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8 Best Mayan Ruins in Riviera Maya

Looking for Mayan Ruins in Riviera Maya? You’ll be spoilt for choice, really. Read on to find the best archaeological sites on the Mexican east coast – some may surprise you!

The Riviera Maya is primarily known for its pristine beaches and lush jungle, but it’s also scattered by a great number of Mayan settlements

Due to its closeness to the Caribean sea, the ancient civilization established many of its communities in the area, resulting in a very strong trading route that served many of the settlements located on the mainland. Here you can find some of the best ruins in Mexico!

A close shot of Nohoch Mul Pyramid, and people climbing it at Coba, one of the best Mayan ruins in Riviera Maya

Most of the Mayan cities in the Riviera Maya were abandoned in the 15th and 16th centuries, following the Spanish conquests.

Left to the mercy of the elements for the next few hundred years, the result is the mesmerizing ruins that are so sought-after by visitors to this day. And the ones you’ll get to marvel at!

From ruins perched on a cliff with insane views of the sea to thousand-year-old pyramids you’re still allowed to climb, there are many astounding Mayan Ruins in Riviera Maya. Check them out!


The Tulum Ruins are the most striking ones to the eye. Situated on top of a cliff by the Caribbean Sea, the site boasts a prime location that influenced the prosperity of its inhabitants, serving as a crossroads for trade, both by sea and land

The city, built around 1200 AD, was completely walled when the Spaniards found it (the term Tulum actually means wall!) and parts of its walls still remain. Most of the settlement’s impressive structures have also endured the passing of time, from The Castle pyramid which served as a lighthouse to an observatory, and the ruler’s residence.     

You’ll also get stunning views from the very top of the cliff, and if you climb down the wooden stairs at the edge of it, you’ll get to a secret little beach where to cool off after exploring the ruins

These Mayan ruins are near Akumal, so it’s very easy to visit from there and from any other town or city along the Riviera Maya. 

Opening Hours: Daily from 8 AM to 4 PM 
Entrance Fee: 85 MXN ($4) at the time of writing. 

These are the best tours of the Tulum ruins from Riviera Maya.

➤ This Tulum Ruins and Reef Snorkeling Tour takes you on a guided visit around the stunning Tulum ruins before heading to the sea, where you’ll snorkel along the reef. Swimming in a cenote and limestone cave is also included in the trip. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Tulum and Cenotes Tour is a half-day excursion that takes you around the Tulum ruins with a knowledgeable guide. You’ll then visit and get to swim in a nearby cenote. ➥ BOOK IT HERE


Coba is another striking archaeological site located in the middle of the jungle, and with one of the only Riviera Maya pyramids that you’re still allowed to climb

It’s the main structure in the site, called Nohoch Mul, and it takes 120 steep steps to get to the top, but the climb is worth it; you’ll get beautiful views from 137 feet high!  

These Riviera Maya ruins are esteemed to have been built between 500 and 900 AD, and the site dominated great part of the trading routes, water resources, and farms in the region, which made it one of the most important centers of the Mayan civilization. 

It’s also the city with the largest network of sacbes, stone causeways also known as white roads, in the entire Mayan world, another sign of its major significance. 

The archaeological site of Coba has three main areas, and it’s said that only a very small percentage of it has been excavated

Opening Hours: Daily from 9 AM to 4 PM (last entry is at 3 PM)
Entrance Fee: 100 MXN ($5)

Looking to go on a tour? Here are the best tours to Coba from the Riviera Maya.

➤ The Mayan Inland Expedition is a full-day tour that includes a visit to the Coba ruins, where you’ll bike around the pyramids, and a trip to Punta Laguna to zipline and hike. You’ll also spend some time with a Mayan family. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

➤ The Tulum, Coba, and Cenote Tour offers a combo of archaeological site visits, as you’ll get to wander around Tulum Ruins and Coba. You’ll finish the day swimming in a cenote. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Coba, Chichen Itza & Valladolid Tour is a 12-hour trip that includes visit to both the Coba ruins and Chichen Itza, as well as a stop in a cenote and a tour around charming Valladolid. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

El Meco

El Meco is a smaller archaeological site located north of Cancun, but which houses the second tallest pyramid in the Peninsula, only surpassed by Chichen Itza’s.

There are 18 structures in El Meco scattered in three different plazas, and they’re one of the best-preserved ruins in the area, so you’ll get to appreciate the details engraved on the walls, and the stone serpent heads at the bottom of the staircases, which represent the Mayan’s deity Kukulkan. 

El Meco was one of the settlements involved in the trade network of the region, given its privileged location by the sea, and after its inhabitants left it was populated by iguanas, which  still call the site home. Be prepared to find lots of them, sunbathing and strolling among the ruins!   

Opening Hours: Daily from 8 AM to 4 PM
Entrance Fee: 60 MXN ($3)

Chichen Itza 

Chichen Itza is not exactly on the Riviera Maya, but it’s one of the most stunning archaeological sites in the country, and needed to be on the list. It’s the great Chichen Itza, after all! 

Known for the mind-blowing serpent-shaped shadow that slithers down its main pyramid on the equinoxes, massive structures, and fascinating history, Chichen Itza alone is the reason for many visitors’ trip to Mexico!

The settlement was established around 400 AD and inhabited for a thousand years before it was abandoned in the 1400s. During its golden years, Chichen Itza was one of the most important military and religious hubs of the region, and home to 30,000 people. It was finally abandoned after long centuries of droughts and famine. 

El Castillo, also known as the Kukulkan Pyramid, is the main (and most visited) structure, but there are 25 other impressive buildings scattered in the 4-square-mile grounds. Chichen Itza boasts the biggest ball court in the Mayan world, besides astronomy-related constructions, including an observatory, and a market place. 

Opening Hours: Daily from 8 AM to 5 PM (last entry at 4 PM)
Entrance Fee: $65 at the time of writing. Children pay half the entry fee. 

Below you’ll find the best Chichen Itza tours from Riviera Maya. 

➤ The Chichen Itza, Cenote & Valladolid Tour lasts a full day and includes transfers from Riviera Maya, as well as a tour guide during the journey. After your tour of the ruins, you’ll get to swim in a cenote and visit Valladolid. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Chichen Itza Early Access allows you to avoid the crowds by visiting the site first thing in the morning. You’ll enjoy a guided tour of the ruins and then get to swim in a cenote. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

➤ If you’re looking for private Chichen Itza tours from Riviera Maya, this Chichen Itza Trip is for you. You’ll have your own transfer and guide for the day, and besides visiting the ruins you’ll get to swim in a cenote. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

El Rey

A very colorful image of El Rey, one of the best Mayan ruins in Riviera Maya. The ruins of an ancient building are surrounded by green vegetation

El Rey (which means The King in Spanish) is one of the smallest archaeological sites, but it’s also very well located, right in the heart of Cancun’s Hotel Zone. If you’re staying in the area, you can easily walk there. 

As many of the settlements in the Riviera Maya, is was also part of the trade route, although it’s also supposed to have been involved in salt extractions in the area. Fishing was also one of their main sources of income and food. 

The name of the ruins, though, is based on the human remains found on the site that according to historians correspond to a king. This suggests that the settlement could have been a royal retreat besides being a thriving village. 

The site it’s esteemed to have been inhabited from the 13th to the 15th century, so it’s not as old as most of its neighbors. While you can explore these Mayan Riviera ruins on your own, if you’re interested in learning more about the site you can hire a guide on-site to enjoy a more comprehensive visit. 

Opening Hours: Daily from 8 AM to 5 PM (last entry is at 4.30 PM)
Entrance Fee: 60 MXN ($3)

Xcaret Ruins

Xcaret Ruins are located in the spectacular theme park Xcaret, which offers all sorts of adventurous activities in the jungle. 

The archaeological site is rather small and not as well-maintained as some of the other Mayan ruins. However, it played a very important role in the Mayan trading network during its heyday.

The ruins are at the end of a beautiful rainforest trail, but you’ll have to access Xcaret Park first. For this reason, the entrance is more expensive than the other ruins’. You’ll get to enjoy all the activities offered at the park, though, which are impressive!

Xcaret Park is a fantastic day trip destination in the Riviera Maya, and definitely worth the visit. The Mayan ruins are a great plus! 

Opening Hours: Daily from 8.30 AM to 10.30 PM
Entrance Fee: $110 (children 11 years old or younger pay half)

➤ This Xcaret Day Trip grants you priority access to the park, and use of all the activities and facilities. You’ll be able to visit the Mayan ruins, and also enjoy the spectacular night show. It includes pick-up from most hotels in Riviera Maya. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

➤ You can otherwise get the Xcaret Park Entry Ticket and get there on your own. The ticket includes access to all the attractions plus the night show, and can be upgraded to include lunch. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Ek Balam

Ek Balam is another fabulous archaeological site located in the state of Yucatan, also deserving of a mention. It’s one of the latest ruins to be discovered, having remained hidden until the late 20th century! 

The site is still only partly uncovered, situated in the heart of the jungle that kept it concealed for so many centuries. It still boasts splendid and very massive structures, though.

The Acropolis, esteemed to have been the residence of the king, is 100 feet tall and over 500 feet long. And it can actually be climbed! It’s very well-kept, and preserves the detailed decorations that cover its walls.  

Ek Balam is one of the longest-lasting settlements in the region. It’s supposed to have been established around 300 BC, and intermittently inhabited until the arrival of the Spaniards. 

Surrounded by stone walls that protected the city, it showcases 45 structures, including a ball court, a white road that connected it to other settlements, and intricately-carved monuments and statues. 

Since it’s not fully uncovered, there was probably a greater number of buildings on the site. It was home to close to 20 thousand people at its peak, after all. 

Opening Hours: Daily from 8 AM to 5 PM. 
Entrance Fee: 450 MXN ($23 at the time of writing)

➤ This Full-Day Tour to Ek Balam offers a guided visit to the ruins. You’ll also take part in a blessing ceremony and swim in a cenote. This Riviera Maya ruins tour departs from Cancun and various points in the Riviera. ➥ BOOK IT HERE


Also in the Yucatan state is Uxmal, one of the most important – and largest – cities in the Mayan world. Uxmal has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for being one of the most representative settlements of Mayan culture and architecture

It’s also one of the best-preserved ruins from the Mayan empire, even though its heyday was all the way back to 500 – 900 AD.  

Its inhabitants, which were approximately 20 thousand at its peak, worshipped the god of rain, Chac. This was possibly because the site didn’t have any nearby water sources. Therefore, they depended on nature to grow their crops and collect water through artificial cisterns.  

There are over 30 structures in Uxmal, several of which can still be climbed. Like many other Mayan ruins, it features one main pyramid that steals all the attention

The Pyramid of the Magician is 130 feet tall and stands out for its rounded sides. It was built on top of 5 existing pyramids that remain underneath it. The name Uxmal actually means thrice-built, and refers to this very structure. 

Opening Hours: Daily from 8 AM to 5 PM
Entrance Fee: 470 MXN ($24) at the time of writing

Mayan Ruins in Riviera Maya FAQ

Can you visit the Mayan ruins from Riviera Maya?

There are several ruins in Mayan Riviera, so it’s very easy to visit them from anywhere in the Riviera. 

What are the closest Mayan ruins to Riviera Maya?

Some fabulous Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo and Riviera Maya are Tulum Ruins, El Rey, Coba, and El Meco. 

Is Chichen Itza close to the Riviera Maya?

Chichen Itza is about 93 miles from Riviera Maya, and the drive there takes a little over 2 hours. There are tons of Chichen Itza excursions from Riviera Maya that you can join to visit the site. 

Are there Mayan Ruins near Riviera Maya? 

There are several Riviera Maya temples and pyramids from the Mayan that you can explore. El Rey, Tulum, Coba, and Xcaret Ruins are some of the most impressive ones! 

  • Virginia Bello

    Virginia is a writer originally from Montevideo, Uruguay. She left her career as a TV Producer to gain more freedom and never looked back. She's been traveling the world full-time ever since! Virginia has traveled extensively through Latin America, Europe and Asia. You can currently find her gallivanting through Southeast Asia.

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