Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com
Culture, Mexico, Nature, Off the Beaten Path, Outdoor Adventures, Responsible Travel, Road Trips, Ruins, Tulum, Yucatan

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

Coba is a large and expansive ancient Mayan Ruins site located in Mexico‘s Yucatan Peninsula, near Tulum, Valladolid and Playa del Carmen, making it the perfect place to explore on a day trip from any of these places. The ruins are scattered throughout the jungle and consist mostly of partially-restored structures in addition to the tall and impressive Nohoch Mul pyramid, which can be climbed. At the top, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding jungle landscape and lush green tree-tops. Only a small portion of Coba has been excavated and many of the structures remain hidden in the jungle, overgrown with jungle vegetation, while the ruins that have been partially excavated continue to have trees and plants growing through cracks in the rocks. Coba is lesser-frequented than the more popular nearby ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum and it does not see the same huge volumes of tourists.

Located only a ten minute drive from the ruins, are a group of three absolutely gorgeous underground cenotes (Cenotes Tamcach-Ha, Choo-Ha and Multum-Ha), which are off the beaten tourist path and are a perfect place to visit for a refreshing swim in a magical and serene place after exploring the Coba ruins.

The Coba ruins are located only about an hour from both Tulum and Valladolid, making it a convenient and interesting ruins site to explore on a day trip from either place.

I visited the ruins and cenotes during my second solo trip to Mexico in November 2015 with three fellow travelers who I met while staying at the hostel Mama’s Home in Tulum.

About Coba

The name “Coba” means “waters stirred by wind” in the Yucatec Maya language and the ruins are situated between two lagoons in the village of Coba.

The Coba ruins are an expansive and fascinating ruins site to explore. The various partially-restored structures are scattered throughout the jungle and it is interesting to see unexcavated ruins in their natural and rugged state with plants and trees growing on and around them. Visitors are allowed to climb and explore many of the ruins inside the site, including the impressive Nohoch Mul pyramid, which towers high above the jungle treetops and provides absolutely stunning views.

Location

The ruins of Coba are centrally and conveniently located 48 km northwest of Tulum and 60 km southeast of Valladolid, which is about a 45 minute to 1 hour journey from cities. It is also easy to get to Coba from Playa del Carmen, Merida, and Cancun.

Getting There – Transportation to Coba

The Coba ruins are easily accessible from towns and cities throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, including Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Valladolid, Merida and more, using the extensive network of ADO first and second class buses.

These are the options for getting to Coba from the town of Tulum, which is a popular base:

ADO First and Second Class Buses

Buses depart from Tulum’s sole ADO bus terminal located on the town’s main avenue between Calles Jupiter and Alfa on the north side of the street. The first class buses leave at approximately 10:10 AM with the one-way fare costing 66 pesos and the journey taking an hour. The only return first-class bus leaves Coba at 3:15 PM.

Second class buses are basically older models of their newer first-class counterparts, and they also do not have TVs with movies playing, lack washrooms at the back of the bus and are often without air conditioning. They are just as safe, reliable and comfortable as first class buses, however the fare is cheaper which makes them a great budget option. Schedules for the second class buses can be found posted at the ADO terminal. Updated first-class bus schedules can be found at http://www.ado.com.mx.

To get to Coba from Valladolid, Playa del Carmen or Merida, you can check the first-class bus schedules at http://www.ado.com.mx or visit the ADO bus terminal in those cities to find updated schedules as well.

Car Rental

Renting a car to visit Coba is the best option, in my opinion. Having a car allows you the freedom to explore the ruins at your own pace without worrying about bus schedules or having to wait around until the sole afternoon bus departs Coba. Having a car also provides you with the opportunity to visit the group of three nearby and amazing cenotes (Cenotes Tamcach-Ha, Choo-Ha and Multum-Ha) as there is no public transportation to service this area.

Taking the ADO Bus: My Experience

I have visited the Coba ruins twice. I went with my family the first time (in January 2015) and we took the ADO first-class bus. When the bus arrived in the village of Coba, it dropped us off in a restaurant parking lot at a curve in the highway which bends alongside the lagoon towards the ruins. The walk to the ruins site took about 7 minutes and it was located directly along the highway, across from the lagoon. The lagoon is home to many crocodiles, and as I walked along the sidewalk, I saw one crocodile peeking his head above the water and another one suntanning on a small wooden dock. It was very cool to see! When the first-class buses return to pick up passengers at 3:15 PM, they make a stop at two locations – in the restaurant parking lot where they dropped you off and in the ruins parking lot as well. You can also purchase first and second class bus tickets at a small restaurant called El Bocadito along the highway to the ruins, just north of where the road starts to curve along the lagoon.

During my second visit to Coba in November 2015, my friend and I rented a car. You can read about my experience below.

Renting a Car in Tulum: My Experience

The week prior to my departure to Mexico, I had done a lot of research about the various car rental companies in Tulum and had finally decided to reserve a car online with America Car Rental, a local Mexican car rental company with offices in Tulum.

Once in Tulum and the day before I had planned on heading to Coba, I managed to meet three other solo female travelers at Mama’s Home hostel in Tulum who were interested in joining me and splitting the cost of the car rental and gas. I had been a little bit worried about the possibility of driving alone in Mexico so I was really excited to have some companions to join me for this mini road trip!

The following morning, I woke up early and walked from the hostel to the America Car Rental Office, which was located only about 10 minutes away on foot. I had exchanged a few emails with a couple of different rental agents prior to that day and we agreed that I would meet the agent at the Tulum offices at 7:30 AM, when they opened for the day. I arrived at the office a little before 7:30 AM and waited along the sidewalk. Our agreed-upon meeting time came around and passed and the office had still not been opened with no sight of anybody inside. I continued to wait, standing awkwardly on the sidewalk and leaning up against a tree, while joggers and tourists stared as they passed me by.

I knew that Mexicans had a more relaxed concept of time and that things generally ran slower and took longer, but I had not expected to wait for almost an hour. After 45 minutes of waiting, I was about to call it quits and head back to the hostel to figure out another plan, when the car rental agent rolled up on his moped bicycle. He apologized for being late and remarked that he hoped I hadn’t been waiting too long (I decided not to tell him the truth of when I had arrived and just smiled). He opened the door to the small office and explained the rental process and insurances to me. The agent spoke excellent English and everything about the car rental made sense to me. All of the insurances including a 0% deductible were included in the price of the car and I chose to add on additional tire and glass insurance for a few extra dollars, however, I did not feel pressured at all to do so.

After I paid $40 USD for the car rental (for one full day) and signed the contracts, the agent made copies of my credit card and Canadian driver’s license (a hold was put on my credit card for a percentage of the car’s retail price and it would be released back to me when I returned the car) and then handed me the key and led me outside to the car. It was a fairly new looking four-door economy car (automatic transmission as well, which I had specified when I reserved the car as they are difficult to find in Mexico). I observed the agent complete a detailed inspection of the car while marking down any existing scratches, dents or imperfections. There weren’t too many at all and he recorded them all accurately.

He then gave me a quick lesson on how the car worked and I was on my way! I had butterflies in my stomach and was nervous about driving, but I hopped in and made my way (slowly and cautiously) back to the hostel. It felt really strange and almost surreal to actually be driving in Mexico! Most of the residential streets in Tulum were one-ways only, so I mapped out and memorized my route back to the hostel before driving.

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

My beautiful, almost brand new car that I rented from America Car Rental in Tulum!

The car was a little bit tricky to work at first, and using the emergency brake to park took some getting used to. After driving down a few streets in Tulum, my nerves started to wear off a little and it actually felt really awesome to be driving in Mexico! I felt free, confident and empowered. I successfully drove back to the hostel, parked along the street right in front, and went inside to pick up my three friends who were joining me on this mini road trip for the day.

Driving to Coba

Prior to renting a car in Tulum, I had never rented a car before, so I was nervous and little anxious about driving on the Mexican roads. I had done lots of pre-travel research about the road rules in Mexico, and kept coming across articles talking about how crazy Mexican drivers were and how nobody obeys the signs or the laws, so that knowledge was at the forefront of my mind as I began driving.

Having traveled to Mexico previously with my family, I had definitely witnessed the crazy driving habits of Mexicans when taking taxis and buses. Taxi drivers tended to drive straight through stop signs while not even acknowledging their presence or checking to see if it was safe to cross. I had also been a passenger on buses who would drive in the middle of the two lanes on the highway. And although Mexicans generally have a more relaxed concept of time, they were speed demons while driving on the roads!

My friends and I hopped in the car and I started driving. Our first task was getting gas, as the rental car was almost on empty. My map indicated that there were three Pemex gas stations situated along Highway 307, heading out of town and towards the Tulum ruins. It was in the opposite direction of Coba, but there didn’t appear to be any gas stations close by on the route to the ruins, so I made a quick detour and stopped at the first Pemex that I saw along Highway 307 going towards the Tulum Ruins.

Before stopping at the gas station, I was the first car in line waiting at a red light at the intersection of the Coba Highway and Tulum Highway. There was a road sign clearly stating that a right-turn at a red light was illegal. So I sat there and waited. It only took a minute before all of the cars lined up behind me started honking incessantly at me. Everyone in the area stared at me, like I was doing something wrong but to my knowledge and according to the street signs, I was the one obeying the rules! I didn’t want any further embarrassment so I checked to see if there were any police in the area and when I was pretty positive that the coast was clear, I quickly made the (illegal) right turn. After I turned, the cars that had been behind me, sped up beside me to pass. It was a little nerve-wracking and I hoped that the rest of my driving experience went a lot smoother and that I wouldn’t be forced to break the law again!

I had done extensive research about getting gas in Mexico prior to my trip and had read about a lot of different and unique scams that were commonly used at the Tulum area gas stations. As I drove into the gas station parking lot, I felt nervous and was trying to remember some of the tips I had read online about how to avoid these scams.

I parked in front of the gas pump, and one of the attendants arrived promptly at our car. I stepped out of the car and asked for “250 pesos, por favor.” I figured that 250 pesos should be more than enough gas to get us to Coba and back to Tulum. I watched the attendant as he reset the pump to zero (I had read online that watching the attendant as they reset the pump is definitely recommended, as one of the scams involves the pump not being reset from the last car which results in you having to pay more money for less gas while the attendant pockets the cash difference). After the gas was finished pumping, we paid the attendant and were on our way. I was so thankful that everything had gone so smoothly!

I turned the car around and heading back along the highway from which I came, and turned north on the Coba Highway. The single-lane highway was newly paved, well-maintained and had wide shoulders on both sides. The jungle crept up closely to the road and the scenery while I drove, was so beautiful.

Driving on the Mexican highways was a lot easier than I had anticipated and it didn’t take long before I got the hang of the road rules. I observed very closely what other cars were doing and soon noticed that when one driver was tailing close behind the car in front of him and wanting to pass on the single-lane highway (when there was oncoming traffic in the opposite lane), the driver in front would pull onto the wide right lane shoulder and continue driving, while letting the person behind him pass safely. Because I was adhering to the speed limit, there were quite a few drivers who were speeding and wanted to pass me, so I started to use this technique and it worked out well and created a smooth flow of traffic (I wish this was the norm in Canada as it was a good system)!

Even though I am not fluent in Spanish, I was still able to understand or at least get the gist of what the street signs along the highway translated to, with my basic knowledge of the language.

On the drive from Tulum to Coba, the highway passed through three small villages (Macario Gomez, Francisco Uh May, and the third village had no visible name). As I approached a village, I noticed signs along the highway that read, “poblado proximo,” meaning “town nearby.” From my pre-travel online research, I knew that this meant there would be large “topes” or Mexican speed bumps coming up as well. “Topes” are huge and are no ordinary speed bumps. They could cause some serious damage to your rental car if you drive over them too fast! Sure enough, as I entered the villages, there were large “topes” across the entire highway in rows. I followed suit with other drivers and drove over them very slowly, at around 20 km/hr. Thankfully, there were usually road signs warning of the upcoming speed bumps and indicating how many metres ahead they were or displaying an image that resembled two bumps and an arrow pointing downward to the ground.

Driving through these small and traditional Mexican villages and observing the everyday life there while passing through, was an interesting and eye-opening experience. There were children running and playing along the highway in their bare feet; locals bicycling through the village; thin and sad-looking dogs roaming around and laying in the middle of the road; lots of garbage and litter scattered along the side of the road; abandoned buildings with jungle growth creeping inside them and graffiti on the exterior; open-air handicraft markets selling typical Mexican souvenirs and blankets in a variety of vibrant colours; empty bus stops covered in graffiti; small, open-air and simple restaurants with red Coca Cola signs on the exterior, and matching tables and chairs serving authentic cuisine; locals cooking and serving fresh meat on a barbeque along the road; a small park and square; narrow gravel roads stemming off of the highway to the remainder of the village; and tiny one-room houses with either thatched roofs and wooden panels on the sides or square white painted houses with a flat roof, barred windows and always a satellite dish on top. The lush green jungle was thick along the highway in the villages. I found it fascinating to get a glimpse into the traditional villages.

The highways were not too busy during the time I was driving, which helped to relax and calm my initial nervousness and anxiety about driving in Mexico. It was very similar to driving in Canada, except for a few different road rules (that I mentioned earlier), which were easy to pick up on. The scenery was beautiful with the highway being surrounded by the dense and lush green jungle.

Not long after passing through the third village, I approached a traffic circle or “glorieta” as it is known in Spanish. There were well-placed highways signs indicating which turn-off led towards Coba and I did not find it to be confusing at all (ie. turn right at the third turn-off that you approach and this will lead you directly to Coba).

After making the turn off the traffic circle, the highway led straight into the village of Coba. As usual when driving through towns, there were a series of “topes” marked with signs. The road curved to the left with a large and beautiful lagoon along the right side. After the curve, there were a few more sets of “topes,” before the road led directly to the Coba ruins parking lot (situated on the left side).

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The highway going through the village of Coba, on the way to the ruins.

The drive in total took between 45 minutes to one hour to get from Tulum to Coba.

The lagoon situated near the ruins was infested with crocodiles and during my first visit to Coba in January 2015 with my family, we saw a few large crocodiles peeking their heads above the swamp-like areas of the lagoon and hiding among the tall grass, as well as one crocodile sunning himself on the small dock. It was very cool to see these animals in their natural habitat!

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The crocodile-infested lagoon located near the Coba ruins

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Walking along the lagoon to the Coba ruins

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The pretty lagoon near Coba

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

A large crocodile peeking above the water!

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

A small dock in the lagoon where crocodiles enjoy sunbathing.

Practical Details – America Car Rental

Location – Avenida Coba (Coba Highway) on the south side of the intersection with Highway 307 (or Avenida Tulum). The small office is located along a strip mall with their company logo and sign posted above the doorway.

Website – http://www.america-carrental.com

Email – reservas@america-carrental.com

Phone – +1 (866) 577-1342 from Canada and the USA and +01 (800) 212-0752 from Mexico. The local number for the Tulum location is +52 (984) 871-2193.

Other Locations – They have car rental offices in Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Merida.

Disclaimer – I was not compensated in any way by America Car Rental for a rental or for writing a positive review about my experience with using their company. I simply enjoy sharing my stories and experiences in order to help you plan and research your travels.

Exploring the Ruins

I paid 50 pesos for parking in the ruins lot and 65 pesos admission and then we began exploring the ruins! The parking lot was almost completely empty with no tour buses and hardly any cars and I was excited about exploring the ruins with few other people around. We arrived shortly after 9 AM, an hour after they had opened for the day.

There were a collection of souvenir shops selling the typical Mexican handicrafts and blankets, a few restaurants selling authentic Yucatecan meals, and a small convenience store along the edges of the large parking lot. At the entrance to the ruins, there were clean and modern washroom facilities, which I recommend you use before entering the ruins, as there are no washrooms once you get inside the site.

The ruins site was expansive and consisted of a variety of partially-restored and unexcavated structures spread out among the jungle as well as the incredible and tall Nohoch Mul pyramid, and they were accessed via a network of gravel pathways inside the site.

Immediately after entering the ruins site, there was the option of renting a bicycle or two-person bicycle taxi with a cart on the front and a driver. Two of us, including myself, chose to rent bicycles and pedal ourselves while my other two friends chose the bicycle cart taxi. I would definitely recommend renting a bike or bike taxi, as it was a much faster way to get around and see all of the structures. The regular bicycles cost 45 pesos and the two-person bicycle taxis were 190 pesos. Whenever we made stops at the various structures, we parked our bikes to the side of the path or leaned them up against a tree. All of the bikes were labelled with a number, so as long as you remember the number of your bike, you’re good to go. You could also walk, but it will take you much longer to get around to all of the various and spread out structures.

After renting our bicycles, we started off down the main gravel pathway and began exploring Coba!

The first structure that we arrived at was La Iglesia (The Church). It was located to the right of the main path almost immediately after entering the site. As I walked towards the pyramid, I had no idea what it was going to look like as the side-view of the structure was almost completely engulfed by thick vegetation and it was evident that the jungle was reclaiming its territory. Only when I walked around the corner and was standing directly in front of this pyramid, was I able to see how large and impressive this hidden ruin truly was.

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The Iglesia as seen from the side as I approached it, with most of the upper portion being completely engulfed in jungle vegetation

This structure was very tall at 65 feet and rose high above the jungle treetops. This massive pyramid was hidden in the jungle and almost completely overgrown with plants and large trees, and was only visible when we were standing directly in front of it. Unfortunately, climbing the structure was prohibited which was probably best as the stone steps appeared to be very uneven.

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The beautiful La Iglesia, one of my favourite structures at the Coba ruins

In front of the pyramid, there was a large and well-established tree with its tangled roots twisting through and around cracks in the stones. It was fascinating for me and amazing to see how nature can grow in such conditions and how it just reclaims its territory!

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

An interesting tree with its tangled roots growing around the stones of a Mayan ruin!

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The massive structure known as La Iglesia or The Church at Coba

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

A narrow tunnel leading through a portion of the structure

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The roots of this tree were so twisted and growing around the stones

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The lower steps of the La Iglesia ruin

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The lower steps at La Iglesia ruin

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The beautiful and impressive La Iglesia structure at Coba

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

One side of the La Iglesia structure that was being reclaimed by the jungle

Only when I was standing directly in front of the sole excavated portion of this pyramid, was I able to admire how magnificent and impressive it truly was! The pyramid was tall and had steep and uneven stone steps leading to the top. Unfortunately, climbing it was prohibited. At the base of the pyramid, there were large and fully established trees growing out of the rocks. It baffled me and was so amazing to see how nature just completely reclaims its territory.

After admiring and photographing this structure, we hopped on our bicycles and headed to the next ruin. Being in the jungle meant that the trees provided much-needed shade and relief from the intense Mexican sun and heat, which was great.

The Ball Court was close by to The Church and looked like the typical Mayan ball court that I had seen at other ruins sites but on a much smaller scale. It featured a dirt centre with two sloped stone platforms on either side. At the top and centre of each slope was a small donut-shaped stone ring, which was where a ball had to pass through in order to score points in this ancient “game.” The “game” ended in the sacrifice of one team (researchers are undecided about whether it was the winning or losing team). I enjoyed the slightly rugged feel of the ball court and the fact that there was grass growing through cracks in the stones.

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The small circular-shaped ring at the top of Coba’s ball court

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Standing in the middle of Coba’s ball court

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

One of the walls at Coba’s ball court

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

One of the walls at the ball court

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

I loved Coba’s ball court!

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Coba’s Ball Court

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Coba’s rugged looking ball court with grass growing through the stones

We continued bicycling along the quiet paths through the peaceful, relaxed and natural environment of the surrounding jungle. Along the paths and a little further into the jungle, I could see mounds of rock covered in vegetation, which were unexcavated ruins. Bicycling through the jungle with hardly anybody else around was an amazing feeling, and I loved seeing the unexcavated ruins in their natural and un-restored state.

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Cycling along the pretty pathways through the jungle to get to the next set of ruins at Coba was so peaceful and relaxing!

The Crossroads Pyramid was set in a small clearing among the trees and was quite an interesting and unique structure in its appearance and architecture, and was one of my favourites at Coba. The pyramid had rounded corners (which were similar to The Magician’s Pyramid at the Uxmal Ruins) and it had four levels which narrowed to a rounded point at the top.

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The Crossroads Pyramid at Coba

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The Crossroads Pyramid

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The unique Crossroads Pyramid with rounded corners and an interesting shape

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The Crossroads Pyramid at Coba

The Group of the Paintings was the next group of ruins which consisted of a temple and surrounding smaller structures including some pillars and platforms. The temple was relatively small, partially-restored and crumbling in some areas. The steps to the top appeared very uneven and as such, climbing was not allowed. I also enjoyed exploring some of the smaller structures around the temple.

I loved the rugged and natural feel of these structures, as trees and plants grew in and around the stones making up the structures.

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Smaller ruins at Coba

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The Group of the Paintings at Coba

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Smaller ruins at Coba

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Random ruin at Coba

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Trees growing through the stones on this structure

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The Group of the Paintings at Coba

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Random ruin at Coba

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

More ruins at Coba

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Random smaller pyramid at Coba

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The remains of ancient columns at Coba

There were also a number of Stelae situated throughout the ruins site. These were large rectangular-shaped flat stones with detailed carvings, drawings and ancient writing on the front of them. They were preserved and protected by a thatched palapa-leaf roof.

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Ancient stelae at Coba

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Stelae at Coba

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

A large piece of preserved stone with ancient writing and symbols on it, known as stelae

After biking a short ways from that group of ruins, we finally arrived at the main attraction at Coba – the Nohoch Mul pyramid – which was the most impressive structure at Coba and one of the tallest pyramids in the Yucatan at 136 feet high. It was a large pyramid that was only restored on one side, which featured uneven stone steps which could be climbed to the top. The other sides of the structure were completely covered in jungle vegetation. Because we had arrived to the ruins early, there were hardly any other people at the pyramid, and it was great to be able to spend time at the pyramid in an uncrowded environment and peaceful atmosphere.

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The famous Nohoch Mul pyramid at the Coba ruins!

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

I loved how few people there were at the pyramid during my visit!

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Climbing the steep and uneven stone steps to the top of the Nohoch Mul!

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Ready to climb the Nohoch Mul pyramid!

I began climbing the 120 steep and uneven stone steps to the top of the pyramid. Thankfully, there was a thick rope that ran from the ground level to the top along the middle of the steps. Because the roughness of the stone steps had been worn away and were slippery from so many people climbing them over the years, I decided to hold on to the rope and used it to guide me to the top. The climb was easier than I had expected and I found myself standing at the top in hardly any time at all.

The views from the top of this pyramid were so beautiful! The pyramid rose high above the treetops and the expansive and lush green jungle that surrounded it, appeared to be endless. I could see the village of Coba and both lagoons in the town from the top. I spent some time admiring the incredible views of the natural beauty around me while I sat with my legs dangling on the rocky edge of the pyramid. It was kind of scary but also exhilarating! It was incredibly hot at the top of the pyramid and after the tiring climb, I was dripping sweat.

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The beautiful view from the top of Coba’s Nohoch Mul pyramid.

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Panoramic views of the lush green jungle treetops that appear to go on forever!

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Admiring the gorgeous views from the top of the pyramid!

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

I loved the views from the top of the Nohoch Mul pyramid at Coba! Simply incredible.

Climbing down the pyramid proved to be much more difficult than climbing up! As I mentioned earlier, the steps were slippery and steep and it was a slow process getting down. I focused on one step at a time and basically crawled down as I paid close attention to where I was stepping. It was definitely a work-out and the next day my leg muscles were in so much pain! For those who are afraid of heights, the climb down might be a little nerve-wracking as the pyramid is pretty high.

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The incredible jungle views from the top of Coba’s Nohoch Mul pyramid

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Views!

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

The jungle seemed to go on forever.

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Beautiful views!

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula | brittanymthiessen.com

Looking all the way down from the top of the pyramid!

After the Nohoch Mul, we hopped on our bikes again and headed back towards the entrance.

It took us about an hour and a half in total to explore these ruins at a relaxing pace and I would recommend spending at least that amount of time at Coba.

During our entire visit, there were very few other people at the ruins, which resulted in a lovely, relaxed and peaceful atmosphere. Although tour groups, both large and small, do frequently visit Coba, we seemed to have beat them with our early arrival (they tend to arrive around 10-11 AM or so and we arrived to Coba shortly after they had opened for the day at 8 AM).

I loved the rugged and off the beaten path feel of Coba, being surrounded by the beautiful and natural jungle, being able to climb and explore most of the structures, and seeing partially-restored and unexcavated structures in their more “natural” environment.

Getting Away – Transportation from Coba to Tulum

Getting from the Coba ruins back to Tulum is easy using the ADO first and second class buses. If you rented a car, drive back along the route that you took in order to get to the ruins in the first place.

ADO First and Second Class Buses

There is one ADO first class bus that departs Coba for Tulum at approximately 3:15 PM daily. It makes stops in the restaurant parking lot where the curve in the highway begins to bend around the lagoon (where passengers were dropped off) as well as at the Coba ruins parking lot briefly. There are also second class buses that make the journey between Tulum and Coba and updated schedules can be found posted at the ADO bus terminal in Tulum or at El Bocadito Restaurant in Coba, where you can also purchase bus tickets. First class bus schedules can be found at http://www.ado.com.mx.

Driving from Coba to Tulum: My Car Rental Experience

After exploring the Coba ruins and three nearby cenotes, I drove back to Tulum along the same route with my car rental. It had started pouring rain shortly after my friends and I had finished exploring the ruins and were eating lunch in Coba and it was still raining heavily when we left the three cenotes, which made the driving slightly more challenging. It was difficult to see the road signs and I had to be careful not to drive too fast through the large rain puddles accumulating on the road, to avoid hydroplaning.

The drive back was easy as I knew what to expect in terms of the road rules and where the “topes” were located when passing through the villages.

I arrived back in Tulum in the late-afternoon and parked the car in front of the America Car Rental offices. I met with the agent and returned the keys. He inspected the car to ensure that there were no new scratches, dents or damage and to make sure that it had been returned with at least the same amount of gas as the car had started out with (unfortunately, we had overestimated how much gas we would need when starting the road trip and ended up returning the car with an almost full gas tank. I asked about getting a refund on the gas, but was informed that they were unable to do that. Lesson learned… Don’t pay for too much gas or you will lose money). Once he was satisfied that everything was good, he released the hold that had been placed on my credit card, provided me with a receipt and thanked me for my business.

If you plan on renting a car in Tulum, I would highly recommend renting with America Car Rental. Their agents spoke excellent English, the service was fantastic, helpful and friendly, they were honest and straightforward when explaining the insurances, and they did not attempt to scam me in any way.

Disclaimer – I paid for my own car rental and did not receive payment or anything for free in exchange for promoting America Car Rental. I simply believe in sharing my experiences with you. 

Overall

I had a fantastic experience exploring the ruins of Coba and it was amazing to have almost the entire ruins site to ourselves, while we wandered around in a peaceful and relaxed environment in the jungle.

I loved climbing to the top of the Nohoch Mul pyramid and admiring the incredible panoramic views of the surrounding jungle treetops; I enjoyed the quiet jungle environment inside the ruins site; being able to see the partially-restored and unexcavated structures in their natural environment with some of them being completely engulfed by the jungle and others having plants and trees growing out of the rocks; bicycling along the jungle paths between the various structures; admiring the impressive architecture of the ruins; and learning about the interesting history. Overall, Coba was a wonderful ruins site to explore and I would highly recommend it to anyone traveling through Mexico’s Yucatan!

Visiting the Coba ruins makes a perfect and convenient day trip from Tulum, Valladolid, or Playa del Carmen.

Recommended For

Coba is a great ruins site to explore as a half-day or full-day trip for those staying in the nearby town of Tulum or the cities of Playa del Carmen, Valladolid and Cancun. The ruins are lesser-frequented and have a more peaceful and relaxed atmosphere, compared to sites like Chichen Itza and Tulum, which allows you to wander around at a leisurely pace and enjoy your surroundings.

Tips for Visiting Coba

  • Bring enough cash (preferably Mexican pesos) with you. I did not see any ATMs at the ruins site or in the village of Coba.
  • Opt for the bicycle rental once you are inside the ruins. The ruins site is expansive and the structures are fairly spread out throughout the jungle. Walking will take a lot longer to see everything.
  • Wear mosquito repellent, a hat and sunscreen. I personally didn’t experience any mosquitoes while at the ruins, but you are in the jungle and bugs can be present at any time.
  • Bring a refillable water bottle and snacks with you. Once you are inside the ruins entrance, there is nowhere to purchase snacks or water. There are a few small local convenience shops situated around the ruins parking lot and in the village before you enter the ruins though.
  • Use the washrooms before entering the ruins, as there are no washroom facilities inside the site.
  • Climbing down the Nohoch Mul pyramid is a lot more difficult than climbing up, as the stone steps are uneven and slippery. Watch where you step and take your time on the way down from the top of this tall pyramid. Holding onto the rope along the middle of the steps also helps.
  • Arrive at the ruins in the morning and try to be there close to their opening time. You will likely have the majority of the ruins to yourselves with only a handful of other people around, and be able to explore in a serene and peaceful jungle environment.
  • Wear sturdy and comfortable shoes for climbing the Nohoch Mul pyramid. Don’t wear flip flops or sandals, or you’re asking for injuries!
  • There are English and Spanish speaking local guides available to hire at the entrance, if you are interested in their services.

Practical Details

Location – 48 km northwest of Tulum and 60 km southeast of Valladolid in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Hours – 8 AM to 5 PM.

Admission – 65 pesos (as of November 2015). Bicycle rentals are 45 pesos and bicycle cart taxis are 190 pesos for two people.

Parking – There is a large parking lot at the ruins for those renting a car and parking costs 50 pesos for your visit.

Recommended Length of Visit – 1.5 hours minimum to 2 hours.

Exploring the Cenotes Near Coba

After my friends and I had finished exploring the Coba ruins, we wandered around the village of Coba and ate lunch at a family-owned traditional restaurant, before driving to three nearby cenotes (Cenotes Tamcach-Ha, Choo-Ha and Multum-Ha) located about ten minutes from the ruins of Coba.

If you are interested in reading about my experiences visiting and swimming in these cenotes, check out the link below for my blog post:

Blog Post: Swimming in Three Beautiful Cenotes Near the Coba Mayan Ruins

Further Reading

http://everythingplayadelcarmen.com/feel-like-indiana-jones-and-visit-coba-ruins/

http://www.travelyesplease.com/travel-blog-coba-mexico/

http://yucatan.for91days.com/coba-our-final-maya-site/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coba

http://havecamerawilltravel.com/mayan-ruins-coba-mexico-photos/

http://wikitravel.org/en/Coba

http://www.cs.umanitoba.ca/~andersj/maya.html

http://expertvagabond.com/coba-mayan-ruins/

http://4globetrotters.world/visiting-the-coba-archaeological-cite-coba-ruins/

Planning Your Next Adventure?

Here are some helpful links if you are currently planning your next travel adventure!

Compare prices and book your flights using Momondo. I love the user-friendly design of this website and how easy it is to filter your flights by price, duration, etc. It’s a great place to find the best flight deals! 

Use Hostelworld to book a private room or dorm bed at a budget-friendly hostel and browse through listings across the globe. Use Booking.com to find a huge inventory of independent hotels, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, hostels and chain hotels around the world and for every budget. And if you’re looking for a more authentic and unique experience of staying in a local’s home at your destination, then book your stay using Airbnb (sign-up using my link and get a discount off your first stay). 

Click here to read more of my posts about Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to help with your trip planning! 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a travel booking on any of the websites I have recommended, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I use all of these websites for booking my own travels and would never recommend something that I don’t already love. 

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Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Coba in Mexico | brittanymthiessen.com

Have you explored the ruins at Coba? What was your experience like? What are some of your other favourite Mayan ruins in Mexico’s Yucatan?  

I would love to hear your thoughts about this post in the comments below! Also, make sure to follow me on social media for real-time updates about my travel adventures and explorations – Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram.

To read more about my travels in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, click here.

Thanks for reading!

I’m Brittany, a small town girl living simply in the Canadian prairies. I love exploring off the beaten path and discovering hidden gems both locally in Manitoba and beyond; traveling independently; photography; eating plant-based and gluten-free foods; browsing local markets; and learning about cultures and ethnic cuisines. My other loves include cuddling with my cats, playing board games, drinking kombucha and matcha tea, spending time in nature, studying maps, eating Mexican food, and making fresh fruit smoothies.

On this website, I share my photography, in-depth travel guides, reflections on a variety of travel-related topics, reviews, and favourite simple and healthy recipes, while also documenting stories from my experiences, travel adventures, local wanderings and explorations.

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