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11 Mayan Ruins Near Cancun Not to Miss [2023]

Wondering what Mayan Ruins near Cancun you should visit? The Riviera Maya is famous for its archaeological sites, and there are several worth checking out while you’re in the area.   

There’s not such a thing as visiting the Riviera Maya and not going to (at least!) one of the many ruins in Mexico that depict the ancient history of the Mayans, the people who lived in the area before the Spaniards arrived. 

There are many Mayan Ruins near Cancun that you can visit, and all of them offer a slightly different story and varied structures, so check out this guide to decide which ruins you want to include in your itinerary!


➤ This Tulum and Coba Ruins Day Trip takes you on a full-day excursion to the archaeological sites, where you’ll enjoy a guided tour around them. You’ll also swim in a cenote and enjoy a traditional buffet lunch. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

➤ The Tour to Chichen Itza and Coba includes breakfast and lunch, as well as transportation and guided tours of the sites. You will also get to visit Cenote Samaal and swim in it. ➥ 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, located right within the Hotel Zone, making it the perfect site to visit if you don’t want to travel far. 

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, and they constitute part of the charm when visiting the zone. 

Guides are available at the site for hire, and the ruins are open daily from 8 AM to 4.30 PM. The entrance fee to El Rey ruins is 55 MXN (USD 2.5) at the time of writing

Distance from Cancun to El Rey: right there at your doorstep.

READ ALSO: 41 Fun Things to Do in Cancun, Mexico

El Meco

El Meco is home to one of the highest 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. 

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, and 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, and it’s just a 14-minute drive from Downtown.

➤ You can visit these Mexican ruins of Cancun with the Cancun City Sightseeing Tour which also includes visits to popular attractions in Quintana Roo, including Playa del Carmen landmarks, Playa Delfines, and Puerto Morelos’ downtown. You’ll also catch a glimpse of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

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 not only great historical insight but unbelievable views. 

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, so it’s a great idea to spend the rest of the day discovering Tulum’s gems. 

➤ To explore the area with a knowledgeable guide you can join the Discovery Combo Tour. You’ll find out all about the ruins’ history and importance for the Mayan society, and then enjoy some snorkeling on one of the most beautiful reefs in Quintana Roo. Lunch, water, and roundtrip transportation are included. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

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. 

While most structures have lost their roofs or parts of the walls over time, archaeologists have digitally reconstructed what San Gervasio used to look like, and you can wander around with the guidebook offered at the site identifying the buildings and picturing them as they were during their heyday.

Nowadays, iguanas, peccaries, and coatis inhabit the site, and 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, the residence of the Mayan ruler of Cozumel which features red-colored handprints on the interior walls, and The Arch that constitutes the main entrance to the settlement. 

➤ If you want to go to Cozumel, you might as well explore the rest of island, and one of the best ways to do it is with a Private Jeep Excursion. You’ll get to drive your own jeep into the Mayan jungle and around the island, and plan your perfect itinerary for the day.

You’ll visit the San Gervasio ruins with a local guide, try the food at the local market, enjoy the views from a vantage point or go snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea, among plenty other activities. ➥ BOOK IT HERE 

Bear in mind that transportation from Cancun is not included; to get to these Mayan ruins from Cancun you’ll have to take the ADO bus from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, and 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. 

Distance from Cancun: 70 miles (113 kilometers)


The ruins of Coba are among the most famous Mexican ruins near Cancun, Mexico, because 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 ruins are not as popular as Chichen Itza, you won’t find big crowds on the site, which is perfect if you’re looking to climb Mexico pyramids in Cancun or want to get some pictures with the ruins withouts dozens of unknown faces appearing on the background. To many travelers, these are the best ruins near Cancun.

➤ You can visit the archaeological zone with the Day Trip To Tulum and Coba Ruins, which takes you to both historical sites and includes a visit to a cenote, where you’ll be able to swim, and lunch at a local restaurant. Hotel pickup and drop-off is available on this Cancun ruins tour. ➥ BOOK IT HERE 

Distance from Cancun: 83 miles (134 kilometers)

READ ALSO: Coba Ruins: A Complete Guide

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 main structure of Ek Balam is the Acropolis, one of the largest in all of Yucatan, Mexico, reaching 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. 

➤ 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, and after your visit you’ll be taken to the majestic Cenote Maya, where you can swim and engage in some adventure activities.

You’ll also get to participate in a blessing ceremony and enjoy a traditional buffet lunch before heading back. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

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, and are Mexico’s biggest pride (one of many, actually; Mexico is a wonder!)  

The site dates back to around 400 AD, and it’s thought to have been a military, religious and commercial center, 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), worldwide known because during the equinoxes, the shadow of the afternoon sun creates the image of a serpent gliding down the northern staircase. It’s believed to be Kukulcan, the feathered serpent of the Mayan traditions. 

➤ One of the best Mayan ruins tours from Cancun is the Chichen Itzá, Valladolid and Cenote day trip, which 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

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.

READ ALSO: Visiting Chichen Itza: All You Need to Know


Uxmal, located near the city of Merida in Yucatan Mexico, 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

The honored god at Uxmal is Chac, the Mayan god of rain, because 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 being the Pyramid of the Magician. This pyramid was built on top of other existing structures; according to excavations, there are 5 temples underneath it.

While the Magician’s pyramid cannot be climbed, you can actually climb some of the other ruins at Uxmal.

Distance from Cancun: 236 miles (380 kilometers)

Mayan Museum in Cancun

If you’re interested in the history of ancient Mayan civilizations, their culture and traditions, you can head to the Mayan Museum in Cancun, where you’ll find exhibitions and displays of Mayan artifacts and videos explaining their use and facts about the lifestyle and culture of the people. 

You can easily get to the Museum from Downtown Cancun or the Hotel Zone and the entrance fee only costs about 80 pesos (USD 4) at the time of writing. 

Distance from Cancun to Mayan ruins: 13 miles (22 kilometers) from Downtown via Bvd. Kukulcan

Ruins 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 as the ones mentioned above, and it’s not worth the visit JUST to see the ruins, the park is a wonderful day-trip destination from Cancun.

You’ll enjoy activities such as snorkeling, exploring underground rivers, visiting the Butterfly Pavilion and the Living Orchid Museum, or meeting the park’s inhabitants that include jaguars, flamingos, manatees, deers, and plenty of aquatic animals.

Of course, you’ll also get to follow the rainforest trail to the Xcaret ruins, a site that 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, an entertainment show that’s been running for over 20 years and that will take you on a marvelous journey through Mexican history. 

➤ The Xcaret Day Trip with Transportation gives you priority access to the park and it also includes the activities and all the necessary equipment, a buffet lunch, and roundtrip transportation from Cancun. You’ll also get to use the Plus Area facilities and have access to the beaches, bays, and natural pools. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Distance from Cancun: 47 miles (76 kilometers) via Carretera Tulum 

San Miguelito

San Miguelito is located north of El Rey, and dates back to the Post-Classic period of the Mayan Civilization, although evidence 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, importing and exporting 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 Maya and discover artifacts recovered from various archaeological sites throughout Yucatan Peninsula.

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 ancient 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 tours from Cancun to visit Mayan ruins are the Tulum and Coba Ruins Day Trip 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 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 tour 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.

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