Water Angels and the Mystical Cenotes of the Yucatan

Cenote Aguila

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Riviera Maya, located in the beautiful Yucatan Peninsula, thanks to a trip sponsored by Tres Rios Resort. During my stay, I participated in a wide variety of experiences, some good and some not as good. The one activity though that produced an indelible mark on the trip for me was a remarkable experience in the Cenote Aguila.

Water Angels

After a plunge into a lagoon at the base of the cenote, we all donned our snorkel gear and prepared to enter another world. I’ve snorkeled in a lot of areas around the world, but nothing was quite like this experience. First of all, the cenote is deceptively swift. The current leads to the ocean and carries swimmers along at a pretty fast rate. This is actually perfect for snorkelers as you don’t have to do anything except course correct once in a while.

Unlike complex coral reefs with their vibrant fish and lots of marine activity, the cenote, like the Riviera Maya itself, is more laid back. The first thing I noticed were all of the mangrove roots. I had seen these trees before, but never underwater and was mesmerized by the thorny roots jutting into the water.

As we slowly made our way down the faux river, I began to notice crabs and fish darting around looking for food. Above our heads was a rich foliage that created a dome over the cenote, making the sensation of being in another world even more palpable. Floating downstream also produced another unintended consequence – introspection.

Unlike other activities designed to force the participant to achieve a Zen moment (which they rarely do) floating down the cenote automatically creates a quiet, peaceful environment in which to ponder the universe.  It was a marvelous experience and it only reinforced my firm belief in the importance of ecotourism and why we must save these natural treasures.

Snorkeling in the Cenote

A few yards from the finish point, I looked down for a last time to observe the world below. As the rays of light dappled across my back, the effect was mesmerizing. Below me on the floor of the cenote was my shadow, surrounded by the sunlight twinkling in the water. I moved my arms up and down and was delighted to see that like a kid falling into a snowbank, I had created my own water angel there in the cenote. It was one of those perfect moments that happen on trips that can never be planned, but are always treasured.

I hated to leave the cenote, even though the promise of a cold beer and grilled meats was seriously tempting. I stood there, waist deep in the water, memorizing the scene and enjoying my own personal moment of utter contentment.

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

21 Responses

  1. TravelDesigned

    Nice job! I love Kay’s explanation of of cenote. I am glad you found your own moment of “Zen” and your angel wings. 🙂

  2. Lisa Bergren

    Cool! I wanted to explore more cenotes while I was in the Yucatan, but I never heard of one that had “busted loose” to the sea! Sounds like a wonderful experience.

  3. Cam

    Very Cool Matt! We actually got married just north of there two years ago! Love the Mayan Riveria… hope to return very soon

  4. Migrationology

    Looks like a very cool place. I went to a similar looking place in Thailand that consisted of brackish water in a similar setting. In the morning the water was murky, but like magic in the afternoon is turned super clear and turquiose to reaveal tree root structures underneath. This place in the Yucatan looks incredible…!

  5. Andi

    Ay Dios mio, what absolute bliss!!! Love the titles of your posts btw.

  6. Dave

    Great pics. And a cool post. I had to laugh with your description of making a water angel. Sounds like you are having a great trip.

  7. Craig Zabransky

    Matt, although I don’t agree with your forced Zen moment comment, I totally do agree with your thoughts on the magic of a (or this) cenote. A true highlight of the trip to HTR.

    And let’s face it, it was truly special to be an angel that day…

    stay adventurous, Craig

  8. sacbe

    Where exactly is the CENOTE AGUILA, and how do I book a tour? Thank You.

    • Matt Long

      It is located at the Tres Rios Resort in Riviera Maya, although there are cenotes all throughout the region.

  9. Kirsten

    During my one day at HTR in 2009, I got to swim the cenote and kayak down to the ocean. It was one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever done while traveling. Cannot wait to share the same experience with Andi when I go back to FIVE DAYS in February!!! Great post Matt, so glad you shared this. Looking forward to writing many posts about HTR after this next visit!!

  10. Akafix

    It looks the perfect place for a bliss moment. I’m reallly sorry I’ve missed that when I was in Yucatan. You’ll probably remember your water angel for ever.
    Beautifully written and great title!

    • Matt Long

      Indeed I will and thank you. That’s just another reason for you to return though.

      • akafix

        You’re right. I’m thinking more and mote about changing my life so that I may travel much more, especially in South America I feel very attracted to.
        I really miss Mexico and I’ve got this obsession about Peru and Machu Picchu that I really have to see!

  11. Sonja

    This place sounds magical. I looove snorkeling and have only done it in the ocean. This page is bookmarked now.

    • Matt Long

      I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it quickly became a favorite experience. So much fun

  12. Allison of Trailer Hitched

    Wow! I have been wanting to experience a cenote in Riviera Maya for a long time now. This is a great description of what that would be like. It sounds like your moment of Zen was really remarkable. Thanks for sharing!

    • Matt Long

      Thanks! It really was a surprisingly remarkable experience which I hope to try again soon!

  13. Christine | Grrrl Traveler

    I enjoyed the video & Kelly’s definition. I’d read about cenotes before but it wasn’t explained as thoroughly as that. Sounds like fun.


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