Mexico, Quintana Roo
X'Kekén (pronounced shke-ken) cenote sits just outside the town of Valladolid. The stalactites form monstrous creatures. A place of worship for the Maya.
It is sometimes referred to as Dzipnup, which is the name of the village where it is situated (just off road 180), or X'quequén (a different phonetic transcription). X'Kekén in Mayan means pork and there is a curious legend about a village pig that was frequently lost in the jungle but always returned covered in mud, even in times of drought. So the residents decided to follow the pig and this led them to the cave of this cenote.
Dzipnup village actually has two cenotes next to each other, X'Kekén and Samulá; each has a 65 peso entry fee. The property has a shared restaurant, with a tasty and cheap buffet. Each has separate changing rooms. There is a short walk between the two cenotes, full of local vendors (although I have never seen anybody buying anything here, for some reason). Lifejackets can be rented from the vendors on the site as well.
Last time I came here in 2016 with a group of Czech visitors. They were snorkelling while I just swam. In all honesty, I found the waters a bit dark. The sun comes through the ceiling hole, which creates an awesome effect. The cenote is also lit with electricity. The best time to get the sun effect through the ceiling is around 2pm. However, this is also the time when tourist groups might stop here after visiting Chichén Itzá. Try to beat the crowds.
Two ropes have been extended across the water for hanging on, and a wooden walkway has been built across one side to provide access. Here you can rest and watch the others. No cliff jumping from here. The water access is shallow but the rocks are sharp so water shoes might come in handy.
When you swim, small black fish may swim around you. Don't freak out; they are harmless. They are a rare species – eyeless black fish. In the process of evolution, when the fish entered the subterranean environment of the caves, they lost their eyes.
How to get there:
The cenote is located on the Merida-Valladolid old road (not toll road), 3km before arriving at Valladolid. It is open from 7:00 to 17:00.
Mix & Match:
The X'kekén visit is a good option after visiting Chichén Itzá or popping over for a bit of fun from Valladolid.