During my time traveling in Quintana Roo I wanted to get a slice of Mayan culture. I had so many adventures on my Yucatan Peninsula itinerary but nothing included any Maya ruins and that is one thing that definitely can’t be missed on your trip to Quintana Roo. There are a couple beautiful Maya sites and first I looked up the difference between Coba vs. Tulum, but in the end found a tour that was perfectly tailored to me: Tulum and Coba including a Maya Village Tour.

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After my trip to Holbox I stranded back in Playa del Carmen where I checked in at boutique Hotel Morgana (read the full review in the link), just one block away from the famous 5th Avenue. The trip from Holbox to Playa del Carmen was exhausting and I decided to go for a quick Mexican bite and head back to my hotel room with big outdoor jacuzzi. The next morning I would have to get up early and leave at 7:15am for one of my Playa del Carmen excursions: Tulum and Coba Tour with Alltournative.

Tulum and Coba tour

The two most impressive archaeological Maya sites in Quintana Roo are Tulum and Coba. In 2008 I started my first trip around the world in Cancun and visited the Tulum ruins. As it was 11 years ago I was super excited to go back and relive those amazing memories. After Tulum we would head onwards to Coba, where you can climb one of the highest Maya temples in Mexico, something that was high on my bucketlist for a long time as well. After the two guided tours there was time for a traditional lunch, a Maya ceremony and I would end with a plunge in a stunning cenote.

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In the Maya village I got permission to take photos, as a result I had to wear a singlet to show other guests I was media. There is a team of local photographers joining your group taking photos for you, for a small fee you can buy the photos and the revenue of this project is directly going towards the Maya community. This way Alltournative is helping the locals participating in tourism projects.

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Both photos above are shot by the local photographers, for more photos of my adventures head to my Instagram account @traveltomtom.

Here are some other day trips from Cancun or Playa del Carmen I can recommend you: visit Rio Lagartos and the Pink Lake, Selvatica canopy adventurerent a scooter in Cozumel or travel to Isla Holbox to soak up some amazing beach vibes.

Alltournative Playa del Carmen/Cancun

My tour was organized by Alltournative a Mexican company that started with Cancun tours almost 20 years ago. Nowadays they have multiple different day trips from Playa del Carmen and Cancun. The Tulum and Coba tour starts with an early pick up from Cancun and then picks up tourists in Playa del Carmen. From there they head straight to Tulum to be in time before it gets crowded. Pick-up time in Cancun is around 6:30am, in Playa del Carmen around 7:15am. Our guide was super professional, his name was Aranzazu and he actually looked very much like a native North American. This man in his 40’s was still studying Mayan history and even spoke the local Mayan language. His English language skills were perfect and his passion for the Maya culture captivating! On our way back he dropped us close to Hotel Morgana, very nice of him and we tipped him generously.

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My experiences with Alltournative

Tulum ruins

It was super early and Im not a morning person, but my friendly guide for the day cheered me up. I got in a big van and we straight away headed to Tulum to be there as early as possible. The Maya site at Tulum only opens at 8.00am, but we were perfect on time as we parked our van at a nearly empty parking lot at 8:05am. There were hardly any people when we walked the 500 meters to the entrance. When we arrived there was still a small line, but Aranzazu had fixed the entrance tickets for me already so I could walk in straight away. Inside the historical site of Tulum there were only a few people and it was still possible to take some cool photos.

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The historical Maya site of Tulum is not really that big and I asked Aranzazu to straight away go for the some photo opportunities before big tour groups would arrive. That was no problem, he patiently let me do my Instagram stories (to avoid high roaming costs I bought a Mexican sim card) and take multiple photos. Afterwards we walked around and he gave more detailed informations about the ruins and cool facts about the Maya history.

I remembered when I was here 11 years ago I just walked around and actually had no clue what was what. There are some info signs, but those give very little information. This time I learned a lot of background information about what Tulum actually was.

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On my guided Tulum tour with Alltournative I learn that:

  • Tulum was actually just a trading port for Coba.
  • There have never been any battles.
  • Tulum is deserted since 1542.
  • Tulum was a walled city and the latest Maya city in Yucatan.
  • Inside there were living around 500 people, outside 2,000.

On my world trip 11 years ago I brought my swimwear and went swimming in the ocean. There is a staircase down to the beach. Unfortunately at the time I was visiting there was a lot of seaweed and it didn’t look appealing to swim or lay on the beach. I was on a set tour anyway so I had no intention getting wet. There is a cenote included in the Tulum Coba tour with Alltournative, so I was patiently waiting for that.

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Coba ruins

During my Yucatan road trip itinerary I actually already wanted to visit the Coba ruins. Luckily I decided not to so now I could be properly guided through the ruins with Aranzazu, my knowledgable guide. The historical Maya site of Coba houses one of the tallest Maya temples in Mexico and the best thing is that you can climb all the way to the top. There are steps with a rope for support leading you 42 meters (137 feet) higher. The views from above over the jungle are magnificent.

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We arrived around 11:30am and it was fairly quiet. There was no line and Aranzazu had our tickets already. I was holding my GoPro and was refused entrance. GoPro’s are allowed but you will need to buy a 45 Pesos ($2) ticket for recording devices. Just make sure you put your GoPro in your bag, no one checks any bags.

Coba is a big archaeological site almost 50 times bigger than Tulum. There are a couple highlights and the best way to see them is to rent a bike for 50 Pesos ($2). As a true Dutchman I obviously rented a bike and rode the 2,5 kilometer towards the tall temple/pyramid. On our way we stopped at one of the ball game courts where I learned new facts about the game. The story that the winners of the ball game were killed/sacrificed to the gods is probably a myth made up by the Spanish. Historians are still debating about the truth of this legend.

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Climbing the temple was one of the coolest things of the Tulum Coba tour. Depending on your adventure level it is a hard or an easy climb. I just walked up in one go on my flipflops and walk downhill on bare feet. Most tourists though are going downhill on their bum. For many people the steps are really steep and frightening. From the top the views are absolutely spectacular. I just sat and stared for a while. Such an amazing thing to do in Quintana Roo!

About 2 hours later it was lunch time and we drove to a Maya village nearby where we had a typical Maya lunch. There was soup, potatoes, tortillas, rice, grilled veggies, deliciously slow cooked chicken, beans and much more. It was the ideal timing to sit down and process all the historical Maya info. I think the timeframe of the historical tour was perfect. First we spent 1,5 hours at Tulum and then 2 hours at Coba. For me it was enough because more historical facts would have been too much.

Cenote and Maya ceremony

After lunch we crossed a bridge into the jungle. It was a short walk till we got to meet a 72 year old man. He only spoke the local Maya language but luckily Aranzazu was there to translate everything. The Maya ceremony is still performed to protect everyone against the forces of the jungle and the underworld. According to the Maya believes, cenotes are the entrance to the underworld and before people entering cenotes are blessed by the ceremony.

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This is how I record Instagram stories, have a look my 140K Instagram: @traveltomtom.

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After the ceremony we got to see a traditional house and got some more traditional food.

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After a long day sighseeing and cultural experiences we ended the Tulum Coba tour with a visit to a private cenote. We were brought to a place to rinse ourselves before entering the cenote, it was close to the traditional house. There were changing rooms and bathrooms available. I have seen many cenotes around Valladolid, but the cenote on the Tulum Coba tour was another masterpiece of nature. I was stunned and got the chance to experience the cenote all by myself.

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tulum coba cenote

Jumping into the refreshing water of the cenote was the perfect ending of an absolutely amazing day on the road with Alltournative. My Tulum Coba tour including the Maya ceremony and cenote was perfectly set up and a great mix of culture and some adventure.

Thanks for keeping up with the adventures of Traveltomtom! If you have questions please leave me a comment or have a look at all my Yucatan travel blogs in my destination Mexico section. In total I roamed around the Yucatan Peninsula for more than 2 months with adventures all across. From Isla Mujeres to Costa Maya to Merida and from Bacalar to Valladolid and found 21 amazing things to do in Yucatan.

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