After Tulum, we travelled northwest and inland on highway 109. Destination Valladolid, to see some of the ruins and colonial architecture . A little before the halfway mark from the coast to Valladolid, you’ll hit a rotary on 109. Take the rotary around to the third exit (essentially turning left, or southwest) to get to Coba.
Coba Pueblo isn’t much more than a few blocks along the way to the Coba ruins, straddling the Laguna Coba. They have some mean pork pibil for lunch, but we didn’t stay for much more than the ruins. The real attraction is the Coba ruins, and even then, this site isn’t pulling in the masses like Tulum and Chichen Itza. Drive through the town, and you can’t miss the large parking lot for the ruins.
My opinion? I think everyone should go out of their way to ensure some time exploring the Coba archaeological zone. Coba should have twice the number of people Tulum does, but you’ll be happy that it doesn’t.
Nicte Ha Restaurant
But before the ruins, lunch.
We stopped at the restaurant near the lagoon for lunch, before exploring the ruins. The pork pibil was absolutely delicious. Pibil is a style of cooking meat, typically pork, originating in the Yucatan Peninsula with the Mayans. Traditional pibil is roasted in banana leaves, after marinating in a blend of spices, seville orange juice, and achiote. Both are local ingredients to the Yucatan.
After washing that down with some fresh watermelon juice, we tackled the ruins.
The Coba ruins were without a doubt my favorite site that we went to while in Mexico. While it might not have the sheer awe of Chichen Itza or claim the ocean views of Tulum, Coba was absolutely the most fun to explore ourselves.
Coba sees a fraction of the visitors that those sites do, but boasts plenty of pyramids, stellae, and carvings of its own. I’m far from a hermit, but the crowds that show up late mornings at some of the ruins (looking at you Tulum) can really change your day. You quickly slide from an experience of exploration and adventure down to an exercise in patience and understanding. Better yet, Coba is in a much more natural state. You’re not dodging other visitors and avoiding souvenir stands as you move between the ruins. You’re in a jungle. Surrounded by green vines. Never quite finding the birds in the tree canopy overhead, you steer in the direction of their calls to the next ruins.
If you really want to do Coba the right way, rent the bikes. At 50 pesos for the day, it’s a steal, and it was probably the best 3 dollars I spent all trip. If pedaling isn’t your thing, you can also book a pedi-cab (with human engine) at 300 pesos for 2 hours (if memory serves).
We got our money’s worth out of those bikes. It was a hot day, but we didn’t feel the heat much with the wind on our faces between the various structures at the site.
We finished biking around by climbing up the main pyramid at Coba (in the featured image), and taking in the view over the jungle all around us.
When you think of all the ancient Mayans that may have stood in your place 1,000 years ago, you can’t help but feel a little shiver run down your back.
There are just some experiences you never forget.
Mountain biking through the Mayan jungle and climbing that pyramid with my son is one of those experiences.