We have been to Mexico many times, and it is amazing to visit and see Mayan Ruins. To get the most out of your experience, you will want to be prepared for your time at the ruins. When we first visited Mexico, we took tours from our hotel, but now we rent a car and explore on our own. We have visited small ruins like Tulum and Muyil, as well as large sites, like Coba and Ek Balam. Here are my tips for making the best of your trip!
Get there early
If you are visiting popular ruins like Chichen-Itza, it is helpful to get there early to beat some of the crowds. Not only will it be less crowded, it will be cooler weather and you may also see more local wildlife. It will give you a chance to explore while it is quieter, and also get some good photos in that do not have a lot of tourists in the photos.
Prepare for the sun and heat
Being that you are in Mexico, chances are that it will be hot and sunny. Hydration is a must, as well as sun protection. Try to bring water, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, or anything else that you wish to keep you comfortable.
The highlight of visiting some of these places is the chance to climb a giant pyramid. While those are fond memories, I distinctly remember how hot it was as I panted my way up dozens upon dozens of tall stairs. Think of it as leg day.. in the hot jungle!
Bring Bug Spray
Most of the Mayan Ruins are right in the jungle, so it can be buggy. This picture is from our visit to the Muyil Ruins, and there were quite a few bugs. It will often rain and then the sun comes out, and the bugs seem to come out in droves. It is good to be prepared with bug repellant!
Rent a personal tour guide
We have been to several ruins, and for some we did a self-guided tour. However, we rented a guide at Coba and Ek Balam, and those were absolutely worthwhile. The guides spoke wonderful English, and also had books with laminated pages so that they could show us a slideshow images, such as renderings of the ancient cities. The guides were extremely knowledgeable and were able to answer all of our questions.
Bring a good camera
There are lots of neat things to see at the ruins, from the main pyramid to ancient carvings. All of these things are great to capture on camera if you can.
Plan on doing a lot of walking, or rent transportation
We generally do a lot of walking at the ruins, including climbing up different structures. Depending on the ruins, they may have bikes available to rent, or bike taxis. When we were at Coba, our kids were younger and we splurged on the bike taxis, since we didn’t want to do too much walking. The taxis were a very nice way to travel!
Not only will it likely be hot and sunny, but you will want appropriate clothes for walking and possibly climbing pyramids. We noticed how slippery a lot of stones were on the pyramid at Coba, likely from years of people sliding on the rocks.
Bring money and plan for other activities
We always bring money with us when we travel around Mexico. Many of the ruins have food and souvenirs available for purchase. There are also usually other things to do around the ruins, like cenotes and shopping. It is fun to check out a Mayan ruin and then cool off with some swimming, so pack appropriately. Ek Balam even has a cenote right at the same site (Cenote X’Canache), which made for a nice day of exploring in the jungle and then taking a dip.
Mayan Ruins are an amazing part of history and a wonderful place to visit. It is important to respect these areas as they are significant parts of history and culture. Unfortunately, some sites have had to close their pyramids and take other actions because of tourists behavior.