Cenotes: Honoring the Underworld

Cenotes: Honoring the Underworld
July 23, 2009 Lainie Liberti

The cost per entry

We left the island headed back to Cyndi’s place at Playa, finally to spend some quality time with our host. Today we spent most of the day planning our upcoming trip to Belize and became so excited about traveling together, we planned a two day trek to Merida, both of which I greatly anticipate. But why look to the future, when the “now” is so interesting.

To reward ourselves for work well done, Miro, Cyndi and I got dressed up and headed out to one of Play del Carmen’s notable establishments. It was more than a restaurant, more than a bar, it was both but the location was what made it so special. We arrived and from the outside, it looked uninspiring, but what was to come, was extraordinary. Upon entering, we followed the stairs down, down, down, to the lobby of a chilly restaurant-bar built within the structure of a cenote.

A cenote!

Cenotes are large (or sometimes small) holes in the Earth, that structurally feel like an open cave, naturally formed out of limestone and have records of the passage of time through erosion. Some cenotes extend into underground caves and host growing stalactites and stalagmites.

The restaurant and bar is called El Alux. Alux is a Mayan word for a “spirit or “sprite”. The cynical me knows the name was selected for maximum marketing impact, and quite effective I may add. The restaurant itself is built into the cenote which connects to a series of caves and twisting, turning passages among the exquisite growing crystal structures. Admittedly I was taken aback with the natural beauty of the rock formations, the ever present chill in the air, and the seduction of the ethereal lighting. I applaud the designers for creating the perfect blend of modern furnishings and moody back lights, providing unique areas for eating, drinking, and lounging. Agreed, this is the perfect place to listen to chill out music (a la Orb, etc.)

We explored El Alux, as my mind wanders to the the ancient Mayans, wondering what they would think of this modern day use. Cenotes were once regarded as mystical, sacred places, centers of energy and openings to the underworld. Today, this location no longer serves that purpose, instead we are urged to consume.

Clearly, my feelings about commercializing such a beautiful sacred place were mixed. I was excited to see a large cenote, in awe of this mystical qualities, enjoyed it’s mysterious taverns but somehow I felt outside of an inside joke.

I felt like my presence there was based on the assumption that I was one of mass unconscious souls living on the earth today.

I was expected to smile and accept the transformation of this natural wonder into a thriving commercial establishment.

I was expected to forget about indigenous people and their rich historical ties to this land.

I was expected to accept that this was once an ancient sacred site but today it was better preserved as a place to consume.

I was expected to smile and pay the high menu prices and not ask questions.

Consume this cenote, but not without consuming in this cenote.

Welcome to the underworld”, it’s walls seem to vibrate.

Step up and pay for the “spirit” of your choice….we’ve got mohitos, margaritas, martinis……”

And that’s just what I did.


  1. Chach 14 years ago

    I need to go there.

  2. Chach 14 years ago

    I need to go there.

  3. Sarah 14 years ago

    My partner and I visited El Alux a few years ago, it was a crazy place and super quiet. I’m pretty sure that we ordered one of the drinks I see you holding in your hand in that photo!

    • Author
      ilainie 13 years ago

      After I had that drink, I had all kinds of dried leaves in my teeth.. charming, right?

  4. Author
    ilainie 13 years ago

    You should. Let us know what you think.

  5. oliver 13 years ago

    Interesting , first time i’ve heard of such a thing.. Do a lot of people visit such places ?

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