Coba is a trip I’ll never forget. There aren’t many places where you can climb a Mayan pyramid – and the Coba pyramid is taller than the World’s Seven Wonder itself. And a few minutes later, you can swim in the pristine waters of one of the most beautiful underwater caves: Coba cenotes were stunning, especially Cenote Multum-ha.
The jungle around us has just got dark at the end of a fabulous day in Mexico. I am writing this article in a beautiful and cosy traditional Mayan house, lit by candles. There is no electricity here, and not many tourists. I like it; it is an excellent break from the busy Riviera Maya. Today, I did something remarkable. I saw a Mayan Pyramid for the first time and climbed it. Just after, we refreshed in a beautiful cenote. The first cenote of our trip to Mexico. Both were fantastic experiences that I highly recommend to travellers exploring the Yucatan Peninsula.
Visiting Coba ruins & climbing Coba pyramid
There are many things I got excited about when planning this trip to the Yucatan Peninsula, and visiting the Coba pyramid was high on the list. A long time ago, Coba was a large Mayan town (approx. 70km2). Its 42-meter high pyramid that remains from this ancient time is impressive.
Coba Pyramid is bigger than the Wonder of the World Chichen Itza, and one of the tallest in the Yucatan.
Unlike Chichen Itza, Coba ruins have not been renovated. They still sit in the jungle. Some parts have a messy look. Visiting Coba pyramid and the surrounding ruins felt very authentic.
After hesitating, we decided not to hire a guide to visit Coba ruins. We saw almost all the ruins but rather quickly as the primary goal of the visit was to climb the Coba pyramid. We were going to Chichen Itza in a few days, and taking a guided tour there.
I recommend taking a guide at least once when you visit Mayan ruins. Otherwise, what you see does not make sense. You need the explanations to learn about the Mayan culture and to give sense to what you are looking at.
It was a hot day when we visited Coba ruins. Climbing the 113 narrow steps to the top of the pyramid was a strenuous experience for some people. Some others were scared of heights and were out of their comfort zone. I found it a lot easier than it looks. Is my fear of heights fading away? I was extra careful on the way down as the rocks are slippery. Whether you choose to do it on the side, or with the rope or on your bum, it is important to take it seriously. Remember it was possible to climb Chichen Itza until someone fell and died there.
The view up there was breathtaking. It was perfect to realise how flat the Yucatan Peninsula is. The jungle all around the Coba pyramid was beautiful. We could spot the top of another pyramid sticking out of the trees.
Coba was not busy; we even had the pyramid just for the two of us at some point. We could have stayed for the sunset with an after hour visit. It was tempting, but we also wanted to take time in the famous Coba cenotes and join our hosts for dinner, so we passed the opportunity.
Is Coba pyramid closed to climbing?
That’s a rumour that is often heard at the end of the year: some say the Coba pyramid will be closed to climbing the next year. When I am writing this article, it is possible to climb the Coba pyramid. Some describe the rumours about closure as a marketing technique to attract more people to an attraction that may disappear.
Coba Cenotes: can it get more beautiful than Cenote Multum-ha?
There are three beautiful cenotes to visit 5 minutes away by car from the Coba pyramid: Cenote Multum-ha, Cenote Choo-ha and Cenote Tamcach-ha. The three Coba cenotes are entirely different, so if you have time, it would not be too repetitive to visit them all.
You can swim in the three cenotes in Coba. I liked how they were carefully protected. Everybody was asked to shower before entering the site, to minimise the water pollution and keep it pure.
Following our hosts’ recommendations, we visited Cenote Multum-ha as a priority. We went down the spiral stairs without really knowing what to expect underground. It was our first visit to a cenote ever. The surprise was incredible. It was as per Alfredo’s description: spectacular with transparent water and incredibly calm. Indeed, we were lucky to have one of Coba cenotes just for the two of us. We could not have wished for a better experience.
Did we love it that much because it was the first one? As we were leaving, an Argentinian family arrived. The older ones had tears in their eyes seeing such a beautiful place. It was very touching to witness their joy, and it added some extra emotions to the visit. After thanking God for creating such a place, the oldest woman shared her delight with us. They had visited many other cenotes in the region, but she said none had been as breathtaking as this cenote in Coba.
We saw seven cenotes during our 14 days in Mexico. Was Cenote Multum-ha in Coba the most beautiful cenote in Mexico?
It’s hard to say as we chose to visit cenotes that were very different. But Cenote Multum-ha was indeed special. We can only access it via narrow, twisting stairs. Once inside the cenote, we could not see the stairs anymore. It felt as if we were entirely underground. The silence and the artificial lights created a dramatic and majestic ambience. At any time, we could see the bottom underwater. It was hard to believe the water was 30 metres deep in some areas. Impressive. I did feel something different down there.
If you want to snorkel in the cenotes, check out this list of the best cenotes near Tulum for snorkelling. If you’re a diver, read this to choose the best cenote for diving.
As the Coba cenotes were closing at 6 pm, we had time to visit another one. With its jumping platforms, we thought Cenote Tamcach-ha would be busy and lively. So we picked Cenote Choo-ha instead, hoping for a quieter visit after the special relaxed moment we just had at Cenote Multum-ha.
We were lucky to arrive when a bus tour was leaving. Again, we had the cenote for ourselves as we were the last ones to visit it that day. The water clarity was less impressive than at Cenote Multum-ha, but the size of the stalactites was creating a real wow effect.
After visiting other cenotes during our trip, I find Cenote Choo-ha was not that original. Hence, out of the two, I would recommend visiting Cenote Multum-ha as a priority if you only have time for one of the three Coba cenotes. We did not go to Cenote Tamcach-ha but I am sure doing some cave jumping could sound very exciting for some travellers!
Have you been to Coba? Which of the Coba cenotes did you prefer? Please, leave a comment below to share your experience!
Where to stay in Coba?
We stopped in Macario Gomez, between Coba and Tulum, at Alfredo and Eliza’s eco-project. They are fabulous hosts we found via Airbnb. They have created a simple but cosy place for travellers who wish to escape the crowds and have a more authentic experience. But this accommodation will not suit everybody: shower and dry toilets are outside, and there is no electricity.
You can also go to Coba as a day trip from Tulum where you will find plenty of accommodation options, from big resorts to hostels and campsites.
We hired a car and drove from Tulum and spend the night in Macario Gomez. If you don’t want to hire a car, you can join a tour that will take you to Coba and the cenotes. You can book one online using Viator* which offers a selection of options from Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Tulum. Before you book your hotel, read my article on the best accommodations in Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
Where is Coba?
Coba is in the Yucatan Peninsula, on the eastern side of Mexico, not too far from Cancun. It is located between Tulum and Chichen Itza. If you are on a budget and want to avoid renting a car or booking a tour to visit Coba ruins, you should be able to go there with the ADO bus from Tulum. To visit the Coba cenotes, you will probably need to catch a taxi at the exit of the ruins. If it’s not too hot and you still have energy, you can also hire a bike.
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Sounds like an awesome experience! We were in Yucatan in 2013, but unfortunately, we weren’t able to visit Coba then. It was in our initial plan, but then we had to change the plans. Maybe next time. We also visited cenotes and I loved them! Swimming in them was a magical experience!
Thank you, Piritta. There are so many things to visit in the Yucatan, aren’t they? I would not mind going back to explore it further. So many cenotes everywhere and they all seem so beautiful!
This is my kind of adventure – I love jungles, caves, climbing, treks – well anything I can do outdoors basically. I love the fresh spring waters by the cave – they are amazing to swim at. Coba is so beautiful, I am so impressed with the absolutely blue waters. Sigh…another addition to my bucket list.
Thank you, Jo. Bucket list getting longer and longer, hey? I know the feeling! But it’s so exciting that we have so many wonderful places in the world!
I am drooling over this post, it sounds like such a dream! I’ve been to mexico and central america but I keep missing out on seeing the Mayan pyramids. Hope to come back soon!
Thank you, Briana. The good thing is that missing out on them will dramatically increase your joy when you finally get to see them 😀 I hope you’ll get soon to that day!
I really want to do the cave swimming. That is on my to do list. Hopefully sooner than later.
Well, I would not be surprised to see that this region of Mexico is #1 in the world for cave swimming 😉 It was so good! I hope you’ll do it one day!
It looks like you had fantastic time there! I haven’t been to Mexico yet, but I definitely would love to go. This place looks like a fun destination!
Yes, Mary. We had a fabulous time. I was not attracted by Cancun area in the first place but the region is actually amazing with A LOT to do! Highly recommended.
Wow amazing! I am moving to Mexico for a year in October and can’t wait to explore some cenotes and pyramids. Thanks for the wonderful pictures and descriptions. I also think that place you stayed looks super cool!
That’s exciting, Jessica! Mexico is such a big country that I guess one year is what is needed to fully see it all! We only visited the Yucatan Peninsula and we would have needed at least one month to see all we wanted to visit!
The Mayan culture fascinates me. Coba Pyramid looks quite impressive. Alfredo and Eliza’s eco-project sounds like the perfect place to stay for an authentic experience.
Thank you, Marteen. We did have a great experience over there!
I was in the Yucatan in February and of course I went to Chichen Itza and swam in some cenotes. I did not go to Coba though! You can’t climb Chichen Itza so I would love to have that experience at Coba. Multun-ha looks so lovely and mysterious in your pictures! I just went to some cenotes in San Antonio Mulix, and I loved the swimming. It’s so relaxing!
Exactly, Stella. These cenotes were really relaxing. A perfect way to cool down as it was hot outside. For Chichen Itza, it was still possible to climb it few years ago. Even inside – but that was stopped a while ago. They stopped it to preserve the site and for security reasons. At least it allows to take photos of the pyramid with no one on it!
Ugh I have read about the cenotes and pyramids of the Mayan culture! One day I will get to see them in person. Until then I live through you!
I hope you get to see them, Lauren! It’s always good to read about a place, but there is nothing better than seeing it for real. The emotions are so different. Thank you for reading!