The Yucatan peninsula had been inhabited by at least three ancient civilizations. All of them had left some artifacts behind. The Maya had probably one of the most sophisticated and well developed ancient societies and have become very popular in the recent years with the constant discoveries of new ruins in the jungle. Very small part of all ancient Mayan cities is uncovered and that is why all theories about their society and way of life are being constantly changed and updated. So whatever you hear from your guide is at most just the story of the day. It could be totally fascinating but it is just a story.
The Ruins of Tulum
Just a few kilometers from both the Tulum pueblo and the beach hotel zone, the ruins of Tulum are usually the first attraction for those interested in history and archeology. They are unique, being the only ancient Maya settlement by the sea. Supposedly Tulum was a major port and served as an entry point for the ancient sea trade routes.
Getting to Tulum ruins: The ruins are accessible both from the 307 HWY or the Tulum beach road.
- By car: If going by car take the 307 HWY direction Playa Del Carmen and 2 km after leaving Tulum you will see a sign for the parking space of the Tulum Ruins. In case you are already in the Tulum Beach Zone just follow the road North until you get to the entrance of the ruins. You will have to find parking space somewhere on the right shoulder of the road, there is no dedicated parking space at this entrance.
- By bike: If going by bike it is very easy to just follow the bike path along the 307 HWY. Or if you are already in the Tulum Beach Zone simply follow the road North until you get to the ruins.
- By collectivo: tell the driver to drop you at the “Ruinas Tulum” or “Zona Archeologica”.
- By Taxi: a taxi service from Tulum center or the Tulum Beach Zone would be approx. 100 – 120 pesos.
- Entrance fee: 90 pesos Opening hours: 8-5 pm (there is a possibility to visit the ruins after 5 pm after paying a higher entrance fee).
TIP: Get there early before everybody. It gets hot and crowded after 10 am. Local guides are available at the entrance against a fee.
The visit to the Tulum Ruins is very well combined with snorkeling at the reef. Check our article about snorkeling with sea turtles for more info.
Coba was a major settlement or even a group of settlements according to the historians. It is one of our favorite archeological sites. It features the highest Mayan pyramid on the Yucatan peninsula. With its height of 42 m (137 ft), Nohoch Mul rises well above the top trees of the surrounding jungle. It is one of the very few Mayan pyramids in Mexico which visitors are still allowed to climb.
Getting to Coba Ruins: Coba is only 42 km from Tulum, less than an hour drive. Visiting Coba could be an ideal half day excursion.
- By car: Leaving Tulum, on the cross lights at the north end of town, turn left and follow the road to Coba to the West. On the way, you will pass a couple of small Mayan villages with multiple souvenir shops.
- By taxi: Round trip to Coba from Tulum would be 9-1000 pesos and the driver will wait while you visit the ruins.
- By ADO bus: From Tulum bus station in the morning and returning in the afternoon. You will have at least few hours to explore the archeological site at Coba.
- Guided tour: There are many tour operators offering excursions to Coba. Our advice is not to go for the cheapest possible option. Coba is not so far away, so for a relatively small additional amount you can get much better service. For more tips on tours to Coba pls check our article on choosing a tour company.
- Entrance fee: 70 pesos Opening hours: 8-5 pm
Nearby attractions: Cenotes Choo-Ha, Tamcach-Ha, and Multun-Ha. All three cenotes are within 5-6 kms distance from the ruins of Coba. They are underground cave cenotes and good for swimming but not ideal for snorkeling.
TIP: Across the street from the entrance to the ruins of Coba there are multiple local restaurants offering local food and buffet lunch.
Coba is nicely combined with a visit to the Spider monkey reserve in Punta Laguna. Please check our article on monkeys in the jungle about details.
By far the most famous of the Mayan Ruins, this site is always crowded. It is one of the Seven World Wonders. The ruins are very well preserved but the fame has stolen the charm of this place. The only option for a good experience is to get there super early before the big touristy buses start arriving and to close-off your ears for the constant calls of the sales people from the numerous stalls with souvenirs. This implies an early morning start from Tulum. Chichen-Itza is 155 km from Tulum so it takes roughly two hours to get there in a car. Chichen-Itza is home to The Castillo, or the Kukulkan Temple as it is also called.
Getting to Chichen-Itza:
- By car: 2 hrs drive from Tulum. On the way will pass by Coba and Valladolid.
- By Taxi: You will need to book a taxi for a full day if you decide to stop somewhere along the way. The cost would be appx. 2500 pesos.
- Guided tour: There are many tour operators offering excursions to Coba. Our advice is not to go for the cheapest possible option. For more tips on tours to Chichen-Itza pls check our article on choosing a tour company.
TIP: It would be a miss if you do not include a visit to the Balakanche dry caves and a stop in the beautiful town of Valladolid.