Cenote Sac Actun is a wonderful cave-like cenote that can be easily experienced – on your own or via a tour/guide. It is well worth the time and money and sits second on my list of favorite cenotes.
It is conveniently located in Riviera Maya along highway 307 just 24 km north of Tulum and 53 km south of Playa del Carmen. Watch for the road to the west just south of Parque Zel-Ha and along the same dirt road as Dos Ojos which makes for a great one-two cenote trip. There is a sign just past the stop for Dos Ojos that indicates you are heading in the right direction. It is 2 km from Dos Ojos to Sac Actun (there is a 90° turn to the left and then it is just a bit further. We easily did it in a regular compact car, but take your time. If you took a taxi to Dos Ojos, the walk is level and the road broad enough to give you a shoulder to walk on (the traffic is not that busy).
Once you arrive, there will be guides there you can hire for the trip (I don’t think going alone is allowed). The cost was about 350 pesos and I don’t think there is a break for children. It is worth the cost. Cheap snorkel gear is provided and a nice life vest, but bring your own if you have it. Flippers are not useful. The tour groups were kept small for the ones I saw.
The walk to and from the tour is on even ground and is only a few hundred yards total. There is a steep ladder that you have to descend to enter the cave at Pet Cemetery Cenote and a set of broader steps to climb out of when done. Probably only a few dozen steps in total. You will need to walk in the water (the bottom is not muddy) and swim along (in a life vest, which is required) for portions of the trip when the water gets too deep. The total distance might be one kilometer. Your arms might get a little tired of propelling yourself along, but for portions of it you can go vertical with the the snorkel and use your legs. The trip is not rushed.
Cenote Sac Actun is a natural cave experience. Very little has been done to improve it beyond the steps and rudimentary lighting, but that is a good thing. If you are afraid of water or too claustrophobic, you might not like this trip. You are never crawling or squeezing through any passages, but the ceiling does come down low a few times. Not head gear is provided so watch your head.
There are many cenotes in this area – Sac Actun and Dos Ojos are the highlights for me, but taking a day or three to see several of them would be great fun. By all means, rent a car to save some money and do it at your own pace. If you are uncomfortable with that, there are tours and guides that are happy to take you wherever you want to go.
If I could only do one cenote in the Tulum area, Sac Actun would be it. The experience is very natural and a great break from the more touristy spots that dominate Riviera Maya. Kids of all ages who are comfortable in water will have a blast.
To read about the experience of swimming through Sac Actun, go here.
To see a gallery of pictures from our journey, click here.