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12 Mayan Ruins Near Cancun Not to Miss [2024]

Wondering what Mayan Ruins in Cancun or near Cancun you should visit? The Riviera Maya is famous for its archaeological sites, and there are several worth checking out!   

There’s not such a thing as visiting the Riviera Maya and not going to (at least!) one of the many ruins in Mexico. They depict the history of the ancient Mayan civilization, one of the most important – and fascinating – of the region.

The Mayans thrived in Mesoamerica for centuries until the Spaniards arrived in the 15th century. While each settlement had its own rulers, customs, and practices, they all shared many beliefs and ways of life that are captivating to learn.

There are many Mayan Ruins near Cancun that you can visit. They’re all quite different, both in structure and history, and in this Cancun Mayan ruins guide you’ll get to discover them more in-depth.

This way, you can decide which ruins you’d rather include in your itinerary!


➤ This Chichen Itza, Coba, Cenote & Valladolid with Buffet Lunch takes you on a full-day excursion. You’ll visit two stunning archaeological sites, enjoying a guided tour around them. You’ll also swim in a cenote and enjoy a traditional buffet lunch in the town of Valladolid. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

➤ The Tulum, Coba, & Cenote: Full-Day Tour begins and ends at your hotel’s front door. You’ll be taken to two Mayan ruins, which you’ll explore with a professional guide. Take part in a ceremony led by a Shaman, swim in a cenote, and refuel with a tasty lunch. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

➤ The Chichen Itza, Cenote, and Valladolid Tour is a full-day excursion that starts with a guided visit of Mexico’s most famous Mayan ruins. You’ll then get to swim in a cenote, and wander around gorgeous Valladolid. ➥ BOOK IT HERE


El Rey

El Rey is a small archaeological site of Mayan ruins in Cancun. It’s located right within the Hotel Zone, making it the closest Mayan ruins to Cancun – perfect if you don’t want to travel far! 

The Mayan ruins of El Rey, located near Cancun

These ancient ruins in Cancun date back to around 200 A.D. and El Rey was a center for maritime trade back in the day. According to historians, the inhabitants worked as fishermen or in salt extraction until 1200 A.D.

While El Rey has not been inhabited for centuries, it is now home to hundreds of iguanas that have invaded the ruins. They constitute part of the charm when visiting the zone. 

Guides are available at these Cancun ruins for hire.

Opening hours: The ruins are open daily from 8 AM to 4.30 PM.
Cost: The entrance fee to El Rey ruins is 70 MXN (USD 4) at the time of writing.
Distance from Cancun to El Rey: right there at your doorstep.

El Meco

El Meco is home to one of the highest Mayan pyramids near Cancun, named El Castillo, and the second tallest in the Yucatan Peninsula after Chichen Itza. Serpent heads, an important symbol for the Mayans, are situated on the pyramid’s staircase.

El Meco is one of the best-preserved ruins in Mexico near Cancun, making the visit truly enjoyable. 

A Mayan structure at El Meco, in Mexico

These Cancun ruins at El Meco comprise three plaza groups, and a total of 18 structures have been uncovered. 

It is supposed that during the post-classic period El Meco, along with other settlements like El Rey and San Miguelito, worked to further develop the sea trade networks in the area.

While the time is not accurate, El Meco was likely abandoned upon the arrival of the Spanish. 

The site is located north of Cancun, right in front of Isla Mujeres. It’s just a 14-minute drive from Downtown.

➤ You can visit these Mexican ruins of Cancun with the Mayan Ruins El Meco With transportation in Cancun. It’s a 2-hour tour with hotel pick-up and drop-off, and a guide to show you around the site.

Explore the ruins and learn about them, keeping hydrated with complimentary water. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Opening Hours: Daily from 8 AM to 5 PM. (Last access at 4 PM).
Entrance fee: 80 MXN (approx. USD 4.5) at the time of writing.
Distance from Cancun: 5.5 miles (9 kilometers) from Downtown Cancun.


The Tulum Ruins are probably the most popular in the Riviera Maya. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the site offers unbelievable views. (Besides great historical insight, of course!)

The Tulum site used to be a walled city back in the Mayans’ time, and it was named Zamá, which means ‘place of the dawning sun’.

Nowadays you’ll get to see parts of that wall, which was built around 1200 AD and abandoned, like most Mayan cities, in the 16th century.

It’s one of the most stunning Mexican temples near Cancun, and the journey takes close to 2 hours. After touring the ruins you can head to the hidden beach below the ruins to cool off in the sea.

The town of Tulum, the other Tulum beaches, and the Tulum cenotes are also worth visiting. It’s a great idea to spend the rest of the day discovering Tulum’s gems. 

How To Get to Tulum Ruins from Cancun: The best option is to take the direct ADO Bus, which departs frequently throughout the day. The journey takes 2 hours.

➤ To explore the area with a knowledgeable guide you can join the Viator Exclusive: Tulum Ruins, Reef Snorkeling, Cenote and Caves. You’ll find out all about the ruins’ history and importance for the Mayan society.

Then, enjoy some snorkeling on one of the most beautiful reefs in Quintana Roo. Lunch, water, and roundtrip transportation are included. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Opening Hours: Daily from 8 AM to 5 PM.
Cost: 95 MXN (USD 6) per person.
Distance from Cancun: 81 miles (131 kilometers) via Carretera Tulum

READ ALSO: A Complete Guide to the Tulum Ruins

San Gervasio

The San Gervasio ruins are located in Cozumel, an island that is easily reachable from Cancun. These Mayan ruins in Cozumel were a center of pilgrimage for Mayan women, who came from all over to worship the goddess of love and fertility, Ixchel. 

The San Gervasio Ruins, surrounded by vegetation

Most structures have lost their roofs or parts of the walls over time. However, archaeologists have digitally reconstructed what San Gervasio used to look like.

You can wander around with the guidebook offered at the site identifying the buildings. This will help you picture them as they were during their heyday!

Nowadays, iguanas, peccaries, and coatis inhabit the site. You can expect to meet all of them during your visit to most Yucatan Peninsula and Cancun Mayan ruins. 

Among the interesting areas you’ll get to visit at the site is Las Manitas. It’s the residence of the Mayan ruler of Cozumel, and features red-colored handprints on the interior walls. Then there’s The Arch, which constitutes the main entrance to the settlement

How to Get to San Gervasio from Cancun: To get to these Mayan ruins from Cancun you’ll have to take the ADO bus from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. From there, take a ferry to Cozumel.

Ferries depart from the ferry pier, located only a few blocks from the bus station. The whole journey will take you around 2.5 hours. 

If you want to go to Cozumel, you might as well explore the rest of the island! One of the best ways to do it is with a tour like this one:

➤ The Private Jeep Excursion in Cozumel with Lunch and Snorkeling will have you driving a jeep into the Mayan jungle and around the island. As for the stops to enjoy – they’re up to you!

Visit the San Gervasio ruins with a local guide, try the food at the local market, or go snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea. There are many activities to choose from. ➥ BOOK IT HERE 

Bear in mind that transportation from Cancun is not included in this tour.

San Gervasio Opening Hours: Daily from 8 AM to 4 PM.
Cost: Approximately 80 MXN (USD 4.5)
Distance from Cancun: 70 miles (113 kilometers)


The ruins of Coba are among the most famous Mexican ruins near Cancun, Mexico. One of the main reasons is that it still allows climbing its pyramids!

The main pyramid, Nohoch Mul Pyramid, is 137 feet tall and it takes 120 steps to get to the top. 

It is believed that Coba was one of the most important cities for the Mayan people as it controlled most of the farmlands and trading routes in the area.

According to archeological evidence, the site possibly dates as back as 50 BC, making it one of the oldest Mayan ruins close to Cancun. 

Since the Coba Mayan ruins are not as popular as Chichen Itza, you won’t find big crowds on the site. This is perfect if you’re looking to climb Mexico pyramids in Cancun, or want to get some pictures!

To many travelers, these are the best ruins near Cancun (and I agree!)

How to Get to Coba from Cancun: The drive to the archaeological site takes approximately 2.5 hours. You can also travel by ADO Bus. The journey takes 3 hours, and tickets cost around $30.

➤ You can visit the archaeological zone with this Tulum, Coba, & Cenote: Full-Day Tour. It takes you to both historical sites with a professional guide. Then, cool off in a cenote, and refuel with a traditional buffet lunch. Hotel pickup and drop-off are available on this Cancun ruins tour. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Coba Ruins Opening Hours: Daily from 8 AM to 4 PM.
Cost: 100 MXN (USD 6) per person.
Distance from Cancun: 83 miles (134 kilometers)

Ek Balam 

Ek Balam means black jaguar and is located only 32 miles (51 kilometers) from Chichen Itza. This archaeological site wasn’t discovered until the 1980s and to this day there are still parts that haven’t been uncovered.

The Mayan ruins are surrounded by thick vegetation, which is probably the reason why the site remained hidden for so long.  

The Mayan ruins of Ek Balam

The main structure of Ek Balam ruins is the Acropolis, one of the largest in all of Yucatan, Mexico. It reaches almost 100 feet (30 meters) in height and 500 feet (151 meters) in length.

This pyramid is spectacularly decorated with intricate designs and patterns, and it served as the residence of Ek Balam’s king. Moreover, it’s believed to contain the tomb of one of Ek Balam’s rulers, Ukit Kan Leʼk Tokʼ. Climbing this structure is still allowed

Ek Balam was surrounded by two exterior defense walls, and there were smaller walls throughout the city for protection. 

How to Get from Cancun to Ek Balam: The drive to the archaeological site takes slightly over 2 hours. If you want to go by bus, take the ADO Bus to Valladolid, and from there you can take a taxi to the ruins.

➤ To visit the site you can join this Mayan ruins tour from Cancun, a Full-Day trip to Ek Balam and Cenote Maya. You’ll get to explore the ruins with a knowledgeable guide.

Then, visit the majestic Cenote Maya, where you can swim and engage in some adventure activities. You’ll also participate in a blessing ceremony and enjoy a traditional buffet lunch before heading back. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Ek Balam Opening Hours: Every day from 8 AM to 5 PM. (Last access is at 4 PM).
Cost: 531 MXN (USD 31.5) The actual entry fee is much smaller, but government taxes are included in the ruins ticket.
Distance from Cancun: 106 miles (172 kilometers)

Chichen Itza

There’s no introduction needed for Chichen Itza; they’re likely the most famous Mayan ruins in the world!

While they’re not located on the Caribbean Sea coast, the ruins are easily reachable from Cancun. They’re Mexico’s biggest pride (one of many, actually; Mexico is a wonder!) and absolutely worth the trip.

The site dates back to around 400 AD, and it’s thought to have been a military, religious, and commercial center. It was home to over 30 thousand people at its peak!

The easy access to water via the cenotes of the area is probably one of the main reasons why people settled here. 

There are 26 Mayan ruins in Chichen Itza, and the main pyramid is El Castillo (the Castle). It’s worldwide known, especially, because of the equinox phenomenon!

Twice a year, the shadow of the afternoon sun creates the image of a serpent gliding down the northern staircase. The image is believed to be Kukulcan, the feathered serpent of the Mayan traditions. 

How to Get to Chichen Itza ruins from Cancun: If you have a rental car, the drive takes you just over 2 hours. Otherwise, you can take the ADO Bus to Valladolid, and from there take a local bus or a taxi to the ruins.

➤ One of the best Mayan ruins tours from Cancun is the Chichen Itza, Cenote, and Valladolid All-Inclusive Tour. It takes you to the famous ruins with an expert guide, so you can learn more about the history and legends of the site.

You’ll also get to swim in a sacred cenote and visit the gorgeous colonial city of Valladolid. The tour includes entrance fees, buffet lunch, and roundtrip transportation. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Opening Hours: Daily from 8 AM to 4.30 PM.
Cost: 614 MXN (USD 36) at the time of writing.
Distance from Cancun: 122 miles (196 kilometers). Read also how to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza if you plan on visiting the site on your own.

Muyil Ruins

The Muyil Ruins are nestled within the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, one of my favorite places on the peninsula. This stunning natural reserve is home to amazing landscapes, wildlife, and adventures. It’s VERY worth the visit!

The main pyramid at the Muyil Ruins, inserted in a post about Mayan Ruinse near Cancun

It also houses the Muyil Ruins. This small archaeological site is believed to have been among the earliest settlements on the Caribbean coast. Dating back to around 300 BC (much older than Chichen Itza!) the site was inhabited throughout the centuries until the Spanish invasion.

The ruins are surrounded by lush vegetation, and located near a lagoon. It doesn’t receive nearly as many visitors as most other sites in the region, so it remains an authentic hidden gem.

How to get to Muyil Ruins from Cancun: The drive to Sian Ka’an is usually not pleasant, as the road is very bumpy. Fortunately, the Muyil Ruins are closer than the rest of attractions in the reserve. The drive from Cancun takes approx. 2 hours.

There’s not a direct ADO Bus from Cancun, but you could travel to Tulum and from there take the bus to Muyil. The final destination of the bus will be Felipe Carrillo Puerto. It’s not very frequent, so check the times in advance, and make sure it stops at Muyil (also known as Chunyaxché).

An alternative is taking a Colectivo from Tulum, but you also need to check with the driver that they can drop you off there.

➤ Alternatively, you can book the Sian Ka’an and Muyil Archaeological Site Tour. Explore the Muyil ruins with a professional guide, enjoy a boat ride across the lagoon, and learn about the local ecology. Walk a lovely nature trail, and cap off with a picnic lunch. Transfers from Cancun have an extra fee.BOOK IT HERE

Muyil Opening Hours: Daily from 9 AM to 3 PM.
Cost: Included with the entry to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
Distance from Cancun: 95 miles (153 km) south of Cancun.


Uxmal is located near the city of Merida in Yucatan Mexico. It was one of the largest cities in the area back in 600-900 AD, and the capital of a Mayan state. Nowadays, it’s the best preserved archaeological site of all, and it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site

An image of the Mayan ruins of Uxmal, surrounded by thick vegetation

The honored god at Uxmal is Chac, the Mayan god of rain. Unlike Chichen Itza and other nearby settlements, this city had no natural water supplies

This Mayan city is believed to have been inhabited by around 20 thousand people, and it’s home to 34 ruins. The most prominent one is the Pyramid of the Magician.

This pyramid was built on top of other existing structures; according to excavations, there are 5 temples underneath it.

The Mayan ruin known as the Magician’s Pyramid cannot be climbed, you can actually climb some of the other ruins at Uxmal.

How to Get to Uxmal from Cancun: To reach Uxmal by public transfer, you should first make your way to Merida, and from there travel to the ruins. The overall bus journey can take up to 7 hours, so I recommend spending the night in Merida (which is gorgeous!)

If you’re driving, the trip to the Mayan will take you around 4 hours.

Opening Hours: Daily from 8 AM to 5 PM.
Cost: 531 MXN (USD 31.5). It’s a 2-part fee; access to the ruins and Yucatan taxes are combined in the entry ticket.
Distance from Cancun: 236 miles (380 kilometers)

Mayan Museum in Cancun

If you’re interested in the history of ancient Mayan civilizations, you can head to the Mayan Museum in Cancun. There you’ll find exhibitions of Mayan artifacts, and videos explaining their use.

Displays showcase fascinating facts about the lifestyle and culture of the people.

You can easily get to the Museum from Downtown Cancun or the Hotel Zone.

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 9 AM to 6 PM.
Entrance Fee: The entrance fee only costs about 90 MXN (USD 5) at the time of writing. 
Distance from Cancun to Mayan ruins: 13 miles (22 kilometers) from Downtown via Bvd. Kukulcan

Ruins at Xcaret Park

An ancient structure in an archaeological site at Xcaret Park

Xcaret Park is an ecotourism theme park located in the midst of the Mayan jungle, and is home to some Mayan ruins of the same name. 

While the ruins themselves are not as impressive, and it’s not worth the visit JUST to see them, the park is a wonderful day-trip destination from Cancun.

Go snorkeling, explore underground rivers, and visit the Butterfly Pavilion. There’s also a Living Orchid Museum and an incredibly rich wildlife. Get ready to meet the park’s inhabitants; jaguars, flamingos, manatees, and deer.

Of course, you’ll also get to follow the rainforest trail to the Xcaret ruins. This ancient Mayan site functioned as a navigation port and was a vital trading center for the Mayans.  

If you stay in the park until the night falls, you’ll get to witness the popular Xcaret México Espectacular. This entertainment show has been running daily for over 20 years and will take you on a marvelous journey through Mexican history. 

How to Get to Xcaret from Cancun: Take the ADO Bus to the adventure park, which takes around 2 hours to arrive.

➤ Check out the Priority Access: Xcaret Day Trip+ Night Show+ Transportation *Official Product*. It gives you access to the park and all its activities, as well as transfers from Cancun. You’ll enjoy a scrumptious buffet lunch to refuel, and get to use the Plus Area facilities. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Opening Hours: Daily from 8.30 AM to 10.30 PM.
Cost: USD 120 for adults, and USD 90 for children.
Distance from Cancun: 47 miles (76 kilometers) via Carretera Tulum.  

San Miguelito

A stone staircase in an ancient Mayan structure in San Miguelito

San Miguelito Ruins is located north of El Rey, and dates back to the Post-Classic period of the Mayan Civilization. Evidence, however, suggests that it was inhabited as early as 250 A.D.

This ancient Mayan city was part of a very large trading network between the 13th and 15th centuries. It imported and exported products to many settlements in the Caribbean.

The site is divided into four areas that boast remains of structures and Cancun pyramids, some of which are very well preserved.

There’s a great museum on site that you should check out to learn more about the Mayans. You’ll also discover artifacts recovered from various archaeological sites throughout the Yucatan Peninsula!

➤ The Cancun: Skip-the-Line Mayan Museum & San Miguelito Site is a great way to visit. It grants you access to the Mayan Museum, where you’ll discover artifacts and learn about Mayan history. You’ll also get to explore San Miguelito Mayan ruins. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 9 AM to 4 PM.
Cost: This Mayan ruins of Cancun tickets cost 90 MXN (USD 5).
Distance from Cancun: 11 miles (17.8 km)


How far are the Mayan ruins from Cancun?

There are several archaeological sites near Cancun, located only a few miles from the town center. The nearest ancient Mayan ruins are El Meco, situated less than 6 miles from Downtown Cancun, and El Rey, one of the closest Cancun temples in the Hotel Zone.

Can you visit the Mayan ruins from Cancun?

There are several Mayan ruins in the Cancun area that you can visit from the town center. The visit to most sites will only take you about half a day. 

Where are the Mayan ruins in Cancun city?

The Mayan Ruins of El Rey are right in the center of the Cancun Hotel Zone, next to Playa Delfines.  

How far is Chichen Itza from Cancun?

Chichen Itza is 122 miles (197 kilometers) from Cancun. 

Are there Aztec ruins near Cancun?

Most ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula belong to the Mayan Civilizations. There aren’t Aztec archaeological sites in Cancun.

What are the best Mayan ruins of Cancun tours?

The best Mayan ruins in Cancun trips you can join are the Tulum and Coba Ruins Day Trip with Cenote and the Chichen Itza, Cenote, and Valladolid Tour.

Where can I buy Mayan ruins of Cancun tickets?

If you plan on visiting the Mayan ruins Cancun on your own, you can buy the entrance tickets online on the site’s website or get them directly when you get there. Otherwise, you can join a Day Trip to Tulum and Coba Ruins with Cenote that includes the entrance fee, as well as a tour guide and transfers.

  • 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.