Cenotes Samula and Xkeken are both unique and worth paying both entrance fees for. Samula is the cenote with sunlight beaming in through the top of the cave amidst tree roots dangling into the water while Xkeken is known for its stalactite formations. While we preferred the Gran Cenote in Tulum, it was nice to take a cold swim after a long day in the heat. The water was pretty murky when we went though and we couldn’t see more than a few feet with the snorkeling gear that we had rented. You can probably save yourself some money by skipping the snorkeling gear.
Unfortunately, the area leading up to the cenotes is a somewhat dismal affair with an overbuilt marketplace with dozens of shuttered and abandoned shops, likely the result of an overzealous developer with failed ambitions of creating the Disneyland of cenotes. What shops were open were run down and occupied by bored looking shopkeepers.
The staff working in the areas leading up to the cenote deserve a mention for being pushy and rather abrasive, first when we arrived (“Where you from?”, the lingua franca of touts worldwide) to staff not-so-subtly asking for tips by pointing to their tip jar with a look in their eye that shot daggers. The owners must not be paying them much which is sad. Okay, we did meet 1-2 nice folks working there but they were the exception rather than the rule.
My advice: Buy your tickets, skip the guy trying to take your photo, say hello to the sad looking shopkeepers, and find the entrance to the cenotes as quickly as you can.
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