More of Mérida and My First Experience Swimming in a Cenote

Billboards of Mexican cenotes (fresh water sink holes) had temped me for months in Los Angeles as I drove down Cahuenga Blvd every day. And each day I passed, I stared at the possibilities and fantasized about swimming in one someday.

That someday came recently when I was invited to visit Mérida to experience some of the wonders of the Mayan world – at Mundo Maya.

I started to feel a little primitive once our bus rolled into Mérida, after passing through dense Yucatán jungle for hours.

After all, where I live, you don’t see ancient ruins, cenotes or think jungle everyday; it’s more like traffic, exhaust and stressed out people.

I suddenly had a refreshing change of scenery from my everyday norm, and it was very exciting to go back in history.

However, seeing a cenote on a billboard (though colorful and alluring) is nothing like experiencing one in person. It’s a whole other level or sensory overload.


Woman in market, Acanceh (outside Mérida, Yucatán)

The morning of our visit to the Cuzama cenotes from the city of Mérida, we made a quick pit stop at the request of one of the passengers.  The unexpected stop led us to a remote little village called Acanceh, an ancient Maya city.

Acanceh is 21 kilometers from Mérida, and translates to “groan of the deer” in the Yucatec Maya language.

The town was colorful and small, the roads were dirt and smooth and the indigenous people were dressed in native garb. Bike taxis were everywhere.

In the middle of town sat an ancient pyramid, which was next to a church, which was next to an outdoor market. The completely unexpected and pleasant surprise visit to the town was a bonus to the already culturally rich experience. Life just seemed good here. Tranquil, happy townspeople going on about their business.

The MEXICO Report visits Acanceh (near Mérida, Yucatán)

Cuzama Cenotes

According to the Mayas, cenotes are the entrance to the ‘underworld’, so I was anticipating a very spiritual experience, whatever that might be. I was open to it all.

Horses pull visitors via cart and rail through the plantations to the cenotes

Once we arrived to the main entrance, we changed into our swim suits and were directed to individual, wobbly carts resting on slim rail tracks led by hard-working horses who tugged us miles through thick brush of the henequin plantation.

When we arrived about 30 minutes later (from the entrance to the actual cenote site), I felt like I had just completed my daily dose of cardio from the bumpy ride. My legs wobbled as I stepped off the cart. No, I didn’t look like a tourist at all. So I grabbed my backpack, camera and sunglasses and headed over to it. I gasped in excitement when I saw with my own eyes, the ‘entrance to the underworld’.

The entrance was more or less a camouflaged hole in the ground, like a downward cave, but ultimately led to something miraculous looking.

I carefully stepped down the narrow pathway, (about 60 steps or more) to the first cenote. In the mild, damp and echoing surroundings rested a sanctuary of glowing fresh water.

When my body met the water, I felt like an angel floating in the mild, refreshing, crystal clear water. I had never experienced anything like it.

It was very spiritual, in fact – even if there were dozens of other guests enjoying the same experience too.

We visited two other cenotes on that visit, different, but equally impressive. But I’ll never forget the first impression of seeing and experiencing the first one.

The MEXICO Report visits another cenote

Mexico is a photographer’s dream as I always say – a country full of history, adventure and discovery, with natural wonders and stunning world heritage sites. A gracious thanks to all involved and the hospitality shown by Yucatan Travel during this trip.

I highly recommend a visit to Mérida, Yucatan and surrounding areas!

Related other articles from the Mundo Maya trip (from The MEXICO Report):

From Cancun to Mérida, Colonial Splendor in The Yucatán Capital

Mérida Day 1 – Nature’s Eye Candy

The Doors of The Yucatan

Xocolate & Rosas Boutique Hotel, Merida


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Susie Albin-Najera
Susie Albin-Najera is the creator and editor of The Mexico Report, an award winning travel blog showcasing news, deals and resources for the modern traveler. Najera is a writer, author, travel blogger, marketing and public relations specialist and producer. Najera serves on the host committee for Maestro Cares, founded by singer Marc Anthony and producer Henry Cardenas; and on the advisory board for Corazon de Vida, providing aid to children in Mexico. She is also the creator of 'The Real Heroes of Mexico' showcasing community heroes in Mexico and producer of Latino Thought Makers. Najera has been recognized by the Mexican Consulate and Mexico Tourism Board for fostering positive relations between countries and her dedication to showcasing Mexico as a premiere destination. She can be reached at

3 comments for “More of Mérida and My First Experience Swimming in a Cenote

  1. 2011-05-12 at 11:13 am

    What an incredible experience! When I was a small child my grandmother, held a doctorate in ancient Mexican archeology, dragged me all over Mexico to the ancient ruins. I hated it, hot, humid and stinky. How little I knew then, I see some of those locations on history tv and have flashbacks of being there. How I wish I could
    re-liv e those days when all I wanted was to be back home with my friends!! Ahh, where were you FB? Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • 2011-05-23 at 5:37 am

      Thanks for your comment Frankie! Maybe you can revisit some of those sites in Mexico someday soon!
      All the best, Susie

  2. 2011-05-11 at 9:16 pm

    I loved your article. It really invites people to travel to Yucatán and get into the throat of the underworld. What an experience. I must do it sometime. Thanks for the information. Congratulations Susie. You are doing an incredible job in promoting and inviting people to travel around Mexico. I want to swimm in a a Cenote too!!!
    From Puerto Vallarta with love
    María José Zorrilla

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