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The Guide to Mayan Ruins in the Riviera Maya and beyond

Tulum Ruins

Which Mexican Mayan ruins are best for you to visit?

Are you coming on vacation to want to see a Mexican Mayan ruin? But not sure what are the best ones to visit? We compare everything about them and are giving you a guide so you can choose what is best for you. We will talk about prices, distance, accessibility, and what makes each one unique.

There are four main Mexican Mayan ruins that people go to and three are other ones that are an alternative place to visit. Remember if you are a resident of Mexico, bring your id for a discount.

Tours to Mexican Mayan Ruins

Do you want to take a tour to one of the ruins? We have teamed up with a local tour provider that offers good prices to visit ruins. This takes the stress out of renting a car, figuring out how to get to them and usualy will include another activity. To see a list of tours and prices see here.

Should I go to Tulum ruins, Ek Balam, Coba or Chichen Itza?

  • Chichen Itza is by far the most popular Mexican Mayan ruin in the Yucatan Peninsula and is know around the world. It is so popular because the main pyramid is so well preserved and the site is so large. The price of entry is also the highest at 243 pesos for foreign visitors. Parking is 22 pesos and if you want to go to the light show at night it is another 72 pesos. This is the only Mayan ruin site on this half of the Yucatan that does a light show at night. Most people arrive by tours so driving and parking are not to be considered. When pricing tours make sure to ask if the entrance fee is included. Some tours can seem cheap but then you have to pay for more. If you drive you also have to take into account the tolls for the pay roads. It is about $35 round trip for a car. Of the major ruin sites this is the furthest and will make for the fullest day. Most tours include a stop in the colonial town of Valladolid or at a cenote (usually Ik Kil). These are nice to see but are just a quick stop. The ruins are extensive and spread out. You will mostly be in the sun so come prepared. You cannot climb on the pyramid here. Of all the ruins this will be the most handicap accessible.
Chichen Itza, Mexico

Chichen Itza on of the great Mexican Mayan ruins to visit.

  • Tulum is 40 minutes south of Playa Del Carmen and one hour and 20 minutes from Cancun. The site is not large but the most spectacular thing is the view from the cliffs. The entrance fee is 59 pesos and parking is 75 pesos. Tulum ruins can be reached by tour or by doing it yourself. Since these ruins are closer to Playa and Cancun, you can easily do this in a half day and you still can say you went to some ruins. The ruins are mostly in full sun but the good thing is you can actually jump in the turquoise waters right behind the ruins. There is no climbing here and actually not too many high structures. Tulum ruins is the easiest to get to our of the four major sites and on sunny days will provide great photo ops.
  • Ek Balam is the newer ruin to visit out of the big ones and has gotten more popular to visit. It is 3rd out of the 4 by distance and is usually done with a tour. Attached to this site is a cenote that you can pay extra to swim in. This can make a nice drip after hiking around the ruins. There is even one pyramid you can climb here and you get to see the flat Yucatan Peninsula. Entrance is 130 pesos and parking is free. These ruins are third in size of the top four. The site is semi shaded and will make for a 3/4 or full day with a stop in Valladolid.
  • Coba is a favorite site to visit because it is shaded in the jungle and the opportunity to bike between the pyramids is cool. You also can climb the steep steps of the tallest pyramid there. Entrance is 64 pesos and parking is 40 pesos. Renting the bikes is extra. It is possible to do it yourself by bus but there is very limited options so make sure you know the times. From Cancun this makes for a full day with a tour and there is usually a stop somewhere else, either a cenote or Tulum. From Playa you can driver here and do a half day adventure or make a day of it with a stop at a cenote or in Tulum.
Coba Mayan Ruins

Coba Mayan ruins

Lesser known Mayan ruins in the Riviera Maya and beyond

  • Muyil ruins is a small site just south of Tulum. Very few tourist come here because Tulum ruins suck in most tourist because the amazing views off the cliffs and the name it has for itself. What this site is good for is a quiet walk among a semi shaded area and a nice trail out to the lagoon in the back. Entrance to the trail is 50 pesos extra. Make sure you climb the lookout tower and make it all the way out to the lagoon. Entrance is about 54 pesos now and parking is free. If you have been to Tulum and Coba and have a car this makes for a nice half day trip with a stop in Tulum for something to eat.
Mexican mayan ruins

Muyil Ruins site just south of Tulum

  • Chacchoben ruins are in the far south of the state of Quintana Roo. These ruins make for a long day trip or an overnight trip with a side trip to Bacalar or other destination in the area. The ruins here were officially open to the public in 2002, so they are lesser known and the distance from most tourist destinations keeps them from being crowded. You really start to see the vegetation change as you go further south in the state and you have a chance to see monkeys in the trees here. You can find yourself here alone as long as there are no cruise ships in Mahahual. Chacchoben riuns is semi shaded and with some slight hills. Entrance is 48 pesos and parking is free. Most people only come here with a tour from a cruise ship so if you want to visit these by yourself you should have your own car.
  • El Meco is the ruins you have never heard of but are actually in Cancun! Most  tourist don’t go here because no one offers tours here because it is so close and it is a smaller site. It can be a nice hour or two of your day visiting here if you are staying in Cancun. If you are staying in Playa it is not really worth coming to because Tulum is a better option. There is no vista here but rather nice grassy area with some trees. No climbing is allowed here. If you are not with a car you will need to take a taxi from the center of Cancun to these ruins. Entrance is about 45 pesos and parking is free.
  • Calakmul ruins are deep in the jungle. These Mayan ruins take some planning to go see but can be rewarding. Not only is the tallest pyramid here accessible to climb, it is 50 feet taller than Chichen Itza’s famous pyramid! This Mayan ruins site is large and you can see many pyramids peaking up from the jungle when you climb to the top. Noteworthy as well are the animals you can see here and very few other tourist. For more about visiting these Mayan ruins, see our link including a video.

Going around the Riviera Maya

If you don’t go on a tour or independent trip to the above ruins you still might just see some while driving or walking around because there are many small reminders of the Mayan civilization around the Riviera Maya.

For example if you go to Isla Mujeres you can see some at the south end of the island. They have been damaged over time by hurricanes so there is not much left to see.

If you are in Playa Del Carmen there are small ruins around town even. You can see where some of them are in the article “Hidden things in Playa you never knew were here.”

We hope you get to experience some of these ruins because they really are some of the things that make visiting this part of Mexico interesting.

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What are your favorite Mexican Mayan ruins to visit and why? Let us know in the comment section below. We would love to hear from you!

3 Comments on The Guide to Mayan Ruins in the Riviera Maya and beyond

  1. Do you have any recommended Tourist agency

    • Hello Gary. There is not one tour agency that we recommend to cover all the ruins. General tour agencies only sell tours based on what commissions they make and many of the people that sell have not been on each of the tours to really know if it is good. If you let us know what Mayan ruins you want to go to we can recommend different companies for different sites. Are you looking to do the Mayan ruin and some other activity? Are you looking for a private tour to avoid the crowds? Are you looking for a bus tour? So you mind if it is a group of 45 people? If you let us know where and what you are looking for we can point you in some directions. On the individual articles we do have links to some tours we have been on and they are good options to those ruins.

  2. We have been to three of the Mayan ruins on this guide. Our favorite has been Coba Mayan Ruins. We like the view from the top and climbing the pyramid. The bikes that you use to get around are a nice activity and cheap to do.

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