How to Visit the Mayan Ruins Near Cancun

Visiting Tulum lets you enjoy views of the Caribbean as well as the ruins.
Visiting Tulum lets you enjoy views of the Caribbean as well as the ruins. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

The city of Cancun, Mexico, attracts throngs of young visitors, including those who flock to the area during spring break -- but in the surrounding area you'll find a world of ancient artifacts and traditions. If you're looking to break away from the party scene, you can explore the area's many Mayan ruins via tour bus or car. Visits to the ruins are popular, so you'll find it easy to arrange your trek.

Get recommendations from friends, colleagues or family about which ruins to visit. A lot of people visit the city -- about 3 million people visited in 2010, according to MexConnect -- so you'll probably know at least a few people who have made the trip and can tell you about the scenery, transportation and other relevant factors.

Get a map of the "ruinas" from your hotel, a local bookstore or tourist shop, so you can check out the various sites and decide where you'd like to visit. Perhaps the most popular option is Tulum, situated along the Caribbean Sea about 80 miles south of Cancun. Other popular options are Chichen Itza, the large complex of pyramids and ruins about two and a half tours from Cancun, and Coba, about three hours south of Cancun.

Talk to your hotel concierge about the options for tours in the area. Most hotels -- even the smaller ones -- have connections with tour guides who will take you to the ruins of your choice. Tours can cost as little as $50 for a day visit and guided tour to Tulum, or several hundred dollars for a longer trip and tour of Chichen Itza.

Compare the cost of the tour with renting your own car. Many U.S.-based rental companies are available in Cancun, and you can often book right through your hotel or online. Either way, be sure to factor in any additional costs for collision insurance, which can be about $15 a day. While your insurance company or credit card company may cover this additional insurance, it may be worth paying the extra fee to prevent any big hassles should you get into an accident. The highway system around Cancun is fairly easy to navigate with your map, though some routes do include tolls.

Pack any items you'll need for the day, including medications, sunscreen, walking shoes, sunglasses, snacks and water. If you decide to take a tour, it will probably include a meal or snack. If you're driving on your own, you'll find roadside stands and convenience stores along the way -- but it's always best to be prepared just in case.

Bring along the appropriate amount of pesos to pay for admission fees. While U.S. dollars are often accepted in Cancun, you'll need Mexican pesos to pay for incidentals along the way as well as admission into the ruins, which can cost between $5 and $15, as of 2013. You'll find many places to exchange money along Boulevard Kukulcan in Cancun.

Tips & Warnings

  • Another option that takes less time is to visit the ruins within the city of Cancun, including Ruinas el Rey near Playa Delfines in the hotel zone, or El Meco, accessible via taxi and located directly north of the city.

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