From Suytun to Coba and Tulum: Exploring the Cenotes and Mayan Ruins of the Riviera Maya

You have reached our full day-by-day account of our trip to Yucatán, day 3. If you would like to read the story from the beginning, including our itinerary and planning guide, start here.

We spent the night in Valladolid. In the morning we struggled to find a place to have an early breakfast. We settled for one of the restaurants in the plaza, but I must say it wasn’t very memorable. At least we had a nice view of the plaza.

Early morning in Valladolid.

We later found out that there were a few places open for breakfast in the market on the other side of the plaza. The market was very lively the night before, so that could also be a good option for dinner.

The market in Valladolid.

Visiting the cenotes

Our plan for the day was to visit a cenote, then stop in Coba on the way to Tulum. There are a few cenotes in Valladolid:

  • Cenote Zaci – a few blocks from the plaza, $25 MXN entrance fee
  • Cenote Z’keken y Semula – 15 minutes south of Valladolid, $65 MXN entrance fee, private taxi $75 MXN

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit them. However, we wanted to see a closed cave-like cenote, so we decided to visit Cenote Suytun. After considering our options, we decided to take a private taxi from Valladolid, with a 30 min stop in Suytun, and drop off in Coba ($750 MXN). Taxis are located in front of the church.

Taxi line in front of the church.

Cenote Suytun is one of the most unique cenotes in the region. With limited time in Yucatán, I knew I could only see one or two cenotes, so I made sure to make time to see Suytun. At 8am on a weekday, we were the first ones there. Incredibly peaceful.

The water is crystal clear, though a bit cold in December.

Suytun is a closed cenote, and there is only a small hole on the roof that lets the light in. If you want to see the beam of light come straight down, you need to visit mid day, but there will be more people there as well.

Just a ray of sunshine…

There is another cenote in the Suytun complex where you are not allowed to swim. The entrance fee includes both cenotes ($120 MXN), and we were not allowed to pay just to see Suytun.

After the cenote, we continued our drive to Coba.

How to get from Valladolid to Coba (other options):

  • Take a colectivo from Valladolid to Coba ($70 MXN). If you want to stop at Cenote Suytun you can probably ask to be dropped off. However, I am not sure if you will be able to catch another colectivo to Coba.
  • ADO bus – stops in Coba en route to Tulum ($42 MXN).

Exploring the Coba ruins

The Coba ruins are the remains of an important and powerful Mayan city (entrance fee $70 MXN). It is about 1 km from the entrance to the site, so you can rent a bicycle ($40 MXN) or hire a bici-taxi ($150 MXN for 2 people, round trip) to take you to the main pyramid. The bici-taxis will not go to the Macanxoc Group, where most of the stelae are located. We just walked the entire site and visited all the areas, probably in about an hour and a half.

Parking for bicycles.

The complex consists of a series of temple pyramids and stone platforms that were used as residential areas.

Terraces that are believed to be residential areas.

There are many stelae, carved stones that show some of the rituals and ceremonies of the era.

One of the stelae.
A close-up showing the carved warrior.

There are also two ball courts, smaller than the one in Chichen Itza, but still pretty impressive.

Look at the tiny hoop for the ball!

You can still climb the Nohoc Mul pyramid, one of the tallest in the peninsula at 42 meters. Coba can get crowded, and there is not much space on the steep steps, so be very careful if you decide to climb the pyramid. Tour buses arrive around 10 am, so it is best if you try to avoid climbing around that time.

Nohoc Mul pyramid.

At the entrance to Coba there is a parking lot with a few souvenir stores and restaurants. We had lunch at Ki-Hanal restaurant, overlooking the lake.

Pollo pibil with a side of rice and frijoles

How to get to Tulum from Coba

Now we needed to make our way to Tulum. We took a taxi colectivo ($100 MXN per person) and were dropped off at Tulum pueblo (1 hr). We then asked the same taxi to take us to the Tulum ruins ($40 MXN per person).

Entrance to the parking lot and stores. Note the colectivo waiting to the left of the entrance.

Other transportation options from Coba to Tulum:

  • ADO bus – $100 MXN, not very frequent, check the schedule online.
  • Mayab bus – $50 MXN, second class bus
  • The bus stops are about a 10-15 min walk from the Coba parking lot.

Exploring the Tulum ruins

Tulum is perhaps one of the most beautiful ruins in the Yucatán peninsula. The ruins sit on top of a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. (Entrance fee $70 MXN)

Templo del dios viento looking to caribbean waters.

The temples are mostly restored and the grounds are just lovely.

Beautiful landscaping around the temples.

The proximity to the sea made Tulum an important trade site. Interestingly, the shrine at El Castillo points to an area where there is a break in the barrier reef, so canoes could safely come into the beach.

El Castillo

There are some steps leading directly into the gorgeous beach, in case you need to refresh after a long day of sight seeing.

Beach time!

Just outside the ruins is a strip mall, complete with fast food chains. Don’t expect to find any bargains here as it is tourist central.

A day at the mall…

Where to stay in Tulum

If you have followed this adventure from the beginning you can tell we are definitely not beach lovers. But when in Rome…. We decided to find some budget beach accommodation and settled for Hotel Zazil Kin. Located in the protected Tulum National Park, it is only a 10 min walk from the ruins. There are only a few hotels in this area, and they are all quite expensive. For less than a third of the price of these other hotels we had a private cabana right on the beach.

Cabanas in Hotel Zazil Kin

These cabanas are rustic  – expect just a bed and a table. No comfort, no luxury. There is no air conditioning or even a fan, but we didn’t need that in December. The cabanas only have electricity at night, so during the day you can charge your phone in the common areas. Only a few of the cabanas have en suite bathrooms, so if that is important to you book early. The shared showers have minimal privacy.

A mattress and a table, that is all you need!

There is a restaurant and a bar on site where the tables are set on the sand. We had dinner and breakfast there, and it was actually quite good and affordable. Do note that the restaurant does not accept credit cards, but they will take US dollars. There are no ATMs on site.

Dinner with your feet on the sand…priceless!

While I loved the location and the price of this hotel, I must admit I was a little worried at night, just because we were right on the beach and there are no gates on that side. We walked to the hotel next door ($$$) and it had a similar setup, so in all fairness this is a problem all of these hotels share.

Just outside the hotel gates is the beautiful Tulum beach.

After a full day exploring Mayan ruins we were happy to relax by the beach. Our short holiday vacation was coming to an end!

Have you visited the ruins of Coba and Tulum? Did you have a chance to visit a cenote? Let us know in the comments!

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