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How To Visit The Coba Mayan Ruins In Mexico

How To Visit The Coba Mayan Ruins In Mexico

The extraordinary Coba Mayan Ruins in Mexico might well take your breath away. Not just from walking (or cycling) around this large city complex; but, because the stone ruins of Coba in Mexico are seriously impressive. At the Coba Archaeological Site, you can enjoy grand pyramids (Nohoch Mul), ancient Mayan pathways (sacbe) and carved monuments (stelae). Indeed, a trip to the Coba Ruins is an absolute must to experience the best of the ancient Mayan world.

For more Mayan ruins in Mexico, check out our post here!

Coba Mayan Ruins Travel Guide

In this travel guide about the Coba Mayan Ruins in Mexico, we’ll give you a brief overview of what they are and a little history about the archaeological site. We’ll then cover where the ruins are located and how to get there. Then, we’ll look at some useful things to know before you go, such as opening times and how to buy tickets, before discussing the main highlights of Coba Ruins, including the impressive structure of Coba Pyramid and visiting some excellent cenotes nearby. Lastly, we’ll answer some FAQs, look at where to stay close to Coba Ruins and throw in some suggestions for other excellent Mayan archaeological sites close by.

So, what are the Coba Ruins?

What Are Coba Ruins?

The Coba Ruins (Cobá Ruinas) is a large and extensive site of an ancient Mayan city in Mexico. The name Coba translates as ‘waters stirred by the wind’. It’s considered one of the most important cities of the Maya civilisation. The Mayan ruins of Coba, in Mexico, feature the largest network of sacbe (white road) of any of Mexico’s ruins. These long roads stretch for hundreds of kilometres in some sections. The sacbe consists of a raised bed of stone, bordered on either side by larger stones. So, it’s no wonder Coba is referred to as the ‘City of White Roads‘.

Ruins of Coba Mexico

History Of Coba

The ancient Mayan city of Coba is thought to date back to around 50BC. It’s much older than its close neighbour, Tulum. In fact, Tulum was one of the last Mayan cities to be constructed. Up until around 600AD, Coba grew to become one of the largest and most important Maya cities in Quintana Roo and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.

There are many stelae (stone monuments) found at the Coba Ruins. The carvings on them suggest the ancient city often had female rulers. At its peak, Coba had around 50,000 people living within its city, stretching over 80 square kilometres.

From 600AD onwards, and with the rise of Chichen Itza, Coba slowly began to lose dominance within the Yucatan Peninsula, somehow maintaining its importance as a more religious site. By the time the Spanish arrived in around 1550, Coba was abandoned.

Coba Archaeological Site

Where Are the Coba Ruins in Mexico?

The Mayan ruins of Coba are located in the state of Quintana Roo in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. They lie between Tulum and Valladolid, although more frequently visited from Tulum.

Feel free to click on the interactive map below to see exactly where Coba Mayan Ruins and Archaeological Site in Mexico are found.

How to Get to Coba Ruins

There are a few different options for getting to Coba Ruins, depending on where in Mexico you are travelling from. Below, we’ll look at transport options to Coba Mayan Ruins from Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cancun.

By Bus/Colectivo

Taking the bus to Coba Ruins is one of the most convenient and cheapest ways to reach the archaeological site. Dan and I travelled to Coba from Tulum as a day trip using ADO, which is a reliable bus service that operates in Mexico. We used them for the majority of our bus rides throughout our month-long stay in Mexico.

At the time we visited, the price for a one way ticket to Coba was $58MXN ($3.50USD) per person, with the journey taking one hour. We were unable to book a return, but you can simply pay when you board the bus from Coba back to Tulum. The first bus leaves around 8.30am, with return times being 2pm and 5pm. If you have updated times and prices, please drop them in the comments section below to keep the information up to date for fellow travellers.

Dan and I actually didn’t take the bus back to Tulum from Coba Ruins. That’s because it was massively delayed and we had no idea when it would show up. Instead, along with some fellow travellers, we hopped in a Colectivo. The price was $70MXN ($4USD) per person, so only marginally more than the bus. So, the Colectivo is another option to consider.

ADO operate buses to Coba from Cancun and Playa del Carmen also.

By Taxi

For a quick, private and straightforward mode of transport to Coba Mayan Ruins in Mexico, you can take a taxi. Always ask for the price before you set off. You can ask your hotel to book you a taxi or simply flag one down from central Tulum along the main road. If travelling from Playa del Carmen or Cancun, the taxi ride will be considerably more.

By Rental Car

One of the easiest ways to get around Mexico and visit the Coba Ruins is to drive yourself by hiring a car.

If you want to hire something, we recommend hiring a car using Rentalcars.com. You’ll find a variety of cars on Rental Cars, which are very easy to book online. Personally, Dan and I have used Rental Cars plenty of times and never had any problems. Drive times and distances are as follows.

Tulum to Coba Ruins

Distance: 47.5km // Drive time: 45 minutes

Cancun to Coba Ruins

Distance: 132km // Drive time: 2.25 hours

Playa del Carmen to Coba Ruins

Distance: 110km // Drive time: 1.5 hours

Where to Park For Coba Ruins?

If driving, once you arrive at Coba Archaeological Site for the Mayan ruins, you’ll find a large car park located here on Google Maps. There may be a small charge for parking.

Coba Guided Tour

If you prefer to take a guided tour of Coba Ruins, then all transport will be taken care of. GetYourGuide offers some excellent Coba tour options from Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

It’s also possible to hire a guide on arrival at Coba Ruins if you’ve made you’re own way there. You can enquire once you arrive and pay the entrance fee. Prices vary on group size and for how long you would like a guide. A rough price would be between $300–700MXN ($17–41USD). Hiring a guide at Coba Ruins is also a great way to support the local communities. Many of them will speak the Mayan language too, so it’s a great way to hear snippets of the ancient language as part of the experience.

Useful Things to Know Before You Go

So, now you know how to get to the Mayan ruins of Coba in Mexico, let’s take a look at some useful things to know about the visit.

Coba Opening Hours & Entry Fees

The Coba Ruins are open from 8am to 5pm, seven days a week. The last entry is at 4.30pm. The entry fee is $100MXN ($5.80USD) per person. But, please do drop any price amendments in the comments section below to keep the information as up-to-date as possible for other travellers.

How Long For Coba Ruins

You won’t need longer than a few hours at Coba Ruins in Mexico. The archaeological site is large, but walking around Coba is not as vast as other ruins such as Chichen Itza. After a visit to Coba Ruins, there’s more than enough time to visit the nearby Coba Cenotes of Choo-Ha, Multum-Ha and Tankach-Ha.

Climbing the Pyramid at Coba

Incredibly, it used to be possible to climb the steps of the main pyramid at Coba Ruins. The steep ascent of some 120 narrow stone steps offered the adventurous some truly outstanding views across the Mexican jungle-scape. Sadly now, it’s no longer possible to climb Coba Pyramid. You’ll find a roped barrier blocking access to the pyramid and so Coba’s main attraction can now only be enjoyed from the base. But, this also helps with the preservation of Coba Mayan Ruins. Also, Coba Pyramid still looks incredibly impressive from below.

Highlights of Coba Archaeological Site

Coba Ruins and Archaeological Site is one of the best trips in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Interestingly, there are a few different options for exploring the ancient Mayan ruins at Coba. The simplest (and cheapest) way is to stroll around on foot, enjoying walking through the jungle landscape and marvelling at the twisted trees and interesting plant life as you move from ruin to ruin.

There’s also an option to take a tricycle taxi (bici taxi). These are similar to a tuk-tuk, whereby you hire a driver to cycle you around Coba Ruins. You’ll see plenty of the bici taxis lined up and ready to whisk tourists around the Coba Archaeological Site. It’s a great option for those who can’t spend a few hours on their feet and actually makes Coba Ruins extremely accessible.

Lastly, you can hire bikes to tour the Mayan ruins of Coba in Mexico. This is a fun and adventurous way to explore the site, though not strictly in keeping with how the Mayans would have traversed their white roads. That’s because, despite Mayans using wheels in everyday objects, they never actually used the wheel for travel and transportation. This is possibly due to the fact that there were no indigenous animals in the area that were suitable for pulling carts etc. I wonder what the Mayans of Coba would think of us cycling their sacbes.

Coba Pyramid (Nohoch Mul Pyramid)

All of the pyramids within the Coba Ruins complex are known as Nohoch Mul. The main Coba Pyramid is called Ixmoja and at 42 metres high, is one of the tallest pyramids in the Yucatan Peninsula. As mentioned, it’s no longer possible to climb to the top of this Coba Pyramid. But, you can explore around the base and get a real sense of the sheer size of Ixmoja Pyramid at Coba Ruins.

Other Ruins of Interest at Coba

The Mayan ruins of Coba, in Mexico, also feature a number of ball courts. Here, the ancient game of ōllamaliztli was played. You’ll notice ball courts crop up in a number of Mayan ruins throughout Mexico. Interestingly, it was often the victor of the game who was sacrificed.

Another of the Coba Pyramids is known as ‘La Iglesia’ or the church. This pyramid features a stela (stone plaque) in front of it and is found in an area of the complex known as the Coba Group. At 24 metres high, it is the second-highest pyramid at the Coba Mayan Ruins.

You should also look out for Xaibé (the Observatory) and Las Pintuas (the Paintings).

Coba Cenotes 

Once you’ve explored Coba Ruins in Mexico, we highly recommend travelling the short distance to visit the nearby cenotes. The easiest way to get there is to jump in a taxi. The funner way is to rent a bicycle! Bikes can be hired for $150MXN ($8.50USD) per person from the ticket booth at the Coba Archaeological Site Car Park. You’ll then be directed to the neighbouring restaurant to choose your wheels. We had to leave a form as ID behind at the ticket booth. Rest assured, it was all above board and we collected it once we returned the bikes.

Cycling to the Coba Cenotes was very easy. Simply pull the directions up on Google Maps or Maps.Me and away you go. The cycle takes around 20 minutes along mostly paved roads. Dunking into a cenote is also an excellent way to cool off after a hot cycle ride in Mexico!

There are three Coba Cenotes to visit. They are Cenote Choo-Ha, Cenote Multum-Ha and Cenote Tankach-Ha. As you arrive at the ticket office you can buy a pass to visit all three. Let’s take a quick look at each cenote.

Read more: How To Visit The Coba Cenotes

Beck cycling to Coba Cenotes

Cenote Choo-Ha

Cenote Choo-Ha is the most well-known and popular of the Coba Cenotes. It also stands side by side with Cenote Tankach-Ha, with Cenote Multum-Ha being alone on the opposite side of the road down a long dirt track.

Cenote Choo-Ha is perhaps the most visually stunning of the three Coba Cenotes. There are stalagmites and stalactites growing from the cavern floor and ceilings, respectively. Indeed, it’s almost a mini Cenote Suytun. The water here is shallow and very family-friendly.

Cenote Tankach-Ha

After a dip in Cenote Choo-Ha, head next door to Cenote Tankach-Ha. This cenote requires a steep climb below ground to access the water. It’s a thrill seeker’s dream with two platforms from which to jump into the vibrant blue waters below. Don’t worry, there’s a ladder you can use to climb back out.

Cenote Multum-Ha

Visiting Cenote Multum-Ha requires a little extra effort to reach. It’s positioned away from the other two Coba Cenotes, down a long and bumpy dirt track. It was effort we would have made anyway, but was even more called for when a lighting fault cut our visit to Cenotes Choo-Ha and Tankach-Ha short. Still, we were refunded which was wonderfully generous.

Cenote Multum-Ha features clear and breathtaking turquoise waters. It’s the perfect swimming hole, with access via a wooden jetty and ladder.

Are the Coba Ruins Worth Visiting?

YES! The Coba Ruins are well worth the effort to get to. Apart from exhibiting some of the best examples of Mayan ruins and pyramids, they’re also much quieter than other sites like Chichen Itza and Tulum Ruins. Add to that the famous white roads and Coba Mayan Ruins are quite the spectacle.

FAQs

Below, we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions in regard to visiting the Mayan ruins of Coba in Mexico.

Can You Still Climb the Coba Ruins?

Unfortunately, you can no longer climb the Coba Pyramid ruins. Access to the Coba Pyramid has been prohibited since 2020.

How Old Are Coba Ruins? 

Coba is one of the oldest Mayan city ruins in the Yucatan, with evidence of occupation from 50BC. With that being said, it wasn’t until around 500AD that Coba began to flourish into the city it resembles today.

What Time Do the Coba Ruins Open?

The Coba Ruins open 8am daily.

Coba vs Chichen Itza?

Visit both! Unlike Chichen Itza, Coba Ruins are quieter and much cheaper. However, as Chichen Itza is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, it would be a shame not to check it out.

Where to Stay Near Coba Ruins, Mexico

There are a number of accommodation options in Coba and close to the ruins. Alternatively, one of the most convenient places to stay for access to the Mayan ruins of Coba, in Mexico, is Tulum. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the best budget, mid-range and luxury options in both locations, starting with Coba accommodation.

  • Budget – Malinche Cafe in Coba Tulum: the Malinche Cafe in Coba Tulum might appeal to a tighter budget, but, still, this hotel is a truly fabulous stay. This homestay offers a wonderful and authentic stay in Coba.
  • Mid-range Kaab Coba: the wonderful mid-range Kaab Coba hotel features a restaurant, outdoor pool and the staff can even arrange tours for you.
  • Luxury – Coqui Coqui Papholchac Coba Residence & Spa: to stay in the Mexican jungle next to Coba, check out Coqui Coqui Papholchac Coba Residence & Spa. You can literally walk to Coba Ruins from this outstanding hotel. The rustic yet contemporary decor is very in keeping with the archaeological surroundings in which you’re staying. This place screams luxury whilst being the perfect place to kick back and relax on your Mexico trip.

Accommodation in Tulum

  • Budget – Mayan Monkey Tulum: the highly-rated Mayan Monkey Tulum hostel features a restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool, a bar and a garden.
  • Mid-range Ruta Del Sol: the Ruta Del Sol is a fairly budget-friendly hotel for those wanting a private room with a private bathroom. Dan and I stayed here and the central location was very convenient for sightseeing in Tulum as well as further afield, with the ADO bus terminal just a short 5 minute walk away. Perfect for getting to Coba Ruins.
  • Luxury – Hotel Ma’xanab Tulum: if you’re looking for luxury in Tulum, then a stay at Hotel Ma’xanab Tulum could be right up your street. Situated on South Tulum Beach, this incredible hotel features an outstanding restaurant and bar. The comfortable rooms come with ocean or garden views and are perfect for relaxing in after a day of sightseeing.

Other Mayan Archaeological Sites Nearby

From Tulum to Chichen Itza, Quintana Roo and the Yucatan Peninsula aren’t short of incredible Mayan ruins to explore. Below, are a brief selection of other popular sites to visit. Be sure to check out our Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico post for a longer list of ruins.

  • Tulum Ruins: explore one of the most incredible examples of a walled Mayan city at Tulum. It’s also one of the few examples of a Mayan city on the coast.
  • Chichen Itza: the creme de la creme of Mexican Mayan Ruins. No trip to the Yucatan is complete without a visit to this incredible site.
  • Ek Balam: if you’re looking for a less crowded site to visit, then these Mayan ruins, just outside of Valladolid, are a great choice. Ek Balam turned out to be one of our favourite ruins.
Beck at Ek Balam Mayan ruins in Mexico
Ek Balam

Travel Essentials For the Coba Ruins

These are our travel essentials for a visit to the Mayan ruins of Coba in Mexico.

  • Swimming gear: because you really must round off your day with a visit to the Coba Cenotes.
  • Quick-dry towel: we travel lightly, so a small, quick-dry towel is much more convenient for a trip to Coba Ruins and Cenotes than sneaking the hostel/hotel’s bath towel out.
  • Biodegradable sunscreen: be sun safe and environmentally friendly all at the same time.
  • Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for day tripping, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
  • Camera: you’ll definitely want to document your visit to Coba Ruins, Mexico.

You should also pack water, snacks and lunch. Although, you’ll also find plenty of restaurants and cafes close to the entrance.

For a longer gear list, read our 66 Travel Items You Must Travel With. And, for a list of everything else you’d need for travelling, read our Packing Checklist.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is a real necessity, especially when travelling through Central America and getting a little off the beaten track.

SafetyWing is an excellent budget-friendly travel insurance provider. Personally, Dan and I have used SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance many times to insure our trips. The Nomad Insurance is fantastic value for money with a smaller additional cost to add a partner. Unlike most other insurance companies, there’s an option to pay on a monthly basis, similar to having a prepaid phone plan. Better yet, there’s no lock-in contract. In addition, you can cancel at any time, which will take effect the month after.

For shorter trips, it’s also possible to use Nomad Insurance for trips lasting just days or just 2–3 weeks. Indeed, SafetyWing is cheaper than almost all other travel insurance policies and covers just as much and sometimes more.

SafetyWing is a modern travel insurance company that is certainly leading the way in terms of how travel insurance should work in the future.

Tips For Visiting Coba Ruins

  • Avoiding the crowds: arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon to beat the crowds (including big tour groups) and enjoy Coba Ruins to yourself.
  • Where else in Quintana Roo: to learn more about incredible areas in Quintana Roo, be sure to check out Bacalar, Akumal and the Tulum Ruins.
  • Make the most of Tulum: if travelling from Tulum, as we did, you’ll find plenty of other awesome things to do in the area. GetYourGuide offer some pretty cool tours which might be worth checking out.

Bookmark this page ready for your trip to Coba Mayan Ruins, Mexico!

Beck Piggott

With an art and design based background, Beck uses photography and writing to help inspire readers to climb mountains, hike coastal trails and chase waterfalls around the globe.

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