Coba is a trip I’ll never forget. There aren’t many places where you can climb a Mayan Pyramid – and 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 Multun-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 Coba pyramid was high on the list. A long time ago, Coba was a large Mayan town (approx. 70km2). Its 42-meters 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.
We did not hire a guide. We visited almost all the ruins but 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. Take 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 Coba pyramid will be closed to climbing the next year. When I am writing this article, it is possible to climb Coba pyramid. Some describe the rumours about the closure as a marketing technique to attract more people to an attraction that may disappear.
Coba Cenotes: Can it get more beautiful than Cenote Multun-ha?
There are three beautiful cenotes to visit 5 minutes away by car from Coba Pyramid: Cenote Multun-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 Multun-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 women 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 Multun-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 Multun-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 Multun-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 Multun-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 Multun-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. 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.