The area north and west of Tulum has one of the largest concentrations of cenotes on the peninsula, including Ox Bel Ha, which at almost 170km is the longest water-filled cave system in the world. Many of these freshwater sinkholes are accessible from Hwy-307 or off the road to Cobá. Some, like Hidden Worlds, have been developed as adventure centres, and the guides and marked trails at these places can help put first-time visitors at ease in dark water and tight spaces. But it’s also worth visiting one of the less developed alternatives, such as Gran Cenote, 4km up the road to Cobá from Tulum, where the only service is snorkel-gear rental. Either way, you can float above stalagmites and other rock formations – all the fun of cave exploration, with none of the scrabbling around. Zacil-Há, 4km further, is a local hangout and a great beginner pool, as you can see the sandy bottom.

Divers must have open-water certification for cavern diving (in which you explore within the reach of daylight), but cave diving (in which you venture into closed passageways and halls) requires rigorous training. One of the best cave-diving specialists in the area is Aquatech Divers at (984 875 9020) at Aventuras beach.

Local development may threaten cenotes in the long run, but clumsy visitors can do more damage in the short term. All the same rules for reef preservation apply here; and be very careful climbing in and out of the water – use the paths and ladders provided.

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