Just Sitting on Top of….the Coba Ruins

 “Arrive early,” the concierge said, “it gets hot later in the day when you climb the Coba Ruins in Mexico.” 

Maybe I failed to mention to him or mother nature that I am not a morning person. It appears during this trip in Mexico, however, I am going to have to pretend to be. 

At 9:30, the Coba Ruins in Mexico parking lot contained no tour buses and there were no more than 10 vehicles in the parking lot. It seems that we have beaten the rush…and the heat. 
Along the way to the entrance of Coba were stands of merchants selling their goods, restaurants, and private tour guides. The tour guides were very friendly, not too pushy, and accepted our declining of their services modestly. The only problem was…there were nearly a dozen of them scattered throughout the entrance trying to sell you their services. Once you would finish declining one of their offers, the one next  would ask. Another tour guide would follow and tell you that his services are “almost free” (my favorite line in Mexico). Once we got past them we were home free.


A Little Bit About Coba

Coba, meaning “waters stirred by the wind” was built between two large lagoons and inhabited by the Mayans in roughly 100 AD. During the height of this specific settlement there were nearly 50,000 individuals living in the settlements due to their vast farmland, trade routes (Tulum and Honduras being some), and accessibility to water. Unlike the Tulum Ruins and Chichen Itza, this specific ruin is nestled in the jungle and is a little harder to access (and discover). 

While there are nearly 6,000 structures discovered, only 3 settlements are accessible to the public. There are 50 white roads, called sacebobs found throughout the site, but only 16 are allowed for the general public to travel upon connecting the settlements. This site includes 2 ball courts (to be explained in a later post) and the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan. While Chichen Itza is notoriously known for its human sacrifices, Coba was built prior to the Mayan’s interests in this particular practice. 


Entering Coba we took a stroll around the front part of the ruins to see the temples and other structures along the way, but our main goal was to climb the Nohoch Mul pyramid before it got hot and crowded. To get to the main pyramid of Coba, Nohoch Mul, however, there are 3 modes of transportation: walking, renting bikes, or having a 90 minute taxi ride by bicycle. 

My persuasive skills were lacking this day because while I wanted to pay a little more for a taxi (meaning roughly $2 more), Adam thought it was best that we rented bikes and tour ourselves. Damn. It.

After a bumpy, uncomfortable, rocky bike ride to Nohoch Mul, it was finally time to climb to the top!


The main pyramid at the Coba Ruins in Mexico is 138 feet tall. To get to the top of the site you have to climb 120 steep, steep steps. The climb is so steep, in fact, that they have a rope running down the center of it to help you not only climb up, but climb down as well. Now why didn’t the Mayans think of inventing an elevator to make this easier for us? They must have known we were coming…thousands of years later!


Adam started up to the top first, while I stayed back to take pictures. While Adam is very confident and sure-footed, I am what you would call a “klutz.” I have fallen down numerous steps in my day, broken glass containers by running into walls or shelves, and rolled my ankle continuously while hiking in Acadia too many times to recall. So, while Adam was racing to the top of the pyramid, I was trying to not fall down and die.

Once we got to the top of Coba’s Nohoch Mul there were only a handful of others who climbed to the top to see the vast landscape of the jungle ahead of us. The breeze was amazing and overall view was unmatched. 


Unfortunately, what goes up, must come down. While Adam practically ran down the stairs just as he did going up….I cautiously bum-shuffled down the whole entire 120 stairs gripping the rope for safety and questioning whose idea this was anyway (which of course, it was mine). Once we finally got down Coba’s Nohoch Mul and both feet were safely on the ground, we took a few pictures, collected our bikes, and made our way back to the entrance.


This was our first taste of Mayan  ruins and I believe it is actually the perfect introduction. The ruins are not as easily accessible or commercialized, like that of Tulum or Chichen Itza. The ruins are virtually unknown, in comparison and it does not have as much as a draw for tourists compared to the other two sites. You get the opportunity to climb to the top of the pyramid, take pictures, and absorb the vast landscape around it, primarily in peace. You even get the option to bike or walk the settlements and hey, who doesn’t like options?

Have you ever visited any Mayan Ruins? Which were your favorites?

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