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The 13 Best Mayan Ruins in Cancun and Nearby to Visit in 2022

During your trip to Mexico, you have the opportunity to learn about great cultures and the Mayan Ruins in Cancun are a getaway to the Mayan Culture.

Mexico is the cradle of fascinating prehispanic cultures such as the Aztec, Holmecs, and the Mayans. The Mayan territory included the coast of the Mexican Caribbean where the popular touristy cities of Cancun Playa del Carmen or Tulum are now located.

In this post, we are going to talk about the Mayan ruins in Cancun and the ones that are close enough to make an amazing day trip.

We hope you will enjoy exploring these areas as much as we do 🙌🛺

cancun ruins

INSIDER TIPS – When you are organizing your trip to these areas you could combine different sites, for example, a visit to an archeological site with a refreshing cenote or to a nearby beach where you can cool off after a few hours of walking in the hot sun.

The main goal is to have fun and we are sure you will, in this paradise that we are lucky to call home.

I am sure, unless you live here too, you will need more days to see it all but we will do our best to guide you through the best plan for your vacation, no matter how many days you have.

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.

MAYAN RUINS IN CANCUN ON THE MEXICAN CARIBBEAN COAST

The Mayan Ruins that we are recommending in this section are located along the coast of the Mexican Caribbean.

From Cancun to Tulum there are many Mayan ruins some of which are unrightfully ignored. We will take you there too! so, stay tuned, and let’s start exploring 👀🌎


1. MAYAN RUINS IN CANCUN: EL REY

Entry fee: 65 MXN


Hours open: 9 AM — 4:30 PM


Distance from Cancun: It’s located on km 18.5 on the Boulevard Kukulcan in the Hotel Zone.


Services: parking and restrooms. You can hire the services of a specialized guide (not always available)

These ruins are the most beautiful in the Cancun Hotel Zone. The Archaeological site of El Rey is located right opposite the popular Playa Delfines, where you find the colorful CANCUN letters in front of the spectacular turquoise colors of the Caribbean sea.

You can get to El Rey very easily by using the local busses that run along the hotel Zone R-1 and R-2. 

The El Rey Ruins offer an amazing walk across what remains of the old structures and lush vegetation populated by many funny iguanas.

We recommend visiting the ruins before heading to Playa Delfines beach where you can bask in the sun, take long walks, or challenge yourself with some surf lessons.

You can also rent beach chairs and sunshades.


2. EL MECO ARCHAEOLOGICAL ZONE IN CANCUN

Entry fee: 65 MXN


Hours open: 8 AM — 4 PM último acceso a las 16:30


Distance from Cancun: 7 km/ 4.3 miles from the bus station in downtown Cancun


Services: parking and restrooms

El Meco cancun ruins

El Meco is one of our favorite spots in Cancun. When we were both living in Cancun we used to meet up at el El Meco on a Sunday where we would ride our bikes. We sit by a tree listening to birds and chatting away. It is in fact a great place for birdwatching too.

The archeological site of El Meco is located in Puerto Juarez, one of Cancun’s neighborhoods where the ferry to Isla Mujeres leaves from.

There is a local bus that will leave you right by the entrance of the site. Also close to the site you will find a lot of nice restaurants by the sea where you can have a lovely breakfast or lunch.

The Meco is a small site immerse in tropical lush vegetation, and it’s also home to a family of coaties (sort of raccoons) that may pay you a visit if you stay long enough.

Beautiful secular trees are watching over the site as well and offer some cool shade where to take some rest and enjoy the sound of nature

El Meco is indeed one of our favorite places in Cancun 😉


3. ZONA ARQUEOLÓGICA SAN MIGUELITO

Entry fee: 80 MXN


Hours open: 9 AM — 4:30 PM


Distance from Cancun: located at km 16.5 of Avenida Kukulcán along the hotel zone.


Services: parking, coffee shop and restrooms

san miguelito cancun ruins

San Miguelito ruins are accessible through the Cancun Maya Museum, the best museum in Cancun or the Riviera Maya to learn about the Mayan world.

It’s located at km 16.5 of Bulevar Kukulcan in the hotel zone and only 2 km away from the archeological site El Rey.

You can get there by local transportation Bus R1 or R2 which runs along the Boulevard Kukulcan. San Miguelito is a small site that makes a great complement to your visit to the Museum.


4. ZONA ARQUEOLÓGICA CALICA 

The Archeological zone of Calica is the lesser known among all the ruins near Cancun. It’s actually located 8 km south of Playa del Carmen and 78 KM from Cancun.

You can get there by public transportation or by car.

If you decide to use the public transport keep in mind that you will need to get to Playa del Carmen first, either by colectivo bus or ADO bus, and from Playa del Carmen you will need to get the colectivo towards Tulum and ask the driver to drop you off at Calica Ruins (supposing he knows where it is:))

One of the main structures of Calica ruins, “El Templo de las Columnas”, still conserves a spectacular mural on its facade.

This is one of the most representative mural paintings of the region, a beautiful hidden treasure.

It’s always worth exploring beyond the obvious. 😉

Entry fee: free


Hours open: You need to book your visit with Centro INAH Quintana Roo with at least 7 days’ notice at this email addres.


Distance from Cancun: 78 km/ 48.4 miles


5. ZONA ARQUEOLÓGICA XAMAN HÁ

Entry fee: free


Hours open: You need to book your visit with Centro INAH Quintana Roo with at least 5 days’ notice at this email address.


Distance from Cancun: 72.5 km/ 45 miles

Copyright Image

Xaman Há is a lesser-known archeological site located in Playa del Carmen. Just like its neighboring Mayan cities it belonged to a network of very important ports from the year 1000 A.D.

Also, its location right in front of Cozumel Island played an important part in its development as a commercial center.

We haven’t personally visited this site yet but we are planning to go soon and we will be able to offer more detailed information. 🛺🌎

In the meantime, if you happen to be around before us, make sure you check it out as well. It’s located in the residential area of Playacar in the heart of Playa del Carmen on the beach side.

Here below we will leave a map to make it easier for you to get there.


6. ZONA ARQUEOLÓGICA XCARET

Entry fee: 85 MXN


Hours open: 8 AM — 5 PM


Distance from Cancun: 76 km/ 47.2 miles

First, let’s not confuse the Xcaret archeological zone with Xcaret park.

In fact, do not need to buy a ticket to the Xcaret Park to visit them, you only have to pay the INAH entrance to the archaeological site. 

With the ticket, you have the right to parking, restrooms, and the main store of the Xcaret park.

Being in front of the island of Cozumel, helped Xcaret to become one of the most important ports on the Caribbean coast with the most considerable commercial traffic, especially between the years 100 and 1500 A.D.

With the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, the port continued to be used, where we can now see a small church from the 16th century.


7. ZONA ARQUEOLÓGICA XEL-HÁ

Entry fee: 85 MXN


Hours open: 8 AM — 16:30 PM


Distance from Cancun: 114 km/ 70.8 miles


Services: parking and restrooms. You can hire the services of a specialized guide

xelha_ruins

The ruins of Xel-Há, as well as those of Xcaret, are hidden by the two recreational parks that bear their names, the famous Xcaret and Xel-Há parks.

It is not necessary to pay the expensive park entrance fees to get to the archaeological zones as they both have their own entrance.

We like the Xel Há ruins very much, it is an area nestled in nature where it is very pleasant to take a walk and surprise ourselves with several mural paintings of its buildings.

It is not very visited, and this is another reason why we like to recommend it.


8. ZONA ARQUEOLÓGICA TULUM

Entry fee: 85 MXN


Hours open: 9 AM — 4:15 PM


Distance from Cancun: 136 km/ 84.5 miles


Services: parking, restaurants and restrooms. You can hire the services of a specialized guide

tulum ruins cancun

The ruins of Tulum are without a doubt the most visited in Quintana Roo.

With its spectacular location, facing the beautiful Caribbean sea, Tulum is the postcard of the Mexican Caribbean and is the main reason it receives so many visits.

Just like its neighboring cities, Also Tulum was one of the most beautiful and important ancient Mayan ports.

However, we see many more complex structures in Tulum compared to the other smaller site, which makes it more spectacular and interesting to visit.

Actually, there are a couple of buildings that you can only see by taking a boat tour from Paradise beach as there is no trail that leads there.

We advise you to go early because the only thing we don’t like about this site is the huge crowds who visit it daily.

Tulum archeological site is located 128 kilometers from Cancun, and you can combine the visit with another of the old Mayan cities, with a cenote or a beach.

We can assure you that this is an area of ​​the Caribbean that you don’t want to miss. 😉

CHECK OUT SOME TOURS HERE BELOW


ZONA ARQUEOLÓGICA MUYIL

Entry fee: 85 MXN


Hours open: 9 AM — 16:15 PM


Distance from Cancun: 136 km/ 84.5 miles


Services: parking and restrooms. You can hire the services of a specialized guide

Muyil ruins

We continue along the coast talking about the most important ports in this strip of the Mexican Caribbean.

The ruins of Muyil opened their sea route to the Caribbean Sea through the lagoons that form the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

The Muyil ruins are not very large ruins, but their tropical surroundings make them a very special place.

It is located only 25 kilometers south of Tulum.

We love Muyil for the perfect combination of culture and nature that you can experience there.

The 500-meter path that leads you to the Muyil lagoon makes it very special. We recommend combining Muyil with a tour of the lagoon and its floating channels, to make the most of your time 🙌

Or you can combine it with a nearby cenote.

CHECK OUT SOME GUIDED TOURS HERE BELOW

CANCUN RUINS THAT ARE LOCATED INLAND

The Mayan ruins that we recommend in this section are those found in the interior of the Yucatan Peninsula, and you can do them on a roundtrip day tour from Cancun or any of the other cities in the Caribbean coast such as Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos or Tulum.


ZONA ARQUEOLÓGICA COBÁ

Entry fee: 85 MXN


Hours open: 8 AM — 5 PM


Distance from Cancun: 176 km/ 109.3 miles via Tulum


Services: parking and restrooms. You can hire the services of a specialized guide

coba ruins aerial view

Cobá is the archaeological zone of the state of Quintana Roo with the highest temple: the pyramid of Nohoch Mul with its 42 mt of heights and its spectacular views from the top.

Coba lies on a vast territory and there is a path of almost 2 kilometers that leads you to the temple, which is something we consider a gift as it will allow you to walk inside the Mayan Jungle.

If you don’t feel like walking, worry not, as you can rent a bike, or hire a trycitaxi inside the site.

Coba is situated 40 kilometers from Tulum. You can combine your trip to Cobá with a beach, cenote, or other archaeological sites.

There are very good combinations to spend a fantastic vacation in the Riviera Maya.

We also like to spend a couple of nights in the town of Cobá, go very early to visit the ruins and enjoy the Cobá cenotes, which are also amazing hidden treasures.

Both ruins and cenotes are best enjoyed early in the morning, less hot and with fewer crowds.


ZONA ARQUEOLÓGICA EK BALAM

Entry fee: 496 MXN


Hours open: 8 AM — 5 PM


Distance from Cancun: 172 km/ 106.8 miles


Services: parking and restrooms. You can hire the services of a specialized guide

ek balam ruins

Ek Balam is one of the most beautiful archaeological zones to enjoy on your trip through the Mayan world.

A magical place, with wonderful views from the top of its most emblematic buildings.

The colossal Acropolis treasures the tomb of Ukit Kan Le’t Tok, the Mayan governor who brought Ek Balam to its splendor.

It feels simply amazing to be in front of those giant jaws of a jaguar made of stucco, which lead you to the interior of the tomb, to the Mayan underworld.

You can combine a perfect day in the area with one of the wonderful cenotes in the surroundings.

After visiting Ek Balam in the heat, it’s always a good idea to cool off in one of the beautiful and lesser-known cenotes in the area! 🙌

CHECK OUT SOME GUIDED TOURS HERE BELOW


ZONA ARQUEOLÓGICA CHICHÉN ITZÁ

Entry fee: 571 MXN


Hours open: 8 AM — 5 PM


Distance from Cancun: 7 km/ 4.3 miles


Services: parking and restrooms. You can hire the services of a specialized guide

Chichen itza ruins

Chichen Itza is the most visited archaeological zone in the Yucatan Peninsula and Chiapas.

The structure known as the Castle or Temple of Kukulcán is a Wonder of the Modern World, the emblematic symbol of the place, and an essential stop in Mayan lands.

To avoid meeting the many tourists that visit Chichen-Itza every day, you may want to visit in the morning.

This is something that we value a lot on our trips and we always love to recommend it.

The great buildings of Chichén Itzá are impressive, you will not see a Ball Court as big as the one in Chichén 😲

From Cancun or the Riviera Maya to Chichen-Itza it’s quite a long trip, so you may want to combine the visit with one of the nearby cenotes where you can enjoy the refreshing waters.

If you don’t want to rent a car, which is something we always recommend, we leave some of the top-rated tour links here below for you to check.

 

TIPS FOR VISITING CANCUN RUINS

✅ Use comfortable light clothing and shoes (very important to climb the big temple, flip flops are not a good idea to climb).

✅ Sunshades, hat.

✅ Bring a bottle of water and keep in mind that you cannot walk in with food or alcoholic drinks.

✅ Big backpacks are not permitted

✅ You can hire a certified guide at the entrance

✅ On Sundays, the entrance is free for Mexican and foreigners with permanent residence. 

✅ Access to the Mayan ruins is open every day for kids up to 12 ys old, students, teachers, and seniors (must show ID)

CANCUN RUINS MAP

We make maps to facilitate the exploration of ruins and cenotes 🤗

CANCUN RUINS FAQ

What is the best Mayan ruin to visit in Cancun?

If you ask us about the best Mayan ruin to visit in Cancun, we choose Ek Balam, Chichén Itzá, Cobá, Tulum, Muyil, and Xel Há. 


Can you go to the Tulum ruins without a tour?

Of course, here is some information on how to visit Tulum on your own.


Can you swim at the Tulum ruins?

Tulum ruins have a small beach where usually people can enjoy some swimming and sun time unless they decided to close the beach for unknown reasons. Sometimes it happens.


Can you still climb the pyramid at Chichen Itza?

The pyramid of Chichen cannot be climbed, although the best way to appreciate this special place is to observe it from the base, it really is a wonderful tribute to the knowledge of time. 


Which Mayan ruins can you still climb?

There are many Mayan Ruins that you can still climb, including Cobá and Ek Balam. 

In Cobá you can climb the 42mt building Nohoch Mul, the tallest in Quintana Roo, while in Ek Balam you will visit the colossal acropolis which is 31 mt tall.


Can you go to Chichen Itza without a tour?

It’s not required to book a private tour or guide. In fact, many travelers choose to rent a car and drive themselves around for a more flexible schedule and that’s what we also recommend doing.

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.