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.
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.
Here you’ll find a few of our tips for getting to the site and enjoying your visit to the fullest:
Need a suggestion for a rainy day? Check out the Maya Museum.