Dream Caribbean Travel

Top 3 Mayan Ruins In The Mexican Caribbean

Journeys, explorations, and adventures.

“If we were meant to stay in one place, we’d have roots instead of feet” –Rachel Wolchin

Top 3 Mayan Ruins In The Mexican Caribbean

Enter the wonderful world of the 3 Best Mayan Ruins in the Mexican Caribbean. You will be amazed at the architectural wonders of the ancient Mayans, experience a new appreciation for their way of life and be blown away by what they have left behind for us to be able to get a glimpse into their cosmos.

With this article, I hope that you are able to choose which Mayan Ruin you want to visit 1st. Since I have personally visited all 3 that I am about to go over with you; I understand that this may be difficult so you may become one of us, “repetitive visitors”.

Keep in mind that cenotes are a perfect add-on to your Mayan adventure so don’t forget to also check out Top 10 Cenotes in the Mexican Caribbean to make a day of it.

*Hint: The best way to make sure you have the best Mexico Vacation is to utilize a Travel Agent.

Journeys, explorations, and adventures.

Top 3 Mayan Ruins In The Mexican Caribbean

1. Chichen Itza

Located 3 hours from Cancun and about 2.5 hours from Playa Del Carmen.

*This can be an all-day excursion.

Chichen Itza is, by far, the most famous site in Mexico with 2.5 million visitors a year. Brocken up into 2 pieces, Old Chichen Itza where you find 6 structures and New Chichen Itza also referred to as just plain “Chichen Itza” that boasts a whopping 20 structures.

El Castillo Pyramid

This Mayan Ruin was once the political and economic capital for the Mayan’s around 600AD. The tallest and most glorious pyramid at Chichen Itza is El Castillo meaning, “The Castle”. The El Castillo Ruin is also known as the Temple of Kukulkan or just “Kukulkan” and stands 100ft high.  

What stands out the most of the Temple of Kukulkan is a fascinating carved head of what resembles a serpent’s head at the base that looks as if it demands respect. During the Spring and Fall Equinox, our sun casts a shadow along the steps which aligns with the serpent’s head, creating the illusion of a snake slithering down the side of the temple.

If this is something you are wanting to witness during you vacation make sure to let your travel agent know so she/he can book the right time of year and reserve your seat at the Mayan table. Figurative table, of course.

It’s not all about El Castillo; although, the Temple is so spectacular it could be.

Numerous smaller ruins dot this wonderous spot, many connected by a wide network of roads called Sacbes. As if that wasn’t enough, between the Kukulkan Pyramid and Venus Temple lies a sacred cenote or the “Cenote Sagrado” which was considered sacred by the ancient Mayans, being used for human and material sacrifices to the water or rain God, “Chac”.

Hours of Operation: 8am-5pm

Entrance fee around $5.00 USD

Know Before You Go: 
  • If transportation is included with your tour make sure you confirm the time and place of pickup.
  • Exploring Chichen Itza requires a lot of walking.
Journeys, explorations, and adventures.

Top 3 Mayan Ruins In The Mexican Caribbean


Located 2 hours from Cancun and 45minutes to 1 hour from Playa Del Carmen.

This Ruin is the quickest of all 3 to explore. It can be as little as a half day excursion or less depending on the location of your resort.

Second on this list is Tulum, located in, you guessed it… Tulum. Situated on the coast, towering over the Caribbean, the Tulum ruin was originally constructed as a fortress on the sea. This can be seen in how different this site is from other ruin sites.

Tulum was also a vital land and sea trade hub for Coba, another ruin I go over below.  

Although it is the smallest of the 3 ruins it doesn’t disappoint by any means. The remanence of paint can still be seen on the outside of many of the structures.

Once you are done experiencing this cliffside ruin, probably working up a sweat, do not forget to make your way down the sturdy wooden dock and cool of in the glistening Caribbean waters. Surrounded by the beautiful scenery below the grand coastal fort, it is hard to believe that you are actually standing in ancient Mayan history.

Hours of Operation: 8:00am-4:30pm

Entrance Fee: $4.00 USD

Know Before You Go:
  • You are not really hiking or walking a long distance with the Tulum tour so flip flops are fine to wear.
  • Don’t miss taking a dip in the ocean after the tour so if transportation is included with your tour make sure you confirm the time and place of pickup.
  • The guide with Tulum was a little much for me at this ruin but they have excursions with or without the guide.
Journeys, explorations, and adventures.

Top 3 Mayan Ruins In The Mexican Caribbean


Located 3 hours from Cancun, 1.5 hours from Playa Del Carmen and about 45 minutes from Tulum.

Give yourself 2-3 hours to tour Coba

And finally, we come to Coba, meaning “water stirred by wind”. Although this Mayan Ruin is not as popular or well marketed as Chichen Itza or Tulum; personally, it is my favorite.

Between the petite Mayan community that continues to thrive, the ruins themselves and the shimmering cenotes, there is so much to discover. It’s a fantastically thrilling adventure and I guarantee you will leave feeling mind blown. This excursion you will not want to miss out on.

Before arriving at the Coba site, you will pass through what is still a functioning vintage Mayan community with thatched hut living quarters, religious sites and much more.  One of these huts is set up with artifacts found during the excavation to show what archeologists believe the space would have looked like prior to desertion of Coba around 1550AD. There are also small dwellings where you are able to purchase crafts that were made by the locals. Now, that is a souvenir!

It is good to note that some tours include lunch and pottery making, taught by the inhabitants in this small town.  Make sure that the Mayan town is part of your excursion, when booking.

Getting Around

Next, we enter the gates to ruins. This is a sprawling jungle site dating back to around 100AD. If you walk this ruin, you will be in for a quite a trek since this site is so large and spread out (around 30 sq miles). I recommend renting a bicycle for around $3.50 USD or a Mayan driven Pedicab, which is essentially a tricycle with a two-person compartment for around $10.00 USD. All rentals are available as soon as you walk through the gates.

The raised white roads you travel on throughout this venture are said to be the largest network of raised roads, called Sacbes, then any other site. Over 50 of these sacbes wind through the jungle like a snake, connecting thousands of structures, ball game court, watering holes as well as ceremonial and government gathering areas.

Interesting note is that these sacbes get their white color from being painted with limestone and would glow under the moon light, guiding the ancient Mayan’s way.

Nohoch Mul Pyramid

Seeming to be the center of the many woven together complexes is the Nohoch Mul Pyramid which translates to “Great Mound”, stands 137 feet tall, making this the tallest pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula, dwarfing all in its shadow and towering over the thick green forest below.

Now, this is where Coba being a “B” class celebrity works to our advantage. Since the tourist number is so low, well, lower than the other traveled sites, the Nohoch Mul Pyramid can be climbed. Hurray! Coveting 120 steep step to the top, the “Great Mound” intimidates the people below.

Scaling the 120 steps of this giant is well worth it but I must stress to do so with care because its steps are steep. A thick rope has been secured to the pyramid for safety as you trek to the top and back down again. I used it during both and even sat down while I slowly descended the towering giant.

Journeys, explorations, and adventures.

Top 3 Mayan Ruins In The Mexican Caribbean

Coba's Stelae

One thing that excited Archeologist about Coba was the discovery of Stelae or carved stone tablets that litter the space. These ancestral stones plaid an integrate role in allowing us to peer into the history and culture of the Pre-Classic (250AD-900AD) and Post-Classic (900AD-1500AD) Mayan world.

Pictures and words could never truly due this site justice, although; I tried. You’re going to have to see it for yourself to experience the awesome change you’ll feel when you leave.

A trip to Coba would not be complete without checking out its 3 cenotes, Tamcach-Ha, Choo-Ha, and Multum-Ha. I go over these 3 more in depth as well as 7 other exhilarating Mayan sink holes in another article.

Hours of Operation: 8:00am-5:00pm

Entrance Fee: $4.00 entrance fee.

What to Know Before You Go:
  • If transportation is included with your tour make sure you confirm the time and place of pickup.
  • Expect a lot of walking. It’s so worth it.
Journeys, explorations, and adventures.

Top 3 Mayan Ruins In The Mexican Caribbean

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