I can safely say that Cenote Azul in Playa Del Carmen is the reason why I am who I am today.
Okay bear with me here — nothing happened in this water that particularly changed me. There was no cathartic experience or self-realization while I was cooling off in these pools.
But finding that magical hidden lake in the middle of the jungle was what sparked my love of travel.
You see, Mexico was my first time leaving the good old US of A. My roommate at the time had access to a timeshare in Playa Del Carmen and so we planned a little girls getaway during winter break. Our trip was mostly spent lounging at the pool in our resort and sipping fruity cocktails — a relaxing experience but one I could have just about anywhere in the US.
On this particular day, however, we decided to venture out and see the ruins of Tulum. We were heading back to our resort in Playa when we saw the tiny hand-painted sign. The sun was blazing hot that day and we had spent the morning walking around the ancient city. But something was drawing us to this little wooden sign. We had the driver stop and let us out and found a path next to the sign.
We got to a little wooden shack and paid the entrance fee (about $6). There were some toilets in the woods that we stopped and changed in. After hiking through the woods for a couple of minutes, we made it to some tiny shallow pools. Some local boys were feeding the fish in the water. A couple minutes later we were at the main pool.
I had never been anywhere so ruggedly beautiful before.
We felt like we had discovered something no one else had experienced before us. A few local families were enjoying the cool refreshing water but it felt like we had the place all to ourselves.
We thought it would have been nice to have brought our snorkel gear, but the water was so clear you could see all the way to the bottom anyways. There were several different areas with varying depths. We swam off to the sides and had a large section all to ourselves. Fish of all sizes swam around us and some would stop to nibble on our feet.
Time stood still in that little slice of paradise. I could have stayed there for hours if dinner hadn’t been calling my name. I didn’t know at the time that this experience was one that would change my life forever. But if I hadn’t left the resort that week I may never have had my first spontaneous travel adventure. I wouldn’t have fallen deeply, madly, and uncontrollably in love with the world. I wouldn’t have been so desperate to see more of it. So no, there is nothing supernatural or mystical about this clear blue pond in the middle of the jungle — but to me it was pure magic.