In the heart of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula lie the ruins of Coba (Zona Arqueológica de Cobá), an ancient Maya city considered to be one of the most important settlements in Mesoamerican history. During its peak between AD 500 and 900, Coba housed 50,000 residents and was the central terminus for the complex Maya system of roadways. The jungle site is still being excavated, but visitors can experience the already discovered remains of these sacbes, or stone causeways, as well as a number of engraved and sculpted monuments.
The Coba ruins are an easy day trip from Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Tulum, and the Riviera Maya. Visitors can stroll or bike past two ball courts and the roads that once linked major Maya cities, and climb 120 steep steps up Nohoch Mul (the tallest ancient pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula) for panoramic views of the lush Mexican jungle. Take a small-group or private tour of the ruins to gain deep insights into ancient Maya culture, or beat the crowds with an archaeologist-led, early-access tour of both Coba and Chichen Itza. If you’re feeling adventurous, combine your visit with a cenote swim, a snorkeling excursion, or a visit to an authentic Maya village.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The archaeological site is vast, so wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for a fair amount of walking and at least a few hours of exploring.
- The top of Nohoch Mul is inaccessible to visitors with limited mobility, but pedicab services are available onsite for tours around the ruins. The Coba ruins are one of the more accessible Maya sites in the area.
- Restrooms can be found at the entrance to the ruins.
- Bring insect repellent, sunglasses, and a sun hat.
How to Get There
Coba is roughly 45 minutes by road from Tulum, traveling inland. If driving, take extra precaution at small villages that are known for their speed bumps. Several public buses also make the 3-hour journey each day, but you can save the hassle by taking a guided day trip, many of which include hotel pickup and drop-off.
When to Get There
The archaeological site is open year-round. High season (December through April) brings sunny weather along with lots of visitors; go early to avoid the crowds that start pouring in at about 11am. Visit during the rainy season (May through October) for lower prices and fewer crowds, but be prepared to change your plans according to the weather.
Can’t-Miss Sights Near Coba
The Yucatan jungle surrounding the Coba ruins is worth exploring on its own. Try combining a tour of the ancient city with a trip to cool off in a cenote, a limestone sinkhole filled with clear water that’s great for swimming, tubing, or kayaking. You can also explore the nearby Tulum and Chichen Itza ruins, try your hand at ziplining in the forest, or visit the Xel-Ha aquatic park.