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Visit the 6 Best Mayan Ruins Near Puerto Aventuras

Our Guide to the Best Mayan Ruins Near Puerto Aventuras

Puerto Aventuras is a charming seaside village known for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters and active marina community. Most people are attracted to this area for its world-class sport fishing, scuba diving on the Mesoamerican reef and hitting the links at one of the Riviera Maya’s top golf courses. 

But what many visitors may not realize is that this vacation destination is perfectly situated within a few hours’ drive of some of Mexico’s most spectacular Maya archeological sites, each offering a fascinating glimpse into the ancient civilization that once thrived in this area. Let’s investigate the best Mayan ruin sites near Puerto Aventuras.

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Best Mayan Ruin Sites Near Puerto Aventuras pin

From the iconic Chichen Itza, named one of the New Wonders of the Modern World, to the lesser-known gems like Ek Balam and Muyil, there is no shortage of incredible ruin sites to explore near Puerto Aventuras.

Whether you’re a history buff, an adventure seeker, or simply looking to immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of Mexico, these must-visit Mayan ruins are sure to leave you in awe. 

Let’s take a closer look at the 6 best Mayan ruins near Puerto Aventuras, and find out everything you need to know to plan an unforgettable visit.

Chichen Itza – One of the New Wonders of the Modern World

If you’re looking for an unforgettable excursion during your stay on the Riviera Maya, the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza are a must-visit destination. Located just over two hours away by car, Chichen Itza is one of the most famous and well-preserved Mayan sites in all of Mexico, drawing visitors from all over the world to marvel at its impressive pyramids, ancient temples, and intricate stone carvings.

Chichen Itza -The Best Mayan Ruins Near Puerto Aventuras
Me at Chichen Itza, one of the New Wonders of the Modern World and easy to get to from Puerto Aventuras

Getting to Chichen Itza

Getting to Chichen Itza from Puerto Aventuras or Playa del Carmen is a straightforward and scenic journey, with several transportation options available. Many visitors opt to rent a car and drive themselves, enjoying the freedom and flexibility to explore the surrounding countryside at their own pace. 

If your time is limited or you don´t feel comfortable renting a car, there are dozens of tour operators that offer guided trips to the Chichen Itza archeological site, complete with transportation, a knowledgeable guide, and often additional stops at nearby cenotes or other points of interest.

Here are a few tours we can recommend:

Discover Chichen Itza with Lunch, Cenote Swim and Tequila Tasting

All Inclusive Chichen Itza, Valladolid and Cenote Excursion

Can you climb the ruins at Chichen Itza?

No. It is strictly forbidden to climb the ruins at Chichen Itza. The site has been closed to climbing since 2008 in response to concerns for the safety of the visitors and the potential long-term damage to the ancient structures. 

I was fortunate enough to visit Chichen Itza several times before they closed El Castillo to climbing. I’m glad my kids and I had the chance to do it, but with millions of visitors a year, I certainly understand the need to protect the structure.

Tips for Visiting Chichen Itza

To fully appreciate the history and significance of Chichen Itza, I would recommend hiring a local guide who can provide insights into the site’s architecture, history, and cultural significance. 

If you are visiting the Chichen Itza archaeological site on your own, outside of a tour group, you can find licensed guides at the entrance to the ruin site.

These guides are knowledgeable about the surrounding flora and fauna as well, providing a well-rounded experience that highlights both the natural and human-made wonders of the area.

Visitors to Chichen Itza should come prepared with plenty of water, sunscreen, and comfortable shoes for walking and climbing. While the site is one of the most well-maintained, there are some uneven surfaces and some rocky staircases to navigate, so it’s important to take your time and be cautious.

If you have the time and can spend and evening in nearby Valladolid (which I strongly recommend) book your tickets for the ¨Kukulkan Nights¨ Chichen Itza Sound and Light show. It´s a must-see especially if you are traveling with kids.

Chichen Itza is regarded as one of the best Maya archeological sites in all of Mexico and is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Mayan history, architecture, or culture. Its impressive structures and fascinating history make for an unforgettable day trip from Puerto Aventuras, and the journey through the rugged Yucatan countryside is an experience in and of itself

Tulum Ruins – Discover this ancient Coastal citadel

Located just 45 minutes south of Puerto Aventuras, the Tulum archeological site is one of the most iconic and picturesque Mayan ruins in the Riviera Maya. This stunning coastal site offers visitors a glimpse into the lives of the ancient Maya, with well-preserved structures set against a backdrop of turquoise waters and white sand beaches.

Taking a photo of the ruins at Tulum
The ruins at Tulum are just 30 minutes from Puerto Aventuras and one of the most famous archeological sites in Mexico

Getting to the Ruins at Tulum

Getting to Tulum from Puerto Aventuras is a quick and easy journey, with several transportation options available. Many visitors choose to rent a car and drive themselves, following the signs along Carretera 307 and enjoying the freedom to stop in at a cenote or two along the way.

If you want to get the most out of the experience, there are some excellent and knowledgeable tour guides who offer a full day of exploration with transportation, lunch and additional stops at nearby cenotes included.

These are a few tours we recommend:

Tulum Ruins and Cenote Swim at Dos Ojos

Tulum Ruins Tour, Cenote Swim, Yal Ku Lagoon and Beach Lunch

Can you climb the ruins at Tulum?

No, it is forbidden to climb El Castillo or any of the structures at Tulum. The structures are clearly roped off and offenders will be ejected from the site and potentially fined.

Tips for Visiting Tulum

The Tulum ruins are open daily from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. As one of Mexico´s most popular tourist attractions, the ruins do get busy attracting around 2,000 visitors each day. The best time of the day to visit the Mayan ruins in Tulum is around opening time. This is typically the prime time to explore with fewer crowds plus it tends to be cooler in the morning.

Tulum ruins
Tulum is one of the best Mayan ruin sites near Puerto Aventuras

If you are renting a car or getting to the Tulum ruins by bus or colectivo, we recommend hiring a local guide to tour you through the archeological site and make sure you see all the major highlights and points of interest. These guides are passionate about the history of the Maya and will make your experience so much more fulfilling.

Visitors to Tulum should come prepared with plenty of water, sunscreen, and comfortable shoes for walking and climbing. While the site is well-maintained, there are some uneven surfaces and steep staircases to navigate, so it’s important to take your time and be cautious.

The archeological site at Tulum and its dramatic setting make for an unforgettable day trip from Puerto Aventuras. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore this iconic site and gain insight into the ancient Maya way of life.

Muyil – A Seamless Blend of History and nature

Muyil is a fascinating and unique archaeological site located in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site on the Riviera Maya.

Unlike some of the more popular and crowded Mayan ruins in the area, Muyil offers visitors a peaceful setting with stunning views and unique features that are sure to make for a memorable visit.

The site features several prominent structures, including the pyramid, El Castillo. The ruins at Muyil are believed to have been constructed around 300 BC and there is evidence that they were occupied until the 16th century.

El Castillo, the pyramid at the archeological site at Muyil
Don´t miss the chance to explore the ruins at Muyil and float down their famous canals

One of the unique features of Muyil is the nearby lagoon, which is connected to a system of ancient channels that the Mayans used for transportation and trade. Visitors can take a boat tour of the channels to explore the area and see the abundant wildlife that call the reserve home, such as crocodiles, manatees, and various species of birds. 

There are some excellent and responsible tour operators who can help you make the most of your visit to this remote site and if you want to experience a float in the ancient canals, this is your best option. I have had the opportunity to do “The Muyil Float” several times and it really should be on your Mexico travel bucket list.

These are the Muyil ruins tours we recommend:

Private Sian Kaan, Muyil Ruins and Canal Float

Sian Kaan and Muyil BEST Excursion for Birdwatchers!

Getting to Muyil

Getting to Muyil is easy from Puerto Aventuras and other Riviera Maya locations. Visitors can take a taxi or rent a car and drive south on the highway toward Tulum. The turnoff to Muyil is about 15 kilometers south of Tulum, and from there, it’s a short distance to the entrance of the reserve. 

Muyil is also accessible from Puerto Aventuras by colectivo. The colectivo stop is on the west side of 307, just under the Puerto Aventuras overpass. You may need to transfer colectivos when you reach the Tulum pueblo. Just let the driver know where you are going and when you would like to get off.

If you are renting a car or coming by colectivo, you will need to stop at the Muyil cooperative and hire a guide to take you through the park, the ruins and to the lanchas (boats).

A group of girls floating through the mangroves canals in Muyil.
The Muyil Float should be on your Mexico Bucket List

If you want to make sure you can do the tour on the day of your choice, there are a number of well-organized excursions that include a tour through the Muyil ruins and the float through the canals. Booking in advance will save you the stress of arriving to find that there are no boats or guides available that day.

Can you climb the ruins at Muyil?

It is no longer permitted to climb the pyramid at Muyil. Visitors should also be respectful of the ruins and follow any guidelines provided by park staff.

Tips for Visiting Muyil

When visiting Muyil, be sure to wear comfortable, secure waterproof shoes or sandals and bring plenty of water, a wide-brimmed hat and biodegradable sunscreen, and insect repellent.

If you are planning to do the tour through the canal and the Muyil float, life jackets will be required and provided by your tour operator. The site is located in a tropical jungle environment, so it can be hot and humid. Unlike some of the bigger more frequently visited sites, Muyil has limited amenities and services.

In addition to exploring the ruins and taking a boat tour, visitors to Muyil can also enjoy birdwatching, hiking, and swimming in the nearby lagoon. Be sure to pack your swimsuit and a towel. With its peaceful setting and unique features, Muyil is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Mayan history and nature.

Coba – Take a Step Back in Time

The Mayan ruins of Coba located about 30 minutes inland from Tulum and can easily be visited in combination with a trip to Tulum. This ancient city is home to a large pyramid, towering above the jungle canopy, and is surrounded by numerous other structures and features that provide an incredible glimpse into Mayan culture and history. 

Coba is unique among Mayan ruins because it is still largely covered by the jungle, giving visitors a true sense of discovery as they explore the site. At the heart of Coba is the Nohoch Mul pyramid, which stands at over 137 feet tall and is the tallest Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula. 

Coba - one of the best Mayan ruins near Puerto Aventuras
The Nohoch Mul pyramid at Coba, one of the best Mayan ruins near Puerto Aventuras

In addition to the Nohoch Mul pyramid, Coba is home to several other impressive structures and features, including the ball court, which is the largest in the region. The ball court is surrounded by walls adorned with intricate carvings, and visitors can still see the rings used to play the ancient game.

Getting to Coba

To get to Coba, visitors can either rent a car or take a guided tour. From Puerto Aventuras, it takes approximately 1.5 hours to drive to Coba. It’s an easy drive with lots to see and some interesting shopping opportunities along the way. 

Budget-minded travelers can also take a colectivo from Puerto Aventuras to and from Coba. The colectivo stop is on the west side of 307, just under the Puerto Aventuras overpass. You may need to transfer colectivos when you reach the Tulum pueblo. Just let the driver know where you are going and he will steer you in the right direction.

Once at the site, visitors can explore on foot,  rent a bike or hire a guide with a  “tricyclo” to cover more ground and to get the very best from your time at this lesser-known archeological gem.

Here are some of the better excursions to the Mayan ruins at Coba: 

Coba Ruins Tour, Cho-Ha Cenote PLUS Tulum and Paradise Beach

Full Day Coba Ruins and Chichen Itza

Can you climb the ruins at Coba?

No. Until just recently, it was still possible to climb to the top of the Nohoch Mul pyramid and take in breathtaking views of the surrounding jungle. Unfortunately, this option is no longer available and the temple has been closed to climbing.

Tips for Visiting Coba 

When visiting Coba, it is important to bring along plenty of water, and a wide-brimmed hat as the jungle setting can be hot and humid. Biodegradable sunscreen, and insect repellent are also recommended. Visitors should also wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking on uneven surfaces, pedaling bikes and climbing.

For those looking for additional experiences or activities at Coba, there are several options available. Visitors can rent a bike to explore the site, or take a guided tour of the ruins by “tricyclo”. Guides are available on-site to provide additional information about the history and significance of the structures.

Cenote near the ruins at Coba
While you are visiting Coba be sure to check out one or more of the amazing cenotes nearby

Coba is also home to several cenotes, which are natural swimming holes formed by underground rivers, so be sure to bring your swimsuit! Visitors can take a dip in the crystal clear waters of these cenotes, or take a boat tour of the nearby lagoon. Keep your eyes peeled for the resident alligator lurking in the shadows!

Coba is an important and impressive Mayan ruin site that should not be missed on a visit to the Riviera Maya. Whether exploring on foot or by bike, visitors will be immersed in the history and beauty of this remarkable site.

Ek Balam – Take in the view over the Yucatan Jungle

The Yucatan Peninsula is home to some of the most impressive and well-preserved Mayan ruins in the world. While places like Chichen Itza and Tulum are well-known tourist destinations, there are other less-crowded sites that offer an equally fascinating glimpse into the ancient Mayan civilization. One such site is Ek Balam, a hidden gem that features stunning stucco sculptures and remarkable architectural features.

Ek Balam, which translates to “black jaguar” in Mayan, is believed to have been occupied from around 300 BCE to 1100 CE and is known for its well-preserved structures and sculptures, making it a must-visit destination for history and architecture enthusiasts.

Aerial view of Ek Balam one of the best Maya archeological sites near Puerto Aventuras
Ek Balam is one of the lesser-known Mayan archeological sites near Puerto Aventuras but worth the trip

As visitors approach the entrance to the site, they’ll be greeted by a massive archway with detailed carvings depicting various Mayan deities. Upon entering the site, visitors will immediately be struck by the towering Acropolis, the largest structure at Ek Balam. Climbing to the top of the Acropolis offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding jungle and other structures at the site.

Another notable structure at Ek Balam is the Oval Palace, which features intricate stucco sculptures that have been remarkably well-preserved over time. Visitors can observe the details up close and marvel at the ancient craftsmanship.

Getting to the Ruins at Ek Balam

Ek Balam is situated about 120 kilometers west of Cancun and is two and a half hour drive from Puerto Aventuras. It is best experienced on a tour with a knowledgeable guide but you can also rent a car and explore the site on your own. 

Here are a few of the local tours offered to Ek Balam:

Ek Balam and Chichen Itza with Cenote Swim and Lunch All-Inclusive

Ek Balam Ruins Tour and Cenote Swim

The route we like is south to Tulum, then northwest on the Coba road all the way to Valladolid. From there, follow the signs to Tizimin on 295. Ek Balam is well-marked but cellular service in the area can be dodgy so make sure you have your route downloaded.

Can you climb the ruins at Ek Balam?

Yes. It is 106 steps to the top of the Acropolis at the Ek Balam ruins and visitors are still allowed to climb.  I can tell you from experience, it’s worth the effort! If you reach the top, you will be afforded amazing views over the Maya jungle which appear to have frozen in time. Be advised, the steps are steep and without a handrail. Wear proper shoes and exercise caution!

Tips for Enjoying Ek Balam

In addition to exploring the ruins, visitors can also take a refreshing dip in nearby cenotes, which are natural swimming holes unique to the Yucatan Peninsula. There are several cenotes located within a short drive of Ek Balam, including Cenote Hubiku and Cenote X’Canche, which are popular with tourists. You will want to bring your swimsuit and a small towel!

If you are traveling with kids, Ek Balam is a great site to get them interested in the history of the region. This is one of the sites where you can still climb the temples which all kids (and grown-ups) just love. There is lots of space for them to run around and explore and get their imaginations going!

Kohunlich – A Hidden Treasure for History Buffs

While many tourists flock to the well-known ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum, a lesser-known yet equally impressive site awaits exploration: Kohunlich. Located in the southern part of Quintana Roo, Kohunlich is a hidden gem that is worth the visit for its unique architecture and rich history.

The main attraction of Kohunlich is its impressive architecture that showcases the skill of the Mayan people. The site features a number of well-preserved structures, including a large palace complex, a ball court, and several pyramids. The most notable structure is the Temple of the Masks, which is adorned with striking stone masks that have become an iconic symbol of the site.

Kohunlich is one of the least known maya ruins near puerto aventuras
Kohunlich is a ruin site you have probably never heard of!

Kohunlich is also known for its intricate stucco facades, which depict a variety of scenes and symbols from Mayan mythology. The delicate stucco work has been remarkably well-preserved, allowing visitors to admire the artistry of the ancient civilization.

Getting to the Kohunlich archeological site

Kohunlich is located about 300 kilometers south of Puerto Aventuras, (about 4 hours driving) making it a bit of a trek. However, the journey is well worth it for those who are interested in exploring the lesser-known Mayan ruins.

To reach Kohunlich by car, take Highway 307 south from Puerto Aventuras and turn onto Highway 186 towards Chetumal. The site is located just off the highway and is well-posted, so it is easy to find.

I would recommend combining exploration of this archeological site as a part of a visit to the Mahahual and Bacalar in which case you will want to rent a car. If you are staying a night or two in any of these places (and I recommend that you do) there are organized tours that you can book locally that include transportation and lunch and will help you to get the most out of your visit.

Can you climb the ruins at Kohunlich?

Yes, visitors are allowed to climb the Temple of the Masks and the Acropolis at Kohunlich as well as most of the structures on the site. You have to climb to get a really good view of the giant stucco masks. Caution is advised as you will be far from medical attention in the event of a fall.

Tips for Visiting Kohunlich

To get the most out of your visit to Kohunlich, it is important to come prepared. Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, as the site is located in the middle of the jungle and has few amenities. 

Comfortable, closed shoes or sneakers are also a must, as the site is quite spread out and requires a fair amount of walking. For the moment, other than bathrooms, there aren’t other services available at Kohunlich.

One of the special features of Kohunlich is its location in the middle of the jungle, which provides visitors with a chance to explore the surrounding flora and fauna. Be sure to keep an eye out for exotic birds and monkeys, which are often spotted in the trees around the site. 

There is a peaceful lagoon that is perfect for swimming or taking a relaxing boat tour so you might want to bring along your swimsuit and a towel.

Kohunlich may not be as well-known as some of the other Mayan ruins in the area, but it is a hidden gem that is well worth a visit. The site’s impressive architecture, intricate stucco work, and stunning jungle setting make it a unique and fascinating destination for those interested in Mayan history and culture.

Are you ready to visit the best Mayan ruins near Puerto Aventuras?

A trip to the Riviera Maya offers a wealth of opportunities for travelers to immerse themselves in the rich cultural history of the Mayan civilization. Whether you’re drawn to the larger and more well-known sites like Chichen Itza or prefer to seek out the hidden gems like Ek Balam and Muyil, there is something for everyone. 

Chichen Itza is one of the best archeological sites near puerto aventuras
How many of these Mayan archeological sites have you visited?

From the stunning pyramids and ball courts to the intricate stucco sculptures and peaceful lagoons, these sites offer a glimpse into a fascinating and complex civilization that has captivated people for centuries. 

With the best Mayan ruins near Puerto Aventuras at your fingertips, it’s time to plan your own Mayan history itinerary and experience the wonder of these ancient ruins for yourself!

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15 thoughts on “Visit the 6 Best Mayan Ruins Near Puerto Aventuras”

  1. Wow, I’m so inspired by this! I’ve had Mexico on my bucket list for so long and after this blog, I’m about ready to go book tickets right now haha. Loved how many beautiful sites you listed and lots of really helpful information on visiting these places!

  2. So many Mayan ruins to visit. I’ve read a lot about the Mayan civilization, but haven’t actually visited Mayan ruins yet. Of course Chichen Itza and Tulum are on my must visit list, but Ek Balam would be great to if you can still climb it.

  3. I’ve been to all the ruins on the list except Muyil which looks worth a visit. But, I have also not been to Puerto Aventuras which I totally want to check out now!

  4. Wow, I had no idea there were so many different and unique Mayan ruins to visit! Seeing the Mayan ruins is a goal of mine, so I will keep these tips and suggestions in mind!

  5. Wow, what a fabulous and detailed post. You make me homesick for Mexico as it has been too long since I have been there. These look like amazing ruins to explore on my next visit!

    • You will have to make a trip back!!! FYI… I have been following you for YEARS. I used to have a blog called Lifes A Beach Blog. I had you on my blogroll way back when we did that kind of thing. We were both traveling with little kids at the time.

  6. So Puerto Aventuras is a perfect base to explore Mayan ruins, which is what I would love to do when I get to visit Mexico. I have heard of most of these, but Kohunlich was new to me.


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