Mexico, Quintana Roo
The best thing after the hot hours at Chichén Itzá ruins is to cool off at a cenote. But which one to choose? XCajum (pronounced shka-hum) is a great option.
While Ik-Kil cenote is right next door to Chichén Itzá (well, 3km from the gate) and is famous for its depth and cliff jumping, I personally prefer XCajum because you can have it to yourself. It is worth the half-hour drive north from the ruins. It is similar to Ik-Kil as it is open to the sky and pretty deep too (35m).
We 'discovered' it jointly with my friends as I wanted to try a new and more secluded place. We came here in January 2017, around 3pm, just after the ruins and we were the only visitors (although we did see a tourist bus just leaving on our arrival).
XCajum is off the Dzitás-Pisté road; just drive straight up north from the village of Pisté. Take the small dirt road on the left and drive for about a minute to get there. This place also has a restaurant but they only serve the buffet until 2pm so you have to arrive in time. After that, the choice (a la carte) is pretty limited. We paid 70 pesos entry fee in 2016.
Being private property, as all cenotes are, this one is pretty well maintained and has a feel-good factor. Excellent changing and shower facilities, actually some of the best around. You can also rent snorkelling equipment or buy souvenirs. The jungle around is well maintained as well, so the jungle garden feels like a small oasis; it is truly elegant. There are hammocks in the garden where you can rest. The staircase going down to the cenote is in a tunnel but the stairs are wide and comfortable (not slippery).
XCajum is an open cenote but the opening is pretty deep so it feels like a cave but you get to see the sky. There is a wide and comfortable staircase going deep down the opening to reach the clear and cool water for swimming or snorkelling. The temperatures of the cenotes are cold (25°C) but that is what you need for cooling off.
There is a rope across the water, for you to hang onto and rest. The water is deep and the wooden steps to the water are steep. One step was actually broken when we were there so the access was not very easy. If you bring children with you, I recommend some floating devices.
The Yucatán Peninsula is full of porous limestone with no visible rivers; they are all underground. Being porous, caverns and caves formed where the fresh water collects – hence the cenotes or water sinkholes.
The water at XCajum is often described as blue. I found it pretty black, to be honest, but that should not discourage you, as the waters are clean (the rain water is filtered through the porous limestone). After all, the Maya used cenote water for drinking (and in places do so till today). For the ancient Maya, cenotes were a source of life and a portal to the gods. The Maya called them dzonot, which the conquering Spaniards translated as cenote. The Motul dictionary, a dictionary of Maya hieroglyphics, defines dzonot as 'abysmal and deep'. Once you enter XCajum, you will understand why. It is indeed abysmal. It is a giant and deep sinkhole.
How to get there:
The cenote is located on the Mérida-Valladolid old road (not the toll road), 3km before arriving at Valladolid. It is open from 7:00 to 17:00.
Mix & Match:
It can be combined with Chichén Itzá.