Kikil

Yucatán, Mexico


A large open cenote in a well maintained jungle park, on the Flamingo Route.


One of the open mouths, Boca 3. You can swim to it from inside the cave, from Boca 1. Or jump in.
 

This cenote sits at the northern end of the village of Kikil, on the road towards the village of Río Lagartos on the Gulf of Mexico. It is a community project led by 13 local families who are trying to promote ecotourism for their village. A fantastic effort, in my view.

 
My friend Michelle on the steps to Boca 1.
The steps to Boca 5.
 

Locally, the cenote is known as Nohoch Dzonot. Dzonot is a Maya word for a cenote, and nohoch means large. So it means 'a large cenote'. It is not enormous, really; the diameter is about 30m. For me it is one of those 'normal' cenotes. I don't mean anything negative by this; it is just that I have been to so many cenotes that it is difficult for me to find a 'wow' factor cenote by now. I suppose it is because it is less turquoise, due to its depth.

I tried to find information about the depth, as the web pages give contradictory information. I found the answer in the village convent. You may think it is not related, but of course, the convent promotes the village cenote. It is all they have, given that the church was destroyed.

 
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My son Rhodri enjoyed his swim.

My son Rhodri enjoyed his swim.

 

Well, the skeleton of a church is rather romantic and a great photo op so everybody going up north stops here to stretch their legs and take a photo. It was built during colonial times, in the 17th century. The convent is a museum today, although there are only empty rooms here, with some stones from the old church, before it was destroyed. But it is here where they say it took professional divers three years to clean the cenote and it is 50m deep.

 
The church skeleton in the village of Kikil.

The church skeleton in the village of Kikil.

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Bones were found in the cenote during the cleaning process. Well, it is well known that the ancient Maya considered cenotes sacred places (apart from using them as a source of fresh water). After all, life begins in water, and for them it also terminated in the waters of a cave cenote; that is where their deceased 'travelled'. So rituals were performed in cenotes on a regular basis and this one is no exception.

 
Rhodri on the path between the reception and the cenote.

Rhodri on the path between the reception and the cenote.

Maintenance of the picnic area with the palapa roof.

Maintenance of the picnic area with the palapa roof.

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The altar in the jungle park.

The altar in the jungle park.

 

The cenote is of the open type, with a cave to its side. It is great to dip here on a hot day. Open-air cenotes are home to vitamin- and mineral-rich algae that nourish and protect your skin. When swimming, check out the tree roots along the cenote rock walls; they are long, as the trees above seek nourishment.

 
Picnic area.
One of the viewing towers.
 

You won't be able to dive here as life vests are compulsory. I came here with my son in March 2019 and we witnessed two upset tourists, who wanted to dive, given the depth. This is because from the surface you can see the stone shapes that the cave creates. They had to settle on snorkelling. They had their own gear, although life vests are provided for all without extra charge, which is not usual at most cenotes.

Access is easy, via a flight of wooden steps. The cenote is 100% natural. I am only mentioning this as some cenotes have been adjusted by man-made efforts and this village takes pride in their cenote being 100% natural.

 
Life vests are handy, right by the cenote pool.

Life vests are handy, right by the cenote pool.

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Bird houses. Left: decorative stones.

Bird houses. Left: decorative stones.

Cabañas for the night.

Cabañas for the night.

The cenote sits in a nice jungle park, with picnic areas and a very decent restaurant that serves seafood. Such eco parks and services are not common to many cenotes; it is a treat. We saw the locals clearing some leaves from a palapa (an open space with a covered roof made of dried palm leaves). The jungle does require regular maintenance. One palapa has hammocks, so you can lie down and even have a nap. The other picnic area has tables and chairs, with plants decorated as ladies in dresses. Quite funny. You can sit here and observe nature. Try to find the motmot bird (here they call it toh). It is eye-catching, having turquoise brows and tail. The locals really care about their flora and fauna here. Do notice the wooden bird houses that they built right by the reception area. As for the trees, the usual suspects of the Yucatán jungle are sapodillas (zapota), which the Maya used to chew (yes, they invented chewing gum!), the ceiba tree (kapok), which was their sacred tree, as its branches supported heaven and the roots were the means of communication between the world of the living and the Underworld. Palms are omnipresent, as are quenepa trees (Spanish lime). Don't miss the bougainvilleas and cactus.

 
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The picnic area with hammocks.

The picnic area with hammocks.

 

How to get there:

There are buses to nearby Tizimín from Mérida, via Motul or Valladolid. From Tizimín, there is a bus every four hours to Kikil. In my view, it is easier to take a taxi than to wait four hours.

If you travel by car, take road 295 towards Río Lagartos, off highway 180D between Cancún and Mérida.

The reception area offers snack and souvenirs. The entry fee is 100 pesos (2019 prices).

 
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The restaurant. Above: the reception area.

The restaurant. Above: the reception area.

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Mix & Match:

I have stopped here many times, on the way to see Río Lagartos and its pink flamingos, the pink lagoon of Las Coloradas, and the colourful village of San Felipe, from where I always take a boat to Isla Cerritos.