Cave Diving: Why Choose Cave Diving The Cenotes

Cave Diving: Why Choose Cave Diving The Cenotes
Johan Glindre

The Yucatan Peninsula and Riviera Maya in Mexico are very well known among other things for the Cenotes.

They are the largest underground freshwater cave system in the world. They are the Cenotes Caves and they run for kilometers from North West to South East of the Peninsula and end up in the Caribbean Sea.

There are no overground rivers on the Yucatan Peninsula so this is the only source of freshwater to the area.

About twenty years ago people started to scuba dive the Cenotes to discover this hidden world. Nowadays, Cenotes have become a must of scuba diving.

Many scuba divers come to Mexico especially for diving the Cenotes. The cavern part of the Cenotes can be dived by Open Water certified divers. To be able to dive the caves it is necessary to hold the full cave diver certification provided by TDI and IANTD.

Brief History of the Cenotes

Before the last ice age, the Yucatan Peninsula was a giant coral reef submerged by the sea. During the ice ages between 70,000 and 50,000 years ago, the fall of sea level exposed the reef to the atmosphere. This eventually became the Yucatan Peninsula.

Acidic rainfall gradually started traveling through the ground dissolving the alkaline and highly porous limestone. The power of water started to erode the rocks and to sculpt the inside of the earth forming caves. These caves are known as solution caves.

They might take tens to hundreds of thousands of years to form. It is believed that the Cenotes started to form about 12,000 years ago.

a.k.a. Solution Cave after being formed from acid rain
a.k.a. Solution Cave after being formed from acid rain
Photo by: Public Domain

Rainwater dripping through the ground formed stalactites and stalagmites creating beautiful decorations. The subsequent collapse of the rock ceiling created openings to access the caves.

Cenotes are filled with fresh rainwater and some of them have a bottom layer of seawater due to their proximity to the sea. When these two layers of water meet they form a halocline.

Cenotes used to be dry caves. They provided shelter to the Mayas. Some caves still provide testimonials and remains of this ancient civilization inhabiting the caves. I find the history behind the Cenotes the main reason to do these caves.

The historical value of Cenotes is worth cave diving for
The historical value of Cenotes is worth cave diving for
Photo by: Sergey Popov V

Coming To Mexico

Bewitched by the idea of cave diving in the Cenotes, my partner Dom and I decided to venture to the Yucatan in Mexico.

We were also aiming to work in the area and we thought that holding our full cave divers certification would have made us more employable by the local dive shops. Only instructors and divemasters with full cave diver certification are allowed to take certified divers in the cavern part of the Cenotes.

Full cave diver certification

Two weeks into the Country and we decided to enroll in the full cave course. We were thrilled by the idea of exploring the caves and hopeful for a job position in the area.

There are so many freelance cave instructors and many dive shops offering courses from cavern divers to full cave course. We were spoiled for choices.

We decided to go with Anders Heegaard of GoPro Playa a freelance PADI Course Director and TDI Tec and Full Cave Instructor. He was highly recommended by a friend of ours and we couldn’t have been more satisfied with our choice. I would highly recommend him to anyone.

An underwater warning sign to untrained cave divers
An underwater warning sign to untrained cave divers
Photo by: Anders Heegaard – GoPro Playa

The Way to Go

I definitely recommend the full cave course to scuba divers planning a diving trip to the Riviera Maya and Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. It gives the possibility to see places where not many people have been and to explore the inside of Earth.

It is absolutely overwhelming and it definitely takes scuba diving to a different level. Follow here next week for a walkthrough of the Full Cave Diver course.

Have you ever done any cave diving? Tell us about your cave diving experience!


Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Peter Cannon
Peter Cannon

Not sure if you would call a cenote dive a true cave dive, but regardless here is my story.
Went to the Mayan last November, Akumal, and it was here that I experienced my first cavern dive. booked the dive with Akumal Bay Dive Center at the resort we stayed at.
We did two dives at Chac-Mool, Playa del Carmen and I absolutely loved it. From the warm, crystal clear water to the pitch black of inside the cavern was something I would never have imagined. Having never experienced this before I was awestruck. Our guides Arimis and Andreas, from Akumal Bay Dive, were great. Explaining the safety rules first and everything we would see before hand, going though a halocline for the first time was a little eerie, even with being prepared for it, I wasn’t expecting the complete blurring of it. Going into the air chamber was quite interesting, seeing all the stalagmites and stalactites, again something completely new to me. I could go on and on about the dives, but I will sum it up with this.
I’m going back for more!!


This looks like such a fun dive with a lot of mystery. Any luck with finding some work down there?

Alex @ Playa Scuba Club
Alex @ Playa Scuba Club

Great write up! Just a couple of things I’d like to point out.

You said, “To be able to dive the caves it is necessary to hold the full cave diver certification provided by TDI and IANTD.” ANDI, GUE, and UTD are also popular in the area, but there’s an even longer list of cave diving certification agencies you can easily find on Wikipedia.

You said, “They provided shelter to the Mayas.” For the most part, this is likely incorrect. Cenotes were seen as gateways to the underworld and home of the rain god Chaac. Plenty of sacrifices were made into the cenotes, but they weren’t typically used for shelter.

Congratulations on your full cave certification, it’s definitely one of the most challenging yet rewarding courses I’ve ever taken!

Torben Lonne
Torben Lonne
Reply to 

Hi Alex,

So after a comment on facebook I found your comment here in our Spam folder. Thanks for letting us know.

Even though I don’t know anything about cave diving I did know about GUE, so I maybe should have caught on to it. I’ll add it in to the article. What kind of cave certifications do you offer? Witch is the most spread/popular cave course? Do you know?

Again Thanks for letting us know!

Alex @ Playa Scuba Club
Alex @ Playa Scuba Club
Reply to 

Thanks for looking into it Torben, it’s good to have friends who are far more tech savvy than I am who are willing to help a guy out 🙂

Personally and speaking on behalf of the club, I/we don’t actually offer cave certifications. We’re just a social/diving/networking club for English-speaking divers living in or visiting Playa del Carmen. I’m a TDI full cave diver and PADI Master Instructor, so I do the occasional guiding (mostly for friends), but most of my time is just diving caves.

Based purely on anecdotal “evidence”, I’d say TDI is the most popular cave course in the area. It seems like everyone I meet at a few of the local dive bars went that route. Zero Gravity is a GUE shop and seems to permanently have a full parking lot, plus with all of the blue H’s I see around, I think GUE must have a pretty big following in the area.

On the list here (, I’ve met people in the area with GUE, IANTD, NACD, UTD, TDI, and ANDI certifications.

Go to Frontpage