As I mention in my Tulum guide, exploring the ancient Mayan ruins of the archeological site in Coba, Mexico is a must-do adventure. The Coba ruins offer the traveler the chance to venture into the Mayan jungle and gawk at moss-covered, ancient pyramids. And as of last year, you could also climb the Coba ruins main pyramid – which is how Coba quickly rose to the top of vacationers’ bucket lists.
Coba is an essential stop for those wishing to discover Quintana Roo outside of the more popular cities and towns of Tulum and Playa del Carmen.
Visiting the Coba ruins also offers a great alternative for those who cannot venture as far west to Valladolid to see Chichen Itza. You don’t need a Coba and cenotes tour to visit the archaeological site unless you want a fast-tracked tour with a guide.
Here’s my guide on how to best experience the Coba Mayan ruins and the surrounding Coba cenotes!
How to Visit the Coba Ancient Mayan Ruins
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Coba is only a 45-minute leisurely drive from Tulum, making it the perfect day trip.
The best time to visit Coba is early morning, while everyone else is visiting the Tulum ruins and snapping pictures of the most popular cenotes near Tulum. Thankfully, the Coba ruins entrance fee isn’t as steep as some other attractions in Mexico.
Entry will cost you a mere $65 pesos or roughly $4 USD. As you arrive by car, bus, or whatever else, a small lake will be on your right and you can’t miss the colorful row of local restaurants offering fair-priced Mexican fare on your left.
Tip: Park alongside these restaurants to avoid any parking fees at the Coba entrance.
The Best Way to Explore the Coba Ruins
There are three ways to explore the Coba ruins.
- On foot, walking
- By renting a bicycle or,
- Hiring a tuk-tuk taxi
If you’re walking around the Coba ruins, just know you will tire quickly. To reach the climbable pyramid alone will require at least 1-2 miles of walking (there and back). I visited Coba twice. The first time I walked. The second time I rented a bike (lol).
Rent a bike for ~200 pesos per person and you’ll get to see loads more of the Coba ruins, including all the other small ruins. Using a bike is also a great way to beat the crowd to the main pyramid, especially if you want to take epic photos!
If you’re traveling with family or with a group, two people can share a rickshaw taxi. You can negotiate a little if you’re a big group – like we were. And make sure to ask what their price includes. Our guides were tired and they changed their story of which route was included in the price.
Climbing the Ixmoja Pyramid at Coba
First things first. Most people want to know, can you still climb the pyramids at Coba? Well, it seems to rest unclear. But for now, yes you can.
Our last climb was in December 2018. But we had heard numerous long-time rumors that 2019 would be the year they would close it off due to accidents. But we’re nine months into 2019 and the Coba pyramid is still open and available for travelers to climb.
Coba ruins have some of the last pyramids you can still climb but once there are too many tourists I imagine they will close it off, just like they did with Chichen Itza years ago.
There is only one pyramid you can actually climb high enough to be above the treetops at Coba, though, and it’s also the largest pyramid in Coba.
Ixmoja/Nicte-Ha is the name and the one to look for on the map as part of the Nohoch Mul cluster of Coba’s archaeological discoveries.
Climb to the top of Ixmoja and you’ll see nothing but a panoramic view of lush Mayan jungle and forest. Beware of the 120 steps!
The stone steps are becoming slippier and slippier as more tourists dare to climb to the top.
The secured rope in the middle adds to the daring effect, as you see several people holding on to it firmly, afraid of slipping and tumbling down. With that being said, use extreme caution should you choose to go to the top. Climb sideways, or with both hands and feet if you must.
There is not much wiggle room once at the top either. And the sides are not secured with a barrier, so please watch your friends and family. Especially as you take your selfies, watch your step!
What Else to Visit in Coba Mayan Ruins
Many people just go to the ruins to see Ixmoja – the tallest and climbable pyramid.
However, Coba has so many more ruins to see! The Mayan ruins at Coba also have on display ancient hieroglyphics, residential and religious ruins, exotic flora, ancient writings, a Mayan calendar in stone, a very well-preserved ancient ball court, and more.
Not only that but the ancient Mayan trade routes – or white roads are otherwise known as sacbes – attract visitors to Coba. These routes used to lead the Mayans in and out of the jungle safely to other important Mayan cities. You can see a map of the routes still preserved today.
“A sacbe, plural sacbeob .. or “white way”, is a raised paved road built by the Maya civilization of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. Most connect temples, plazas, and groups of structures within ceremonial centers or cities, but some longer roads between cities are also known.” Wiki
Make sure to take the time to visit these amazing ancient discoveries. It helps to have a guide for the explications, as there are not many signs describing what you’re seeing.
Visiting the Cenotes Near Coba: Cenotes Tamcach-Ha, Choo-Ha, and Multum-Ha
Once you’ve ingested as much about the Coba ruins as possible, it’s time to have a little fun jumping into fresh-water sinkholes or cenotes.
There are a handful of cenotes nearby Coba that are convenient for a mid-late afternoon dip.
You will need a car to get there, though. Unless you book a Coba cenotes tour and have transport already figured out.
Cenotes Tamcach-Ha, Choo-Ha, and Multum-Ha are the three cenotes you can visit near Coba.
Each offers mesmerizing examples of the underground cenote style – complete enclosed caverns with crystal clear (and cold!) water below.
The entrance fee for each is about $55 pesos, or you can visit all three for ~$165.
Responsible Travel Tips for Coba Ruins
You must not wear any creams or perfumes so a quick rinse before entering the cenote is a must.
It’s extremely important to abide by these rules. Because if not, and with the growing number of tourists visiting cenotes every year, the cenotes become polluted and dirty.
And once you see just how sparkling clean this water is, you won’t want to spoil it. Nature at its finest!
As these are deep, underground pools, so to speak, wearing a life-jacket is recommended and is sometimes even required. While there are ropes hooked to the cenote walls to aid people to stand or rest their feet while swimming, the water is still very deep. So please keep this in mind!
Most people spend between 30-60 minutes at each cenote. The first time we went we only visited Multum-Ha and stayed until closing (around 5 pm).
Where to Stay Near Coba, Mexico
There are a handful of delightful places to stay in Coba, so don’t think you have to leave so soon!
There are a few benefits to staying in Coba, such as getting early access to both the ruins and the cenotes.
Coba also offers the adrenaline junkie the chance to go ziplining, cycling, or hiking. Nearby restaurants offer budget-friendly Mexican cuisine all the way up to fine dining.
Here are the best places to stay in Coba:
Coqui Coqui Coba (Luxury): Coqui Coqui is set off the tranquil waters of the lake in Coba, just a mile or two down the road from the ruins. At first sight, you wouldn’t believe it was a 4-star hotel. But once you notice its unique stone architecture with a walkway bridge, spa, and upscale restaurant, it all makes sense. It’s the perfect hideout from the busier boutique scenes over in Tulum.
Aldea Coba Boutique Hotel (Mid-Range): Aldea Coba offers your mid-range boutique hotel experience, with a modern outdoor pool, bungalows and villas, and natural and jungly-garden vibes, with premium comforts and mealtime options. Bicycles are also provided for guests to explore the village.
Hotel Sac Be (Budget-Friendly): Hotel Sac Be is a popular option for those looking for a traditional hotel experience. Large, comfy beds and rooms with all your basic services and amenities, including dining on-site, terrace, secured parking, and attached market store.
Coba Ruins Travel Guide – Overview
A quick snapshot and take-aways for visiting the Coba Mayan ruins.
Planning a trip to Mexico?
If you’re planning a trip here soon, make sure to check out my Mexico travel guides. If you’re in the Riviera Maya, there are so many more things to explore beyond Coba!
- Tulum Street Art: Exploring the Pueblo’s Muralism Culture
- The Complete Guide to Scuba Diving in Tulum, Mexico
- Floating Down Ancient Mayan Canals in Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
- Kayaking in Bacalar’s Lagoon of 7 Colors (+ Mini Travel Guide)
- Visiting Calakmul Mayan Ruins: A Journey Into the Jungle
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