Mayan secrets can be found in the heart of the hotel zone in Cancun

The Caribbean city of Cancun has its own little-known secret: an ancient Maya city right in the glittering Hotel Zone. No organized tour required. No long bus ride. No throngs of tourists.

Set at Kilometer 18 of the Cancun Hotel Zone, just south of the famous Playa Delfines (Dolphin Beach), you can spot the entrance to El Rey Ruins. This site lies hidden in a small stretch of jungle between the city’s iconic Kukulcan Boulevard and the Iberostar Golf Course, creating a captivating juxtaposition of the region’s ancient history and its modern-day status as a top international travel destination.

While not as big as other regional Maya archaeological sites like Chichen Itza or Coba, the beautiful El Rey Ruins provides a quiet spot where you can soak in the area’s history, get a good look at the booming iguana population, and yes, even freely climb on the structures… all within an easy city bus ride from your accommodations.

The History Behind Cancun’s Maya Ruins

Not much is known about the centuries-old history of Cancun, but El Rey and nearby San Miguelito (a smaller ruin about a mile north) are both believed to have been part of a Maya community dedicated to fishing and maritime trade, reaching its peak in the Late Postclassic Period (1200 – 1550 AD).

El Rey, which means “The King” in Spanish, was named after a sculpture at the site that appears to be of a noble figure, possibly a king. The site is set along two straight paths lined on either side with the bases of smaller constructions, possibly homes, and featuring small plazas with temples and palaces to explore. Especially idyllic spots for photos are the two central structures with rows of columns, both used as governmental buildings.
Our Travel Tips for El Rey Ruins in Cancun.

If you’re vacationing in Cancun, a visit to El Rey Maya ruins is quick and easy.

Here you’ll find a few of our tips for getting to the site and enjoying your visit to the fullest:

  •  Getting there: El Rey is set at Kilometer 18 of the Cancun Hotel Zone. The cheapest way to arrive is to hop on one of the city’s Hotel Zone buses (R-1 is the most common route) heading south along Boulevard Kukulcan. Ask the bus driver to drop you off at “Ruinas El Rey”. Cost for the R-1 bus is $12 pesos per person (roughly $0.65 in US dollars). You can also try the more expensive option and take a private taxi.
  • Price: The entrance cost to El Rey archaeological site is only $50 pesos per person (just under $3 US).
  • What to bring: The El Rey site has very little shade, so make sure to bring sunblock, sunglasses, a bottle of water, and a hat to protect you from the sun. The structures are relatively small and easy to climb, so sneakers are helpful but not necessary. 
  • When to visit: Crowds are rare at this lesser-known site, but Sundays are the busiest day with more locals because access to archaeological sites is always free for Mexican citizens on Sundays. Try visiting on a weekday to have the site almost all to yourself, and arrive in the early morning (around 8 or 9 am) to avoid the midday heat.

Map provided by Avalon Books

Need a suggestion for a rainy day? Check out the Maya Museum.

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