If I remember correctly it was the year we bought our property in Tulum when we first saw the Cobá Ruins.
The ruins are a magical place to learn the history of the Mayans and the Mayan culture. Cobá means ‘waters stirred by the wind’, an appropriate Mayan name as this settlement is surrounded by two large lagoons. According to history, Cobá was an ignored piece of Mayan history for many years due to its location, between Tulum (in the state of Quintana Roo) and Valladolid (in the state of Yucatan).
A true wonder in the Yucatan, archeologists first learned of this site in the mid 19th century but the Caste War (1847-1901) along with very dense jungle and the absence of money made it a difficult area to access. Mayan ceremonial white roads (sacbéob) are found throughout the site and are all connected to the central pyramid.
The central pyramid, Nohoch Mul is the highest/tallest Mayan temple pyramid in the Yucatan and has 120 steps (reaching 137 feet in height) leading to the top. It has been estimated that 6,000 structures exist although only 3 settlements showing the vast area and architecture of this once large city are open for public viewing.
The drive from Tulum to the ruins is approximately 30 minutes, unless of course you take the wrong exit at the roundabout, adding an unnecessary but beautiful but unnecessary scenic drive! 😉 So take it from us .. follow the signs 🙂
If you are coming from Playa del Carmen or Cancun along highway 307, turn right at the first intersection in Tulum, which is the Cobá Highway). Clear signage is posted from there so just ensure you pay attention. Ensure you slow your speed through the small villages along the way and keep your eyes open for the TOPES (very LARGE speed bumps) !!!
Again, pay attention to the signs 🙂
Once you arrive at the ruins they have a number of venders and a restaurant promoting local goods and foods. Keep in mind that locals get a special deal on Sundays so those tend to be very busy days. We recommend you stop and shop for some of the local goods, including authentic Yucatan cuisine, not found elsewhere in the Riviera Maya! We recommend your preplanning list include bug spray, sunscreen, layered clothing, closed toe shoes as well as water (which can also be purchased from vendors on site). Flip flops and/or open toed sandals are not recommended, especially if you want to climb the ruins.
Our first visit we took a tour to the ruins which was fantastic for learning but we felt it didn’t give us the freedom to really explore because we were on a time line. Because we had no set schedule on this visit, we found it much more enjoyable to leisurely enjoy the day at our own pace. If you are going to visit the ruins we do recommend having a guide the first time around to ensure you don’t miss one single moment of the history lesson 🙂
Cobá opened as an archeological site in 1973 and the entire site encompasses over 30 square miles (19,200 acres) and is different from the other archaeological big sites in located in the Yucatan. It’s situated by four natural lakes (a rare sight in the Yucatan) and it’s believed that these lakes gave the city its name. Cobá still has a number of big structures covered with the growth of the jungle and awakens your imagination. Cobá doesn’t see nearly the number of visitors that Tulum or Chichén Itzá do however that just leaves more quiet time with only the monkeys and birds while delighting in the dense jungle that accompanies you throughout these mystical ruins.
There are a number of archeological areas throughout the site so be sure to enjoy a stroll, power walk, jog, bicycle ride or even a Mayan limo ride (a chauffeured tricycle) along the way!
When we attended the ruins this past trip (August 2017) the current entrance fee was 70 pesos per person (over the age of 12) and children 12 and under are free. You can hire one of the several bilingual (Spanish & English) professional guides on site and they will have identification issued by the Mexican Secretary of Tourism. Costs tend to be negotiated and depending on services we’ve used we have always remained respectful of their hard work and provided a generous tip.
Depending on your travel route at the end of your visit, we encourage you to explore and support the local stores along the road on your return. We love to stop in for el mejor pollo que hayamos probado (the best chicken we’ve ever tasted), honey, fruits and to browse the crafts.
We hope this will help encourage you to get out and be adventurous the next time you visit Mexico. The Cobá ruins are well worth the time it takes to explore and there’s no better place for Mayan history and/or culture. Embrace the local crafts, food, history, culture and immeasurable beauty. The history is touchable ♥
‘Til next time ♥