Tips For Visiting Cenotes With Babies And Toddlers - Family Swimming Holes
The very fact that you're taking ambitious vacations with little children, tells me that you, and your family, are the adventurous type.
Still, it ain't easy.
No matter how thrilled you are about taking the trip this far south, there will be moments of major frustration, dread or, even regret.
Babies and toddlers are difficult at home, now throw in: foreign surroundings, poor sleep-schedules, sugary diets and non-stop hustle and you're in for more tantrums than you signed up for.
We'll get eventually to writing a full list of tactics and strategies for as smooth a vacation as possible. Obviously, one big factor is planning trips that make for a happy toddler/baby experience.
This piece will focus on tips for taking your baby and/or toddler on a day-trip to a cenote.
Practically speaking, a cenote is a swimming hole, most commonly found in Mexico, but also appearing in some other countries.
Best Types Of Cenotes For Toddlers And Babies
Before learning how to visit a cenote with young children, you must first ask yourself:
Which cenote should we visit with young children?
There are, what seem to be, hundreds of articles online that claim to know the most kid-friendly cenote.
We won't be giving any verdict on that here. Even when you put aside the fact that most of those claims are clearly biased, the question of the best cenote for babies and toddlers depends on personal preferences and requires having gone to 6,000 cenotes.
We've compiled a list of aspects to focus on so you can make the most educated decision when choosing a cenote for your family.
- Call To Confirm - Some cenotes do not allow young children to be brought, so be sure to call in advance and confirm they welcome littles.
- Depth Of Pool - Cenotes can be very deep. So deep that even an adult cannot reach the bottom. Obviously, these deep cenotes will be no good for toddlers or babies, unless they are fine with wearing life jackets.
- Warmth Of Water - Like a bath on any other day, your child will be more inclined to have fun in a cenote with an agreeable temperature.
- Distance Of Walk - Certain child-friendly cenotes are quite a distance from the parking or drop-off area. Learn the length of that walk and see if it's within your child's ability. Of course, holding the child or pushing them in a carriage may be an option, but you should know what you're getting into.
- Ease Of Walk - The nature of the path to a cenote is something you should learn about in advance. Some are made of slippery rocks or entail many sets of stairs. Decide whether a particular path is within your family's comfort-zone.
- Additional Amenities - Cenotes can offer an entire range of amenities, from gift shops to eateries. Determine what you want the trip to look like for you and your kids, and choose accordingly.
- Crowdedness - This will largely depend on the season you're visiting a cenote. In almost all cases, a young child will not have a good time if they are competing for space with many people. See if you can find out about crowdedness before heading out to cenote.
- Shelter From Elements - The weather can be unpredictable, so umbrellas or small huts can be lifesavers on a rainy day. I have to assume most cenotes will have something to keep you covered while waiting for a storm to pass, but confirming that they do will never hurt.
- Ease Of transportation - Whether you're taking a taxi, van or bus, try to find out about just how easy it is to reach and return from a cenote. One cenote we visited had very few taxis making pickups there, so we were waiting in the rain for what felt like a half hour. Eventually we managed to get on a shared van.
- Popular With Families - Even if a cenote claims to be baby-friendly, that doesn't mean many other young children will be there as well. Having other young ones at a cenote will effect practical considerations and the general vibe. Try to learn if families visit the cenote, or link up with one or two other families from your hostel, hotel or resort.
What To Bring When Visiting A Cenote With Kids
Excluded from this list are things you'll need to go anywhere while on vacation like money or your Airbnb key etc. If you got this far in life, I'd assume you're good in this department.
- Bathing Suits - Even if they aren't mandatory at the cenote you're visiting, you'll want to bring bathing suits. Nobody wants to go on extended walks in sopping-wet clothing.
- Baby Carrier - If you're baby isn't a great walker, and even if they are, a high quality baby carrier will make the walk to the cenote much easier. We made the mistake of bringing a stroller to a cenote, and let's just say, with the bumpy terrain, I was lifting the stroller more than the baby.
- Water Shoes - These don't need to be fancy. Any footwear that is waterproof and durable will prove very useful on jagged and slippery terrain.
- Sun Protection - As sunscreen is prohibited at most cenotes, be sure to wear a hat and appropriate clothes as you make your way to the cenote. The sun can really beat down on cenote visitors spending long stretches of time outside. Don't delude yourself in thinking that so long you aren't sunbathing on the beach, you'll be fine. You won't be fine when you're beet-red and Googling how to say aloe-vera in Spanish.
- Water-Proofing Phone Case - These types of phone cases can be bought in any touristy shop or stand. The case will allow you to capture great photos without the fear of losing your phone to the depths of a cenote.
- Change Of Clothes - After a long, wet and, hopefully fun day, you'll want to change into something dry as you head back to the family's sleeping quarters.
- Towels - Although drip-drying is always an option, using a towel will speed up the process and save you from having to wear slightly damp clothes.
- Snacks - Snacks are the ultimate tantrum preventer and curer.
- Drive Entertainment - One of the cenotes that we visited were forty minutes away from where we were staying. Despite the long drive, we managed to stay off of tablets for the way to the cenote. But we were extremely happy we brought one along for the way back. After a long and energy-depleting day, the only hope for a long drive back was some form of entertainment. More power to the parents who can entertain without technology, we didn't have it in us.
Fun Things To Do At A Cenote With Young Children
- Venture Far - It may be challenging with toddlers, but see how far you can go into the cenote together with them. Navigate the boulders and the floor to your destination. Just be sure not to get surprised by patches that are too deep.
- Fish Nibbles - Most cenotes have tiny to mid-sized fish that will congregate around your feet to nibble at dead skin cells. The tickling sensation is lots of fun and makes for great parent-child conversation. Fair warning: the nibbles may be too shocking to your toddler at the start, but they will hopefully get used to it.
- I Spy - I'm referring to the classic I Spy game, only now you are playing with some of the most beautiful visual sights on the continent.
- Shapes - It's always fun to point out various unpredictably-shaped items in sight, like boulders or clouds, and talk about what shape they seem to be in.
- Photo Shoot - You didn't come all this way not to get some memory-filled, stunning photos to hang on your fridge for years to come. You can put that overpriced magnet that you bought at the souvenir shop to work.
- Relax - This will be a tough one with children in the picture, but try to close your eyes, take a deep breath and relax. Be grateful for the blessings and the challenges.