Cozumel’s Royal Castle (Castillo Real) is a small Maya ruin on the island’s remote northeastern shore. Centuries ago, this stone outpost was likely a guard station to keep watch for enemy ships on the open sea. Today the structure is notable for its high vantage point, offering panoramic views of the coastline and the Caribbean Sea.
Hike up to the Royal Castle and enjoy views of the ocean and rugged coastal cliffs. You can also hike along the ancient coastal road (Carretera Costera Norte) toward Aguada Grande, another set of crumbling Maya ruins. Further along, a working lighthouse stands sentinel over the rocky beaches of Punta Molas. Due to rough road conditions in this area of the island, most people visit the Royal Castle by boat, as part of a snorkeling day trip. These tours often include a visit to the isolated Xhanan Beach (Playa Xhanan).
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Royal Castle is a must-see for culture and history buffs.
- Cozumel rental car insurance typically doesn’t cover the stretch of road leading to the ruins.
- Remember to bring sun protection, comfortable closed-toe shoes, and plenty of water.
- Service stations are limited as this portion of the island is very remote.
How to Get There
It’s possible to drive from San Miguel, but the dirt road that runs along Cozumel’s northeastern coastline to the Royal Castle is in poor shape and presents a challenge even to 4WD vehicles—although adventurous drivers will be rewarded with beautiful scenery and views of deserted beaches. Most visitors opt to visit the ruins by boat.
When to Get There
You can visit the Royal Castle year-round, although clear skies are most common from December through April. There are fewer crowds during hurricane season (May through October), but be sure to check the weather for storms.
Must-See Ruins on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula
The Quintana Roo region is full of Maya history. The Tulum archaeological site lies one hour by road from Playa del Carmen and two hours by road from Cancun, and contains the remnants of an ancient port city. Nearby, the ruins at Coba contain a massive 138-foot-high (42-meter-high) stone pyramid. Further inland, the ruins of Chichen Itza are home to a similarly massive step pyramid dubbed El Castillo.