rental car against any of the rock walls that threatened the scratch free paint job.
Please do not be like us. They might start banning people from visiting these places if we keep doing stupid shit like that.
You will NOT turn down any dirt roads and the parking lot is huge so if you are in the right place, you will see it.
How Much Does It Cost?
Our heart rates went back to normal and we were so ready to eat some food and pay for our cenote experience. I still had no idea what to expect. There was a small stand with drinks, chips and other snacks, plus two women cooking up some delicious looking meat.
We ordered some tortas and sat down at the plastic table and chairs that were set up under a red tarp. We were all relieved to eat some good food even with the pesky horse flies that kept attacking us.
There are decently clean restrooms here but make sure to have pesos because it is not free to use. Nothing is tourist’s prices luckily. Everything is fair priced including el bano.
Bathroom use is 5 pesos. The beautiful old woman at the bathrooms will hand you toilet paper and you can go into the semi clean restrooms.
You will most likely see happy kids playing outside the restroom.
We changed into our bathing suits in the restroom and then went to the small hut to pay for the cenotes. Each cart can hold up to four people and costs 400 pesos.
Since we had seven people between our two single mom families we had to pay 800 pesos for two carts which I found to be reasonable for the amazing experience we ended up having.
This includes entry to the three cenotes plus the horse-drawn cart ride and guide.
Each of our families loaded up unto the carts.
This is where the fun begins!
Riding Horse-Drawn Mining Carts
The old mining cart lurched forward and headed deep into Yucatan jungle. I am pretty sure each of our faces lit up with pure terror and excitement as the cart rattled along the metal tracks threatening to derail at any moment.
I figured we wouldn’t die if it did derail so it was totally worth the risk for this once in a lifetime experience.
The gentleman directing the horse and riding in the front of the cart laughed most of the ride at our squeals of terror and wonder. He called the horse lazy in a playful way and then had the horse gallop even faster to make the ride even more thrilling.
We kept looking back at Erin and her family on their own horse and cart. It looked like they were having just as much fun as we were.
My girls did look at me a few times with the look of what the hell did you get us into this time, Mom?
It was a super long ride. A lot longer than I expected. In fact, it was so long that my toddler Novella fell asleep.
As we were riding down the trail, other carts were heading in our same directions so our cart would slow down and come to a stop. Luckily, we never had to get out of the cart. This happened at least six times on the journey but each time the cart that was heading towards us would stop, everyone in that cart would disembark, and the driver would lift their cart and move it off the track over to the side of the trail so we could pass.
I was so thankful we never had to get out especially since Novella fell asleep. That would have been an absolute nightmare.
We slowly rolled up to the very first cenote. The driver said something to us which I figured was get out so we all got out of the cart. However, the driver was actually telling us to to wait.
The cenote had too many people so he motioned for us to get back into the cart. We piled back in and headed to another less crowded cenote. This was a much shorter ride.
Second Cuzama Cenote
At the second cenote, we all got out and grabbed all our bags and towels.
There was a 30 minute limit for this cenote which was plenty of time to explore and swim. I still didn’t know what to expect.
Luckily, I brought my Ergo carrier for Novella because this Cenote like every other cenote required a climb down a steep metal ladder into the actual underground cave.
I am not going to lie. It was scary but I fought the fear and slowly climbed down the long metal latter into the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life.
The photos and videos will not do this magical place justice.
I felt like I was in a movie and couldn’t stop saying how absolutely grateful I was for this experience.
This is why we travel.
I expected the water to be freezing but it was actually refreshing and just perfect in this second cenote.
If you have little ones bring floaties. There is no where to touch in this cenote. Luckily, we brought Novella’s floatie so she was able to freely swim around in the cenote and didn’t need to hold onto me which would have made things difficult.
There are life jackets for both kids and adults that you can rent for a reasonable price if you do forget to bring floaties.
We chose not to rent any life jackets and were perfectly fine.
In fact, in this particular cenote, there was a rope in the water that you could sit and stand on to get some relief.
There was also a part where you could jump off a cliff/ledge into the water.
I have no idea how high it is.
Honestly, it didn’t look that high from the water so when my daughter, Alaya, suggested we jump from the cliff I only hesitated for a second before saying sure.
I was in for a surprise. I used the slippery ladder to get out of the swimming hole and make my way up to the ledge for jumping. I made the mistake of looking over the edge and seeing how freaking high it actually was.
Y’all, I am terrified of heights especially anything that will give you that dreaded weightless experience.
I nearly chickened out but then my daughter started counting to three so I said fuck it, plugged my nose, and jumped to my death.
The ice cold water swallowed me up as I fell deeper into darkness.
I came up and gave a victory yell.
I was so damn proud of myself and my daughter who jumped alongside me.
When I surfaced, I screamed in triumph at my accomplishment.
It was the greatest feeling ever!
Everyone in our crew except for my toddler jumped from this cliff.
I will never forget that experience.
We finished up with the second Cuzama Cenote and loaded back up into the cart and headed to the third cenote.
Third Cuzama Cenote
Unfortunately, Novella and I did not get to experience this cenote because the ladder was steep and my mommy instincts kicked in and decided that I didn’t want to die that day.
It is a yellow metal ladder that goes straight into a dark hole. You can not see the bottom from the top of the stairs.
I attempted to climb in with Novella on my back but she cut her head on the metal ladder and I felt like there was too much danger involved so I climbed back up and waited for everyone else to enjoy this cenote without us.
If you have a little one and you feel there is too much risks involved to go into this cenote don’t worry because your little one will be plenty entertained or terrified by the mass amounts of caterpillars at this cenote.
Novella spent her time picking up each and every caterpillar. She got bit twice before she was finally over playing with these seemingly cute and cuddly caterpillars.
I chatted with, Jose, who was one of the drivers of the old mining carts we took. He was super nice and he truly went above and beyond his job of just driving us to each of the cenotes.
Not only did he then show us to each of the entrances which can get a little confusing without a guide but he took pictures of all of us like our very own Instagram husband. we were were so thankful
He was a true gentleman and a great example of why we love the Mexican people so much.
Everyone came back up and said that although it was a neat experience, this was their least favorite cenote so far.
Apparently, it was cold and super dark.
Alaya, talked about how she was able to touch fish in this on though and that was pretty exciting.
At this point, we were all pretty tired but we still had the very first cenote that was crowded before to visit so we headed that way.
First Cuzama Cenote
Y’all! I am so glad we did not miss this cenote because it did not disappoint at all. This one is a beautiful cave. It was the absolute best!!! I still can’t believe we swam in this absolute wonder.
We were some of the last people at the Cenote. It closes around 5 but it was 6:30 m when we back to the main place.
This time we left on the main road instead of the gravel road designed for the mining carts!
Pro Tips For Visting The Three Cuzama Cenotes
Things to Bring
Bug repellent( spray this before you arrive because the horse flies are no joke) trust me!
Floaties for kids but they do have lifejackets for adults and kids for a reasonable price
Your bathing suit. lol
Water shoes would be beneficial but not absolutely necessary. It can be rocky and slippery.
Cash! You will need pesos for the bathroom, food, and the costs of cenotes. I am not sure if they take card but I doubt it. Better safe than sorry!
Your sense of adventure!
This was our favorite experience since moving to Mexico so far! Thanks to opening up the Single Moms DO Travel House, I now get to meet new adventurous single mommas all the time who help me get out of comfort zone and to do new and unique things. I can’t wait to visit more Cenotes around the Yucatan.