Car Wash Cenote, also known as Ak Tun Ha, is located about 15 minutes from the Ko’ox Dive Shop on the road to Coba. There are ecological restrooms, dive tables for setting up your equipment and the easiest entrance of all the cenotes. It has a platform just five feet from the parking lot, allowing a giant strike entrance into the water, and two wooden ladders for easy exit. However, there is no store to buy food or drinks.
This cenote is 50 feet in depth and filled with speleotherms (stalactites, stalagmites and columns). The light which goes through the cavern is beautiful, there are many marine animals and plants and we dive here for around 40 minutes. There are also some small ancient pottery remains and sometimes you will be able to see a small crocodile and turtles swimming here. In the summer, a cloud at the surface from the decomposition of the plants results in some stunning light effects during the dive.
To get to Car Wash Cenote in Mexico from Tulum, leave town heading west on the road to Coba. It’s a journey of only around 8-9 km, on exactly the same road as Gran Cenote.
The cenote itself is located directly adjacent to the road. In fact, that’s the reason for its slightly less-than-cool nickname. In the 1980s, many car owners – particularly taxi drivers – would come here to wash their cars because it was so conveniently close to the roadside. That was before the wondrous underwater life and sights were discovered, of course!
This cenote is an absolute treat for all ages and experience level of diver. You’ll have a good time here whether you’re first dipping your toes in the water with a little snorkeling in the open portion of the cenote or you’ve got the solid buoyancy and awareness skills required to go cave diving between the columns, stalactites and stalagmites of which the brilliant cavern portion of this sinkhole is full.
Car Wash Cenote diving with Ko’ox is a 1-tank dive which can be upstream or downstream, lasting around 40 minutes. The upstream route is far better and comes highly recommended. The water is usually around 25°C in terms of temperature. It’s also possible to snorkel here, though it’s always good to get some advice before doing so as the upper layers of water can get cloudy during the summer months.
We will provide you with all the necessary equipment for this dive: 5mm wetsuit, boots, fins, mask, BCD or a plate with harness and wing, DIN regulators scuba pro, Hog, aqualung, apex, dive computer, lights and a Go Pro camera.
Ak Tun Ha is one of the most classic examples of water-filled sinkhole formation. You’ll find that the easy entrance to the water here leads directly into an open, shallower pond area which looks like nothing more than a particularly picturesque lake from the surface. Beneath the waters, however, it’s an entirely different story.
Here you will find the vibrant algae formations for which this cenote is known. These are largely responsible for creating the excellent lighting effects you will see here. That’s in addition to the large variety of marine wildlife, such as mollys and other fish species, turtles and even one occasionally-seen little crocodile. There is no overhead environment in this open part of the cenote at all, making it ideal for beginners and snorkeling enthusiasts.
Move on from the pond area and you will need to pass through what has been described as the “curtain to the underworld”, an intriguing natural barrier of tree roots and fronds which gently partitions the shallow pond and deeper cave sections.
Beyond the curtain, you will find exciting geology, ancient remains and stunningly clear waters. With this excellent visibility, the beautiful caverns of Ak Tun Ha, covered by organic decoration, can be clearly seen as you descend to the fifty-foot depth of this most interesting of cenotes.
During the summer months, this cenote can look a little cloudy from the surface. But don’t be fooled! The perfect clarity you get at other times of year is only a meter or two down. The cloudy effect is caused by the surface water not circulating and heating up during the hotter months. The upside is that the wondrous fronds of algae will be blooming – these are the perfect conditions for it to grow.
As you swim here, you will see trees and water plants trailing down from above and the water itself will often change color! Usually happening after rain, a yellow or red coloration is not uncommon at many times of the year. Combined with the green of the algae, this makes for a bizarre display even before you think about diving deeper.
You won’t find the same light effects you’ll see in Car Wash Cenote elsewhere. Especially during summer, when the cloudy layer of acid and algae fills the water above you, the light which penetrates down from the tropical sun high overhead is reflected from the green algae on the bottom back onto the underlayer of the cloud. It really is one for your must-see list.
The bottom of this cenote is only three meters deep in the open area and covered in a layer of algae which looks something like you’re floating in the air above a tiny forest.
The deeper sections of the underground part of this cenote sink to around fifty feet. The water is crystal clear here and as you move between the two parts of the cenote you will pass through the curtain of tree roots into the first cavern, naturally decorated in colors reminiscent of fall. Beyond that are several other famous rooms – the Room of the Ancient, Adriana’s Room and the Room of Tears being among the best to see – which can all be visited with the proper local guide.
Q. How deep is the cenote?
A. Fifty feet at its deepest point, but there is an open much shallower area.
Q. What time of day is best to dive the cenote?
A. You’ll want to be here in daylight to get the full lighting effect, but it can be best to come earlier or later to avoid any potential crowds.
Q. Is the cenote freshwater or saltwater?
Q. Can I bring a camera into the cenote?
A. You not only can, you should! The lighting effects here paired with the flora and fauna and the perfectly see-through waters make for a fantastic photo shoot.
Recommendations: Bring biological bug spray, at Koox diving we provide with all the necessary equipment for this dive (5 mm wetsuit, boots, fins, mask, bcd or a plate with harness and a wing, DIN regulators scuba pro, Hog, aqua lung, apex, dive computer, lights, and a Go PRO camera).