“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.” -Tecumseh
Everyone struggles to stay thankful. It does not always come naturally. It’s much easier to think about all the things we don’t have and dwell on negativity – especially during difficult times. But, there is a solution: gratitude. Being grateful benefits both physical and mental health.
There’s no better place to reveal some simple ways we can practice gratitude and having a positive mindset than Hotel La Semilla & Villa La Semilla.
Be thankful – not just today, but every day!
STAY OPTIMISTIC. How not to be in paradise?
Although our future is uncertain, never lose your hope and always make an effort to see the positive side. Instead of sweating small things and thinking about the negative, you can have peace knowing that even though the sun goes down, it will rise again the next day. Live the experience in any of our two La Semilla properties and let life take its course.
FOCUS ON BLESSINGS
They recognize and appreciate their blessings. We can’t be grateful without being mindful of life’s many benefits and the rich blessings we have been given. There is no “Oh, woe is me” mentality here.
Try It: Try making your own gratitude list! Take some time to jot down some things you are grateful for (these could be long-term or everyday things), and spend some time reflecting.
Photo by @black_palms
GRATITUDE TO NATURE
Like a garden, gratitude requires nurturing and cultivation. All of us have many, many things to be thankful for, beginning with the infinite gifts from nature — the sun that warms us, the food that the earth provides, the water we drink, and our own physical body. We can be grateful for the friends and family who share our joys and challenges, the myriad people who make up our community, and indeed, all living things and existences in the universe.
LIVE WITH PURPOSE
Living with purpose allows us to make the most of our time on earth and bring meaning to our lives – whether this means acting a certain way or doing something for somebody else. Those who live with purpose find meaning in life’s mundane activities and make an effort to press forward and enter relationships that have lasting, meaningful value.
Photo by @callmecall
Everyone at La Semilla would like to take a moment to say how thankful we are for you, and we hope you have a wonderful LIFE!
What are you thankful for?
At Hotel La Semilla, we are always striving to be better and to cultivate deeper relationships with our guests, our community, and the beauty of nature. For us, it is so important to be grounded and hold firm to the beliefs and values that govern our life. In order to maintain these values and put them into practice, it is essential to first foster a strong and unwavering relationship with yourself.
To be at peace with oneself is a powerful tool. It is an instrument which can help you to live your best life and to create an impact on the people that surround you. Self-love is not selfish. In fact, it is essential to creating a rich and meaningful life. It is said that one cannot truly love another until you learn to love yourself. This is a profound truth and a journey that we must all undertake in our lives.
For some, this journey is an easy one. We all hope to give our children and loved ones the tools to see the beauty that lies inside them. Others struggle every day to accept and love themselves unconditionally. In order to mindfully live one’s life, it is important to be present every day. For us, we believe that meditation is a powerful instrument for connecting deeply with our desires, truths, and values. It is through this connection where we can develop a deeper understanding of ourselves and our motivations. From there, we can foster that unconditional love for ourselves and others– facilitating a connection with your higher being.
The practice of meditation is beautifully deceiving. Zen Buddhists teach a method of concentration meditation that simply asks you to sit, breathe, and count. That may sound easy but, in fact, it is quite the opposite. For most beginners, it is quite a daunting task to sit in one position with eyes closed and counting for any period of time. This is especially true in modern society when attention spans are the shortest they have been in our human history. However; it is apparent that now more than ever we should be focusing on trying to take pause and connect with the things that are most important to us. It is a way of aligning our souls with the life we are creating.
When we began the journey to practicing meditation, we started small. Some examples of ways you can incorporate small meditation moments into your day could be spending 5 minutes in the morning to write in a gratuity journey and setting alarms throughout the day which reminds you to take a moment to connect with nature. Doing these small acts are enriching ways to be more present and to pay attention to your inner self. Once you get into a habit of listening to your body, it will be easier to try meditation. We suggesting beginning with just one minute and working up from there. The most important thing is to be conscious of letting go of the constant interior narrative and giving yourself some room to breathe and truly relax.
Taking time to connect with yourself is an incredibly educational experience. Getting to know yourself better and your inner motivations are the first step in self-acceptance and self-love. Once this is achieved, you can experience a beautiful type of abundance in your life by appreciating the small moments and being more available to the ones you hold most dear.
When you come to Hotel La Semilla in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, you will notice that our property is quite different from the stereotypical atmosphere you may have heard about in Playa del Carmen. From the first moment that you step foot onto our property you’ll hear the quiet hum of nature: the melodic chirping of birds, babbling water and the breeze through the trees on our garden terrace. Our guests like to have a certain type of experience in Playa del Carmen, one that is authentic and tranquil—far from the tourist areas that seem to garner more attention than they are worth.
For us, Playa del Carmen is full of subtle beauty and quiet, tucked away corners where you can connect with nature. It is a place with unbelievable beauty and pristine beaches. In this post, we would like to share with you our favorite beaches in Playa del Carmen. We are partial to more secluded areas with local appeal. This means that most of our choices are far from the main strip and don’t have access to beach clubs or restaurants. If you are like us, you won’t mind packing a lunch, grabbing a cozy towel, and journeying beyond the most popular spots. Here are our top 3 recommendations for the quietest beaches in Playa del Carmen.
Calle 38 ( 38th Street)
Located at the end of our street, the beach access at Calle 38 is the perfect place to spend the day. Just a 5-minute walk from Hotel la Semilla, you’ll arrive at the beach to discover a popular yet much less crowded stretch of sand. This beach is still convenient as there are a handful of restaurants near the beach entrance. There is also one boutique resort on the beach where you can rent chairs and an umbrella if desired. This beach is a good option if you want a nice balance between accessibility and tranquility.
If you continue to walk north towards 48th street, you’ll arrive at Coco Reef. This area and beyond are considered the most secluded beaches in Playa del Carmen. While there are no restaurants, beach clubs, or bars you can enjoy this virtually secluded beach in near privacy save for a few locals and fishing boats that pass by. It is also considered one of the best places to snorkel in Playa del Carmen. Important to note, Coco Reef isn’t easily accessible. The best route is to walk along 5th Ave until you reach 48th street and walk onto the beach from there. The beaches just south of this area have become quite eroded due to natural causes over time, which may make it difficult to walk if you are carrying a lot of things.
The beach of Playacar is located within a residential community and is a 10-minute taxi ride from Hotel La Semilla. The beach is well kept by the community management and you’ll find that the sea and surrounding areas are unspoiled. There are clusters of palm trees that line the area offering shade, which is nice as the sun gets extremely hot here in Mexico. We suggest getting to this beach early, as the shaded areas tend to fill up with local residents on the weekends.
Regardless of where you choose to spend your beach day in Playa del Carmen, we encourage you to find the shores that are off the “beaten path.” There are wonderful things to discover and experiences to have if you allow yourself to explore and get wrapped up in the amazing nature that surrounds us.
The sun-baked limestone welcomes the cool breeze that arrives from the electric blue sea in Tulum. The Mayan Ruins that reside in the once great trading port city is now nothing more than an archeological masterpiece. While the ruins at Tulum are a far cry from other sprawling sites like Chichen Itza, the Tulum Ruins offer an equally unique glimpse into the fascinating world of the Mayan people.
The history of Tulum significantly pre-dates that of other better-known cities in the Yucatan Peninsula like Cancun and Playa del Carmen. The Mayans built Tulum as a trade city and the beach port that once existed on the rugged coastline acted as the fourth barrier to this previously walled metropolis. It was the most important trade port in the Mayan world with access to all of Central and South America, trading mostly in jade and turquoise.
The principle structures that remain are divided into two areas of interest: City Square- El Castillo and the Temple of the Descending God. El Castillo is a grand structure that commands your attention. Situated on the bluff’s edge, you will witness glorious views of the sea as you climb upward, nearly 12 meters, to reach the entrance. From there, the panoramic image of the expansive sea will leave you in a trance. Just in front of the El Castillo site is The Temple of the Descending God. This temple is adorned with a figure pointing downward (its namesake)—descending as if into the sea. This figure was a central icon for the Mayans and can be seen on other buildings and small structures on the site. As one of the better-preserved buildings, you will see a three-part mural inside the temple in ascending order that represents important aspects of the Mayan’s belief system. The first lower mural showcases the world of the dead, the middle is the world of the living and the third, top mural, represent the creator and rain gods.
To pass the day at the Tulum Ruins is both curious and inspiring. The impressive views are some of the most unique in the world. For this reason, it is important to understand that this site is the most popular tourist destination in Riviera Maya—welcoming thousands of visitors each day. Most tour groups and buses arrive around 11 am but you can avoid the crowds by heading to the ruins early. By arriving around 8 am (when the site opens) you can witness this amazing historical place in peace and also avoid the midday heat, which is exhausting.
Tickets are inexpensive and once you are inside, you can take a small, family run tram for a mere 20 pesos to save yourself the 15-minute walk to the shore from the site’s entrance. Be sure to bring plenty of water and note that there is a lot of direct sunshine. For a refreshing dip after your exploration, the beaches surrounding the site are splendid, especially after a long morning of touring.
Hotel La Semilla in Playa del Carmen and Villa La Semilla in Soliman Bay, Tulum are two extraordinary boutique properties in Mexico. Hotel La Semilla is a 9-room bed and breakfast, while Villa La Semilla is a beachfront rental home perfect for families and groups. Here you can enjoy the simple beauty of the area in exquisitely designed spaces. We hope to see you soon!
Playa del Carmen is seen as wild escape for party going millennials, while Tulum is positioned as the bohemian mecca for luxe hipsters. However, after living in Riviera Maya for over a decade, what has become evident is that there is more than meets the eye in both of these exciting destinations.
Beyond the Party of Playa
Playa del Carmen is a place where local Mexicans eat, work and live. It is an incredibly vibrant place that has a bad reputation for being a crazy party destination. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Like any popular place, there are crowded areas, tourist traps and a club zone. But if you take the opportunity to step off of the main street, you would discover a town full of culture and diversity. It is a place where locals thrive and business is good. A place that is inclusive and casual. A place where artists paint the streets and can be seen every Thursday showcasing their work during “Art Walk.” This is the town where we live. It is the original hippy destination in Mexico where many young local people fled to live their vegan fueled, yoga-bound lifestyles. There is a pulse here that is not about trends but about real life. On Calle 38, where Hotel La Semilla is located, we are lucky to be positioned on the quiet, more artistic part of town. As you bike farther up the road, you will soon feel miles away from the crowds and “scene.” Along the water, the landscape gets more wild and the streets quiet. You can feel the local pulse where there are a plethora of small restaurants, local shops and beautiful architecture to discover. While, Tulum usually gets all the hype these days for being a wonderfully hip and trendy; it is Playa del Carmen where you can actually interact and experience local life and culture. In Tulum, these worlds stay quiet separate.
Tulum’s Bohemian Paradise
Tulum may need no introduction, as it is the epicenter of the hip, bohemian-luxe movement in Mexico. Practically an institution for Manhattanites, this quaint town has made quite a splash among the cultural elite. Exquisite restaurants and chic artisan boutiques line the dirt road between the Mayan jungle and Caribbean Sea, which is an area known as the “hotel zone” of Tulum. Each night you can experience the mellow buzz of travelers dining by twinkle-light and meandering along this never-ending hotel zone. Artisan coctelerías offer bearded bartenders mixing uncommon flavors to surprise and delight even the most sophisticated connoisseur. The soft hum of mellow Spanish music serves as soundtrack to this wonderful scene and makes one feel that the whole scene is lost in time and space. To be in Tulum is to fall in love with yourself and a wild abandon that fuels the Laissez-faire attitude of business owners and travelers to this place. It is a destination to explore and to be— while revealing a more spiritual (and arguably much cooler) part of you. Nature is an important theme here and the preservation of the flora and fauna is strongly on the minds of every person that calls Tulum home. As exciting as Tulum is as a destination, it’s beauty is intensified by the arguably fleeting nature of it’s greatness. It seems to be a place untouched by major development– but that may not be the case in the future. Now is the time to experience this amazing place and to savor an area that has been built on the backs of true artisan and purveyors of the “slow-living.”
Maximize Your Trip
Each destination delivers a different type of experience with equal value. Tulum is certainly the more popular destination for discerning travelers. To be in Tulum is to be in a different world. It is charming, exciting and completely exotic. One could argue that it doesn’t have a very strong Mexican feeling, as it is a world created by an international community of artisans and visionaries. Regardless, it is truly unique– but, at times, can be quite expensive. Prices are comparable to New York City in most restaurants, hotels and boutiques. That said, there is no other place like it in the world.
Playa del Carmen is somewhat of a paradox. It can be exactly what you expect and it can be something entirely different. Playa is a wonderful destination for travelers who want to dig deeper. Those who want to make an effort to understand Mexico and the people that make it wonderful. You can sit side-by-side with local people eating their cherished, traditional food. You can speak to them about their lives and their experiences. This you cannot find in Tulum in a genuine way as frequently. That said, one cannot deny that the tourist areas of Playa are very touristy. The clubs are very “club-y” and the peddlers on the street are very vocal along the main tourist areas. We encourage you to look elsewhere and make an effort to see the glimpse of Playa that we see and, hopefully, gain an understanding of the locals living here. There is beauty in that.
A truly holistic experience would touch upon these two places. We are lucky to have properties in both locations and have many guests who split their time between Playa del Carmen and Tulum during their vacation. The choice is yours. Travelers looking for help deciding where to go are always welcome to send us a note. We would be happy to help make your decision a little easier (if your time is limited). Either way, Mexico is an unbelievable place filled with wonderful people and extraordinary food. We hope that all guests visiting our fine country takes the time to appreciate this place in a deeper way all the gifts Mexico has to offer which will enrich your mind, spirit and belly.
A very significant moment has arrived. This past weekend, we welcomed our family, friends and community to the unveiling of our next project, Villa La Semilla. This beachfront rental home has been a passion project for us and we are thrilled to finally share the fruits of our labor.
From it’s inception, Villa La Semilla was meant to be a place for connection and inspiration. We hope that families and groups of friends come to our home ready to rekindle a curiosity and love for each other and nature. In the design of the Villa, we personally hand-picked every detail from the spoons in the kitchen, to the window treatments and patterned tiles. We scoured antique shops, auctions and flea markets to create the perfect atmosphere for our guests.
We welcome you to enjoy this first round of photos from the Villa. We are excited to welcome you into our home and hope that you find our space to be exciting, familiar and nurturing. For more photos updated daily, follow us on Instagram.
“…that they are endowed (by their Creator) with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” –Thomas Jefferson
This fall, we were fortunate to have two very special guests stay with us at Hotel La Semilla. These guests were exploring Playa del Carmen and countless beautiful spots across Mexico and far beyond. Their transportation of choice was a stylish, 1980’s school bus that they renovated themselves. Why did they do this? All in the pursuit of Happiness…
Expedition Happiness is the brain-child of two very talented individuals: Felix Starck, a young German filmmaker and explorer, and his beautiful girlfriend, Mogi, a talented German singer. Felix stepped into fame with the release of an exquisite film he shot documenting his around-the-world journey by bike. These two artists teamed up to develop the concept for Expedition Happiness and they devised a grand adventure that will become the subject of their next film.
Expedition Happiness marks the culmination of these two artists embarking on an inspiring journey that took them on a trip along the Pan-American Highway. We were fortunate to host these two during the last leg of their trip and have been inspired by their passion and energy to create beauty and spark adventure in those that follow their YouTube channel and various social media platforms.
Felix and Mogi, along with their Bernese mountain dog, Rudi, have boarded this adventure not in protest or as a larger political or social statement, but rather as an act of love and art. We feel inspired by their enthusiasm and the care and honesty in which they share their story. They ask their viewers to receive their experiences as you work a performance—and for us, that is beautifully simple. When you follow their work, there is a sense of wide-eye wonderment and innocence to the discoveries and stories they share. Felix is a wonderful filmmaker and as their journey ended here in Mexico, but the next chapter is only just beginning for the couple. They have raffled off their made-over school bus and returned to Berlin where they are editing the footage of their trip—soon to be released as a film for us all to enjoy. We are excited to see the results.
Food in Mexico is a serious subject. Not only are home grown chefs beginning to garner more and more acclaim each year, but the tradition of Mexican food and it’s significance to the culture is so strong, that UNESCO donned Mexican food as a Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2012. What is interesting to learn is that most of the Mexican food we commonly associate with Mexico is a byproduct of colonization and other outside influences. Take, for example, flan, ceviche, or churros (all of which are in abundance in Mexico). None of these famous dishes have true origins there. Funny enough, Churros are a descendent of a salty dish from China called Youtiao in which dough is fried and eaten for breakfast.
So what is it about Mexican food that is so important and so beloved? The story begins with the two most important staples in the country, corn and chili peppers. Despite the introduction of wheat and rice over the centuries (and their relative abundance and low cost) corn still remains today the basic building block for all meals in Mexico. This isn’t a surprise, as science points to the idea that corn, in fact, developed over 7000 years ago in central Mexico from a type of wild grass called teosinte. The tradition for corn obviously runs deep in that respect, but a source of pride in Mexico that is even more intense comes from the indigenous chili peppers found here. It is said that Mexicans have access to the widest variety of chili peppers in the world. Evidence of the importance of chili peppers can also be traced back hundreds of years in a quote from Bartolomé de las Casas, a famous 16th century Spanish historian, who observed that without chilies, the indigenous people of Mexico did not think they were eating. In Mexico today, it is clear that chili peppers play an important role in the cuisine.
One’s culinary adventures in Mexico should be focused on the exploration of salsas, and in this case, salsa referrers to any kind of sauce accompanying a meat or vegetable dish. In this part of the world, all traditional salsas contain chilies. The origins of salsa can be traced back to Aztec times where we have proof of its presence at the marketplace (we can also thank those same Aztec people for introducing coco beans to the world). The significance of the chili and sauce can be seen in the fact that dishes in Mexico are often times not categorized by the meat or vegetables the sauces are served with—but rather the sauce itself. The most common types of salsas you can find at almost any authentic Mexican restaurant are as follows: entomatada (in tomato sauce), adobo or adobados, pipians and moles.
(image via A Mexican Cook)
Entomatada: While entomatada is, in fact, the name of a salsa, you can order a dish called entomatada and wont be disappointed. Entomatadas are very similar to enchiladas but have a tomato-based flavor. The dish is prepared with delicate; often times pressured cooked meat of your choosing, cheese and beans. The filling is wrapped inside a lightly fried tortilla and coved in rich entomatada sauce.
(Image via Mejor Con Salud)
Adobo: The adobo sauce is one of the simplest to make using only ground chilies, vinegar and herbs. Many times this salsa is accompanied by the smokier tasting chili, Chipotle chilies, which is why adobo sauces are often times associated with a stronger woodsy flavoring. The word adobo is also used to describe a meat dish prepared as a stew as can be ordered as such.
(Image via Food52)
Pipians and Moles: A pipian salsa is a category that falls under the mole sauce umbrella. These types of salsas are distinguished by their use of cumin, anise and cloves and many more herbs. When one thinks of a mole, many times the color is brown due to the use of baking chocolate at the end of the cooking process—however, bare in mind, not all moles use chocolate. The most typical, and delicious way to enjoy a mole is by ordering Mole Poblano which is tender chicken smothered in thick, creamy mole sauce made with a specific type of chili called Poblano.
Keep in mind; no proper meal in Mexico would be complete without an accompanying drink. Of course, our minds immediately think of margaritas and tequila (which both have a strong place in Mexican culture). But it is mezcal and not tequila that really get connoisseurs talking. Mezcal is made in a similar process as tequila and both come from the agave plant. However, while tequila is only distilled from the blue agave, mezcal is “limitless” coming from any variety of agave. Most mezcals are marked by the smoky quality of their flavoring, however, due to the endless agave varieties available; each brand can be quite different (which is why this drink is so exciting). If you’re not one to sip hard liquor over ice, there are also endless cocktails available made with mezcal to introduce you to the flavors.
Original Post modified via http://chiccollection.com/
We do not live complicated lives and we are grateful for that. Here in Mexico, we are able to harness the peace and sunshine around us everyday to craft a business with passion and integrity; and it is with passion and integrity that we have meticulously poured our hearts into planning Villa La Semilla.
For many years, we have taken our family to enjoy the natural shoreline and quiet ambiance of Soliman Bay—the pristine beaches just outside of Tulum. We would often daydream about building a villa on the calm shores to share this hidden gem with our guests. We wanted to offer an exclusive experience for families and small groups where folks could disconnect from the noise of the modern world and reconnect with the things they find most important. When this dream started to become a reality just 2 years ago, our wheels began turning about the aesthetic and feeling we would want the design of Villa La Semilla to evoke. The one thing we always knew was that we wanted to create a place that lived in harmony with nature and provide the experience of living inside the native beauty of the area. Under the watchful eye of architect Pedro Pablo Velacso, we have been able to design a project that draws much of its inspiration from the natural forms of the land. This idea has been the backbone of everything we have done and will continue to do.
Building with nature, not against it
Long before paint colors and textile patterns were a thought in our mind, we purchased a plot of land. This virgin land had not been cleared for construction nor had the hand of man ever interrupted it. Our plot of land was completely wild with tropical flowers and great, towering palm trees. Since stepping into this patch of jungle our mission was clear—to preserve as much vegetation and life as possible during construction.
When we were building Hotel La Semilla, we were fortunate enough to partner with Landscape Architect Sr. Wolf. Sr. Wolf is a local German-Mexican expat who has called Riviera Maya home for over 30 years and who shares our deep passion for conservation. Together, we began with an extensive vegetation rescue project; which resulted in our amazing garden terrace at the Hotel. For our Villa property, we were determined to continue these efforts while taking it one-step further—along with a team of biologists, architects and engineers, we were able to identify the natural balance of the area and determine which plants were expendable and which were vital to the survival it’s surroundings. By utilizing a special replanting technique, we were able to save nearly 100 plants, trees and flowers, of which 98% survived. For any plants that were lost during this replanting process, we have replaced the land with twice a much vegetation. For us, the most important aspect of this project is to maintain the energy and natural balance of the ecosystem of our property. We believe this will add an intangible element to the Villa and, as a result, guests will be able to enjoy a plethora of Chit Palms, giant palm trees and extensive plant and flower life native to the area during their time with us.
For our guests, the efforts we have put into preservation of the natural environment translates into an experience of truly feeling inside the Mayan jungle. Our guests will enjoy a lush terrace that leads to a private stretch of beach. We will create small nooks in between the trees for sunbathing and relaxing. Inside the villa, you will also never feel far away from green. In our preservation process we have built much of the vegetation into the design, which at times, quite literally, means vegetation lives inside the villa walls as well.
To further the concept of living harmoniously with nature, the villa’s design also uses innovative construction techniques to make use of the ocean breeze as a natural cooling system in the Villa’s outside areas. We have also worked hard with our neighbors to preserve the sand dunes, many of which have been destroyed in other parts of Riviera Maya, in order to protect the marine life and preserve the pure beauty of the location.
Styling the Villa
The passion and veracity we poured into protecting the land on which Villa La Semilla lives has also been directed into the design of the interiors. La Semilla, as a brand, has become synonymous with soft, romantic details and a rough lux aesthetic and this is will continue with Villa La Semilla. Gaining inspiration from organic forms and simple design, our aim is to create an environment that reflects a tranquil life. We will utilize locally sourced antiques to translate the history, heritage and style of Mexico. Most of the furniture will be sourced and details procured from the finest markets and auctions around Mexico—many of which hail from different Haciendas in and around the Yucatan Peninsula. The careful placement of all objects and materials is where the true magic begins and we cannot wait to share with you our entire finished product.
The Countdown Begins
As summer has now come to it’s end, the basic structure and foundation of our Villa is complete. Expect to see more from us in the upcoming weeks as we roll into the second phase of construction. We expect to launch the property by Christmas 2016 and are thrilled to begin welcoming guests shortly thereafter.
During your stay at Hotel La Semilla in Playa del Carmen, it is inevitable that one will hear whispers about the hidden, crystal clear, natural cenotes of the region. Popular with both tourists and local set alike, cenotes are mineral-rich, natural bodies of water that can be found deep in the Mayan jungles. Cenotes were revered by the Mayan People as mysterious and mythical sites where human beings could directly communicate with the gods. For this reason, some Cenotes were even used as a place for sacrificial offerings. The word Cenote, or ts’onot as used by the Yucatec Maya people of the region, literally means a location with accessible groundwater. These locations can be found both on a superficial level at the earth’s surface, or deep within caves.
(Photo Credit Your Mirror Style // Lorenzo Liverani)
Cenotes are formed as a result of collapsed porous limestone bedrock. The force of the impact reveals a subterranean aquatic system of fresh water that is filtered by the earth. The result is clear, fresh underground pools that house an ecosystem of tropical fish and vitamin- and-mineral rich algae. For this reason, cenotes are most popular for snorkeling, as you are able to experience the type of underground world only a professional diver would normally have the privilege of experiencing.
For visitors to these cenotes (there are dozens in the region) will appreciate the tucked away, private nature of experience. Many of these cenotes are, in fact, quite hidden and in some cases completely free of other guests during quite times of the year. The most common people to spot are locals from Cancun; this is because most of the prime ocean real estate has been bought up by big chain resorts and the cenotes remain a wonderful alternative for to experience the pristine waters of the region.
It’s obvious to see why the Mayans held the Cenotes in such high regard. Enjoying a day in the Mayan jungle surrounded impressive tropical foliage, birds and indigenous monkey-like creatures called Coatis’, in near isolation, it’s easy to be transported back in time.
(Photo Credit Ohh Couture//Leonie Hanne)
Best Family Friendly, Cenote Azul
Cenotes can be dangerous with small children—most are endlessly deep with little space to wade. For families that want to experience a cenote without the stress of danger—the best place to go is Cenote Azul. The swimming site itself is pretty basic compared to others in the region. You will not find anything fancy but what you will find is a near perfect rock system below the water’s surface that create natural wading pools of shallower waters. For the older kids, there is a spot for jumping off a small cliff, that is relatively safe. There is, of course, a bountiful amount of fish visible to the naked eye from above the surface– and the best thing to do is sit back, relax and let the little guppies nibble at your toes.
Best for Full Service, Cenote Yokdzonot
If you’re looking for a more “luxury” experience in the Mayan Jungle, look no further than Cenote Yokdzonot. Here you will find a collective of local woman running a tight opertion. For a small fee, you’ll have access to changing rooms, bathrooms, a zipline and even a restaurant with decent food. Everything is made to order and the proprietors are generous with the portions. All facilities are clean and the patrons of the cenote are usually local with a few dotted tourists mixed in. If you’re looking for a great place to relax in a convenient location while touring (a short drive from Chichen Itza) Yokdzonot is your spot!
Best for Adventurers, Cenote Dos Ojos
Cenote Dos Ojos is a place for adventurers. The name, “Dos Ojos” literally means “Two Eyes” and refers to the twin pools of water that make up this Cenote. One of the “eyes” are bright and light blue, while the other is dark and mysterious looking. Both pools certainly deserve attention as they are equally beautiful, but it is the darker body of water that sparks curiosity. Visitors of the “dark eye” enter these waters for a truly unique snorkeling experience that is virtually in pitch-blackness. Divers can rent all gear at the site and are given flashlights to explore the dark underground universe. The experience in exhilarating and, at times, frightening. If you’re not interesting in a “black out dive,” another entertaining alternative is to hike through the series of interconnecting caves that surround the Cenotes. Tours are available for those that want more extensive cave searching.
Best for Photographers, Cenote Samula
Well known by photographers around the world, Cenote Samula houses a unique natural spectacle. This Cenote is accessed within a cave you walk down into. Once you find yourself below the earth, your eye immediately is drawn to large ocular opening at the top of the ceiling. It is a breathtaking moment when you see the roots of a great tree spilling down into the cave. The roots have grown, with such power, down to reach the water to stay alive. It’s a poetic and stunning natural visual. For this reason it is a popular spot and tends to feel a little more like a tourist attraction
What to bring (check list)
☐ A small amount of cash; there is usually a small entrance fee or equipment to rent for snorkeling as well as life vests and flashlights
☐ Sturdy shoes: most cenotes are housed within some pretty rugged terrain
☐ Non-toxic sun screen: while more cenotes warn against using sun screen at all in order not to pollute the natural water, there are biodegradable and organic options that can be used.
☐ Leave valuables at home, most time there isn’t a safe place to leave them
☐ Most times, it’s easy to find a taxi or snacks close to a cenote site