El Meco archaeological site in Cancun is a special place for us, as we have spent many hours together there. El Meco is a small area very close to Cancun downtown and surrounded by captivating nature.
When we lived in Cancun, El Meco was one of our meeting places on Sundays, since the archaeological sites are free for Mexicans and permanent residents.
We biked there and enjoyed the beautiful area while walking around and chatting away in the shade of one of its beautiful giant trees.
However, you can find a lot of charm in it, and there is still a lot to enjoy. For us, El Meco was the most impressive park in Cancun to walk around. In this post we will take you there with us 🤗
SOME HISTORY OF THE EL MECO MAYAN SETTLEMENT
Researchers estimate that El Meco was inhabited since the 3rd century. At that time it was a small fishing settlement without much relevance.
The Caribbean coast had an increase in population in the 11th century, and from that time several coastal settlements became more important.
The ruins of El Meco are located in front of Isla Mujeres, a place of pilgrimage and worship for the ancient Mayans.
This strategic settlement becomes quite relevant from then on. It is estimated that El Meco was an economic and religious center.
The studies of the bones carried out by Allan Ortega together with a team of archaeologists, and about which he speaks in his book “Los Mayas Prehispánicos de el Meco”, tell us in a very concise way that it was a homogeneous and basically local population.
Ortega’s book tells us that the diet of the inhabitants of El Meco was very good compared to other places on the coast, surely because of the many resources that the Caribbean Sea has.
We have dived into this beautiful sea, and have seen an impressive abundance of marine life, and we can only imagine the wealth of fauna that inhabited these turquoise and crystalline waters in the 11th century.
- CHRONOLOGY: Early Classic to late postclassic 600 AD – 1500 AD
- APOGEE: Postclassic 1200 AD – 1500 AD
DID YOU KNOW?
✅ El Castillo, the main building of El Meco, is the highest building on the eastern coast.
✅ The Castle was built in the late postclassic, only 4 pyramidal buildings built at that time are known: San Miguelito, El Rey, El Castillo de Tulum, and El Meco (3 of them are in Cancun).
✅ Of these 4 pyramidal bases, the one at El Meco is the only one facing the sea. It is linked to the ruins that we found on the southern tip of Isla Mujeres.
✅ The road that leads to El Meco divides it in two. The vestiges that are located on the seaside are not open to the public.
THE MAYAN ARCHITECTURAL STYLE OF EL MECO
The architectural style is the one of the Oriental Coast. This style begins its heyday in 1200 AD. It is a simpler style than the Puuc, the Río Bec, Chenes, or other older ones.
We must understand that at this time the Mayan civilization was not in its splendor, and that is equally noticeable in the less elaborate architecture and not-so-sublime buildings
MEANING OF EL MECO
As with most ruins, the original name is unknown.
In this case, “El Meco” was the nickname of a popular local who took care of a nearby ranch on the beach, whose nickname referred to a malformation he had in one extremity.
Some chroniclers point out that the original name could be Belma, as indicated by the INAH on its website about El Meco.
EL MECO EXPLORATION HISTORY
If you follow our blog, you are already seeing how the names of the explorers are repeated and you are becoming familiar with them.
In the case of El Meco it was documented for the first time by Augustus and Alice Plongeon (1877).
Teobert Maler in 1891 described the serpent heads that are so reminiscent of those in the castle of Chichén Itzá.
Many other explorers such as William Holmes, Arnold Channing, and members of the Carnegie Institution of Washington expedition are providing data on El Meco.
The first archaeological excavations were carried out by William T. Sanders between 1955 and 1960.
They continued hand in hand with Peter Schmidt, whom we were lucky to hear at the First Ichkaantijoo Mayan Culture Symposium in Mérida in 2014. Living history, we are excited to learn from those who know.
The work continued by the INAH (Institute of National Anthropology and History) until the 90s when the ruins of El Meco were opened to the public.
HOW TO GET TO EL MECO
El Meco is located right next to Cancun, in a neighborhood called Puerto Juárez. It is the old fishing district of Cancun, where there are popular restaurants on the beach. It is not a beach area as beautiful as the Hotel Zone, of course.
MEXICO STATE: Quintana Roo
How to get to El Meco by car
El Meco Ruins is located:
► 7 km (4.3 miles) from Cancun downtown (10 min by car)
► 45 km (28 miles) from Puerto Morelos (50 min by car)
► 74 km (46 miles) from Playa del Carmen (1 hr 15 min by car)
► 28 Km (17.3 miles), north of Valladolid (35 minutes by car)
Renting a car on the Riviera Maya is the best option if you want to be free to move around and discover all the amazing sites in the region.
It’s a relatively safe place to drive, the roads are good and the sites are well-marked. Therefore traveling by car is a very good option.
However, remember, if you decide to get a car rental, make sure you include full insurance with 0 deductible so you will drive with no stress.
➣ When renting a car in Mexico we recommend Discover Cars because on their website you can compare different companies and their prices and you can choose between their car insurance or the ones offered by the car rental directly, or both.
How to get to El Meco by local bus
To go to the archaeological zone of El Meco you must take the bus that leaves from El Crucero, Cancun. They leave when they are full, they have about 12 passengers and they cost about 10 pesos. El Crucero is 1.4 km from the ADO bus station.
How to get to El Meco by taxi
From Cancun, a taxi to El Meco should cost around 150 pesos, depending on where you are. The taxis carry the official rates, they must show them to you.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION ABOUT EL MECO ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE
El Meco Facilities
- free parking
El Meco archaeological site opening hours
From 8 am to 5 pm every day. Last access is at 4 pm.
El Meco archaeological site entrance fee
70 pesos per person
✔ On Sundays, the entrance is free for Mexicans and foreigners with permanent residence.
✔ Access to the Mayan ruins is open every day for kids up to 12 years old, students, teachers, and seniors (must show ID).
FREE ENTRY TO EL MECO FOR:
Mexicans •Over 60 years old (with official ID) •Retired and pensioners (with official institution credential) •Teachers and students (with an official credential from the Mexican Educational System) •Children up to 12 years old •Researchers and interns (with INAH permission)
Mexicans and foreigners • People with Disabilities
3 Tips for visiting El Meco
✅ Use comfortable light clothing and shoes. Don’t wear flip-flops, are not a good idea to protect yourself from insects
✅ El Meco is not a very visited place, you can go at any time of the day. Avoid the hottest hours in summer
✅ Bring a bottle of water but keep in mind that you cannot walk in with food or alcoholic drinks.
How much time do you need to visit El Meco
Between 30 minutes and 1 hour is enough.
INSIDER TIPS – The El Meco archaeological zone is an excellent place to observe birds. You can also see coatis, one of the easiest mammals to see in the Cancun area.
WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT EL MECO RUINS
To be totally honest with you, the only thing we didn’t like about El Meco was the Guardian of the place. Usually, they are very nice people, and pleasant to talk to. It was not the case for this guy at El Meco, very rude. Maybe he’s not there anymore.
WHAT WE LOVE THE MOST ABOUT EL MECO RUINS
We feel El Meco is a very beautiful space, with secular trees, a variety of birds, and shade where you can sit and talk or observe, and animals like the beautiful coati. We couldn’t find a better place in Cancun to enjoy such a good ride🥰
THE HIGHLIGHTS OF EL MECO RUINS
There are so many beautiful trees surrounding the ruins which make the landscape even more special. The copó tree (the fig tree) especially stands out, on one side of the square where El Castillo is.
WHAT YOU CAN VISIT NEARBY EL MECO
➡️ El Rey archeological site 26.6 km/ 16.5 miles
➡️ Cancun Mayan Museum (San Miguelito) 24 km/ 15 miles
EL MECO RUINS FAQS
Why is El Meco closed?
El Meco was closed during the pandemic but is now open
Is El Meco open?
Yes, it’s open. Every day from 8 to 4 pm
How many Mayan ruins are in Mexico?
Something like 4,400 Mayan sites has been counted in Mexico. Of this wide range, only about 55 Mayan archaeological zones are paid, counting the states of Quintana Roo, Campeche, Yucatán, Tabasco, and Chiapas.
Where to stay near El Meco
El Meco is situated in Puerto Juarez where you can find a few modest hotels and apartments for rent. If you keep driving towards Isla Blanca, you can find Playa Mujeres a huge beach that has recently become a fancy residential area with stunning high-end resorts. Here below we will share three hotel options for different budgets.
Planet Hollywood Cancun, An Autograph Collection All-Inclusive Resort ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Spectacular luxury hotel with spacious elegant Hollywood-themed suites and all the amenities and facilities that you can possibly imagine and 10 different restaurants. If you are looking for the ultimate luxury experience and lots of activities all in one place this resort is for you.
All Ritmo Cancun Resort & Water Park ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
All Ritmo is a family hotel at only a couple of km away from el Meco and right on the beach. It offers both rooms or self-catering apartments, all-inclusive and European plan. Guests can enjoy all sorts of watersports and a beach restaurant. A colorful waterpark at the back of the resort is the joy of all kids.
Bugambilia Apartments with pool ⭐️⭐️⭐️
For those who prefer a vacation on a budget but with all the comfort of a fully equipped apartment on the beach, Bugambilia Apartments is a perfect choice. The spaces are nicely decorated and equipped with all the most modern amenities. A pool is also available for all the guests to share.