The Mayan civilization, which flourished from 2000 BC to 1500 AD, left a rich heritage of architectural wonders and cultural artifacts throughout Central America. One of the best places to discover these ancient treasures is in Costa Maya, Mexico.
In this article, we will take you on a journey to explore the best Mayan ruins in Costa Maya, Mexico, and provide helpful tips for making the most of your visit.
The Importance of Mayan Ruins in Costa Maya, Mexico
The Mayan ruins in Costa Maya are not only a testament to the incredible architectural skills and achievements of the Mayan civilization, but they also offer a unique insight into the history, culture, and daily life of the people who once inhabited the region.
These sites are invaluable for researchers and archaeologists, as well as for tourists who want to connect with the past and learn about ancient civilizations. So, let’s dive into the top 5 Mayan ruins you should visit in Costa Maya, Mexico.
Top 5 Mayan Ruins to Visit in Costa Maya
Located about 50 miles from the Costa Maya port, Chacchoben is one of the most popular Mayan ruins in the region. This site, discovered in 1942, features several well-preserved pyramids, temples, and ceremonial platforms, offering a glimpse into the religious practices of the ancient Maya. The main highlight of Chacchoben is the Gran Basamento, a massive temple complex surrounded by dense jungle. Don’t forget to look out for the local wildlife, including monkeys and exotic birds, during your visit.
Kohunlich is a hidden gem, situated about 65 miles from Costa Maya. This sprawling archaeological site is home to the famous Temple of the Masks, which features eight stucco masks depicting the ancient sun god, Kinich Ahau. The site also boasts a well-preserved ball court, residential complexes, and an impressive palace. Kohunlich is less crowded than other Mayan ruins, allowing you to explore at your own pace and truly immerse yourself in the ancient atmosphere.
Dzibanche, meaning “writing on wood” in Mayan, is located approximately 80 miles from Costa Maya. This site served as an important political and ceremonial center during the Classic Period of the Mayan civilization. Dzibanche’s main attractions include the Temple of the Lintels, the Temple of the Captives, and the Temple of the Owl. The site is also home to an extensive network of sacbeob, or ancient white roads, which connected the various buildings and plazas.
About 110 miles from Costa Maya, Becán is a fascinating Mayan city that was once surrounded by a 1.2-mile-long moat – a unique feature among Mayan sites. Becán was a prominent regional capital and features several impressive structures, such as the Temple of the Nine Lords and the Great Plaza. You can also explore the intricate system of underground tunnels, which were likely used for religious ceremonies and as secret passageways during times of conflict.
Situated 65 miles from Costa Maya, Oxtankah was an important coastal trading center during the Late Preclassic and Early Classic periods. The site is home to several intriguing structures, including the Temple of the Frescoes, adorned with well-preserved murals, and the Plaza of the Pelicans, named after the numerous pelican sculptures found there. Oxtankah also features a unique blend of Mayan and Spanish architecture, as it was occupied during the Spanish colonial period.
Tips for Visiting Mayan Ruins
1. Prepare for the Weather
The weather in Costa Maya can be hot and humid, so make sure to wear comfortable clothing, sunscreen, and a hat. Bring plenty of water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized during your visit.
2. Hire a Guide
To get the most out of your experience, consider hiring a knowledgeable local guide who can provide fascinating insights into the history and culture of the Mayan civilization.
3. Respect the Sites
Remember to treat these ancient sites with respect, as they are invaluable cultural and historical treasures. Avoid climbing on fragile structures, littering, or removing artifacts from the sites.
Best Guided Tours and Excursions in Costa Maya, Mexico
To make the most of your visit to the Mayan ruins in Costa Maya, consider joining a guided tour or excursion. These trips not only provide transportation and entrance tickets to the sites but also offer the expertise of knowledgeable guides who can share fascinating insights into the history and culture of the ancient civilization. Here are some of the best guided tours and excursions available in Costa Maya:
This popular tour takes you to the Chacchoben ruins, where you can explore the majestic temples and plazas of this ancient city. Your guide will provide detailed information about the history of the site and the Mayan civilization, as well as point out the local flora and fauna. This tour usually includes round-trip transportation from the Costa Maya port, entrance fees, and a knowledgeable guide.
Experience two incredible Mayan sites in one day with this combo tour. You’ll start at Kohunlich, where you can marvel at the stunning Temple of the Masks and the tranquil surroundings. Next, you’ll head to Dzibanche, a former political and ceremonial center of the Mayan civilization. Your guide will share the fascinating stories behind each site, making this a truly immersive experience. This tour typically includes transportation, entrance fees, and a knowledgeable guide.
3. Becán and Xpujil Adventure
Embark on an adventure to the ancient Mayan cities of Becán and Xpujil with this guided excursion. Explore the unique moat-surrounded city of Becán and learn about its strategic importance, then discover the lesser-known Xpujil, which features striking examples of Rio Bec architecture. This tour often includes round-trip transportation, entrance fees, a professional guide, and a stop for a traditional Mexican lunch.
4. Oxtankah and Chetumal City Tour
Combine history and culture on this tour that takes you to the Oxtankah ruins and the charming city of Chetumal. At Oxtankah, you’ll explore the fascinating blend of Mayan and Spanish architecture before heading to Chetumal, the capital city of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Your guide will lead you through the highlights of the city, including the Museum of Maya Culture, local markets, and historical landmarks. This excursion typically includes transportation, entrance fees, a knowledgeable guide, and a stop for lunch.
5. Custom Private Tours
If you prefer a more personalized experience, consider booking a custom private tour. Private tours allow you to tailor your itinerary to your interests, choose the sites you want to visit, and set your own pace. You’ll have a dedicated guide who can provide in-depth information about the Mayan ruins and answer all your questions. Private tours often include transportation, entrance fees, and a knowledgeable guide, and can be customized to include additional stops or activities.
By choosing one of these guided tours or excursions, you’ll be able to truly appreciate the rich history and culture of the Mayan ruins in Costa Maya, Mexico, while also enjoying a comfortable and hassle-free experience.
Visiting the Mexican cruise port, you will understand that Costa Maya is a treasure trove of Mayan ruins, offering a unique glimpse into the ancient civilization’s history, culture, and architectural prowess. From the popular Chacchoben to the lesser-known Oxtankah, each site has its own charm and significance. By following our tips and recommendations, you can not only stay on the wonderful beaches near Costa Maya but also make the most of your visit and create lasting memories of these incredible archaeological wonders.
What is the best time of year to visit Mayan ruins in Costa Maya, Mexico?
The best time to visit the Mayan ruins in Costa Maya is during the dry season, which typically lasts from November to April. The weather is more comfortable, and there is a lower chance of rain disrupting your visit.
Are the Mayan ruins in Costa Maya suitable for children?
Yes, most Mayan ruins are suitable for children, but be prepared for uneven terrain and some climbing. It’s essential to keep an eye on them at all times and ensure they are well-hydrated and protected from the sun.
How much time should I allocate to visit a Mayan ruin site?
The time you spend at a Mayan ruin site can vary depending on your interests and the size of the site. Generally, allocate at least 2 to 3 hours for smaller sites like Chacchoben, and 4 to 5 hours for larger sites like Dzibanche.
Are there any safety concerns when visiting Mayan ruins in Costa Maya?
While most Mayan ruin sites are considered safe, it’s essential to be cautious and follow the posted guidelines. Stick to designated paths, avoid climbing on unstable structures, and be mindful of your belongings.
Do I need a permit to visit the Mayan ruins in Costa Maya, Mexico?
In most cases, you do not need a permit to visit Mayan ruins. However, it’s essential to purchase an entrance ticket, which can typically be obtained at the site’s entrance or through a guided tour package.