Topes Y Cenotes - Tulum, Mexico Part 11 - Cenote Cristal

We stumbled upon Cenote Cristal completely by accident.  We were looking for a cenote called Escondido, since my notes on my printed map said "good snorkeling" and that's what we were after.  Remember my pre-vacation post about the cenotes? The first picture on that post is from Cenote Escondido.  It's beautiful, and I definitely wanted to check it out.

Apparently I had also looked into Cristal, since there's a picture of it at the very bottom of that post, but it must not have been enough to convince me that we should go there.

Anyway, we're driving along and we quickly noticed that things weren't very well signed on the Mexican rural roads, and although we looked as hard as we could, we didn't see any signs for Cenote Escondido.  (I think I saw it when we were leaving Cristal, but I can't say for sure.)

Rural Mexican highway

(Some tips about driving on the roads of Mexico will be forthcoming in a separate post, but THIS post is about our first cenote!)

We had passed the sign for Cenote Cristal three times by this point, since we were driving back and forth looking for Escondido, so in frustration and the desire to stop driving and DO something, we finally decided to just go there.  Cristal was on my list of cenotes in the Tulum area, but I didn't have any notes about it, which meant that it probably wasn't particularly interesting for snorkeling.  But we were so tired of driving around, and it was overcast and looked like it might start to rain any minute, so we wanted to get moving.

So, we pulled into the parking lot for Cenote Cristal, and for the first time, we felt like we were stepping out of our comfort zone as stereotypical all-inclusive tourists who never leave the resort.

First of all, here is the sign from the road.

This was one of the best signs we saw on this entire stretch of highway, believe it or not.

We walked up to a Mexican man laying in a hammock on a platform with a roof.  Next to him, a fire was burning and putting off a stinky, harsh smoke. (We realize later that this smoke was to keep the mosquitos away.)

My notes had indicated that this particular cenote was $50 pesos per person, but we were pleased when he told us it was only $40 pesos.  So we paid and he pointed us back a long, rocky path.

We saw a sign for the banos, and DH had to use one, so we walked back that trail to find this:


You walk up the stairs and pee in a toilet which drops down into that area right next to the stairs.  After that fun experience, we continued walking back the main path until we came to what we would call from then on "the pond."

The Pond

We walked around the perimeter to explore the entire thing and realized that it was rather quite small.  However, we were only the people there and thus rather excited about the prospect of swimming, especially once the mosquitoes started biting us.  (We were in jungle at this point, after all, but you're not supposed to wear sunscreen or bug spray before going into the cenotes because it's bad for the wildlife and fish living there.)

At this point we were a little disappointed.  I had seen so many pictures of crystal clear, bright blue water and this was really just some dude's pond that we paid $40 pesos to swim in.  But as you can't really tell from the sky in the picture above, it was really quite overcast on this particular day, and apparently you need direct sunlight to get the aqua-blue effect that you usually see in cenote pictures.  In fact, below is a picture of Cenote Cristal from that was on my original cenotes post.

It didn't quite like that on this particular day, but oh well.  We hopped in anyway.

Or, more accurately, I hopped in.  DH is not so fond of cold water, and thus took his sweet old time stepping into the water while I experimenting with our waterproof camera.

Shaking water droplets off of the lens is key to not getting blurry pictures like this one here

The water really was crystal clear...

But I quickly realized that our waterproof camera had a really slow shutter speed (that's what you get for $100, right?)  So, it was challenging to capture the cute little darting fish, thus resulting in some blurry fish photos like the one above.

This was one of those experiences that is hard to put into words, and it's difficult to capture even with a camera.  Under the water the plant life was an electric green, and tiny little colorfish would swim right up to you with no fear.  I had never seen water so clear in my life, and even though it was tiny, Cenote Cristal was a cool experience that I'm glad I had.

Everyone looks hot with snorkel gear on

There were all of these really cool bird nests hanging from the trees, but instead of just making traditional nests, these were almost like bird houses built out of twigs and straw-like material.  The birds were very active, swooping down by the water and then up to their houses.

I'm sad that we weren't able to get more photos of fish that weren't blurry, and I wish it had been sunny so that the water would have looked blue like it does in all of the amazing pictures of cenotes.  But we enjoyed ourselves, and for our first cenote experience, this was a good one.  It was amazing to have the entire place to ourselves.

Just as we were getting out of the water and drying off, it started to rain.  So we took this final video to attempt to help us remember Cenote Cristal, and DH the educator even gives us a little lesson about the difference between ponds and cenotes.

Coming up: The one - AND ONLY - night that DH felt healthy enough to hang out past 10 p.m.  We called it "fun night!"


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