Most visitors to the amazing Mayan ruins at Coba in the Quintana Roo province of Mexico do so on a tour. These day-long tours tend to leave from Tulum and include a trip to one cenote in the local area.
However, you can easily take the trip from Tulum to Coba and see three local cenotes as well as the ruins all by yourself for significantly cheaper than it would cost you to do a tour. Tours we saw in Tulum and online could cost anywhere from $30 USD to $100 USD depending on whether you had guides, meals and admissions included. Meanwhile, we did the entire day and one cenote for around $20 USD (you could do the ruins and three centoes for less than $26 USD).
Another bonus to doing the ruins this way and without a tour is that many large tour groups seem to arrive at the ruins just after lunch time so getting there in the morning is the perfect time to get a quieter time at the tourist site. Here’s how to make the most of a day to Coba on a budget:
The ADO bus company runs a daily service to the ruins departing at 10.15am from the main station in Tulum. This will set you back around 68 pesos ($3.50 USD). The journey takes around forty minutes to an hour and you will be dropped at the entrance to the site.
ADO runs a bus back to Tulum at 3.15pm and these are the only two daily services they run to and from the ruins. This is fine and gives you enough time to do the site but there is more options for getting back to Tulum at a later time if you want to visit the local cenotes (which I would highly recommend!).
The Coba Ruins
Entrance to the Coba ruins will cost you 70 pesos ($3.60 USD) and you need not spend any more money while you are there. There is a 45 pesos charge for taking videos at the site at the entrance but this is not necessary to purchase unless you are making professional videos. There is no one monitoring so don’t worry about using your phone camera, DSLR or action camera while there. You may be tempted by the many guides at the park entrance but these are not necessary if you read up on the ruins beforehand and consult the informational boards and maps dotted around the park.
You may also be tempted to splurge on a bike taxi or bike to explore the ruins but if you are willing to walk, the site is really not that large. It is a 1km walk to and from each of the separate ruins so you will walk no more than 4km. We spent only about two hours in the park walking and exploring.
Though there are rumours that this will no longer be permitted over the next few months, the pyramid at Coba is still accessible to be climbed as of October 2018. It is about 128 steps high and we climbed it in less than ten minutes.
There are three cenotes in the vicinity of the park that are only moderately busy- these are Tancach-Ha, Multum Ha and Choo-Ha. It costs 55 pesos ($2.83 USD) to visit each one. You can easily do all three within two hours but we chose to do just one in order to minimise costs.
Choo-Ha is a shallow cenote (best for children) and tends to be the busiest cenote of the three as families often spend a day there. Tancach-Ha is a large impressive cave including diving boards from which you can jump into the cool, fresh water. It is definitely worth a visit but can get busy when tours arrive. Multum-Ha is usually the quietest of the three cenotes as it is slightly further up the road. Again this is a large impressive cave with a wooden viewing platform.
Getting to the centres is a bargain if you rent a bike from the bike shop outside of the Coba ruins. These bikes will cost you around 150 pesos to rent for the day ($7.70 USD). It is a 7km easy ride to the cenotes and takes around thirty to forty-five minutes.
Back to Tulum
If you miss the ADO bus back to Tulum at 3.15pm, you have a few options. It is 100 pesos ($5.15 USD) per person to taxi back from the ruins and there are plenty of taxis around.
However, if you want to keep costs low, you can get a bus back to Tulum outside of the ‘Chile Picante’ restaurant at 5.30pm and 6.00pm. There is little information on this bus online but ask any locals near the ruins about it and they can direct you.
The restaurant is about a five minute walk from the entrance of the ruins and the bus is a full-size vehicle with the bus company name ‘Oriente.’ The cost back to Tulum for one person is 50 pesos ($2.57).
- Transport to the ruins: 68 pesos ($3.50)
- Entrance to ruins: 70 pesos ($3.60)
- Bike rental: 150 pesos ($7.72)
- Visit one cenote: 55 pesos ($2.83)
- Visit three cents: 165 pesos ($8.50)
- Transport back to Tulum: 50 pesos ($2.57)
Total cost (one cenote): 393 pesos ($20.23 USD)
Total cost (three cenotes): 503 pesos ($25.90 USD)