On this visit to Mexico I was determined to climb a pyramid. The last time I was in the area I missed out on the chance to climb and see Chichen Itza, so I promised myself that it wouldn’t happen again. Since Chichen Itza was a bit out of the way this time, and is also now closed to climbers, I did a bit of research and went for the next best thing: the Coba ruins. I had heard they were much less touristy than Chichen Itza, but just as incredible.
And guess what? I think it actually ended up being better.
I’ll begin by saying that the best part, by far, was the solitude. I had literal chunks of time, at least 15 minutes each, where I was completely alone inside the complex. That’s how wonderfully uncrowded it was. It was so refreshing being able to admire the ruins and walk around without bumping into other tourists every 5 seconds. I will also say that the people I did encounter were very respectful and generally quiet.
The absence of distractions truly allowed me to absorb the extraordinary ambience of Coba and appreciate its importance in Mayan history.
I ended up spending almost three hours at the Coba ruins; walking around the complex at my own pace and trying to take in the beauty of it all. It wasn’t until after climbing the Nohoch Mul pyramid that I hired someone to taxi me back to entrance.
Climbing the Nohoch Mul was more tiring than I expected, but breathtaking at the top. It’s easy to underestimate how tall the pyramid is, so I warn you that you should be in, at least, decent shape. More than anything, the rocks that make up the pyramid have become seriously worn and slick over the years, so it’s a bit of a cautious climb, especially on the way down (hello, vertigo!). I didn’t want to take any chances, so I climbed this baby like, well, a baby. Did I look stupid? Yes. Did I fall? No.
Luckily, I made it up and down in one piece and even had a couple of minutes to myself alone at the top (another great reason to go early!). However, I didn’t whip out my camera right away, as usual, and instead decided to enjoy a few glorious minutes completely to myself.
After the Nohoch Mul, a bicycle taxi took me around the rest of the complex and eventually back to the entrance for about $9 USD. Chaffing issues aside, it was worth it for my drivers’ knowledge alone! He grew up in the area and shared some interesting history about Coba with me. It was nice hearing a few stories after being without a guide for the first half of my visit.
The rest of the ruins are spread out all over the complex, with Nohoch Mul being the largest pyramid. Since the area is quite large, I definitely recommend having a map with you so that you can orient yourself if you lose track of other people. I definitely had a few moments where I wasn’t sure what direction to go in!
Once I was back at the entrance, I noticed a lot more buses and taxis had arrived since the morning (seriously, get here between 8-9am). Luckily, I had made a deal with my taxi driver prior, so he was waiting for me when I exited the ruins. Since I didn’t come with a big group and I didn’t want to pay for a tour, I had to find a different way to get here. When I arrived the first day in Tulum, I asked my taxi driver if he offered drives to the Coba ruins and he made a deal to drive me around for a specified period of time. He waited for me at each “attraction” and was very accommodating. He even didn’t mind when I extended our time together so that I could go see the cenotes. I found the experience and price to be a great option for a solo traveler, since I spent under $80 USD for someone to drive me around all day! And remember, you can always negotiate!
Honestly, the Coba ruins are beautiful and fairly accessible if you’re staying in Tulum – only a 40 minute drive. If you don’t have enough time to make Chichen Itza happen, or you want something less touristy, I highly recommend seeing the area.