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I’m inspired to travel when I hear other people share stories of their adventures. So here’s the next installment of our weekly series where the Million Mile Secrets team shares their travel successes (and failures) with you!
Joseph: I’m very impressionable, very impulsive, and I love to travel. That’s a financially detrimental trinity of characteristics — unless you collect miles & points! Because almost everywhere is within reach.
I recently booked a trip to one of my dream destinations, cenote Ik Kil, in Yucatan, Mexico.
I highly recommend a visit, but only if you stay far away from organized tours.
Visiting Cenote Ik Kil
Cenote Ik Kil is a gorgeous natural swimming pool ~2.5 hours west of Cancun. The water is 150 feet deep, and very clear! But because the pool is 85 feet below the ground, the sun rarely touches the water. So it looks dark and murky if you’re not swimming.
Before arriving, I had naively imagined the cenote to be a hidden gem at the end of a forested path. There aren’t many pictures of the surrounding area online. And in reality, the area around is very developed, with a gift shop, a decent restaurant, showers, lockers, life jacket rentals, and several drink stands.
A winding staircase burrowed through the ground serves as a beautiful entrance.
I arrived at 8:00 AM, just as the attraction was opening for the day.
For a long while, I shared the pool with no more than 2 other folks. It was quiet and peaceful, and it felt like my own private sanctuary. Water drips gently from the circle of gorgeous vines.
There are lots of small catfish in the water, but they weren’t at all bothersome. I don’t reckon we made contact even once.
To the right of the pool are stairs leading to 2 platforms where you can dive into the water. There were 2 lifeguards on duty, but they seemed less than enthused to be there.
I met a couple of Japanese travelers who sounded very excited to be at the cenote. One of them carried what looked to be professional grade video equipment, and the other was the star of the video.
I stood next to the cameraman as he waited for his friend to dive into the pool. His friend started at the highest platform, and stood there for 10 minutes as he audibly mustered the courage to jump. The language barrier prevented us from communicating, but we became friends as we both cried with laughter at his endearing friend.
He eventually made his way back down the steps and jumped from a less daunting height.
I have to admit, at first I was a bit uneasy to jump, too. Not because of the height, but because the water looks so dark. ANYTHING could be down there!
Avoid Organized Tours
I think tourists are the worst. And that puts me in a quandary, because I am also a tourist. 😉
I was able to have both the solo experience and the tour bus experience swimming at cenote Ik Kil. And they were COMPLETELY different.
I’ve read several negative TripAdvisor reviews of the cenote, and most of them focus on how repulsively crowded it is. That’s definitely true for the folks who take day tours from Cancun!
Every couple of hours a bunch of tour buses pull up, several hundred (million!) visitors would jump into the pool at once, and an hour later they would be gone.
Here’s what the cenote looks like before the tour buses arrive:
And here’s what it looks like as the tour buses arrive:
Similarly, the on-site restaurant can look like this one minute:
And like this the next:
Note: There are plenty of other cenotes nearby, I just didn’t get around to seeing them. If you’re a cenote enthusiast, the area is brimming with them!
A Trip to the Cenote Is Super Cheap
Everything about visiting Cenote Ik Kil is very inexpensive.
The entrance fee is just $5. And there are really cheap hotels in the area. None are major hotel chains, though, so you won’t be able to redeem hotel points.
I stayed at Hotel Villas Arqueológicas Chichen Itza, that cost ~$45 per night. And I got the 4th night free for booking with my Citi Prestige card.
The hotel was really amazing, with 2 pools, several courtyards, and a delicious restaurant. Everything was so clean! But the beds weren’t great. And there was no Wi-Fi in the rooms, so I had to use my phone as a mobile hotspot.
The hotel is just a ~5 minute drive to cenote Ik Kil and a ~15 minute walk to Chichen Itza, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World!
The closest airport to cenote Ik Kil and Chichen Itza is the Cancun airport. And while you might find it difficult to leave Cancun’s excellent beaches behind to drive ~2.5 hours inland, it’s totally worth it. The drive is very green and beautiful!
Flights to Cancun can be insanely cheap, too. I jumped on a ~$260 fare sale with United Airlines. But you can use miles & points for great deals as well.
Team member Joseph visited Yucatan, Mexico, and swam in the beautiful cenote Ik Kil.
For the best experience, he recommends skipping the paid tours and driving there yourself. Because you’ll enjoy yourself much more when you’re not chafing your elbows against a crowd of rambunctious tourists!
Have you been to the area? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments!