After my Tulum and Coba tour I was often asked what I liked the most and therefore decided to write an article about it. In this Coba vs Tulum travel blog I will explain both Maya sites and which one I would recommend you to visit if you have to choose one.
On my tour with Alltournative I visited Tulum and Coba in one day and for me it was the perfect full day tour. The whole morning it was about the history of the ruins and the Maya culture, but after lunch I experienced a traditional Maya village, a Maya ceremony and ended the day in a cenote. The perfect mix of adventure and culture. In the link above you can see all of my adventures of that day.
I can understand though that some people traveling to Quintana Roo have limited time or that a set tour is not your thing. The guided tours are not cheap either and visiting Coba and Tulum by yourself is much cheaper. Renting a car is not expensive at all. I actually went on a Yucatan road trip for more than 2 weeks, click on the link for the full itienerary. In total I traveled in Yucatan for 2 months and visited places like: Isla Holbox, Rio Lagartos, Merida, Valladolid, Mahahual and many more.
The differences between Tulum and Coba
How much does it cost to go to Tulum Ruins
The entrance fee for Tulum Ruins is raised up to 75 Pesos ($4) nowadays as of March 2019. Officially you need to pay for video cameras, an extra fee of 35 Pesos but I was holding my GoPro in my hand and no one said anything at the Tulum Ruins entrance. If you come by bike from Tulum city center you can park it for free, cars pay an additional 30 Pesos ($1,5) parking fee.
How much does it cost to go to Coba Ruins
There is no difference in entrance fee as both Tulum ruins and Coba ruins charge 75 Pesos ($4) entrance fee. However at Coba Ruins I had to pay an extra 45 Pesos ($2) for bringing my GoPro. I was holding it in my hand on a selfie stick so it was pretty obvious, but if you want to avoid paying these 45 Pesos then just put the GoPro in your bag. There are no checks when you enter either one of the archeological sites. There is no additional parking fee at Coba ruins.
Im pretty sure the entrance fee is not going to decide whether to visit Coba ruins or Tulum ruins! :)
The above two pictures are from the Tulum ruins, completely different than the Coba ruins who are in the middle of the jungle. At the Tulum ruins there are many open spaces.
Both Maya sites are open from 8am to 5pm. That means at none of them you can either watch sunrise or sunset. Kind of a shame as that would be absolutely spectacular, right?
Sunrise vs. Sunset tour
But there is a way around as there are special tours designated for this. These tours are of course exclusive and therefore expensive. The best place to watch sunrise is definitely Tulum as you can see the sunrise from the ocean. The best place for sunset is Coba ruins as you can see the sunset rom the top of the pyramid. I did not do any of the sunrise or sunset tours, but if I had a choice I would love to see the sunset from the top of the Coba pyramid.
Size of the archaeological sites
Tulum was actually one of the latest Maya cities built and it only served as a trading port for Coba. Therefore Coba is much bigger than Tulum. The Tulum ruins are actually a rather small archaeological site and you can wander through in just 30 minutes.
It does not take long to wander through the Tulum ruins.
Coba is huge and in fact more than 50 times bigger than Tulum. That said, most of the Coba ruins site has not been exposed. Only about 2% of is open for tourists, but those 2% are still very big. To get around the Coba ruins you can rent a bike for 50 Pesos ($2.5).
The Tulum ruins are obviously very easy accessible as they are close to Tulum city center. Most people from Tulum go to the ruins by bike. Or even on foot if you are willing to walk the 5 kilometer (3 miles). It also is right off the highway, so coming from Playa del Carmen or Cancun it is very easy to reach by car and public transport.
The location of Coba is a little bit off the beaten path and more inland. To get to Coba with public transport is much harder and it is best if you have your own car. From Cancun it is about 2,5 hours drive to Coba ruins.
As you can see there is not much around the Coba ruins. This is the view from the top of the Coba pyramid.
Stunning-ness Tulum vs. Coba
The Tulum ruins are located on the only cliffs on the Yucatan peninsula coastline. This is the reason why the Mayas chose this strategic location to build their trading port. Therefore the Tulum ruins have spectacular ocean views. The Coba ruins are pretty in a different way as they are located in the middle of the jungle, but there are definitely no ocean views. To take pretty pictures you want to visit Tulum ruins.
This is an easy choice when choosing between Coba and Tulum. The Tulum ruins are rather boring to explore. That said there is beach access and you can go to the beach. When I Visited Tulum for the first time 11 years ago I went for a swim, but when you go to an archaeological site this probably isn’t the first reason for a visit.
The best thing about the Coba ruins is climbing the Coba Pyramid. As of today it is still possible to climb one of the highest Maya temples in Mexico. It is 42 meters (137 feet) high and the views from the top are absolutely amazing. Climbing the pyramid at Coba ruins will take most people around 5 minutes as the steps are considered to be steep. I walked up in probably less than 2 minutes, it are only 120 steps. There is a rope for support.
Another reason why visiting Coba ruins is more adventurous are the bikes. The pyramid is about 3 kilometers away and for 50 Pesos ($2.5) you can rent a bike. There are also tricycles including a local driver for rent. Actually to support the local community renting a tricycle is better than renting your own bike. Just only realizing now!
Historical value Coba vs. Tulum
When you are choosing between a guided tour of Coba and a guided tour of Tulum I would totally recommend you to go to Coba ruins. As I said before Tulum was just a trading port of Coba. There is much more to see in Coba than in Tulum and the ruins are pretty much still in tact at Coba. I did a guided tour at both archaeological sites and enjoyed learning about Coba much more. It just was much more interesting.
Touristy vs. Off the beaten path
It is pretty clear which ruins will be more touristy right? Tulum is one of the most popular places to visit in Yucatan and therefore the Tulum ruins are far more touristy and busy than the Coba ruins. That said there still is a way to avoid the crowds at Tulum ruins. Just be there at 8.00am and you have about 15-30 minutes before most of the tour groups arrive.
Coba ruins still get busy during the day, but in the early morning and the late afternoon you will have the archealogical site pretty much for yourself. If I get the chance to visit Coba ruins again I will be there in the morning. I would climb to the top of the pyramid and stare into the distance for an hour. This place is magical!
Where to go Tulum vs. Coba
Through the article I think you can already sense which Maya site I would recommend you to visit, right? Tulum ruins is a nice place to go to and it is just 75 Pesos, but don’t expect too much from it. To me it is more like a been there done that thing, where the Coba ruins are so much more interesting. Climbing the Coba pyramid definitely adds up to the whole experience and I sincerely hope they keep allowing people to climb to the top.
In case you need some more travel inspiration for your trip to the Riviera Maya then check out all my Yucatan blogs with complete travel guides for Valladolid, Merida, and much more. One of my best adventures was renting a scooter in Cozumel. I loved my trip to Isla Holbox for the sea hammocks and the stunning sunsets and the Las Coloradas Pink Lake in Rio Lagartos wasn't too bad either.
Thanks for keeping up with the Traveltomtom adventure. It was a pleasure helping you choose between Coba and Tulum ruins and make the most of your trip to Yucatan. Leave me a comment if you have any specific questions and Im more than happy to help.
If you would like to help me in return then please share the link of this article somewhere on Facebook, pin it on Pinterest or tweet it on Twitter. It would mean a lot to me, thank you very much.