A Guide to Climbing the Ruins at Coba

A Guide to Climbing the Ruins at Coba

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If climbing the ruins at Coba is on your wish list, but you don’t want to go on a tour and want it to be cheap and easy, then this article is for you.  We managed to do the trip for $490 pesos per person from Tulum, including entrance fees, guides and beers.

Getting to the ruins is safe, affordable and a brilliant day out from Tulum.  You can still climb the main temple in Coba, hence it’s an appeal for a lot of travellers.  At the top, you’ll look over a vast expanse of jungle.  A view that will make your day.

What to bring?

Mosquito spray (a must!), suntan lotion, water bottle, cash (for entrance fees, buses, guide and bikes) and your camera.  We’d also recommend you wear some trainers if you’re planning on climbing the main temple.

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How to get there from Tulum?

Bus ticket cost: $50 pesos with Mayab

We got to the bus station early and got tickets for the Mayab bus leaving at 7.08 am. The tickets were $50 pesos each. Didn’t get a return so we could choose when we want to leave Coba. 

The bus finally left around 7.20 am and we slept all the way, arriving in Coba just after 8 am. You are dropped off about 100 metres from the entrance to the archaeological site.  It is a short walk along the side of the lake in Coba and then you’ll see the main entrance.

Coba Ruins

View from the bottom of the main temple at Coba

Entrance fee: $75 pesos per person. 

You must bring cash for the entrance fee as they do not take card.  As always, it is advisable to pay in Mexican pesos as you will be given a rubbish exchange rate if you pay in USD.

There is an additional charge if you are going to use video equipment so it’s probably advisable to keep any recording equipment in your bag when purchasing your ticket. No drones allowed.

Guides

Guide cost: $450 pesos 

After an incredible tour at Chichen Itza and learning so much from our guide, we were keen to learn more about Coba.  As soon as you buy your ticket and enter the site you are offered the services of a guide.  At first, we were told a guide would cost $600 but we arrived early and having no one to split the cost with, one guide kindly agreed to accept $450 pesos for the two of us. 

Our guide was called Daniel and he was excellent. He spoke incredible English and was very knowledgeable about the site, Mayan history and culture. Coba is even older than Chichen Itza and they know from archaeological works at the site that Coba used to have direct trade links with another Mayan city, Tikal in Guatemala.  

It was a fantastic tour and it really bought the ruins to life. The city having been founded in 100 BC the city at one point housed 55,000 people and was spread over 77km. Today only 5% of the site is open to the public so it gives you an idea of how developed the civilisation was.  

Daniel showed us how the Mayans built layers on top of their existing temples after 52 years (an important number in the Mayan culture) and he showed us how the archaeologists had revealed this on one of the temples.  You can see how new layers were built upon the existing building, increasing the size of the temple and making it more built up.  

The site also has a ball court which has been restored really well.  Our guide told us that often the balls were quite large and weighing 2 pounds, the players had to knock the ball with their hip, elbow or knee to get it through the hoop, which must have been quite painful!

A Guide to Climbing the Ruins at Coba
Ball court in the Coba complex

Bike Hire

Bike hire cost: $50 pesos. 

We definitely recommend getting a bike to get you around the site. At only $50 pesos per person, it’s great fun and a cheap method of transport. We plodded around at our own pace, stopping to walk around the buildings we found as we cycled through the jungle. A lot of people were walking, but the site is quite vast so for the sake of £2 it’s worth getting a bike. 

Our guide had given us some background to some of the buildings during our tour, so it was great to have those descriptions in our mind when seeing the various buildings within the ruins complex.

A Guide to Climbing the Ruins at Coba
Coba Watch Tower

You can also rent a tricycle. Someone cycles you round and you sit in the front. When you arrive at a location they wait for you whilst you walk around and take a look.  This also looked quite fun, but we chose the bikes because it was quite cool when we arrived and we weren’t too worried about the heat as it was still so early.

Climbing the Ruins at Coba

A lot of people come to Coba to climb the main temple, Nohoch Mul Pyramid, the True Center of Coba.  Currently, climbing the ruins at Coba is still allowed whereas, at places like Chichen Itza or Tulum, you are not allowed to climb on any of the structures in an effort to preserve them.

Aiming to beat the crowds, after our guided tour had finished, we cycled straight to the main temple.  We managed to start the climb before 9.30 am and after a short but steep climb we were at the top.  There is a rope up the centre of the temple which you can use to help you ascend and descend.  At the top, it was still quiet, with only about 15 people at the top with us.  

A Guide to Climbing the Ruins at Coba
Steep descent

As we started our descent at about 9.50 am the temple was busy, with a steady stream of people going up and down. So if you can climb the temple before 9.30 am.

We also advise that you wear some trainers.  We read some blogs where people said they did it in flip flops, but we found the steps quite narrow and wouldn’t have wanted to do it with no support.  It was due to rain the day we visited, so we thought it would be best to have something with a bit of grip in case the stones were slippery.

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Getting back to Tulum

We whizzed around the site on our bikes and we’re finished at about 11 am. As we headed out of the site, we tried to work out how to get back to Tulum.  

We were directed to the official ADO bus ticket station (a cafe just outside the main entrance) where we were informed that the next ADO bus was at 3 pm and would cost 100 pesos.  Or else they could call us a cab for 250 pesos.  We asked about second-hand buses but as they don’t sell those tickets, they just said the 3 pm ADO bus was the next available bus.

We headed off in search of a colectivo but all the minibuses arriving wanted to stay until later in the afternoon when more people would want to head back to Tulum.  We were advised to head back towards the lake and wait where the Mayab bus had dropped us off as various buses come by throughout the day.

View from the top of the main temple in Coba

Everyone we asked seemed to give us different times for when the bus might arrive, so we sat admiring the beautiful lake seeing if a bus would come and then headed to a nearby restaurant to enjoy a beer.  We went to Restaurante La Piramide Coba, the beers cost $40 pesos each but we also got to use their WIFI whilst we waited, which was really good.

An Oriente bus arrived at 11.30 am but it was too full for us to get on so waited a while longer.

At 12 midday the Mayab bus we’d caught in the morning, having been to Valladolid was returning.  The bus driver even recognised us!  Another $50 pesos per person and we jumped on.  We were back in Tulum for 1 pm, having had a fantastic day exploring the Coba ruins.

Further things to do near Coba

Just outside of the ruins you can hire bikes for $100 pesos to go and visit 3 nearby cenotes in the area; Cenote Multum Ha, Cenote Choo-Ha and Cenote Tamcach-Ha.  If you download the map for the Coba area on Google Maps before you go on your trip and save the cenotes on your phone, they are only a short bicycle ride away.  All of them charge a small entrance fee of roughly $100 pesos each, so if you’re planning on visiting these, make sure you bring more cash.

If you are going to swim in the cenotes, please ensure you’re wearing reef-safe, biodegradable suntan lotion so you don’t affect the freshwater eco-system.  We love the Green People Reef Safe Sun Lotion – it is rather thick but it is very water-resistant, meaning you feel safe all day, allowing you to jump in and out of the water without having to re-apply.  

When you get hungry there are also a lot of restaurants in the town, so if you need lunch, you have plenty of options.  If you don’t know what to chose, the local speciality, Conchita Pibil, is a must-try because it’s delicious.  Spicy shredded pork it’s usually served with beans, rice, tacos and a variety of hot sauces.

Total Costs of a Day Visit to Coba

To give you an idea of how much it costs to do Coba, we wrote out all the costs below (including sundries like beer):

Tulum > Coba Mayab bus: $100 pesos ($50 pp)

Entrance to Coba: $150 pesos ($75 pp)

Guide: $450 pesos

Bike hire: $100 pesos ($50 pp)

Beers: $80 pesos ($40 pp)

Coba > Tulum Mayab bus: $100 pesos ($50 pp)

Total $980 pesos ($490 per person)

We hope you find the above information helpful about climbing the ruins at Coba. We really enjoyed climbing the ruins at Coba and seeing the spectacular jungle views.

Are you planning on going to Coba?  What are the best Mayan ruins you’ve visited and why?

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