As of today, we are experiencing one of the biggest heat waves to hit the Riviera Maya in many years. Temperatures have risen way past the 39º C (102º F) and humidity is at its most uncomfortable as you feel your clothes stick to your body and the ever-present sweat is a constant reminder that dehydration is possible.
As a local, I have learned of several ways to deal with the hot and humid days. One, of course, is to go to the wonderful and refreshing beach. Grab a towel, a six-pack, your shades and you are set. Nevertheless, a seasoned local will recommend a visit to a cenote for the pure and simple reason that there is no place in the whole of the Riviera Maya where you will find a more refreshing experience than swimming in a cenote.
Cenote is a term that has its origin in the Mayan word tz’onot which means pit or abyss. A cenote is a spring water reservoir with a certain depth and a part of one of the world’s biggest underground water system which runs from deep inside the Yucatan Peninsula to the Caribbean sea.
Cenotes are made when the roof collapses on one or more caves. With the accumulation of groundwater, ponds were formed that can be more or less deep. The cenotes can be underground, semi-open or open, characteristics that are related to the age of the structure (the youngest maintain their dome, while the oldest ones are already open).
For the Mayans, the cenotes were sacred places. There they used to perform sacrifices and rituals that were part of their cosmology. It is not yet known with precision, however, how the ceremonies were developed in the cenotes.
The Sacred Cenote of Chichén Itzá, with about 60 meters in diameter and vertical walls of about 15 meters, is one of the most famous cenotes. It is located north of the Kukulcán pyramid and has become a major tourist attraction.
This far along and I haven’t told you why I prefer the cenote over the beach for such a hot climate. Simple! A cenote’s water maintains a stable 24ºC (72ºF) temperature throughout the year. That is several degrees colder than the ocean during this season. Plus you get to visit a new and exciting place full of culture and tradition while refreshing yourself. There are literally hundreds of cenotes in or around the Riviera Maya. Google them up and you’ll be surprised by the different options offered.
As for me, I still have lots to do before taking a dip on a cenote close by, in the meanwhile, have a great day.