Visiting Mayan Ruins near Playa del Carmen
If you’re headed to Playa del Carmen, you’re no doubt aware of all of the fun activities and things to do. The Riviera Maya has beautiful weather, pristine beaches, and tons of outdoor activities. With all that’s going on, we can forget about all of the ruins near Playa del Carmen and in the Riviera Maya.
We’ve created this list of some of our favorite ruins up and down the coast and in the Yucatan Peninsula. Some are pretty close and easy to get to, while others may take a little more effort to get to. All of the Mayan ruins offer unique looks at an incredible ancient culture of the Maya people.
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There are a few small ruins in Playa del Carmen, although most are just small buildings. With all of the fun things to do in Playa del Carmen, visitors often forget or don’t realize there are some buildings right in town.
Our favorite ruin site in Playa del Carmen is in the area of Playacar. Known as Xaman-Ha, this is a small ruin site with a building still standing. It’s not far from the center of Playa, and you can walk right up to them for free to check them out!
If you want to dive deeper into understanding the Maya people, check out our list of the Best Books about the Maya.
Mayan Ruins near Playa del Carmen
If you want to see some bigger sites, you’ll have to travel a little bit outside of Playa del Carmen. The good news is that there are several great ruin sites near Playa del Carmen. Many of them are accessible if you rent a car, or you can take a taxi or colectivo straight there. If you do rent a car, we recommend checking out CarRental8.
First, we have the Coba ruins. These ruins are not as well-known as many other sites in the Riviera Maya, but they are pretty darn cool. One of the benefits of Coba is that it is much quieter than Chichen Itza and Tulum.
One of the big draws to Coba is that you can actually climb some of the buildings and structures. From the top, the view is pretty incredible. As it is not fully excavated, the site sits in the middle of a forest. It’s beautiful, relatively quiet, and offers a wonderful look at some ancient Mayan buildings. There are also a few cenotes nearby to take a dip!
To get to Coba, you can take a colectivo from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, then switch in Tulum to take one to Coba. You can also take a taxi or the Ado Bus. Coba is slightly over 100 kilometers from Playa del Carmen. You can also take a guided tour that includes transportation. We also recommend checking out a sunset tour for a unique look at the ruins!
Chichen Itza is perhaps the most famous of the Mayan ruin sites in Mexico. Although it is not super close to Playa del Carmen, many people visit Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen and it is totally doable. There are many Playa del Carmen tours offering trips to Chichen Itza and tours.
With buildings like El Castillo, an eighty foot pyramid also known as the Pyramid of Kukulkan, Chichen Itza offers perhaps the most impressive structures in the Riviera Maya. It’s also the busiest of the archaeological sites, so keep that in mind!
Chichen Itza is about 180 kilometers from Playa del Carmen, and visiting is definitely a day trip. You can take a taxi or a bus, but many people choose to go by private tour. You can also see Chichen Itza from the sky with private airplane tours.
Tulum is another popular ruin site. The Tulum ruins are located about sixty kilometers south of Playa del Carmen, and are super easy to get to. You can take a colectivo, a taxi, or a bus. We recommend colectivos for the greatest ease and cheapest cost. You can read our post How to Get from Playa del Carmen to Tulum for tips on taking colectivos.
Tulum is definitely worth visiting. The site has a ton of buildings, there’s one of our favorite beaches, and a few cenotes nearby. It’s a bit busy, so we recommend getting there early! You can also take a guided tour to get all the information while you’re there.
Muyil is a lesser-known site that is definitely worth the visit. As far as ruins near Playa del Carmen go, this is one you should definitely visit. Just a few kilometers south of Tulum, Muyil is a small and quiet site. If you’re going to Tulum, you may want to schedule some time to go visit Muyil while you’re there.
As a small site, there’s no entrance fee. It is much older than Tulum, believed to be over 2,300 years old. You can get there via taxi or colectivo, and there’s an awesome lagoon to visit. Read our post Muyil Travel Guide – Visiting the Mayan Ruins to learn more about visiting this site.
Akumal is a wonderful place to visit, but most people don’t realize there are a few ruins in the area. If you just just south of Akumal, you can find some ruins on the west side of the 307. These are relatively small ruins, cost no money, and may not be worth a long drive. However, if you’re in the Akumal area, they’re worth visiting! Don’t forget to check out our list of 7 Amazing Things to Do in Akumal, Mexico.
When you hear of Xel-Ha, you may think of the popular eco-park. The eco-park Xel-Ha is a great place to visit, but there are also some relatively unknown Xel-Ha ruins. Set just across the street from the eco-park, these are relatively small ruins worth visiting.
Mayan Ruins on Cozumel
There are some Mayan ruins near Playa on the island of Cozumel. Because of all the activities and things to do in Cozumel, a lot of people don’t even know there are some ruins on the island. Places like San Gervasio offer relatively small ways to check out the Mayan ruins in a quiet atmosphere.
Cozumel is pretty easy to get to, and definitely worth visiting in general. You can take the ferry to Cozumel right from Playa del Carmen and spend the day on the island without the need of a car. If you want to go to see some ruins, we recommend going on an early ferry so you can have time to see some sites and spend some time at the beautiful beaches.
Finally, we have the ruins of Ek Balam. With a ballcourt and a pretty large courtyard, Ek Balam is one of the more impressive sites in our opinion. At 150+ kilometers from Playa del Carmen, it’s one of the farther-away sites. However, it’s definitely worth checking out. You can see a bit of a different area of the Yucatan and Mexico.
If you want a guided tour of Ek Balam, we recommend this one.