Quintana Roo, Mexico
There are multiple diving possibilities in Dos Ojos. For the cavern route, which does not require an actual technical diving certification, there are two lines to follow: the ‘Barbie line’, and the ‘Bat Cave line’, An experienced cave diver can indulge in 82 kilometers of tunnels and caves.
Dos Ojos is part of a flooded cave system located north of Tulum. I came here in spring 2018, after visiting many other cenotes in Yucatán. Each cenote is different; they can be open, semi-open, or closed (in a cave), some are big, others small, some have services, others are rustic with just bare services. This one is pretty commercial and has all the services you would expect. I just came here to have a swim but most people come here to snorkel and dive. From what I understood on the site, you can do both cavern diving (when some natural light is visible to you at all times) and cave diving (with no access to the surface due to a ceiling of rock above your head). Cave diving is allowed only with a certified guide. I had a good time here, having a picnic in the jungle garden. The waters are beautifully blue and transparent; it is quite an experience.
The name means Two Eyes in English as the two semi-open cenotes appear like two large eyes into the underground, because the cave is half open. The Two Eyes are a part of one of the most famous underground river systems. The whole cave system is at least 61km long and it is the deepest known cave passage in Quintana Roo with 119.1m of depth located at 'The Pit'. The deep passages include the Wakulla Room, the Beyond Main Base passage, Jill's Room and The Next Generation passage.
However, if you come here to swim and snorkel, you will be in waters that are on average about 10m deep. According to Wikipedia, in August 2012 Dos Ojos was connected through a dry passage to Sac Actun cave system and from March 2014 the total length of the combined system measures 319.05km. It is an anchialine cave system with connections to naturally intruding marine water and tidal influence in the cenotes. I could feel a very slight tide when I was just floating.
The two eyes are connected by a 400m long passageway.
When the water level is high enough, you can swim through a narrow passage to reach yet another cenote, the Bat Cave, much darker, and inhabited by hundreds of bats. Needless to say, you can reach the bat cave only with a guide.
Stalactites and stalagmites are spectacular, but also very fragile, and can be broken by a passing fin so be careful not to touch anything.
Here and there you can see the tree roots hanging from the cave ceiling.
The water temperature is perfect for snorkelling, at a constant 25°C throughout the year. You may find it cold for swimming but it is refreshing in the hot climate of Yucatán. Once you are in, you will certainly feel comfortable, not cold.
The cenotes are not full of fish, but you will see some here and there. They will not bother you. You will also see bats flying around but they will ignore you. I was lucky to spot mot-mot birds, in the cave on the side of the First Eye (East Eye), but I was unable to take a photo of them. As soon as I approached them, they flew away. Iguanas are all over the jungle garden. They are vegetarian and will not harm you in any way.
The East Eye is on the left from the central service area and it is much smaller than the second one (West Eye), a bit further on. It has wooden decks with steps, which provide easy access. You can have a picnic in the service area where you will find wooden tables and hammocks, but eating is not allowed by the actual entrance to the cenote cave. I found the jungle park pretty; it is well manicured, with paths in between. The West Eye has a large jungle park for resting, and people stay here all day, even reading books and just relaxing. You can walk around the West Eye cave opening, it is one large circle. I enjoyed 'following' the snorkellers in this 'circle'.
There are two little stone houses, each built on a pyramid, in the park. They are clearly marked as Casa de Alux (The House of Alux). Alux is an invisible dwarf or a spirit in the Maya mythological tradition. The legend has it that they take on a physical form to communicate with humans. They may stop and ask farmers or travellers for an offering. If they do stop you here, offer them something (they like alcohol which you won't have on you here) or cigarettes. Offer them anything you feel fit if you don't want them to cause havoc and mischief for you! I have seen many Alux houses in my four years in Yucatán but I am yet to meet an Alux in person. I don't call their name to meet them as it is supposed to bring bad luck. You just have to leave it to mother nature.
There are services on the site; this place is commercial and ready for many visitors each day: changing rooms, lockers (for 50 pesos), basic toilets on the site (latrine style but clean), massage parlour under the palapa (an open platform with a roof made of palm leaves) shops with souvenirs and a restaurant. Two more restaurants are just opposite the car park, all serving local Mexican food (200 pesos for a meal). The entry fee is 350 pesos, discounts for locals are available (I paid 200 pesos as a local). The life jacket rental is included in the entry fee. Masks and fins are also 50 pesos to rent. If you book a tour via a tour agency or dive with a guide, it will be much more expensive. And don’t stop to pay at the first centre just off the highway! Drive all the way to the actual entry because the first stop can just mark your ticket up 100 pesos.
How to get there:
Cenote Dos Ojos is located 3km off Highway 307, 22km north of Tulum and 50km south of Playa del Carmen. You can take a local minibus called a colectivo; just tell the driver, 'Dos Ojos, por favor'. From the highway you will have to walk to the cenote, about 15-20 minutes, along a dirt road. It is a hot walk, so a hat is recommendable.
Mix & Match:
You will most likely spend the whole day here, unless you want to try one of the cenotes in the same park (Dos Ojos park), for example Nicte Há or Jaguar. People often go there instead of the planned Dos Ojos, if they find the price of Dos Ojos expensive. They are both open cenotes, and certainly a good alternative. Actually, if you don’t dive, I would recommend them over Dos Ojos.
You can also combine the visit with the ruins of Xel Há, literally next door to the entrance to the Dos Ojos park. They are not known to the general public but have intriguing murals and you will have them to yourself. I would do the ruins first, and then have a swim.