The Mayan Coba Ruins might not be as famous as Chichen Itza or Tulum, but have nothing to envy them. Learn all you need to know to visit these ruins (+ info and prices).
The Yucatan Peninsula is known for its incredible Mayan ruins, and no trip to the region would be complete without visiting at least one historical site. I know that staying at the resort might sound tempting, but after all you’ve come all the way to a foreign country, it’d be a shame not to visit some beautiful places around!
I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of Chichen Itza and the Tulum ruins, but you might have just discovered the Coba Ruins and you’re trying to figure out if they’re worth a visit… did I get that correctly? My answer is yes, absolutely.
At Coba you won’t find the crowds of Tulum and Chichen Itza, plus you get to climb a Mayan pyramid which is strictly forbidden in the two other sites. Also, it’s pretty easy to get here.
How to get to the Coba Ruins in Mexico
The ruins at Coba aren’t far from both Tulum and Playa del Carmen, and there are plenty of transportation options available if you are traveling from Tulum or some other parts of the Mayan Riviera. Let’s see them all.
Getting to Coba from Tulum
The Coba Mayan ruins are only 47 km from Tulum, which make them the ideal day trip from Tulum. There are a few ways to go from Tulum to the Coba Ruins.
➤ The first option available to get to Tulum is via car rental and you’ll find that there are plenty of car rental companies in Tulum to get around for a day. A lot of tourists prefer this option to give them plenty of flexibility to visit other attractions when they are finished exploring the ruins of Coba.
If you decide to drive to Coba Ruins from Tulum, you must drive through the Quintana Roo Highway 109. The total travel time is around 40 minutes, faster than any other means of transport available.
➤ If you decide to take the colectivo from Tulum to Coba Ruins, you must go to the corner of Tulum Avenue and Calle Osiris Nte. There’s one colectivo available every 15/20 minutes, so you’ll see many colectivos pass by throughout the day. You should expect to pay 50 – 70 Pesos for the ride from Tulum to Coba (or Coba Tulum). Also, make sure you get on one that has the “Tulum – Coba” sign on the front!
➤ You can also take the ADO bus from Tulum to Coba which is one of the best options available to get to the Mayan Coba Ruins via public transport. To catch the Tulum-Coba bus, head to the Terminal Autobuses Tulum ADO Station at the scheduled times you can find online at the ADO bus website. The ADO bus ride from Tulum to Coba is 1 hour, and you have hourly bus departures in the morning and then two more bus departs in the afternoon (1:30 PM and 3:30PM). The ticket cost is $50.
➤ If you want a comfortable ride, you can take a taxi to get to Coba which apart from being the most expensive option, is a good alternative if you want comfort without having to worry about finding the direction to Coba yourself. The average cost of a taxi ride to Coba from Tulum is 450 Mexican Pesos. Make sure you agree on a price before you depart for Coba so you know exactly how much you’ll be paying.
Getting to the Coba Ruins from Playa del Carmen and Cancun
There are also routes available via the ADO Bus if you are traveling to Coba from Cancun and Playa del Carmen. To get from Playa del Carmen to Coba ruins, the bus ride will take about 2 hours. And for those travelling from Cancun, the Cancun-Coba bus ride is 3 hours or so.
Coba Tours from Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum
If you prefer saving yourself the hassle of getting to Coba on your own, there are some very cool tours you can join that offer way more than just the visit to Coba, so you can make the most out of your time.
➤ Tulum, Coba & 2 Reef Snorkeling with Transfer Options: on this full-day tour from Cancun you’ll explore both the ruins of Coba and Tulum, and you’ll snorkel at 2 different reefs. ⇒ BOOK IT HERE
➤ Punta Laguna and Coba Day Trip: on this Coba Ruins tour from Tulum and Playa del Carmen, you’ll visit Coba and the natural reserve and monkey sanctuary of Punta Laguna, where you’ll hike or zip line through the jungle, swim at a cenote, and attend a Mayan ceremony. ⇒ BOOK IT HERE
➤ Coba, Tulum, Cenote and Mayan Village Tour with Transport, which combines the ruins of Coba and Tulum with swimming at a cenote. Transportation for this Coba tour is available from Cancun, Riviera Maya and other locations (by paying something extra). ⇒ BOOK IT HERE
How to get around the Mayan Coba Ruins, Mexico
The Coba Ruins are a massive area with plenty to explore. It’s important to know the most efficient way to get around the ruins to ensure that you can make the most of the sights and save energy.
➤ One of the easiest ways to see the Coba Ruins is to explore it on foot and it really is a nice way to get some exercise while also seeing the ruins. If you intend to see the ruins for a full day, you can take your time and walk at your own pace to see, for example, the main pyramid of the site which is Nohoch Mul (Coba), about 2 km from the entrance. But if you want to explore more of the attractions of the site, most are a bit farther than that, so you might want to look into a transportation method.
➤ Another option to get around the Coba Ruins is renting a bike. Bikes are popular among tourists because the bike rental is budget-friendly and, of course, bikes can help you cover more ground as they are a faster way to get around. The cost of bike rental is 50 Mexican Pesos (2.6 USD) per person.
➤ If you want a more convenient way to get around Coba Ruins, you can try the bicitaxi. These bike carts are ideal if you don’t want to think about where to go next and you want to sit back and relax while your guide shows you the attractions you shouldn’t miss. The cost of a bicitaxi or cart tour is 120 – 150 Mexican Pesos (about 8 USD).
A Short Coba Ruins History
When visiting the Coba Ruins, you’ll get the opportunity to learn a lot about the Coba history and the history of this region. According to archaeological evidence, the first settlement in Coba was around 50 BC to 100 AD (which means Coba is about 2,000 years old!). It was also known as one of the most important cities for the Mayans in terms of social and political power because it controlled many farmlands and the trading routes. During this period where Coba was an integral part of the Mayan Empire, it was estimated to have up to 50,000 in population. The city maintained its influence for a long long time until the Spaniards arrived in the 1400s.
Although the initial excavations at the Coba Ruins site were done in the 1970, it was not developed into a tourist destination until the 1980s. You’ll see this is a big place, the entire ruins site covers a land area of 30 square miles.
Climb the Largest Coba Pyramid: Nohoch Mul Pyramid
Nohoch Mul Pyramid is the tallest pyramid in Coba, standing 137 feet tall. It’s one of the pyramids that you can climb there; It takes 120 steps to get to the top of the pyramid. In fact, Nohoch Mul Pyramid is the tallest Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula, and also the second highest Mayan pyramid in the world.
Climbing up the pyramid will have you navigating your way through crumbling stone stairs but, thankfully, there is a rope that you can use to assist your climb. However, I don’t suggest attempting the climb if you’re older or not too fit. It’s not the easiest climb to be honest, and not to frighten you, but there have been a couple of incidents of people falling down the pyramid. I’m not saying don’t go (I did!), but decide carefully if it’s for you or not.
The effort to climb up the largest pyramid in Coba is worth it when you consider the view that you can enjoy from the top. Jungle everywhere! Climbing the Nohoch Mul pyramid was the highlight of my time in Coba, but you need to hurry up. Every year they say this will be the last year that climbing Coba will be possible- it hasn’t happened yet, but it will eventually.
Other Sights in Coba
The Coba Ruins are a collection of ancient pyramids and there are more things to do in Coba apart from the main pyramid mentioned above. In particular, there are many smaller pyramids scattered throughout this archaeological site that you should know more about.
The first one is known as the Coba Group which is a series of structures that are near the entrance to the site. One of these structures is the Iglesia (Church) and there are also ball courts. Unlike the main pyramid, you won’t be able to climb the Iglesia.
Another must-see sight within the Coba Ruins is the Conjunto de Pinturas. The highlight of this area is the Pyramid of the Painted Lintel that is unique because there are beautiful paintings at the top of the temple, which can be seen from afar.
There is another group of structures found within the Coba Ruins that are also a must-see: the Macanxoc Group, a group of structures consisting of 8 stelaes and several altars. The presence of plenty of stelaes shows that this area was used for spiritual activities.
And then there is the Coba Stelae which are large stone slabs and there are plenty throughout this archaeological site. They consist of drawings and glyphs that archaeologists believe was a way for the ancient Mayans to record important events and historical facts.
Finally, there are the Sacbes, which is also known as the white roads. Back when the Mayans thrived, Coba was a hub of urban settlements and they were accessible because of roads that were known as sacbes. Many of these roads were built by the Mayans to aid in commerce activity. There are at least 50 of those sacbes that were unearthed within the archaeological site of Coba.
FAQ for Visiting the Coba Mayan Ruins
What is the Coba entrance fee?
As of 2020, the Coba Ruins entrance fee is 80 Mexican Pesos.
What are the Coba ruins opening hours?
The Coba ruins hours are from 8 am to 5 pm.
What’s the best time to visit Coba?
The best time to visit Coba Ruins is early in the morning, soon after the attraction opens at 8AM. If you arrive mid-day, you can expect the ruins to get quite crowded. Make sure you arrive before the other tourists arrive if you want a more relaxed experience!
Can you still climb the Coba Ruins?
Yes, as of 2020 you can still climb the pyramid at Coba.
Is Coba worth visiting?
Yes, absolutely! I honestly liked the ruins of Coba (Mexico) more than the Tulum Ruins.
How old are the Coba Ruins?
The Mayan Ruins of Coba were built between 500 and 900 AD.
Best Cenotes near Coba Ruins
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that cenotes are my favorite part of traveling to the Yucatan peninsula. I’ve already written about plenty of cenotes in Tulum and cenotes in Playa del Carmen and Valladolid. But if you come visit the Coba ruins, there are a few cenotes that you shouldn’t miss. They would be the perfect complement to your day trip.
The following are some of the best cenotes to visit near Coba.
Cenote Tamcach-Ha is an underground cenote with a couple of jumping platforms which are 5- and 10-meters high, respectively. This is a great cenote to visit after visiting Coba Ruins if you prefer a cenote that is not too crowded.
Cenote Tamcach-Ha boasts of crystal clear water where you can swim or snorkel in. To access this Coba ruins cenote, you have to make your way through a small opening in the ground. Once you get inside, you must make your way down through a narrow spiral set of stairs that is surrounded by rock walls. Once you reach the bottom of the stairs, it opens up to a perfectly round cavern. This is a very deep cenote of a deep blue color, and the rock ceiling is impressively high but this is not the cenote to go to if you are looking for stalagmites. This perfectly round cavern is really beautiful and, surprisingly, it’s still relatively quiet and calm.
Cenote Choo-Ha is another Coba cenote located off-the-beaten path. You must brave through a rugged and secluded terrain to get to this cenote, which is surrounded by a naturally dense jungle. Once you enter the cenote, you’ll find rustic-looking washrooms, toilets, and other facilities. It’s quite clear that they’re not trying to transform this into a modern facility.
Nonetheless, that does not take anything away from the natural beauty of Cenote Choo-Ha you can admire while you make your way through a low stone wall through a small opening that leads to an underground cavern. Thankfully, there is a spiral staircase that you can take to safely make your way down the cavern. Once inside, you can marvel at the impressive rock formations that hang from the ceiling and at the many stalactites and stalagmites you’ll see everywhere.
Unlike Cenote Tamcach-Ha, Cenote Choo-Ha has shallow water which makes it the perfect spot for a leisure swim. The shallow water also makes it a good option for families with small kids!
This is the deepest cenote of the three cenotes near the Coba Ruins. This is also a bit farther into the jungle so it’s the hardest to reach of the three cenotes. Cenote Multum-Ha is ideal for snorkeling and, just like Choo-Ha, it features rustic facilities and washrooms.
Since this cenote is also an underground cenote, you’ll enter through a small opening through the rocks and make your way down a spiral wooden staircase. The entry is somewhat claustrophobic because it’s surrounded by rock walls on both sides but once you reach the end, there is a deck-like platform with railings that enable you to overlook the cenote waters. At the top of the ceiling, there is a small hole that allows a small amount of light in.
Due to the serene nature of this cenote and the lack of tourists, it offers an intimate experience. If you visit on slow days, you could even have this Coba cenote to yourself!