Explore a Hidden City in Coba, Mexico

BY: Molly Metzig |Dec 26, 2014

It’s understandable why white sand beaches hog the limelight on trips to Mexico’s Riviera Maya. But with so much natural beauty and ancient history lying beyond those sugar white shorelines, it’d be a mistake not to include at least one inland expedition on your itinerary. The perfect destination for such an adventure: Coba, Mexico, a hidden ancient city—one of the last to be inhabited by the pre-Columbian Mayans—set deep within the jungle.

Why Coba?

The Coba ruins are just as haunting as other ancient Mayan ruins, yet the crowds tend to be much smaller, meaning you’ll have a more intimate (and quieter) experience. Plus. many of the Mayan ruins are largely unexcavated and untouched, lending an air of immense mystery to the place.

What Ancient Wonders Will I Encounter?

Archaeologists believe that Coba contains thousands of structures, but only a few are accessible to tourists. You can pass ancient ball courts, temples, and other Mayan ruins while walking down roads that have existed for at least 1,000 years.

Where’s The Best Spot for a Photo Op?

Atop Coba’s massive stone pyramid, Nohoch Mul—the tallest pyramid on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. After a short climb, you’ll be treated to a panoramic view of the forest surrounding the ancient site.

How Do I Get There?

If you’re staying at a hotel in Playa del Carmen, which is less than two hours away from Coba, take a tour bus (talk to the concierge about making arrangements). You can also stay in the more secluded Tulum, which has some impressive Mayan ruins of its own, and rent a car to drive the 30 miles.

When Should I Go?

To see spider monkeys, go in the morning. For maximum seclusion, go in the late afternoon when most tourists will be gone.

What Should I Bring?

Comfortable shoes and plenty of water—exploring the whole site means walking 3 or 4 miles.

What Else Should I Know?

If walking that far sounds torturous, you can rent a bicycle onsite to cruise around the Coba ruins.