Four Ways to Appreciate the Charm of Mayan Ruins at Coba

The heavy rain arrived and a late breakfast was added to the itinerary after our first stop in Punta Laguna. We stopped just a few miles from the Mayan archaeological site of Coba and waited out the storm.

After some eggs and tortilla the rain ceased.  We piled back into the van and continued to the entrance gate. My Riviera Maya guide turned to me and said, “it needed to rain for more than 30 minutes, otherwise the water will have just created steam”  The jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula are hot in the summer, very hot. But we were lucky, the rain lasted long enough.

the rains added adventure to the visit...

Travelers to the Riviera Maya can take a day excursion to Coba from Playa del Carmen, Tulum or Cancun. At the entrance visitors can hire Mayan guides to learn the history of the site and attempt to understand many of the Mayan mysteries.

For some, the details and gained  knowledge make the trip, for others it’s the chance to meander through the site solo that makes it. Either way all visitors quickly learn all about the charming ways to experience the ruins at Coba.

Pedal through the Jungle.

Inside, visitors explore Xaibe (the lookout tower) and the ball court. Plus every visitor always makes his way to the main pyramid. And each is a worthy stop. But if an escape from the normal or typical tour is the goal, rent a bicycle.

Just pedaling through the jungle paths with ruins on both sides can provide the perfect adventure. The site itself is hardly excavated (estimates are less than 5% cleared) with thousands of buildings still covered by the jungle.  The bike ride provides such a special way to feel the essence of the place.

The Stelae tell the Story.

a guide explains an eroded Stelae

These massive carved stones, Stelae,  depict important events for the city or its rulers. Popular through the classic period of Mayan civilization, these eroded stones can be viewed on the grounds of Coba.

Without a guide or guidebooks, you might pass right by many of the stones without much of a look, but twenty-three exist. When you learn the detail carved in these stones, the city and civilization comes alive.

All Roads lead to Coba.

Established in early 1st century, Coba focused on trade, reached its peak in the late classic period (600-900 AD).

The guide took me to a spot away from any crowd or edifice. Definitely not a place I’d ever stop on my own. He detailed how the roads through Coba connected the Mayan world. He explained how the civilization constructed the roads, how they transported goods, and the fact we were standing on a once major “highway” through the jungle.

The Maya built roads with the local limestone and at night the roads were illuminated by the moon light. That coupled with the cooler air temperature provided perfect passage.

Conquering the Coba Climb.

The main pyramid is why many visitors head to Coba. Nohoch Mul, located two kilometers from the entrance (an enjoyable bike ride), reaches forty-two meters high and is the highest Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan.

It's the Coba Climb

the look down...

Once climbers climb the 120 steps and catch their breath, some lose it again when they take in the view. It’s impressive and it’s jungle as far as the eyes can see. All jungle. It makes many wonder how much is still out there, still unearthed, still yet to be rediscovered.

the view from above...

Before I arrived at the Riviera Maya, Coba was high on my list of places to visit. Yes, I wanted to climb up the pyramid (something no longer allowed at Chichen Itza) and explore ruins not loaded with tourists. And I did. But I also discovered a charming site with a few special ways to truly appreciate it.

stay adventurous, Craig

This post is for the MexicoToday initiative.


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  • Laura in Cancun

    Great photos, Craig! I’ve been living in the Yucatan for 6 years and still haven’t been to Coba.

    • Craig Zabransky

      Laura – GO. I highly recommend it. Coba is perhaps my favorite Mayan Ruins in the Jungles of the Yucatan

      stay adventurous, Craig

  • Chase Buckner

    Wow! Craig, were you walking through that swampness in the first picture, or did you boat in?

    And where were you when you took the last pic?

  • Ana L. Flores

    Coba is simply amazing! I loved that we could bike all around it because it just added to the whole adventure. Did you catch the sunset on top of the pyramid? You see the sun disappear in the jungle…just beautiful.
    Although, my best-ever Mayan-pyramid sunset was in Uxmal. Everything just stood still.

    • Ana L. Flores

      Oh! And I forgot to add that the second time I went the whole entrance to Coba was completely flooded and FULL of millions (not exaggerating) of tadpoles…millions! Never seen anything quite like it. I imagine how many of those actually become frogs and shiver…

      • Craig Zabransky

        @ana, the bikes and the rain added to the experience, but I would have loved to see the tad poles… so much life energy at Coba.

        The sunset? I didn’t catch one there (I did catch a sunset y sunrise in Tikal – amazing). Next time.

        Uxmal, its on the list… and it’s a big list.

        stay adventurous, Craig

  • Ted Beatie

    I was just there for the first time myself in May, and we hit Coba towards the end of the day and were ushered down the pyramid as they closed. I enjoyed it, though.

    However, my favorite Riviera Mayan ruin is Ek Balam, north of Valladolid.

    • Craig Zabransky

      @Ted, I totally loved Coba.. and Ek Balam is now on the list. thanks.

      stay adventurous, Craig

  • Charu

    What an adventure you must have had. Stellar shots of the jungles…I just wrote a post on Cancun and hope to visit there one day. Hope you drank a lot of margaritas after this ascent.

    • Craig Zabransky

      Thanks @Charu, if I recall correctly, I did entertain a few drinks after my visit to Coba… it was quite an adventure, glad you like the photos too.
      stay adventurous, Craig

  • crazy sexy fun traveler

    Coba is one of my favourite places in Yucatan, too! Really enjoyed it!

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  • Ricky Jevtic

    I like your writing style truly loving this website.

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  • Anita Mac

    Had no idea that you could bike around…love it! Great way to tour the site.

    • MexicoRealEstateNews

      Yes, for only 45 pesos you can have a bike all day long and tour the whole site!

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  • MexicoRealEstateNews

    Just read your blog about Coba and man, you are sooo right! We went there a month and a half ago, posted a blog series with pics, we had a great sunny day and went biking all over the place, Chichen Itzá is an amazing place, but climbing the Nohoch Mul pyramid is just something else!

    • craig zabransky

      So agree. Coba is my favorite in the Riv Maya…. well, so far, much more to see. Stay exploring, Craig

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