For adrenaline seekers: rappelling, slack-lining and zip-lining inside a large semi-open cave.
This cenote is a large dome, 65m in diameter and 10m deep. You can access the cenote pool by ladder, a tunnel or via rappel. It has a number of stalactites and some bats fly high above you, under the ceiling (they will not bother you). To me it feels a bit like a large barn, hence it is not my favourite cenote but then, I don’t rappel. If I did, I am sure I would have loved it here.
This natural sinkhole is set in a jungle garden, well maintained. Part of the jungle is used as an organic garden. Where the ceiling of the dome collapsed, the wooden staircase has been built. The staircase itself is pretty impressive. It coils down 26m like a snail, in the middle of the cavern dome. It brings light into the cave and the sun’s rays change during the day, depending on its position. A separate hole in the ceiling is for rappelling. Lifeguards attend to all the stations, such as rappelling, slack-lining, etc. Your personal guide spends time with you while you are moving from place to place.
Tours are run here by AllTournative company, hence the cenote's full name is Cenote Maya Native Park. Tourists come here when they reserve with this travel agency. They can choose a basic or a full package. We were offered the same when we arrived here with my husband Rhod in July 2018, without pre-booking. The basic package was for a swim and lunch at 39USD, the complete package with all the sport activities (rappelling, zip-lining, slack-lining), and lunch, coffee and drinks was 49USD. We negotiated at the ticket office, as we wanted the package for local residents. In the end we succeeded; our ticket was for the basic package (swim and lunch) at 400 pesos per person. We were given a guide for the entire stay.
We have been to many cenotes before and we were very happy with just a dip and lunch. I must say, though, that many visitors did use all the activities. I list them here, for clarity:
Rappelling is a descent down a vertical surface by using a doubled rope coiled around the body. In this cenote it is 26m deep. The access to the rappelling platform is from outside, just past the souvenir shop and the café. Lifeguards wait for you inside, where you land.
Zip-lining is travelling from the top to the bottom of an inclined cable by holding on to a freely moving pulley. At cenote Maya probably the more suitable word is a Tarzan vine. You hold on to the pulley and drop yourself into the waters at some point. A lifeguard will help you. There is a wooden bridge leading to both zip-lining and slack-lining.
Slack-lining is walking along a suspended rope tensioned between two anchors. It is similar to tightrope walking.
There were also wooden jumping towers (the tallest one looked about 6m high) and you can also snorkel and scuba dive (with a guide only and you have to be a certified diver).
We were assigned a personal guide, Miguel, who directed us first to the changing rooms where we received a towel. We would have preferred to be by ourselves but that is how things are done here. After a swim in the cenote he took us to the restaurant for a buffet lunch and then to a little café. If you opt for a full package, you will get margaritas here as well. We had a chat over our coffee, about his life in the nearby village of Chechmil, where he lives with his wife and two young children. I was trying to learn a few new words in the Maya language, I always welcome such an opportunity. It is also interesting to hear about countryside life. Men go to work, while the women stay at home with the children; that is still a stereotype lifestyle here.
We walked with Miguel around the jungle park a little bit and we liked their garden, above all. The garden products are for their kitchen, not for sale elsewhere. This makes their restaurant self-sufficient and organic. The spectrum of vegetables and fruits was wide: melons, pineapples, papaya, lime, sweet orange, sour orange, henequén (used in the past for making sisal fibre), hibiscus (for making soft drinks, that they call jamaica in Yucatán) and maracuyá (passion fruit), also used for juice and often added to other fruit juices to enhance aroma.
For our buffet lunch we were offered red melon from the garden and a soft drink from tamarind fruit, also grown in the garden. For the main meal we had a choice of two chicken dishes, one of them with mole sauce (chocolate sauce with chili), and all the usual suspects, such as rice, beans, tortillas, tamales, tomatoes and chili sauces. In addition, there was an egg omelet with chaya (tree spinach) and a very crispy tortilla with chaya. For me it was the best tortilla I had in five years of living in Yucatán, perhaps because of its unusual crispness. Here in Mexico chaya is considered one of the healthiest plants, as it is a source of protein, vitamins, calcium and iron. It is a true antioxidant. But beware that raw chaya is toxic (it releases cyanide) so do cook it before consumption.
How to get there:
The cenote is located about 40 minutes from Valladolid, between the villages of Uspibil and Chechmil. When leaving Valladolid, drive on the old road 180 (not the toll road 180D), then cross the highway across the bridge to the village of Yalcobá (where there are many cenotes, for that matters, such as Palomita or Zazil Tunich). Take the first turning to the right, just before the entrance to Yalcobá village. This road will take you all the way to Cenote Maya.
If you are coming from Playa del Carmen, you will have to do the same zig-zag through the village of Sisbichén.