Climbing Coba Ruins: A Perfect Cancun Day Trip

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When I got to Mexico I didn’t really know what to do in Cancun.  Like at all.  I knew there were beaches and Chichen Itza, but not much else.  I decided to skip Chichen Itza because it looked so busy and not as rugged, then I found out about Coba and went with a couple other people from my hostel.  We decided to rent a car and go on our own, which was actually pretty easy.

Coba was the first ruin site I went to on my trip and in Mexico and I really enjoyed them.  I think a lot of that was because you can still climb here.  Safe?  Eh.  Awesome?  Yes.  The whole site isn’t as big as others, like Tikal, but it’s fairly spread out, easy enough to walk, but there are bikes to rent if you prefer that.  It’s not as far as the bike renters make you think it is though.  I promise.

Read The Ruins before your trip to get in the mood for visiting Mexico.  Well, maybe after is better.  Check out these other books about Mexico, too.

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This is the main pyramid with a giant rope in the middle to aid in the climb up.  It’s not totally necessary to use unless you aren’t very confident in your coordination.  Most people basically just crawl up, the steps are a little high, but nothing unmanageable.  I did it!

And this is the view from the top.  You can even sit right at the edge.  Safety first, right?  Getting back down is the hard part, I just had to keep moving, couldn’t stop, or I might still be stuck there.  Ok, maybe it’s just a little scarier than more difficult.

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There are a bunch of other, smaller structures, homes and the like, around the site that you can meander through.  Some are blocked off, but most you can go into.  Definitely, make sure you have time to wander around a lot of it, it’s got some pretty cool stuff there.  I didn’t go with a tour, but I probably wouldn’t have remembered anything from it anyways.  I don’t do well on tours.  I’m forgetful.

Here I am, alive at the top.  Alive and dying of heat.  Totally worth it.  I mean, look at that jungle.  Look at it!  I just wish I stayed up there a little bit longer.  But I got the sweaty selfies and the view down, so I suppose that will have to do.

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What to bring to the Coba ruins

Bug spray – You’ll want to bring this no matter when you visit, but you can probably just put it on before you leave.  I like the Ben’s bug spray as well as the Off! Deep Woods.

Water bottle – It’ll be hot and humid and you’ll need to stay hydrated.  A Hydro Flask will keep your water ice cold all day long.

Sunscreen – It’s probably going to be cloudy but you should still wear it since you’ll be outside most of the day.  I like the Neutrogena a lot, but if you’ll be visiting a beach soon, you’ll want a reef-safe sunscreen.

Hat – You’ll might want some kind of hat to keep the sun (or rain) out of your eyes.  A baseball hat should be fine but a bucket hat or sun hat could help keep the sun off your neck.

Sunglasses – These are a must, well unless it’s really cloudy but I’d still bring them just in case.  Sunglasses are best paired with a hat on those really bright days, though.

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Where are the Coba ruins

The Coba ruins are about two hours from Cancun and one hour from Tulum.  The closest city is going to be Valladolid.  They’re pretty in the middle of nowhere making the great option if you like getting off the beaten path.

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How to get to the Coba ruins

The easiest way is going to be by renting a car.  We just found a place walking around in Cancun and went with it.  I wasn’t the one to officially do the renting, so I don’t know the exact process or requirements, but it was pretty affordable, espeially if you’ree going with others.  You can find out more about renting a car in Mexico here.

If you don’t feel comfortable renting a car or driving in Mexico, you can always book a tour.  Here is one that is just for the Coba ruins but there are plenty of others that will take you to Coba, Tulum, and/or Chichen Itza all in a day.  ADO buses and collectivos are also options to get there from Cancun or Tulum.  You can easily visit the Tulum Ruins on your own, too.

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History of the Coba ruins

The Coba ruins are home to one of the tallest pyradmids in the Yucatan Peninsula, the Ixmoja at 138 feet tall.  The only one that is taller is the Calakmul at 148 feet.  The pyramids here are part of the Nohoch Mul.  At it’s peak, the Coba civiliztion was estimated to have about 50,000 inhabitants, possibly even more.

While most of the construction was done between 500 and 900 AD, it was first inhabited betweeen 50 BC and 100 AD, where buildings weere made from wood, palm fronds, and flat platforms.  The ruins remained an important site and were used in the Post-Classic era and were added to, and repaired up until the 14th Century, possibly even until the Spanish arrived.  There were a few residential areas that had 15 or so living quarters in clusters, all connected by elevated walkways.

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Helpful things:

  • You can rent a car pretty easily to get here, and it’ll be even cheaper if you find a couple people to go with.  If not, I’m sure there are tours you can go with as well.
  • This makes a great day trip from Playa del Carmen or Cancun, depending on where you’re staying.
  • You don’t need to rent a bike to explore.  Or take one of the bike taxi things.  They make it sound a lot further of a walk than it is.
  • It’s pretty hot, so bring water.  I would recommend a Hydro Flask that you can refill instead of buying new water bottles all the time.

Have you been to Coba?  What did you think of it?  

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