The Riviera Maya is a tropical paradise that boasts 75 miles of white sand Caribbean coastline from the sleepy fishing village of Puerto Morelos to the incredibly diverse ecosystems of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Here visitors can enjoy some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling in the world in turquoise blue seawater that has amazing visibility, colorful coral reefs and numerous species of marine life, including sea turtles, rays and bull sharks.
With all the trappings of a mega-resort, like all-inclusive hotels, local to fine dining, and clubs and bars and beach clubs, one would not imagine that outside of the obvious tourist centers lie natural and cultural treasures that are exceptionally beautiful and even unique to this region.
The lesser known archaeological site of Coba is one such site. At its height, around 600 to 900 AD, this important trading post connected many of the important cities of the Mayan civilization at that time through a series of “sacbe’s” (Mayan for “white roads”). Coba’s almost 40 sacbe’s connected the city to others in perfectly straight lines, an engineering feat that today still amazes scholars. Some of these are almost 30 feet in width, which some attribute to reasons that may have to do with religious or ritual significance relating to the Mayan gods.
A visit to these Mayan ruins affords visitors a window into ancient Mayan culture with easy access to an array of carefully restored buildings, a number of elaborately carved stelae (vertical stone tablets), and the impressively high “Nohoch Muul” pyramid (Mayan for “big mound”). This 138 foot high pyramid rises even higher than the more famous “El Castillo” in Chichen Itza and a climb to the top will reward visitors with stunning views of the surrounding jungle canopy. This otherwise unbroken green landscape of dense jungle is only interrupted by restored ruins and unexcavated structures.
A visit to Coba is well worth the effort and licensed tour operators often combine this with visits to local Mayan villages, delicious regional food and the opportunity to shop at Mayan handcraft stores.