The Mayan Ruins of Quintana Roo are one of the main reasons that I wanted to visit this southern corner of Mexico. While I have learned a bit about the Mayan empire since being in school, it was hard to imagine what it would really be like to visit some of the world’s ancient pyramids. Even amidst the crowds, I think it is a spiritual experience to visit these places. Not only do they demonstrate a little about the Mayan people (who still thrive in Quintana Roo and the surrounding peninsula), but they provide a window into the past of the land here as well. So, needless to say, I think if you come down (or up) this way, you should definitely put the ruins of this area high on your list of things to do.

Following here is a quick guide to some of the more and less famous Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo. I’m hoping you can use this guide to appreciate the historic masterpieces of this Mexican state. And if you plan on visiting, that this guide will help you pick the best spots for you.

Mayan Ruins of Quintana Roo

Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo

Copa (c) ABR 2023

The Mayan people still live in Quintana Roo and the Yucatan Peninsula. And there are even some great guides out there for anyone looking to explore modern Mayan culture through food, museums, and more.

The height of the Mayan Empire, which left behind the pyramids and sacred places that we can still visit today was in 200-900 AD. As you can tell from visiting and looking at the pictures of the structures that they built, the Mayan people have a complex and sophisticated legacy. They were pioneers in mathematics, science, and, of course, architecture and art.

A great way to get a glimpse of this part of historic Quintana Roo is to visit a few of the Mayan ruins that call the modern state home.

Of course, everyone will have their own ideas about which ruins are the best, and why, but I am going to provide a ranked list of the ruins that are included in my guide here. This might help you consider which ones to prioritize for your style of travel. And if your style is like mine, you might agree more. This is – if you are a hiker who prefers quieter areas, access to nature, and space to roam. And doesn’t mind a road trip!

Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo

San Gervasio (c) ABR 2023

Some Quintana Roo Archeological Sites – Ranked by Me

  • Coba – Even though Coba is very busy and sort of hard to get to, its size and beauty made it my favorite of the Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo.
  • San Gervasio – I found this sacred part of Cozumel to be very spiritual, especially as a woman. And the ancient roads, still winding their way through the thick forests, made me feel as though I might still have the chance to take the pilgrimage of people long past.
  • Tulum – The juxtaposition of the ruins along the sweeping cliffs over the sea just makes this place magical. Not even the crowds can steal that from it.
  • Muyil – This is a smaller, unassuming ruin was a nice place to escape the crowds and take in the historic beauty of the Mayan buildings in peace.

Coba

Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo

Coba (c) ABR 2023

Coba is tucked away in the dense jungles. It’s more remote than Tulum, so not nearly as crowded, but it is still quite popular among the Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo. It was once a spectacular Mayan city with more than 50,000 people calling it home. It’s not hard to imagine this being the case when you visit. In order to see most of the site, you need to hike (or bike) quite far. It really feels like the bones of a grand city. And when I was there, I could almost imagine myself walking through the vibrant home of so many people. This is made a little easier to do because of all the people who flock to the site. Since we didn’t select to rent a bike or ride a pedi-cab, our experience was even complete with dodging vehicles- just like a modern city.

Now, I’ve seen some other blogs describe Coba as a less crowded destination than Tulum, and that might be so, but this is not a quiet archeological site by any means. This is especially true near the entrance to the site and at some of the largest pyramids. And, in fact, I felt more pressured to get a guide here than any of the other sites that I visited. At times it made me uncomfortable. But Coba is also so big that you can escape some of the crowding by walking some of its smaller, and further paths.

Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo

Some crowding in Coba (c) ABR 2023

When you arrive at the site, if you are driving yourself, you will need to pay to park. This is NOT your ticket to the park. Once you park, you will then purchase another ticket in order to enter. I found this to be quite confusing, but several of the archeological sites had a multiple ticket entrance system that includes a local fee and a federal fee.

Oddly, the main bathroom for Coba is also OUTSIDE the gate. Which isn’t ideal for such a large site…

Once you are inside, there are immediately many things to see including an impressive pyramid and ball court. This is the area that I found hard to enjoy due to the number of people that were trying to get us to purchase their guiding services. And walking out from this area, you will pass a large bike rental and pedi-cab area. Once you walk (or ride) through here, there is a considerable amount of traffic.

Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo

The jungle abides in Coba (c) ABR 2023

Generally speaking, there is a split along the main road. To the left, the large pyramid that people say you can climb sits. When I visited, I was looking forward to climbing up and taking in the views. However, there was no climbing allowed at that time. I don’t know if this was a permanent change. It would make sense, there are so many people, I think letting them all climb the pyramid would be damaging to it in the long run.

While exploring this area, it was beneficial to look for some of the walking-only paths, if you are on foot. Otherwise, the bike traffic was a little intimidating.

I found that the section of Coba to the right of the main branch was much quieter. Over there, we had many of the sculpted stones to ourselves. And it was a much more peaceful walk as well.

Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo

Coba (c) ABR 2023

Whether you get a guide, ride a bike, or walk Coba on your own like we did, this is a great spot among the Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo to get a little taste of many elements of Mayan ruins. There are many impressive pyramids here. There are also many examples of the carved writing and art forms that Mayan people created for their cities during this time period.

I consider Coba the perfect site for getting a flavor for everything that makes Mayan ruins so special. And its size makes it a great place for the hikers and walkers among you.

Muyil

mayan ruins of Quintana Roo

Muyil (c) ABR 2023

I have a more detailed description of Muyil in my post about Tulum, because it is right outside of town. But I really like this small site. The pyramids here aren’t huge, but they are beautiful. And this place is very peaceful. There aren’t huge crowds here or bunches of guides looking for work. It’s just a nice, quiet place to take in the legacy of the Mayan empire.

This site also has access to a short hiking trail that goes into Sian Ka’an. It’s a separate ticket, but well worth the cost. It was really fun to explore the lush jungle here, and it was the only success we had in exploring that natural area.

This is the perfect site on this list of Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo for quiet contemplation and a gateway to delving into the jungle.

San Gervasio (Cozumel)

Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo

An ancient gateway (c) ABR 2023

San Gervasio was a very important pilgrimage site, especially for women seeking blessings for their fertility. For me, it was really powerful to visit this place. It brought many people to the island of Cozumel in the ancient past, and continues to sit in the middle of a powerful tourism destination to this day.

Of course, modern tourists don’t visit Cozumel for a religious pilgrimage. Nonetheless, I think you can still pick up on the power of this Mayan ruin. If you can catch a quiet moment here, whether on the ancient road or among the ancient temples, there is an exceptional beauty in San Gervasio. If you visit, be sure to stop, listen, and take it all in.

Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo

(c) ABR 2023

This is a great option among the Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo for anyone looking for something other than pyramids, and perhaps looking to immerse in nature.

When you visit, this is another site where you have to buy two tickets to enter. One is for the local community and one is for the federal fee for the site. You will need to drive a car here or take a special tour here. As far as I know, there is no other easy way to access the site.

Tulum

mayan ruins of quintana roo

Tulum ruins (c) ABR 2023

Tulum is the most famous of the Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo. And I have more details about it in my post dedicated to the town of the same name (LINK). However, I’d like to here address some of the things I have seen online about this being a tourist trap. Mostly because I disagree. Yes it is crowded, and you have to pay for parking and tickets, but Tulum is still a very unique site. Some of the ruins there are unlike anything I saw elsewhere in Quintana Roo. The quality of the carvings, for example, were really clear and impossible not to appreciate. The nearby beach and surrounding cliffs are also really out of this world. Combining these two things makes this a very special place.

If you don’t mind the crowds, Tulum is really worth the visit. Even if you aren’t interested in selfies, there’s nowhere else in the world like it. And even among the Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo it is something completely in a world of its own.

Thinking About Visiting Quintana Roo? 

When I went here, my best friend and I toured the state by car. We saw as much of this Mexican state as we could, and we had a blast. If you want to learn more about Quintana Roo and some places you might consider spending some of your time, check out my Visitor’s Guide (Coming Soon). If you are interested in Mayan ruins, definitely also check out my post on Tulum. And if you want some more places to experience nature in Quintana Roo, be sure to learn about Bacalar.

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Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo