Visiting the Coba Ruins in Mexico is one of the best things to do on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Why?

Because the Coba Ruins are one of the most unique archeological sites in the area, there is so much to see, and you can actually climb the main pyramid for an amazing view of the jungle.

I had the pleasure of visiting the Coba Ruins on my recent trip to Mexico, and despite making some easily avoidable mistakes in the planning process and while visiting the ruins, I loved my experience and highly recommend planning a trip yourself.

So, to keep you from making the same mistakes I did, I compiled this list of 12 tips for visiting the Coba ruins, along with some essential info for planning your trip.

But before we dive into my tips, I feel I have to answer some questions, such as:

 

What are the Coba Ruins?

The Coba Ruins (Coba meaning ‘waters stirred by the wind’) date back to the 1st century AD and were one of the most important Mayan communities on the Yucatan Peninsula.

The site consists of multiple settlements all connected by ceremonial white roads that lead to the main pyramid, Ixmoja at Nohoch Mul. Due to this layout, the site of Coba is different from other ancient Mayan cities, as instead of being one settlement, it consists of many individual ones grouped together. In fact, Coba is so expansive it’s estimated that 6,000 structures exist at the site and that, at its peak, it was home to around 50 000 residents.

Archeologists first discovered Coba in the mid-1800s and it was opened for public viewing in 1973. Today, only three settlements are open for public exploration, due to the inability of archaeologists to excavate much of it, and because of its sheer size.

Coba is located right in the middle of the jungle and is surrounded by two lagoons and plenty of cenotes (freshwater sinkholes). While wandering around the parts of Coba open to visitors, you’ll see three unique settlements, a spiritual area, two ball courts (the history of these is pretty grisly tbh), plenty of jungle paths, and the highest pyramid in the Yucatan — Ixmoja at Nohoch Mul.

Pyramid at coba ruins in quintana roo, mexico

 

How to Get to the Coba Ruins

Located about an hour inland from Tulum, there are a few ways to get to the Coba Ruins:

Way #1 – ADO Bus

When my friend and I decided to head out to Coba for a day, we did so by catching the ADO bus from Playa del Carmen (ADO is the premier bus company in this part of Mexico, and you can expect the buses to be prompt and clean). The bus made a pit stop in Tulum, was 240 pesos return, and took about 2 hours each way. To purchase tickets, you’ll have to go to the desk at your local ADO station.

I will say though that the bus dropped us off in a really weird spot when we got to Coba. It was essentially just outside of a nondescript restaurant with no bus marker in sight, and we had to open Google Maps and walk about 15 minutes to get to the Coba gates.

My recommendation is to take a photo of the restaurant where the bus drops you off, as this is where you’ll be boarding the bus when you leave Coba.

Way #2 – Drive 

To be honest, while driving in Mexico is something that tons of people told me they’ve done with no issues, I was very hesitant to do so. In my experience, drivers can be quite erratic on the roads, and I felt way more secure just taking the bus.

That said, car rentals in Mexico are quite affordable, the roads are well marked, and getting to Coba will be fairly straightforward.

Just beware of the speed bumps (called topes in Spanish)!

Way #3 – Tour

There are plenty of tours from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum that will take you to the Coba ruins. Just do some research and you’ll have no trouble finding a reputable one.

dome shaped building at coba mayan ruins in quintana roo, mexico

 

How Much Does Coba Cost?

At the time of writing this, the entrance fee to the Coba ruins is 75 pesos for non-Mexicans which, compared to other Mayan sites in the Yucatan, is quite good.

If you drive, there is a parking lot just outside of the Coba gates as well that costs 50 pesos.

 

12 Tips for Visiting the Coba Ruins in Mexico

 

Tip #1 – Go Early in the Day or Late in the Afternoon

So, here’s the thing.

No matter what time of day you visit the Coba ruins, it’s going to be quite toasty. Of course, I went in late August and it was VERY toasty, but it’s hard to really beat the heat in this part of Mexico.

That said, arriving early in the day or later in the afternoon is your best bet for staying as comfortable as possible. However, because this part of Mexico can be so humid — and due to the fact that you’ll be quite literally in the jungle — daily rains are expected. Of course, this depends on the time of year you travel to the Yucatan, but I went there in August / September and the torrential downpours were pretty much daily. Bring an umbrella!

Plus, the tour buses tend to arrive around noon. Arriving earlier or later will at least help you skip the crowds.

Building at coba ruins in quintana roo, mexico

 

Tip #2 – Don’t Go On Sunday

While the Coba ruins are undoubtedly less visited than their Tulum Ruins and Chichen Itza counterparts, the site can get pretty packed during tourist season, especially on Sundays.

This is because Mexican residents have free access to museums and historical sites on Sundays, and they make use of that perk. I mean, I totally would too.

So, to have a calmer experience while at Coba (especially if you want to climb Ixmoja), visit on a day that isn’t Sunday.

 

Tip #3 – Bring Lots of Water

Unlike Chichen Itza, where there are places inside the grounds to purchase water, once you’re in Coba, there really aren’t many resources (I think I saw one overpriced water/pop stall in total).

I recommend bringing at least a couple of water bottles with you for your day at the site. Dehydration and heat stroke are super common for people not used to the Mexican heat, and you’re going to want to stay as safe and healthy as possible.

In addition to this, something I really wish I had during my entire trip to the Yucatan was an ice pack.

For the really hot days, being able to stick an ice pack under my shirt, on my forehead, or in my backpack would have been a godsend, and it’s something I mentioned multiple times during my time in Mexico.

Pyramid at coba ruins in quintana roo, mexico

Photo by Ashley Holly

 

Tip #4 – Bring Enough Cash

Something that can catch tourists unawares is the reliance of cash in Mexico. While there are plenty of ATM’s pretty much everywhere you go, I’d recommend only using ATM’s at (or inside) actual banks, and then taking enough cash for a full day of exploring.

Between catching the bus, paying the Coba entrance fee, having lunch, and any other expenditures, I’d recommend bringing at least 1000 pesos. I know that sounds high, and you likely won’t use it all, but this amount will prepare you for anything.

In total, I spent about 500 pesos on my day at Coba.

 

Tip #5 – If It’s Hot, Take a Bike Taxi

Speaking of extra expenditures and heat (I really don’t handle heat well, can’t you tell?) if you find it’s too hot to walk around the paths, or you just want a more leisurely experience, there are plenty of bikes and bike taxi’s for rent.

There’s nothing like someone else doing the peddling while you fan yourself in the backseat.

Just be sure to bring some extra pesos for the ride!

Tropical Plant at coba ruins in quintana roo, mexico

 

Tip #6- For The Best Views, Climb

As I mentioned above, climbing the 120 steps of the main pyramid — Ixmoja at Nohoch Mul — is one of the most popular things to do at Coba, and it’s the only pyramid you can climb in the Yucatan.

At 137 feet, the views from the top are incredible — think a landscape of lush jungle for days — and you’ll feel super accomplished once you get to the top.

Just keep in mind that the steps of Coba are very uneven and can be narrow, but there is a rope up the middle of the pyramid to help you get up and down.

 

Tip #7 – … But Don’t Feel Pressured To

Okay, so here’s where I tip you off on a little secret of mine. Although climbing the main pyramid at Coba is the most famous and impressive thing to do at the site, I didn’t actually do it.

I mean, I started to do it — I’d say I got about a quarter of the way up, in fact. But then, I turned around and climbed back down.

You see, I had to listen to my gut on this one. I just knew that if I kept going, there was a very serious chance that I was going to pass out from heatstroke and fall to my death (kidding, but not kidding). I was already pouring sweat, my face was as red as a beet, and I had already teetered very close to heat exhaustion on this Mexico trip before.

Of course, I didn’t know for sure that this would happen, but at that moment it felt like a very real possibility.

My friend made it to the top that day, though. And she showed me some amazing photos when she made it back down.

All I’m saying is that you can climb the pyramid or not, but truly don’t feel pressured either way!

Many people climbing the Nohoch Mul pyramid at coba ruins in quintana roo, mexico

 

Tip #8 – Take a Tour

If you feel that you’d get a greater experience at the Coba ruins by taking a guided tour, then by all means, book one! To do this, you can either take a day trip from your accommodation and not have to worry about transportation, or you can head to Coba yourself and hire a guide at the gates.

There will be plenty of guides around when you first get there, and they’ll each ask you if you’re looking for a tour — so finding someone to show you around couldn’t be easier!

Just keep in mind that some guides have fixed rates, but some are open to negotiation. If the first price quoted to you doesn’t sound reasonable, then don’t feel bad to suggest a price that you’re more comfortable with. Just always negotiate and set the price before your tour starts.

 

Tip #9 – Expect Wildlife

As with everywhere in the Yucatan peninsula, wildlife is abundant at Coba. Here, you’ll technically be in the middle of the jungle and as such, you’ll see a ton of iguanas, exotic birds, geckos, and weird bugs.

Sightings of more eyebrow-raising animals such as pumas, jaguars, and snakes have also been seen here, although they tend to stay away from where they know humans are and I didn’t personally hear of anything of the sort. That said, if you venture to the lagoons, you’ll 100% be in crocodile territory. There are signs everywhere warning you of crocs hiding in the tall grasses, so definitely heed this warning and stay away.

Gazing at the main pyramid at coba ruins in quintana roo, mexico

 

Tip #10 – Plan for Lunch Nearby

Instead of packing a lunch for your adventure at Coba, I recommend stopping at a local restaurant for some Mexican fare. Personally, I had some fish tacos at a restaurant called Ki-Hanal, and I highly recommend it.

Other top-rated restaurants in the area include El Cocodrilo, Tacos Mexicanos, and El Faisan.

 

Tip # 11 – Use the Bathroom Before You Enter

As mentioned above, there are limited resources once you enter through the gates at Coba, and so I highly recommend you use the bathroom before you enter.

Of course, you’ll likely be sweating your butt off while here and staying hydrated will be of the essence, but still, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Pyramid at coba ruins in quintana roo, mexico

 

Tip #12 – Cool Off in a Cenote After

After a long day exploring in the sun, there’s nothing like cooling off in a refreshing cenote.

Cenote’s are freshwater limestone sinkholes that are scattered around the Yucatan peninsula — and there are three close to the site of Coba.

Cenote Choo-Ha features beautiful blue water, stalactites hanging from the ceiling, and is fairly shallow. You’ll have to descend into the cenote via some narrow steps that lead you into the large cavern of the cenote.

Cenote Tamcach-Ha is much deeper than Choo-Ha (it’s great if you want to scuba or snorkel) and there are jumping platforms if you’re feeling up to some adventure. Like Choo-Ha, you’ll access the cenote via some very steep (and quite slippery) steps.

Cenote Multun-Ha is the farthest away from Coba of the three but features a great wooden deck to lounge around on. Also, like the other two, there is a narrow entranceway and a lot of stairs.

 

What to Pack for the Coba Ruins

 

♦ Day Pack: This day pack from Osprey is great for walking around Mexico. Inside the pack, you’re going to want to bring bug spray, sunscreen, pesos, a sun hat, a travel umbrella, and some energy bars.

♦ Shoes: Visiting Coba — and climbing the main pyramid — means you’re going to want sturdy, comfortable, and grippy shoes. These hiking shoes are perfect for the job.

♦ Water Bottle: A big water bottle is a must for Mexico. This 48oz Nalgene water bottle will keep you going for a while.

♦ Ice Pack: As I mentioned above, an ice pack will do wonders in keeping you cool and fend off heatstroke.

***

That’s it for my 12 tips for visiting the Coba Ruins in Mexico!

I hope this helped in planning your trip, and feel free to plop a comment below if you have any thoughts or questions!

Enjoy the Coba Ruins!

 

Read More:

Three Days in Valladolid and Chichen Itza: An Introduction to Mexico

If You Like Getting Caught in the Rain: An Ode to Rainy Season in Mexico

Unmarked Vans, Mexican Caves, and a Mixtec Prayer

43 Things You’ll Learn By Living in Playa del Carmen for a Month

Tulum, Mexico Travel Guide: Tips For Planning Your Dream Trip

10 Essential Tips for Visiting Cenotes in Mexico

 

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