Quintana Roo, Mexico
Cenote Escondido means Hidden Cenote. It is not clear if it is ‘hidden’ from the highway or if the reference is to the cave hidden deep inside the cenote.
The cenote was known in 1970s as Azul Maya (Maya Blue). It was discovered by an American, Hilario Hiler, who stayed here and still lives here (in Akumal). In reality, there is an underwater cave still called Maya Blue, which you enter through the cenote Escondido. The pond is about a 500m walk (or drive) from the highway, but that is quite common to many cenotes in Yucatán. You often reach them along a jungle dirt road.
I came here with my friend Ximena, visiting from Chile. First we visited cenote Cristal, just opposite, on the other side of the road. The entry ticket applies to both cenotes so we decided to try both. While paddling and swimming, we encountered a lady from Peru who now lives in Tulum and this is her favourite spot. She told us of the caves in this cenote and a tunnel that connects Escondido with cenote Cristal. And indeed, there were divers about.
She also told us about the Alux who dwells here. Alux is a spirit in the Maya mythological tradition. He is invisible but you have to appease him, otherwise he can frighten you, and even cause some damage. I looked around for some offerings to him but could not find any. Apparently he likes alcohol and cigarettes. Well, people sitting around the cenote or under the trees were drinking beer (which is normally not allowed at cenotes but the guards here are pretty relaxed), but I could not tell if they were leaving something for the Alux. Well, instead of an Alux we saw a local Maya who maintains the place and he made an open fire to keep mosquitoes away.
This open cenote is a long noodle shape, with a very long rope along its length. I was surprised to see that it was able to hold us all. People do hang on the ropes, just to rest and stare at the bottom of the cenote, to see small tropical fish and stone formations some 6m below. We were able to see the black fish also from the wooden steps and a platform. I was not able to identify the fish but they were not catfish, which are common to so many cenotes.
One side of the cenote, right by the entry, has a set of wooden steps and a platform, which was used by the divers. The swimmers used the opposite side to enter. There are also some natural cliffs, which the brave ones used as jumping platforms (anything between 2 to 4m). There are some picnic tables and benches around and some people brought their own hammocks to put up in the trees.
You can also enjoy the wildlife here. The jungle itself offers a variety of trees, such as chit palms, papayas, copal, dogwood, ceiba (kapok) and sapote trees. I spotted an unusual flower and tried to identify it with my mobile app (PlantSnap). It gave me the name Guaraná (Paullinia cupana) but I am not sure this is right. Guaraná is apparently used to make energy drinks. Locals told me they call this plant Oreja de Burro (Donkey Ears) and that they only eat the roots of the plant. Finally I came upon an option which seems most likely: Pheasants Tail (anthurium schlechtendalii, Cola de Fasian in Spanish). It is not only pretty but it can be used for medicinal purposes such as muscle or joint sprains, back pain, arthritis, or rheumatism.
The locals also said that the jungle around the cenote is a home to spider monkeys. I could not hear them nor see them. Well, maybe next time. You never know what the jungle reveals to you on any particular day.
How to get there:
About 5km south of Tulum Pueblo on 307 South by colectivo (minivan), bike or taxi. There is ample car parking if you come by car and places to lock up bikes.