13 Best Mayan Ruins to Visit in Mexico

best mayan ruins

13 Best Mayan Ruins to Visit in Mexico.

Wherever you choose for your vacation in South Mexico, there are likely to be Mayan ruins nearby. A private tour is ideal for history and culture lovers to learn more about the Mayans and the extraordinary legacy they left behind.

The Yucatan Peninsula has a rich historic heritage with many Mayan ruins to explore in each of its 3 states:  Quintana Roo, Yucatan State and Campeche State. Further south, Chiapas State has its own archaeological treasures. Here are the best sites of Mayan ruins in each state:

Best Mayan Ruins in Quintana Roo State

tulum ruins

Tulum

Tulum ruins - the most visited Mayan ruins after Chicken Itza, Tulum ruins are in a beautiful location overlooking the beach and sea. Explore the well-preserved temples and Castillo, appreciate the Mayan culture and take photos of this breathtaking spot.

coba

Coba

These ancient Mayan ruins were swallowed up by the jungle and lost for centuries until being rediscovered. Coba ruins has many raised paths (sacbes), pyramids and standing stones (stelae).

muyil

Muyil

One of the oldest Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo, Muyil includes the beautiful Sian Ka’an lagoon.

Chacchoben

Chacchoben

A huge site of Mayan ruins located one hour from Bacalar. Set among palms and tropical hardwood trees, this peaceful site has two large restored pyramids.

Best Mayan Ruins in Yucatan State

Chichen Itza

The massive El Castillo step-pyramid stands 30m high and is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. This 1.9 square-mile archaeological site is the most visited in Mexico with a ball court, temples, pyramids and El Caracol observatory.

Uxmal

This UNESCO Word Heritage Site has many ceremonial buildings from the late Mayan period.

Mayapan

The political and cultural capital of pre-Columbian Maya civilization, Mayapan is still under excavation with cenotes, pyramids and over 4000 structures within the city walls.

Best Mayan Ruins in Campeche State

Calakmul Mayan Ruins

Calakmul

Deep in the jungle and close to the border with Guatemala, Calakmul was one of the most powerful Mayan cities ever uncovered. It has 6,750 ruins of Mayan structures including a 45m-high pyramid containing four tombs.

Becan Mayan Ruins

Becan

Off the usual tourist trail, visitors hike through the rainforest to Becan, a powerful ancient city dating back to 550 BCE. It includes many towering pyramids, palaces and ceremonial structures.

Dzibanche

Climb the K’inich Na’ (House of the Sun God) pyramid on this compact archaeological site which was once the capital of the Kan dynasty.

Best Mayan Ruins in Chiapas State

Chiapas is the southernmost state in Mexico, bordering the Pacific Ocean and home to several ancient Mayan ruins.

palenque

Palenque

Built in the 7th century and lost beneath the jungle, the Mayan ruins in Palenque have since been recovered. They include examples of fine carvings and hieroglyphic inscriptions.

bonampak

Bonampak

Engraved stone pillars (stelae) and temple murals record Mayan life, war practices, human sacrifices and politics from AD580 to 800.

Yaxchilan

These Mayan ruins have well-preserved carved lintels above the doorways to the rooms in many ancient structures,

With such a wealth of fascinating Mayan ruins and archaeological sites, Southern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula are the ideal travel destination for history lovers.

6 Top Things to do in Akumal Riviera Maya

things to do in Akumal

6 Top Things to do in Akumal Riviera Maya.

The natural beauty and variety of attractions near Akumal make it ideal to visit for the day on a private tour. Located midway between Tulum and Playa del Carmen, Akumal has breathtaking beaches and lagoons. From sea turtles to cenotes, here are 6 must-do activities in Akumal.

akumal turtles

Swim with sea turtles

Akumal has a natural sheltered bay protected by a reef. It’s the perfect place to snorkel with sea turtles in their natural environment. Make sure you book a tour guide (mandatory) and read the Akumal bay regulation before the activity.

akumal beach

Akumal beaches

Akumal’s beaches are the jewel of the Riviera Maya coastline. Stroll on the sand or swim and snorkel in the clear warm sea.

tulum ruins

Tulum ruins

Situated on a headland overlooking the beach and sea, Tulum ruins are the most visited archaeological site in Mexico after Chichen Itza. Marvel over the engineering feat of these well-preserved buildings and imagine 13th century Mayan life in this beautiful spot. Take captivating photos of this historic site before enjoying a refreshing swim in the sea.

lagoon yalku

Yal Ku Lagoon

Don’t miss Yal Ku Lagoon in Akumal. The lush site has footpaths, statues, benches and the calm lagoon waters are safe for less confident swimmers. It’s like snorkeling in an aquarium with a lot of colorful fishes!

cenote dos ojos

Snorkel in cenotes

There are many excellent cenotes near Akumal including Taak Bi Ha, Dos Ojos and Nicte Ha. Snorkeling in the crystal clear waters is a unique experience and each cenote is different. Some are covered, like caves; others are open to the sky and edged with ferns. Why not visit several?

Delicious lunch in Akumal

Escape the heat with a relaxed lunch at one of the excellent restaurants in Akumal. Our favorites are “Buena Vista” and “La Cueva del Pescador” for fresh fish and yummy seafood.

Why not plan to spend a day in Akumal, swimming, snorkeling with sea turtles and enjoying the nearby attractions? Choose a private tour which includes transport, snorkel equipment and a friendly local guide.

Early Morning Coba Tour

Coba early morning tour

The Advantages of an Early Morning Tour at Coba.

The Coba Maya Ruins and cenotes are one of the most visited attractions in Riviera Maya. It makes sense to beat the crowds and avoid the heat by booking an early morning Coba Tour, especially if you want to climb the pyramid. It’s an unforgettable experience!

Be first to enjoy Coba adventures

The Coba Ruins are one of the few places where visitors can still climb the huge Mayan pyramid. Our early morning Coba tour means you can be first to ascend the stone pyramid and enjoy the view from the top– it’s amazing! It’s also safer and more enjoyable without crowds of other climbers, especially on the descent.

It’s fun to rent a bicycle to explore the extensive site. Enjoy the ride when no-one else is around, getting in the way.

Another advantage of early morning tours to Coba is the chance to see birds and wildlife. Once the crowds arrive and the heat rises, they quickly hide away.

Avoid the crowds

Not only will you beat the crowds and avoid the lines with an early morning Coba tour, you will also get the best souvenirs. Browse the freshly laid-out stalls and haggle with traders for the best price.

The peaceful morning atmosphere allows you to get up close to each building and take beautiful photos when no-one else is around.

Practical advantages of early morning Coba Tours

Early morning tours to Coba arrive just as the site opens at 8am. There are no lines at the ticket office and restrooms and no need to wait to rent a bicycle or taxi tricycle.

The morning air is fresh and cooler than later in the day, allowing you to explore the Coba ruins and climb the pyramid in comfort.

Conclusion!

The best way to experience the Coba Ruins is definitely on an early morning Coba tour. Have a nap on the journey, beat the crowds, and be back at your hotel in time to enjoy the rest of the day.

6 Reasons to Book an Early Morning Tulum Tour

tulum early morning tour

6 Reasons to Book an Early Morning Tulum Tour.

Enjoying a lie-in is an important part of your vacation in Riviera Maya, so you may not be thinking of booking an early morning Tulum Tour.

Our early morning Tulum tours arrive when they open at 8am. There’s no line at the ticket office and restrooms, so walk right in and get started. What a difference from arriving later in the day... Here are 6 good reasons to make you think again!

Beat the crowds

Beat the crowds

Tulum Ruins are a must-see for anyone enjoying a vacation in Riviera Maya. This ancient Mayan site is the second most popular archaeological site after Chichen Itza, attracting thousands of visitors every day. Dozens of coaches deliver hordes of visitors from 9.30an onwards, but the site opens much earlier for the best early morning tours of the amazing Tulum Ruins.

Better pictures

Better photographs

Arriving early means you can take beautiful atmospheric pictures of the Tulum Ruins and its stunning coastal location when no-one else is around. Professional photographers say that the best light for taking photographs is early or late in the day.

First to the beach

First to the beach!

Once you’ve explored the ruins on your early morning Tulum Tour, head to the beach for a cooling dip. Be first to make footprints in the sand!

avoid heat

Avoid the heat with early morning Tulum tours

The dusty site of the Tulum Ruins quickly becomes hot and sticky as you walk around. Our early morning Tulum Tour allows you to fully enjoy the experience in the cooler morning air.

wildlife

See more wildlife

Get the chance to see (and hear) some of the beautiful birds and indigenous coatis that inhabit the park.  Once the crowds arrive, they quickly hide.

relax cenote

Pack more into the day

Early morning Tulum Tours mean you will have time to do something else in the afternoon, like coof off in a cenote! While other groups are out on the road, you can be relaxing by the cenote or sharing your photos with friends back home.

An early morning Tulum Tour is definitely the best way to beat the crowds, avoid the heat, take beautiful photos and get the most from your visit. It pays to be an early bird!

Bachelorette Tours

bachelorette tours

Best Private Bachelorette Tours in Riviera Maya.

The Riviera Maya is an amazing destination for a bachelorette trip, hen party, stag weekend and we have the best Bachelorette Tours in Riviera Maya!

Whether you are looking for unique travel  experiences, amazing adventures, great food and drink, or unforgettable moment to share on Instagram, the Riviera Maya is a top destination for Bachelorette parties before the Big Day.

Bachelorette tours for travel lovers

Gather your girlfriends and book a private tour to the Tulum Ruins and cenote swim. Explore the ancient Mayan ruins then visit one of the beautiful cenotes (water-filled sinkholes). Enjoy swimming, snorkeling and laughing together in the crystal clear water. It’s a beautiful place to capture special moments of your bachelorette trip in Riviera Maya with unforgettable photos.

Bachelorette trips for adventurers

Riviera Maya has amazing tours for Bachelorette trips, hen trips, Bachelor/stag parties and groups in search of adventure. Climb the ancient Mayan pyramid with the bride or groom as part of your Coba ruins and Swim in Cenote tour and ride bicycles and head off along stone causeways exploring the hidden ruins in the jungle.

Another great Bachelorette trip for adrenaline junkies is the ATV, zipline and cenote tour. Drive your own ATV off-road before ziplining through the treetops in the jungle. Finally, relax and swim in a peaceful cenote. It’s the perfect way for everyone to bond and have fun before the wedding.

Instagram moments on Bachelorette tours

Book your own private Bachelorette tour to 3 cenotes around Tulum. We know the best open and closed cenotes that are off-the-tourist-path and offer peaceful experiences surrounded by jungle greenery. Swimming in the clear spring-fed cenote waters is an unforgettable experience.

Therefore, bring several changes of swimwear and clothes and get ready to pose with your friends for the best Instagrammable photos. Your fabulous Bachelorette party in Riviera Maya will be the talk of all your family, colleagues and friends back home!

Whether you want a beach experience or something memorable and unique, you’ll find plenty of things to do on a Riviera Maya Bachelorette trip. End each adventure with lunch and tequila shots to celebrate in true Mexican style!

Seaweed in Riviera Maya

seaweed in riviera maya

All you Need to Know About Seaweed in Riviera Maya.

During your Riviera Maya vacation you may come across some seaweed, but it needn’t spoil your stay. Here are some facts about seaweed, and some water-based activities in Riviera Maya that are not affected by it.

What causes seaweed in Riviera Maya?

Seaweed is a natural phenomenon that has always existed in Riviera Maya. Even the first Spanish navigators mentioned it in their records. However, in recent years there is slightly more. Scientists think this may be due to warmer ocean temperatures, currents changing, and fertilizers washing into rivers and then finding their way into the ocean.

Is there a best time to avoid seaweed in Riviera Maya?

Like most plants, seaweed thrives in warmer temperatures. The ocean is warmest in late spring and summer. Plan your visit during the winter months when the climate on the Riviera Maya is beautiful, and the beaches will be less affected by seaweed.

What do the authorities do to reduce seaweed?

Hotels, resorts and restaurants all do their part in clearing seaweed from the beaches. Riviera Maya authorities and volunteer groups also regularly clean the beaches of seaweed, but new deposits can reappear overnight.

Things to do in Riviera Maya that are not affected by seaweed

If you don’t like swimming and snorkeling in waters that have some seaweed, visit some of the freshwater attractions in Riviera Maya.

swimming in dos ojos cenote

Swim in Cenote

Take a private tour that includes swimming and snorkeling in a cenote - it’s a unique and beautiful experience. Cenotes are natural spring-fed sinkholes in the jungle with crystal clear water surrounded by amazing scenery. Every cenote is different - some are open to the sky while others are covered, like caves. Quieter cenotes are ideal for nervous or beginner swimmers. Instead of going to the beach, you can visit a different cenote every day to find your favorite!

muyil-3

Floating River

Visit the Floating Canals at Sian Ka’an. From the boat trip, don a life vest and jump into the gently moving river. Float through the mangroves is an amazing way to experience the natural beauty in this UNESCO Biosphere

bacalar tour

Bacalar

Swim and relax in the surreal Bacalar Lagoon with its 7 shades of blue and turquoise waters. Swimming, paddleboarding and kayaking can all be enjoyed in the stunningly beautiful lagoon

Other seaweed-free activities include:

Top 10 Things to Do in Tulum

top 10 things to do in tulum

Top 10 Things to Do in Tulum

If you’re planning a holiday in Riviera Maya, there are many unique things to do in Tulum which reflect its natural beauty and historic heritage. Check our top 10 list of amazing activities around Tulum so you don’t miss a thing!

Mayan Ruins

Tulum Ruins

Tulum Ruins are one of the most visited archaeological attractions in Mexico. The best way to visit these Mayan ruins is on a private guided tour combined with swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing on the nearby beach.

Coba ruins

Coba ruins

Surrounded by lush jungle, the less-visited Coba Ruins offer some unique things to do near Tulum. Climb to the top of the ancient pyramid or explore the network of sacbes (white roads) around the Mayan ruins by bicycle.

Muyil ruins

Muyil ruins

The ancient site of Muyil is off-the-tourist-path and boasts the highest Mayan pyramid on the Riviera Maya.

Snorkel and Swim!

Cenote Swim

One of the best adventure to do in Tulum is swim in a cenote, a natural sinkhole filled with crystal clear water. Visit Dos Ojos with its underwater caves or the hidden gems of Sac Aktun, Taak Bi Ha or Nicte Ha.

Swim with turtles

If you dream of swimming with turtles, unspoiled Akumal Bay is the place to encounter these gentle, beautiful creatures.

Boat Trip

Enjoy a scenic boat trip in Sian Ka’an Lagoon and swim in Mayan canals, after or before visiting Muyil ruins.

Things to Do on Tulum Beaches

Playa Paraiso

Witness a stunning sunrise on Playa Paraiso, one of the best beaches on Riviera Maya.

Beach festivals

Visit Tulum during one of the music festivals for top live entertainment. Sound Tulum is in early January and Tulum Live Music Festival is in mid-April, so book your passes ahead of time.

Beach clubs

Papaya Playa Project, Coco Tulum Beach Club and Ahau Tulum blend culture, wellness and sustainability with great things to do in Tulum including watersports.

No visit to Tulum is complete without visiting one of the local restaurants in downtown area. Check out our favorites – Camelo, Barracuda and Aguachiles - for a memorable meal.

By following these top 10 things to do in Tulum, you’ll have an amazing vacation in Riviera Maya!

The Most Instagrammable Places in Riviera Maya

The Most Instagrammable Places in Riviera Maya

The Most Instagrammable Places in Riviera Maya

They say “a picture is worth 1000 words” so use your phone to share your Riviera Maya experiences using this app. Riviera Maya is a top choice for Instagram fans with something for everyone to enjoy, photograph and share.

Here are some of the most Instagrammable places in Riviera Maya to visit and share. Get ready to be wowed!

Breathtaking beaches & lagoons

Akumal

Akumal is a quintessential tropical white sandy beach on Riviera Maya with a lagoon teeming with colorful fish and sea turtles. Get yourself an underwater camera or waterproof cover for your phone and upload amazing pieces to Instagram.

Isla Mujeres

Take a breezy ferry ride from Cancun to Isla Mujeres, a traffic-free island with white sandy beaches and turquoise waters for snorkeling and diving. Post snaps on Instagram of the Seashell House and the Underwater Museum.

Bacalar

Bacalar Lagoon is another dream location for sharing. It’s known as the “Lagoon of Seven Colors” - when you see it you’ll understand why!

Riviera Maya – Naturally!

Cenotes

Peer into a cenote and see the surreal crystal clear water in these natural limestone sinkholes. Some of the best to share on Instagram include famous Dos Ojos cenotes but for sure some private guides can bring you to less frequented cenotes.

Punta Laguna

Looking for more wild? Take a tour to Punta Laguna Reserve, it will be the unique opportunity to take pictures of spider monkeys!

Las Coloradas

Unexpected color can be found at the amazing Pink Lakes at Las Coloradas with flocks of pink flamingos. Mexico is one of only few places in the world with Pink Lakes, so take the advantage of being in Mexico to visit Las Coloradas!

Mayan Ruins Shots

Chichen Itza

Appreciate ancient cultures and architecture at places like Chichen Itza. Find an unusual angle to capture El Castillo pyramid, or photograph it early in the day for dramatic shadows!

Coba

Amid lush jungle, climb up to the ancient Coba Ruins and take amazing photos of the spectacular view with an interesting blend of manmade and natural.

Tulum

Due to its prime coastal location, it also offers some of the world’s finest views of the Caribbean Sea. As you explore the ruins, your guide will point out highlights like the main temple.

Is visiting Gran Cenote during your stay in Tulum a good idea?

gran-cenote

Is Gran Cenote Worth the Visit?

No. At Absolute Adventure, we have decided not to include this cenote in our cenote tours. Check out the facts about Gran Cenote tours and decide for yourself!

Vacationers staying near Tulum may plan to visit the famous Gran Cenote, but will it be a highlight of your vacation, or will you be disappointed?

Pros and Cons of Gran Cenote

On the plus side:

  • Gran Cenote is one of the most famous cenotes near Riviera Maya as many people went there with big tour companies, it made the place known and got a coverage online and in tourist guides.
  • It is easy to combine with a trip to Tulum, just 3miles (5km) away, and easy to go by car or bike.
  • Gran Cenote has many facilities (bathroom, changing room...)

However, Gran Cenote has many disadvantages, compared to other cenotes:

  • Gran Cenote is a crowded cenote with hundreds of tourists every day
  • It is packed with tour vans, rental cars, taxis and bikes
  • It can be a long wait for the entrance and changing rooms
  • With so many bathers, it is not the peaceful, pristine experience visitors expect
  • It’s difficult to take beautiful photos with so many people around
  • Swimmers who lack confidence may find the deep, crowded waters intimidating

 

gran-cenote-tulum
The reality of Gran Cenote
gran cenote worth it
Gran Cenote: crowded place

The Best Cenote Experience in Tulum!

Check out for a private cenote tour, it will allow you to go in some beautiful cenotes less frequented, less known but as beautiful.

A private cenote tour will provide you an unforgettable natural experience and swimming in the clear transparent waters, it will definitely be a highlight of your holiday!

Reasons to visit a cenote

  • Mexico’s Yucatan is one of the few places in the world where you can find natural cenotes.
  • These beautiful geological formations were once a sacred place to the Mayans.
  • Cenotes (sinkholes) form only in limestone karst regions and are filled with crystal clear spring water.
  • The cenote is surrounded by jungle trees making a beautiful picture of unspoiled nature.
  • Swimming in the clear sparkling water of a cenote is a unique and exhilarating experience.
  • It’s something everyone should have on their bucket list!

Is Cenote Ik Kil Worth the Visit?

ik-kil-cenote

Is Cenote Ik-Kil Worth the Visit?

Cenote Ik Kil is one of the most visited cenotes in the Yucatan, and it was undoubtedly very beautiful before mass tourism. Before you book a tour to Ik Kil Cenote, here’s what you really need to know…

Reality vs Expectation!

One of the reasons that Ik Kil is so well visited is its location. It is less than 3,7 miles from Chichen Itza on the busy road to Valladolid. Every tour bus passes by and generally includes a stop. This means:

  • Cenote Ik Kil is very crowded with hundreds of visitors every hour
  • You’re unlikely to get photographs without lots of people in them
  • With so many bathers, it is not the peaceful, pristine experience visitors expect
  • It is highly commercialized and has lost some of its natural serenity
  • There are lines for everything – tickets, restrooms, changing rooms, drinks etc.
  • You’ll be swimming in 132 feet-deep water with many other bodies – a frightening experience for less confident bathers
  • For most visitors, tours to Ik Kil Cenote are disappointing due to the commercialism and crowds. It is not at all what they expected.

But there’s a better way…

 

cenote ik kil worth it
cenote ik kil

© Travis Wise

cenote ik kil crowded

Discover Unspoiled Cenotes

If you want to experience the peaceful atmosphere and breathtaking natural beauty of a cenote, there are thousand cenotes to choose from in the Yucatan alone. These natural limestone sinkholes are fed by clear underwater springs and were once a sacred place for Mayan rituals, gifts and sacrifices.

Private Chichen Itza Tours

Take the time to find an agency that offers a totally different tour experience for visitors to Riviera Maya who want to visit, photograph and swim in a cenote.

Forget the Express tours that offer Ik-Kil Cenote as a brief add-on to a Chichen Itza tour. Experience a tour with a private guide, your guide will take you off-the-beaten-path to some of the most beautiful and peaceful cenotes in the Yucatan, far from mass tourism.

Another advantage with a private tour, you will have plenty of time to swim in the crystal clear water, learn how they are formed, and take beautiful pictures to share on Instagram.

Isn’t that what at tour is really all about?