Day Trip to a Cenote


Relaxed Start

Tulum is only two hours from Cancun and there are so many ways to get there that we didn’t bother booking anything. Our fanau showed up at the ADO station and hopped on of the ADO buses, any of this line are super comfortable. Of course we had plenty of snacks for Lui so he would stay chirpy on the bus. By the time we left Cancun it was 10am so we arrived in Tulum at lunch time. The Tulum ADO station is on a main drag so there were plenty of options for food nearby. We walked across the road and had some freshly squeezed juice at a cafe, then we walked down the street past a nicely decorated town square where we found a lovely little pasta joint. The kitchen was a one-man-band so we spent an hour there as each person received their food one by one. Kenzo and Lui finished their food early so dad took them next door for a Nutella smoothie. By the time we left to go to a Cenote it was 2pm. Our original plan was to see two or three cenotes in the area because they had been ranked some of the most beautiful in the state of Quintana Roo. The other option had been to go to Valladolid in the state of Yucatán which was also two hours away but we chose Tulum because we wanted to check out the beach as well.

La Gran Cenote

 Swimming in La Gran Cenote

Our family arrived at the most popular cenote in Tulum, La Gran Cenote, and paid about 80 pesos for our taxi there from the town. Entry fee was based on height rather than age. Kenzo and Lui were free. Carmelo and Giselle were adult prices at 180 pesos per person. 

The facilities here are great. There’s toilets, changing rooms, a picnic area and hammocks. Before hopping in you have to shower to reduce the amount you’ll contaminate the water. We were all geared up for swimming but when we got there it was only Ajay that hopped in, the shower was one of the deterrents.  

This cenote is made up of two pools connected by a cavern. The main pool has little caves extending off it, most of which are underwater. We were there when a lot of the other tourists were leaving.

Ajay handed in his driver’s license and payed the 80 pesos to hire the snorkelling equipment. He said this cenote visit was the highlight of his whole time in Mexico and described a sublime experience of swimming through the dark tunnel while seeing rays of light filter through the water; seeing stalagmites and stalactites in crystal blue waters with fish and turtles swimming around; a deep drop at one point where people were shining torches. And when most of the tourists had left, he saw bats flying around in the cave. Compared to New Zealand waters he said the water was warm although reviews often state the waters are cold.

There were shallow areas where we could’ve taken Kenzo and Lui in if we were game but some of the magical parts seemed to be in the deeper areas.

Exploring La Gran Cenote

Although we weren’t swimming, there was plenty for the kids to explore during those two hours. We checked out the turtles resting on the rocks and we could easily swim turtles and fish swimming in the clear waters. When we went back up to ground level we saw plenty of iguanas, one of them had had it’s tail chopped off and was growing a tiny new one. We all agreed it was quite creepy to see the new tail sticking out. 

There were lots of birds that I hadn’t seen in Cancun or Chetumal and we tried taking photos of them before they would fly away. 

Then when we were done exploring, there was a shady grass area where we sat down and chilled until the cenote closed

Tulum Beach

Cost of a Taxi to Tulum Beach

After La Gran Cenote we took a taxi for 200 pesos to Tulum beach. The beach is about 10km from the town. There is one dirt road that runs parallel to the beach. On one side of the road is a jungle filled national park, and on the other are hotels, restaurants and bars that line the white sandy shores of Tulum beach.

The Seaweed Is Not an Issue

Many people had been complaining in their reviews of Tulum about the seaweed problem but compared to Auckland beaches there really wasn’t anything to complain about. Plus, every morning local businesses were clearing seaweed in front of their area of beach and taking it away. 

Beautiful Tulum

The water was warm, the waves were gentle and the day was hot. Ajay and I jumped in for a dip to cool off while Carmelo played with Kenzo at the water’s edge and Giselle looked after sleeping Lui.

I could see why Tulum had become such a popular tourist destination. Flights to Cancun are cheap, the airport does direct bus trips to Tulum central, the town has a great hippie vibe, and the beach is absolutely beautiful. 

Cost of Eating on Tulum Beach

After our dip we decided to chill at one of the many restaurants on the beach. The food was super pricey compared to what we were used to when eating out in Mexico but is on par with prices at a cafe in Auckland.

Having said that, the beach was packed with people, even at 6pm in the evening when dusk was approaching. So if you do head to Tulum, be prepared for masses of people on the beach.

Planning Your Day Trip to Tulum from Cancun

There are so many options to get to Tulum from Cancun because Mexico has super great transportation options for all budgets. Even when we headed back to Cancun we hadn’t pre-booked our tickets.

If you are travelling to Tulum directly from Cancun airport then you can book an ADO bus online or outside the airport and the journey will be roughly two hours. This will be the most comfortable and economical option rather than paying for a taxi. Having said that, for our family of six, a transfer usually works out to be nearly the same price.

If you are travelling to Tulum from anywhere else in Cancun then it is best to get to the ADO Central Station. From here you can:


Catch a colectivo for about 80-100 pesos per person for the whole trip. Colectivos run from Cancun to Playa Del Carmen and back, and from Playa Del Carmen to Tulum and back, every minute until about 9pm where it reduces to about every ten minutes. Cancun to Playa is about an hour plus stops and Play to Tulum is about an hour. Each leg of the trip is 40-50 pesos per person. No booking is required. Just ask one of the locals where the colectivos run to get to Tulum an they will point you to the location outside the ADO stations.

Second Class Bus

You can catch a second class bus for about 60-90 pesos per person. This bus doesn’t have toilets and is more like your local city bus with regards to comfort and space. But for such a short trip, it’s still very economical. These tickets can’t be bought online. You need to purchase them at a bus ticketing station like the ADO stations. Seating is not allocated, it is a first come first served basis. If the bus is full you can stand or sit in the aisles.

First Class Bus

You can catch an ADO bus for about 280 pesos per person. The most basic ADO bus has no toilet. The next level up has at least one. The difference on the ADO is that it has very comfortable spacious seats and the seating is allocated so you are guaranteed a seat.

Shopping Basket