The bowels of the Yucatan Peninsula hold the best treasures of these Mayan lands. Visiting one of the many caves is essential for travelers. The Santa Rita caves are a magnificent opportunity on your way.

The Yucatan Peninsula is well known in the world of caving and cave diving, a fantastic place for professionals and fans of cavities. The karst rock terrain that forms the Peninsula is laid out as a juicy map for recreation and exploration

This underground world treasures the most intact antiquity, a universe parallel to the terrestrial, where you penetrate a new knowledge that ends up trapping you. If you like adventure and nature, the caves of Santa Rita It is one of the most impressive places on your way through Mayan lands.

caves of santa rita yucatan


The caves of Santa Rita they are located between Chemax and X-Can, in Yucatán, east of Valladolid. It is not so easy to see the sign of the detour to the caves, so I will explain to you so that you get to the place well: we leave you a map of location of the caves of Santa Rita the photo of the detour sign.

From Valladolid or Canún you must take federal highway 180, the free one from Cancun to Mérida. Arriving at the La Estrella community, between X-Can and Chemax, follow a sign that indicates Buenavista. A 7 km dirt road takes you to the parking lot of the caves, marked with wooden signs. Until you see the posters of the caves of Santa Rita, you did not arrive.

Santa Rita Caves, Yucatan


La community of Santa Rita It was founded in 1947 by Don Justo Pastor Xiu Chan. A cenote in the area serves to supply the 10 families of the place. There are several caves in the area, being two, the Crystalline Mother y Aktún K'ab, those enabled for tourism.

The caves of Santa Rita They are run by the local community, a cooperative with several trained guides will take you to the Mayan underworld. They tell you what the caves keep. Listening to the stories through the Mayans gives an interesting point to the visit, a pleasant way to share. 

La relationship of the maya with the caves and the cenotes is ancestral, the xibalbá (Mayan Quiché), is one of the three great cosmic levels of the Mayan world: the celestial, the earthly and the underground. Through the caves and cenotes you can access the xibalbá, the Mayan underworld.

how to go grottos santa rita


The Santa Rita grottos offer two grotto tours open to the public.

  • ROUTE THROUGH THE GRUTA MADRE CRISTALINA: from the parking and services area a 2-kilometer path leads through the jungle to the Grotto Crystalline Mother. You can do this path by bike or on foot. In this cave awaits us a journey through petrified forests of stalagmites, stalactites, columns and altars. And some animal bone to remind us that the caves are home to various animals, including humans. The entrails of the Crystalline Mother they preserve the traces of the human being in the form of painted hands, the majority in negative, another exciting sample of our historical past.
  • GRUTA AKTUN K'AB: the next grotto, a few meters from the road, is Aktun K'ab or Kaab ( Cave of the hands in Spanish). Another fascinating journey into the depths of our history. The name of the grotto reminds us of the large number of hands that are located inside, more than 300 have been counted. A moving footprint that attracted early professional explorers. In case the world of stones molded by the waters and painted hands were not enough, you will have the opportunity to cool off in the crystalline waters that the cave maintains more than 10 meters deep. Pure magic this underworld, pure nature. The cenote that there is is a gift.

Crystalline Mother it is easier to navigate. Aktún Ka'b It is for travelers with a more adventurous spirit, who will surely enjoy the experience. The caves are not illuminated: the guide has a spotlight and they give you a helmet with light for the interior. Places like this bring you closer to this earth, I even dare to say that they bring you closer to yourself.

crystalline mother
Entrance to Crystalline Mother
aktun k'ab
Entrance to Aktún K'ab
Grottos of Santa Rita Yucatan
Animal bones
grottos santa rita yucatan


Each of the caves on the Peninsula has something special, in fact visiting caves are cool. Much of our past is kept by the caves, here are the wrinkles of the history of Earth and humanity. It is a pleasure to visit caves with an expert and knowledgeable because you see much more.

But if anything stands out caves of Santa Rita It is because of the painted hands that can be seen inside the caves. There are hundreds of painted hands. The technique they used is known as the negative. They used their mouth and a short tube as a spray. They blew the painting on his hand resting on the wall (left in most cases), and thus achieved the negative of it. For painting they used ground mineral pigments and charcoals. The most common colors are red and black.

Near the bodies of water that we find in both caves, it is where there are more painted hands. They point to rites and ceremonies related to water and rain, or initiatory rites within these caves.

This sample of Mayan cave paintings is something incredible. During your visit, take the pleasure to observe the map of the history of the Planet around you, the Grutas de Santa Rita. I usually say that if this grotto with the wonderful painted hands were in a country like France, with a culture and great interest in its past, people would line up to see this wonder.

They are the only caves in the Yucatan Peninsula that are known with so many painted hands, unique worldwide

Explore in the caves of Santa Rita incredible Mayan cave paintings 1
Hands painted with the negative technique
Near the bodies of water is where there are more painted hands


The caves of Santa Rita are not very visited, so the first thing we recommend is to advise before going. If you have not warned and you do not see anyone in the place, go to the nearby houses to ask. She gives a shout of greeting and they leave if they are in the house or nearby. The theme is that their only job is not to act as guides, sometimes they go out in the taxi or at the cornfield.

CONTACT of grottos Santa Rita: Atilano (045) 985 101 7259 [email protected]


There are toilets and changing facilities at the entrance. To take the tour they give you helmets and flashlights. They also have a camping area in case you want to enjoy the Mayan mount and its spectacular starry nights.


The price of the tours through the caves of Santa Rita is 300 mxn per person. The two caves are about three hours. You can rent a bike to get to the Crystal Mother.

grottos tour of Santa Rita
With the family in the caves of Santa Rita 🥰


  • WHAT CLOTHES TO BRING TO VISIT THE CAVES: undoubtedly comfortable clothes that can be stained. Although you do not go with your chest to the ground at any time, as it happens in the Shocking caves or in the Calcehtok caves, if it is an adventure place where you can get dirty. Closed shoe or boot to protect the foot from insects and twists, and long pants. Do not forget your swimsuit and towel, remember that you can bathe in the cenote inside the grotto.
  • NEVER TOUCH THE STALACTITES: the process of stalactite and stalagmite formation is very slow, taking around 4.000 to 5.000 years to grow 2,5 cm. These speleothems continue their formative process, and if we touch them we kill them. Now that you know, you don't want to do that, do you?
  • DO NOT TAKE FLASH PHOTOS TO PAINTINGS: the flash flash damages the paintings, don't use it. You can light the wall with the flashlight and so you take the opportunity to take a photo.
  • DO NOT TAKE ANYTHING: It is punishable by law to extract objects, flora or fauna from places.
  • FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: the guides of the Atilano and Feliciano community know the grotto with their eyes closed, they are trained for the tours. Follow their instructions and enjoy the place.
  • DO NOT ENTER WITHOUT GUIDE: I was not going to put this recommendation, but I do not want to forget those fanatical people who, by watching a documentary or living many adventures in the bush, believe they have the ability to get in without equipment or training or knowledge of safety and first aid in caves. Always enter with a guide.
Explore in the caves of Santa Rita incredible Mayan cave paintings 2
Don't touch the stalactites
Explore in the caves of Santa Rita incredible Mayan cave paintings 3
Never take pictures with flash, damage the paint. The photo is illuminated with a lamp

This fantastic experience of the hand of the members of the community of Santa Rita It is pleasant in every way. Thanks to the guides Atilano Xiu Kanxoc and Feliciano Tun Xiu, for an enriching experience through their underworld.

As an anecdote, I remember with affection the day I visited the caves of Santa Rita with Pedro, the friend of Chooj Ja 'cenote, a neighbor of the area. Talking with him about this place, he lives in X-Can, he told me that he didn't know them, so the next day I went to look for him at his house and we both went on a adventure. I feel that it is important that community tourist places get to know each other and connect with each other to give each other a push and strength. It was a great day with two people who know their patio like no one else, the only thing they lack that curiosity to know the neighbor's patio.

This area is full of beautiful cavities, in X-Can and its surroundings there is much good to see and do. For us caves of Santa Rita It is one of the magic and essential places to visit on the Peninsula. We love community and sustainable tourism, we try to support these local places from our corner.

Explore in the caves of Santa Rita incredible Mayan cave paintings 4

Grutas de Santa Rita, nature

LOCATION GRUTAS SANTA RITA:Santa Rita caves are located between Chemax X-can (28 km.), on federal highway 180, the free highway from Cancun to Mérida. Arriving in the community of La Estrella, follow a sign that indicates Buenavista. A 7km dirt road takes you to the parking lot, marked with wooden signs. Until you see the signs of the caves, you did not arrive.
SCHEDULE AND SERVICES: open from 8 a.m. to 17 p.m. daily. There are toilets and changing tables. They are not very visited, so if when you arrive you do not find anyone, go to the nearby houses to ask.
CONTACT of grottos Santa Rita: Atilano (045) 985 1017259 [email protected]
TRAVEL PRICE: 300 mxn the journey of more than two hours through the two caves.
HOW TO GET IN PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION?  It is difficult to access by public transport unless you want to walk the 7 Km. From the 180 federal highway to the community.
WHAT TO BRING? Light and light clothing, hat, insect repellent, closed and comfortable shoes to protect you from insect bites, some water always goes well swimsuit and a towel or pareo to dry after the bath.
THE LAW OF THE GOOD CENOTERO: To avoid contaminating the delicate water of the cenotes, do not use body creams, or protectors, or repellents before entering them. Do not hang from the roots of the trees or touch the stalactites or do any other idiocy that damages the place.
ACCOMMODATION: There is an area for camping and a simple hut serves as accommodation for the adventurers that require it. There are common services.
Studio of the Grotto Madre Cristalina de Fatima Tec Pool, Ajau Speleological Group.

Good way,

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Sandra Salvadó Training photographer, traveler by vocation and certified tourism guide by the Government of Mexico. We promote natural wonders and contemporary Mayan culture. Great fan of pre-Hispanic history. Author of the blog and co-founder of The Shortest Path Travel, agency that guides you through alternative paths in Mayan lands. Social and sustainable tourism in the Yucatan Peninsula and Chiapas.
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