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Maya Ruins

Ruins + Jungle + Monkeys

Kohunlich pronounced (KOE•HOON•LEECH) is a Spanish derivative of ‘Cohune palm tree’. This Mayan city is in the middle of the jungle in the south of Quintana Roo and home to Howler monkeys that can be heard, but not seen as you walk into the site. The jungle, moss covered terrain and majestic temples found on this site will keep you busy for a good portion of the day. This is a unique southern destination in Quintana Roo that should be seen.

Kohunlich ruins

A Bit About Kohunlich

This Mayan settlement was discovered in 1912 by archaeologist Raymond Merwin. Located 9 kms/5 miles off Hwy 186, this must have been quite a find for Merwin. The site is large, 21 acres, but like most Mayan ruins many of the buildings remain untouched. The area was settled in 200 BC. Most structures were built in the Early Classic period between 250 to 600 AD. It appears that Kohunlich was a regional city that acted as a stopover along the southern trade routes. The ruins intrigued us, but the howler monkey population was extraordinary. Walking from the entrance into the site we were surrounded by the sound of howler monkeys. It was startling at first, but as we listened the sound became amusing and eerie at the same time. Not once did we see a howler monkey, but man, did we hear them.

Buildings of Interest at Kohunlich

Temple of the Masks – This temple and its contents rock and I would say is our favorite part of the site. This is an Early Classic Pyramid built in 500 AD with a central staircase decorated by large stucco masks. The pyramid is thought to be the oldest excavated structure in Kohunlich. The masks are out of this world. With a height of 8 ft/2.5 m the masks are in good condition, a result of a further construction made to the pyramid in 700 AD that provided protection. Originally there were 8 masks. Sadly there are only 5 remaining.

27 Steps – A structure and area located the furthest from the entrance, the 27 steps is a large platform thought to hold residential buildings for the elite. The view from the top of the platform is terrific and provides an overview of the jungle to the south.

Residential buildings – There is something to be said about the remains of the residential area. Beds are still intact, only the foundations of the buildings preserved, but the area is quite amazing.

More Features in Kohunlich

Kohunlich has a ball court, administrative buildings, spiritual areas, and palaces. In total there are 8 groups to explore on this site. What amazed archeologists was the hydraulic engineering used at Kohunlich. 90,000 of the site’s 210,000 sq meters were cut to channel rainwater into Kohunlich’s once enormous reservoir. Considering this city was from the Early Classic Period, this is an incredible feat that confirms the brilliance of this society.

Kohunlich ruins

What We Love About Kohunlich

We have visited Kohulinch numerous times. On our recent visit in 2015 we were reminded again why we love this Mayan Ruin. The road trip is easy and we love staying in nearby Bacalar when exploring this ruin. The site is large, quiet, has few visitors (this still has me scratching my head as the Temple of the Masks alone is worth a visit) and the buildings are well decorated. The shade provided by the jungle makes this an easy site to enjoy even in the summer months. Last but not least the sound of the Howler Monkeys. We cannot get enough of this eerie yet fascinating noise. Note: We do arrive early to avoid the cruise ship tours that descend upon the site a few times a week from Mahahaul.

Getting To Kohunlich Ruins in Quintana Roo

Kohunlich is 65 kms/40 miles on Hwy 186 from Hwy 307. The site entrance is 9 kms off the main road and clearly marked. We like to stay in Bacalar when we visit this site, a mere 3 hours from Akumal, and 3.5 hours from Playa del Carmen on Hwy 307 – a straight shot. Kohunlich is about an hour from Bacalar.