Coba Mexico, Coba Mayan Ruins

You’ll discover the ancient Cobá ruins right in the heart of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. At one time, this ancient Maya city was once occupied by a large agricultural population. It reached the height of its productivity between 500 and 900AD, when there were 50,000 residents living here.

Today, the jungle is still in the process of being excavated. But you can still see the amazing remains of a time long gone, including sacbes (ceremonial limestone avenues) and sculpted monuments.

 What are the Cobá ruins?

Cobá (which means ‘ruffled waters’) is situated on two shimmering lagoons: the Coba Lagoon, which you’ll spot when you drive up to the entrance; and Macamxoc Lagoon, which you can see when you enter the site of the ruins itself. To discover the actual Cobá ruins, you’ll need to make your way through the lush green jungle. The paths and mounds are actually covered in overgrown vines and trees, so it’s a bit of a trek. This is not an excursion to do in flip-flops or heels, so make sure you pack comfy shoes.

The site spreads over 30 square miles and there are lots of different areas to discover. This includes the Nohoch Mul, which is the tallest ancient pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula, with 120 steep steps to the top. Don’t be tempted to climb it though, as it’s not allowed. Then there’s Conjunto Pinturas, the spiritual area; this is where you’ll find the Pyramid of the Painted Lintel. From afar, you can see that there are paintings on top of this temple. The Macamxoc structures are also worth exploring. They’re located close to the lagoon of the same name and the whole area was once an important spiritual site.

Things to know before you go

When you arrive at the site, make sure you keep your bearings. The dirt roads in the jungle can feel like a maze, so keep to the signposted paths. You’ll see unofficial routes branching off them; these are shortcuts used by locals and best avoided unless you really know your way around.

  •  This archaeological site is huge, so there will be lots of walking. Be sure to wear sensible shoes and expect to be on your feet for a few hours at least.
  • You can admire the Nohoch Mul, but unfortunately you’re not allowed to climb it.
  • Don’t forget to bring insect repellent, sunglasses, and a sun hat; remember, you’ll be in the jungle.
  • You’ll find toilets at the entrance to the ruins.

How to get there

 The Cobá ruins are around a 45-minute drive inland from Tulum and two and a half hours from Cancun. They’re also an easy day trip from Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya. If you’re coming by car, be careful as you drive through the small villages en route; many have speed bumps, which can be quite severe.

Public buses also run daily from Tulum to the Cobá ruins; the journey takes around three hours. But you can save yourself the hassle by booking a guided day trip, including pick-up and drop-off from your hotel.

When should I get there?

The site is open all year round. December to April (dry season) is the busiest time of year here; the sun shines during high season, and it brings the visitors with it. You can avoid some of the crowds if you arrive early, well before 11am when it starts to get really busy. If you’re visiting from May through to October (wet season), the prices are lower and the crowds are smaller, too. But the weather can be pretty changeable, so be sure to come prepared.

What else is near Cobá Mexico?

The Cobá ruins are surrounded by the Yucatan jungle, and this lush green wilderness is well worth exploring. In fact, there’s a tropical forest near Cobá where a village of 27 families live, with no electricity, paved roads or indoor plumbing. They gather plants and live off the jungle.

You could also combine a tour of the ruins with a trip to a cenote (a freshwater sinkhole); these mysterious pools and are a great place to swim and kayak. The famous Tulum and Chichen Itza ruins are an easy drive away. Plus, if you’re feeling energetic, Xel-Ha Park is only a short hop away; there’s endless fun to be had at the world’s biggest natural water park.