Climbing The Ancient Mayan Ruins Of Coba Like Indiana Jones

Coba Ruins Mexico
The Ancient Mayan Ruins of Coba
Coba, Mexico

From the top of Coba’s ancient pyramid, the jungle looks like a living green carpet. The Mayan Ruins of Coba are one of my favorite archaeological sites in Mexico’s Yucatan.

Archaeologists believe the Mayan ruins of Coba were an incredibly important city for the Maya people.

However, due to its remote location, the site is not as popular with tourists as other ruins in Mexico.

But there are many reasons to visit the city of white roads.

Because Coba doesn’t see as much tourism as places like Chichen Itza or the ruins of Tulum, so you can actually still climb some of the structures for a totally different and unique perspective.

Coba Ruins Church
Coba’s La Iglesia Structure
Coba Ruins Bike Rental
Rent a Bicycle to Ride the Sacbes

Exploring Mayan Ruins Of Coba

Coba’s claim to fame is the largest network of stone causeways in the ancient Mayan world, called sacbes (white roads). Over 50 of these roads have been discovered at the site, with 16 of them open to the public.

The raised stone pathways connect clusters of residential areas to the main pyramid area of Nohoch Mul and small lakes used as a water supply nearby. There are three ways to explore the ruins along these roads.

You can walk, hire a bici taxi, or my personal favorite, rent a bicycle.

Mysteriously no one really knows how the Maya transported goods along these roads. While scientists believe the Maya knew about the existence of the wheel, there’s no evidence they actually used them.

One of my favorite reasons to visit Coba is that it isn’t as excavated as other sites in Mexico, so you feel like you’re wandering through a forest, with many structures still covered in trees.

Coba Ruins Pyramid
Climbing the Pyramid
Coba Ruins Pyramid View
View from the Top!

Climbing The Pyramid

The largest pyramid at Coba is called Ixmoja, part of the Nohoch Mul group of buildings. The pyramid is 42 meters (138 feet) tall and was the heart of the city. Unlike other Maya sites, you can still climb this one, if you dare!

The 120 stone steps are much steeper than they look…

This is why there’s a thick rope in the middle for safety. But the view from the top is totally worth the climb. A light breeze cools you off from the summit while gazing at the lush jungle landscape stretching out in all directions.

Plus, there aren’t many places where you can climb a Mayan pyramid anymore. As a site gets more popular and tourism increases, authorities eventually restrict climbing to preserve structures and reduce accidents.

Be careful climbing down the pyramid, it’s more difficult than going up!

Coba Structures Mexico
Coba is a Huge Mayan Site
Coba Trails and Paths
Trees Growing from Stone Walls

History Of Coba

Coba is estimated to have had a population of over 50,000 at its peak. There are many tall stone carved monuments at the complex, called stelae. Some stelae here depict women, suggesting the city had many female rulers.

There are two well-preserved ball courts on the site too, used for playing ōllamaliztli, a traditional Mayan ballgame.

Specific rules differ depending on the time period, but basically players attempted to bounce a heavy rubber ball through stone rings using their hips.

Sometimes the captain of the winning team was ritually sacrificed to the gods.

The Mayan City of Coba was first inhabited around 100 AD and was eventually abandoned when the Spanish conquered the peninsula around 1550 AD.

However, the city was once the most powerful in the region, controlling farmland, trading routes, and important water sources.

Coba Cenote Mexico
Beautiful Cenote Choo-Ha
Coba Cenote Swimming
Tranquil Cenote Multun-Ha

Swimming In Cenotes

Speaking of water sources, no visit to Coba would be complete without taking a dip in the refreshing limestone cenotes nearby. Cenotes are underground sinkholes filled with fresh water, found all over and known as the best ruins in Yucatan.

There are 3 cenotes just a 10-minute drive away from the ruins.

Cenote Choo-Ha is a shallow water cenote with crystal blue water and many stalagmites hanging from the ceiling. My personal favorite of the three.

Cenote Tamcach-Ha is a deep underground cavern with two fun jumping platforms at 5 & 10 meters (15 & 30 feet) high. Cenote Multun-Ha is a bit further away in the jungle and boasts a large wooden deck.

The entrance fee for each cenote is 55 pesos ($3 USD). They are a wonderful way to cool off after a hot day exploring the Mayan ruins of Coba!

Painting Complex Coba
Pyramid of the Painted Lintel
Coba Ruins Trees
Overgrown Ancient Ruins

Where To Stay Near Coba

While there are a few hotels around Coba itself, most people base themselves in the larger towns of Tulum, Playa del Carmen, or Valladolid. Tulum is the closest, only about 40 minutes away from Coba.

If you’re wondering where to stay near Coba, here are my recommendations:


Best Accommodation near Coba


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Tips For Visiting Coba

  • The ruins of Coba are about 44 kilometers (45 minutes) from Tulum, or 109 kilometers (90 minutes) from Playa del Carmen.
  • You can get to the site via ADO Bus from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum. Colectivos (taxi vans) are also an option, however you’ll have to change vans in Tulum.
  • Discover Cars searches all the big car rental companies and finds the best price. This is probably the easiest way to rent a car in Mexico.
  • Hire a local guide to explain the history, or just wander on your own. It’s also possible (and recommended) to rent an old bicycle for 45 pesos to get around the site.
  • Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated! I’m a big fan of this eco-friendly filtered water bottle.
  • Visit early morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds. While Coba isn’t as popular as Chichen Itza or Tulum, it can still get busy.

Travel Video: Mayan Ruins Of Coba


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Travel Planning Resources For Coba
Coba Entry Fee: $65 MXN ($4 USD)
Opening Hours: 8am – 5pm
Motorcycle Rental: Harley Adventures

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Find cheap flights on Skyscanner. This is my favorite search engine to find deals on airlines. Also make sure to read how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Cars is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. They search both local & international rental companies.

Book Accommodation

Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent apartments from locals on Airbnb. Read more about how I book cheap hotels online.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.

Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Yucatan
Suggested Reading: The Maya: Ancient Peoples & Places

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The Mayan Ruins Of Coba. More at ExpertVagabond.com
The Mayan Ruins Of Coba. More at ExpertVagabond.com

READ MORE MEXICO TRAVEL TIPS

I hope you enjoyed my guide on the Ancient Mayan Ruins of Coba! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

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Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 9 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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