Casa Cenote (AKA Cenote Manatí) and Panchito, the Friendly Crocodile

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Casa Cenote, sometimes called Cenote Manatí, is located near Tulum, Mexico. It’s about 34.7 miles (56 km) from Playa del Carmen, and is different from most cenotes in several ways. For one, it stretches inland like a river, rather than laying in the open like a pool. It’s over 840 feet (250 meters) long, providing a massive area for tourists to swim in. Surrounded by a thick mangrove forest, it’s as close to nature as it gets when the sun is shining and exposing the view both inside of the water and out.

In this article, we’re going to help you plan a trip to see Casa Cenote, as well as share some useful tips to make the most of your journey to Mexico. In addition, you’ll learn all about Panchito, the crocodile who may enjoy swimming with you while you’re there.

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Everything to Know about Casa Cenote/Cenote Manatí

As you have learned from our article about Mexican cenotes, there are thousands of these natural sinkholes available to explore along the Yucatán Peninsula. Casa Cenote is more like a small river than other cenotes, and one of the lesser-known ones. Found off Highway 307 between Puerto Aventuras and Tulum, it’s right by the beach of Tankah. This is only about 6.2 miles (10 km) from Tulum. It’ll be about a 20-minute drive, from Tulum beach road.

So what is with the name Cenote Manatí? It turns out that there used to be quite a lot of manatees here originally. The name stuck for a time, until Casa Cenote became more recognizable.

An image shows the map of Casa Cenote/Cenote Manatí and the different passageways for snorkeling and exploring the water.

Casa Cenote has a depth of only about 19.68 feet (6 meters), so it is quite shallow compared to some of the other cenotes we’ve covered. Underwater, you can find a cave that flows into the sea.

As Casa Cenote is a long stretch of water, the main activity people enjoy here is swimming. Snorkeling is also a great option. You can get in using a wooden ladder, but be aware that for much of the stretch of water, there aren’t easy ways to get back out.

There is a beach right across the road for relaxing afterward. In addition, the restaurant behind the cenote is a nice place to enjoy the sea views while having lunch.

One of the drawbacks of a cenote being this deeply nested in nature is that there aren’t many sights to take in. You get the typical cenote experience of clear waters and beautiful nature, but the nature in this case is thick shrubs everywhere around the water. In addition, there aren’t a whole lot of fish, and besides Panchito, there isn’t a ton of wildlife to see up close.


A close-up of Panchito swimming with humans in Casa Cenote.

You might be wondering who Panchito is. That is the name of the crocodile that inhabits Casa Cenote, and often comes near tourists and swims with them.

He is of the Moreletti species, which is considered harmless. In videos, he shows no desire to attack or even open his mouth as he swims gently by tourists in the cenote.

Panchito originally came to Casa Cenote searching for fish. Moreletti crocodiles eat small mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and so on.

They don’t typically attack human beings. When they do, it’s because they have offspring nearby or feel their territory is invaded. In Panchito’s case, he is already quite used to having humans “invade” this territory, and shows no sign of displeasure. People have really enjoyed experiencing this in person, and once you are over the initial uneasiness, we are sure you will too.


Admission to Casa Cenote is 150 MXN ($7.75), and guided tours cost about 500 MXN ($25). You will have to pay extra for a locker or to bring in your GoPro or other camera gear, so the costs can add up.

As with other cenotes, there are charges for lockers, snorkeling equipment, and more. Scroll down to our Tips & Tricks section to see what other optional charges can occur, and how to avoid them.

Directions to Casa Cenote/Cenote Manatí

You may be staying in Tulum, which is close to a great collection of cenotes and beautiful beaches. But if you are coming from Playa del Carmen, it’s a bit more of a journey to Casa Cenote.

After Caleta Tankah (a beach), you’ll find a sign for Blue Sky hotel. Turn right and keep going on this road, until you find Casa Cenote on your left.

If you’re coming from Playa del Carmen, you will head toward Tulum, until you pass Puerto Aventuras. The sign for the cenote will appear on the right, and you will be there before you know it.

If you are looking to travel via colectivo, you can find a van on Calle 2 and 15th Avenue quite easily.

An overhead view of the shape of the Casa Cenote/Cenote Manatí and the hotels on the baech by it.

Tips & Tricks when Visiting Casa Cenote/Cenote Manatí

Casa Cenote is a popular site for first-time divers. The shallow depth and massive length make this place a great place for diving practice, and also diving education in general.

When visiting this cenote, we recommend taking your own car if possible. Having the beach, beautiful natural environment, and other cenotes nearby, you can easily fill up a day.

If you plan to snorkel, bring your own snorkeling gear. But there isn’t a lot to see underwater, so it’s really not worth the extra money to do so.

You can leave your stuff in a locker, and will most likely have to. While this cenote is quite large, there are almost no places to get back out of the water once you’re in. As a result, if you want to explore the full length, be prepared to swim a total of about 1600 feet (500m), from the starting point to the furthest end, and back.

The current is reportedly a bit strong, so do not attempt it if you are not sure of your swimming ability.

There is also no room to simply lay down and relax here. Thankfully, the beach is nearby. But you will have to simply dry yourself off and keep moving once you’re out.

A couple signs showing the Casa Cenote Restaurant and Hotel and some of the amenities available.

Dealing with Charges

The staff here is one of the worst of the ones we’ve heard of when it comes to the Mexican cenotes. We felt we needed an entire section devoted to the charges and how to avoid much of the unnecessary ones.

Bring pesos rather than dollars, and try to pay with cash anytime you’re at a cenote. There will often be an upcharge for wanting to use a credit card or dollars, and it’s easily avoided. In addition, things like Google Pay or Apple Pay are not accepted.

If you speak Spanish, you will likely avoid a lot of the headache that comes with a staff that’s hostile to foreign tourists. One user reported that they got quoted a cheaper price simply by speaking Spanish.

Some users have reported that you will be charged for taking something like a GoPro. It’s been said that the staff at this cenote are quite aggressive with charges, even going as far as threatening to charge you more if you are caught sneaking in equipment or anything that is paid for up front.

There are a few dive shops in the area as well. Avoid the one on the North side, and going with the dive shop that is in front of the Casa Cenote Hotel instead. This dive shop is on the same side as the beach, and less aggressive about charging tourists as much as possible.

Finally, there will naturally be a push to try to make you pay extra for a tour guide (for about 500 MXN, $25), which we don’t think is necessary. You can manage yourself, and the guided tours that take you beyond Cenote Casa are much better. We’ll talk about those next.

Guided Tours and Diving in Casa Cenote/Cenote Manatí

While snorkeling and diving aren’t really worth it here, there are guided tours available to explore the area further. As we said before, don’t bother with the guided tour offered right at the cenote. It’s cheap, but you don’t get much for it. These other tours organized by other companies are done much better, and will let you get a lot more for your money.

Cenote Diving for First-Time Divers and for Refresher Dives in Tulum

Price: $145.00

Location: Calle Osiris Nte. 2, Tulum Centro, 77760 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

Start Time: 8:00 AM, for about 6 hours

Description: This is a great tour for those who are inexperienced with diving and looking to learn all about it. Meeting at the dive center, you’ll get to try on your equipment, learn about safety, and basic skills, before heading out to Casa Cenote.

You must be able to swim, and have no heart or other serious medical conditions.

Two divers submerged in the waters of Casa Cenote, on a first-time divers tour in Tulum.

Tulum Area Experiences Guided Scooter Tour Snorkel/Swim Casa Cenote & Lunch

Price: $144.95 (varies by group size)

Location: Venus Ote. 238, Tulum Centro, 77760 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

Start Time: 8:00 AM, for about 5 hours

Description: You will get picked up and taken on an adventure, from Tulum to the Casa Cenote. You can choose from ATV, E-Bike, or Scooter, and then go snorkeling and swimming in Casa Cenote.

Life jackets are provided. Lunch, snacks, bottled water, and snorkeling equipment are also included.

Extra cost for pickup if you are not in Tulum.

A look at the blue waters of Casa Cenote/Cenote Manatí, provided by this scooter guided tour.

Cenote Triple Adventure Tour in Tulum

Price: $116.00


Av. Tulum Mza 4 Lt 5. Departs from an office on Avenida Tulum.

Time: Begins at 9:00 AM, for roughly 4 hours

Description: This tour takes you on a trip through three separate cenotes: Gran Cenote, Casa Cenote, and Cenote Calavera. GoPro photos are provided, along with necessary equipment and transportation.

Note that the description mentions Casa Cenote, but the “What to Expect” section mentions Cenote Zemway.

An image of a person swimming in a large body of water, at Gran Cenote.

Hotels Near Casa Cenote/Cenote Manatí

Hotel Poc Na Tulum 

Distance: 9.1 miles (14.6 km)

Rating: 8.6/10 (1100+ reviews)

Maria Del Mar Tulum – Adults Only

Distance: 8.7 miles (14.1 km)

Rating: 8.6/10 (400+ reviews)

Pepem Eco Hotel Tulum at the Jungle at Cenote Park Dos Ojos – Adults Only

Distance: 9.1 miles (14.6 km)

Rating: 8.4/10 (200+ reviews)

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