Coba: discovering Mayan ruins in Yucatán

From the top of the highest pyramid of the Coba complex, the jungle looks like a living carpet. The ruins of Coba are a great compromise for those who find Chichen Itza too touristy, but don’t want to venture further than two hours from their hotel on the Riviera Maya.

Archaeologists believe that the ruins of the Mayan city of Coba were extremely important to the Mayans themselves, but due to its location further inland, not as many tourist buses come here.

Thanks to this, it is still possible to climb the ruins and enjoy many of the buildings completely alone.

Discovering the Mayan ruins of Coba

Tunnel in the Mayan city of Coba
One of the religious tunnels in the ruins of Coba

The city of Coba is famous for the largest network of stone sacbes roads. Of the fifty, sixteen have been uncovered and opened to the public, the rest are still under the jungle.

These elevated paths connect the various residential districts to the Nohoch Mul area. They also lead to smaller lakes (cenotes) that served as a source of water.

Although we have evidence of a dense network of transport arteries, it is still a mystery how the Maya transported water and goods. There is no record of them using a bicycle.

Due to the size of the town, we recommend renting a bike on site, which costs 50 pesos. But if you like to explore, take a tour on foot. Most of the city is still hidden in the jungle, and no one will stop you from exploring the jungle properly.


Climbing the pyramid

The largest pyramid in the Coba area is called Ixmoja, it measures 42 metres in height and is open to the public.

There are 120 steep steps leading to the top, which are much easier to climb up. So be prepared to climb back down on all fours. A rope is stretched from the top of the pyramid, which you can hold on to while climbing.

But it’s worth it. The top of the pyramid rises high above the jungle, and from the top you can see the jungle stretching into the distance.

It is already clear that it won’t be long before the authorities ban climbing this pyramid as well, just as they did with the more touristy sites.

the main pyramid of the Mayan ruins of Coba
The main pyramid in Coba can still be climbed

History of the ruins of Coba

The Mayan city of Coba was founded around 100 AD and was abandoned around 1550 when Spanish invaders invaded the Yucatán Peninsula.

It is believed that the town of Coba was inhabited by up to 50,000 people at its peak. While exploring the area, you will come across many stelae, stone monuments on which the Maya depicted their rulers and important events.

Playground for the ancient Mayan game of tachtli in the Mayan city of Coba
A pitch for a ball game of chatter

In the jungle here you will come across two well-preserved playgrounds where the traditional Mayan ball game of Tlachtli was played. The rules of the game have changed over the centuries, in short it was about players trying to use their hips to throw the ball through the hoop.

According to some sources and conjectures, one of the teams, or at least its captain, was sacrificed to the gods.

Swimming in the adjacent cenotes

A visit to the ruins of Coba is not without a dip in one of the adjacent cenotes. Cenotes are natural underground reservoirs of fresh water that are popular places to spend a sultry afternoon.

There are three cenotes around Coba

Cenote Choo-Ha is a shallow cenote with crystal blue water and stalactites hanging from the ceiling. Cenote Tamcach-Ha is a deep cenote with two platforms (5 and 10 meters) for jumping into the water. Cenote Multun-Ha is deeper in the jungle.

Entrance to each of the mentioned cenotes should be 55 pesos (66 CZK). A great description of all the cenotes, including photos and instructions on how to get to them, can be found in
this foreign article

Where to stay near Coba

The ruins are not far from the cities of Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Valladolid, with Tulum being the closest (40 minutes away).

[lgc_column grid=”33″ tablet_grid=”50″ mobile_grid=”100″ last=”false”]

Cheap accommodation

Hostel Bambu Gran Palas

Hostel Bambu Grand

Hostel right in the hotel zone in Tulum, which has its own cenote and restaurant with affordable prices. That’s almost a miracle in a hotel zone.[/lgc_column] [lgc_column grid=”33″ tablet_grid=”50″ mobile_grid=”100″ last=”false”]

Medium expensive

Zamunda Garden View Apartments

Zamunda Garden View

Zamunda Garden View Apartments may not be right on the beach in the hotel zone, but you get a great apartment at a great price. Accommodation is located in the city center.[/lgc_column] [lgc_column grid=”33″ tablet_grid=”50″ mobile_grid=”100″ last=”true”]


Nomade tulum

Nomade Tulum

One of the most stylish hotels in all of Mexico.[/lgc_column]

Tips for visiting the ruins of Coba

  • Coba is 44 kilometres (40 minutes) from Tulum and 110 kilometres (90 minutes) from Playa del Carmen
  • In addition to cars, the ruins can also be reached by ADO buses and cheap Colectivos minibuses
  • Rent bikes on site for 50 pesos
  • Take plenty of water with you, you will spend up to two hours on site
  • As always, it’s best to visit the ruins first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the peak tourist times

Tips and tricks for travelling in Mexico

What to pack

Take a look at our
travel packing guide
to help you prepare. Choose the right travel backpack, check out the travel gadgets and don’t forget anything important at home.

Where to get tickets

Search for cheap airline tickets at
, they’re our favourite portal. Be sure to read our instructions how to get cheap airline tickets.

Car rental

We commonly use a grader
to help us choose a car provider. In Playa del Carmen try writing to the web
, Sergio will take care of you.

Reservation of accommodation

is our most popular hotel search engine. We always compare hotels with local apartments and rooms on Airbnb (
725 CZK discount
). Read,
how we find cheap accommodation

Don’t forget about insurance

Travel insurance is an absolute must. For shorter journeys, choose AXA (
50% discount
) and for longer journeys the British insurer
True Traveller
. Take a look at
comparison of all insurance companies
and choose the one that suits you best.

Recommended Lonely Planet Yucatanguide

More articles about Yucatán that you may find interesting

Playa del Carmen City Guide

What to do in Tulum? 12 things to do there

Chichen Itza: Mayan Ruins and Mexican Wonder of the World

Laguna Bacalar: 8 things to do there + where to eat

10 tips on what to do in San Francisco de Campeche, Mexico

Related Posts


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

You are here

North AmericaMexicoCoba: discovering Mayan ruins in Yucatán

Latest blog articles