Mayan Ruins in Playa del Carmen

Path to Mayan Wall in Playacar

There are Mayan Ruins in Playa del Carmen, and you can see them for free. However, it’s a bit tricky to get to them. I made several attempts before finally being able to see the whole site. They are definitely worth the effort. The ones nearby the beach are most cared for (tourists are the worst! more on that later).

Mayan Ruins!

One of the better Mayan ruins in the immediate area is in Playacar. Playacar is this weird gated community on the south side of PDC. It has different levels of security. If you want in, you need a pass/QR code from either your resort or restaurant (reservation required). I had read that tourists and locals could walk to the ruins. So no worries, right?

Palm Trees growing sideways
These palm trees next to the Playacar Ruins look like they went through a terrible storm. Still alive though. Never give up!

It was quite a hike from my Centro apartment to the Playacar front gate with a posted guard. I do not look like a threat to anyone, believe you me. However, that guard was not letting me in. I explained where I was heading and let him see my passport and everything. He even called his boss to check. A friendly gentleman was leaving Playacar at the same time and asked if he could help. When I told him I just wanted to go check out the Mayan Ruins, he let me know it wasn’t possible.

Mind you, you can see part of the ruins from the gate. They are right there! You can see the stone path and part of the ancient walls and everything. So close, but stopped by the guard. I started back home, all dejected. There had to be a way. The internet said I could! I’d seen photos and read about how it was free to go see them. You just had to walk through Playacar. But how?

Mrs. ItchyFeet in front of weird sculpture
One of the more interesting sculptures I found while searching for an entrance to see the Mayan Ruins.

Is beach access available?

All beaches in México are public, but that doesn’t mean private landowners have to let you get to them. It just means they can’t kick you off the beach once you’re there. Playacar has a fairly inaccessible beach. But from that beach, I should be able to get to the Mayan Ruins, right? Time to try! So I started walking all around the PDC Ferry Terminal, ignoring all the street vendors enthusiastically encouraging me to buy tours and jewelry and breakfast tequila. I forgot to bring water or money and it was getting hot. Luckily, I finally found a random path through what looked like the entrance to the terminal.

I made it to the Playacar beach, but now what? I started walking and looking for some pathway between the giant all-inclusive resorts. There was no way any resort-security would let me walk through without a wristband or day-pass. The beach was thick with stinky sargassum and there were people working hard to clean it all up. There it was! The hidden pathway was tiny, but I spotted it.

Playacar Ruins backside
This is the backside of one of the Mayan Ruins in Playacar. So cool!

I left the scorching sands of the beach and came face to face with some pretty impressive Mayan Ruins! There were a bunch of individual, extremely old remains of stone buildings with trees and such growing out of them. So cool! All in this cute little grass park. I walked around and took some pictures. But this wasn’t what I had seen from the gated entrance. Time to explore further.

Is this legal?

This whole time, I’m looking for signs or guards or someone to yell at me and tell me I didn’t belong. I saw nothing of the sort. There was a path behind the park that lead into the jungle. Adventure! It wound around behind one of the ruins, which was very cool, and after a while, I ended up on the other side of the guard station. You know, the one that had just told me I couldn’t come inside the complex.

At this point, I’m hot and thirsty and it was a long walk home. Time to backtrack before I got spotted and given the boot. Back through the jungle, around the Mayan Ruins, down to the beach, over the white-hot sand, around the ferry terminal, through the street vendors, back to my apartment, drank some water, and jumped into the pool.

Huge tree growning through Mayan wall
This huge tree is growing right through an old Mayan wall.

There had to be an easier way

Okay, so I saw another entrance during the initial investigation. What if I went in from the beach but then left from that other entrance? That way, I could see where it goes and how that guard station works. They didn’t seem to stop you from getting out, just in. Back around the ferry terminal, over the hot sandy beach, past the initial Mayan Ruins, and up to the main road through Playacar. I brought water this time!

From there, I could go see the rest of the ruins. Did I mention tourists are the worst? They are. The gravel pathways to the ruins from the main road through Playacar were in shambles. They used to be bordered on both sides by stones. Most were missing. Then you get to the first ruin and realize that tourists had made dozens of cairns on top of the ruins using the stones meant for the pathways. WTF!

Mayan Ruins covered in cairns
Why would people think it is okay to build cairns on old Mayan ruins? Humans are so weird.

In case you didn’t know, cairns (pronounced similar to ‘karens’ in the States and ‘cans’ in Australia) are rocks stacked into small towers that were historically used as trail markers. Here, people destroyed the trail to the ruins, in order to make cairns on top of the ancient structures (making the ruins look ridiculous). Why? So disrespectful. It’s no wonder the US and Australia have made cairns illegal in some areas. Leave no trace my fellow humans.


After checking out the area off the main road in Playacar, I headed for the wall. There is this cool old Mayan wall. The walkway to see this wall is not very handicap accessible, but at least it hasn’t been destroyed by tourists. It’s in the jungle, with all kinds of plant life and the occasional iguana. And lots of mosquitos. I didn’t stay long, but it was worth the trip.

Mrs. ItchyFeet in front of Mayan Wall
Finally made it to this old Mayan Wall. Quite an adventure getting there but worth it!

Now to find an alternate exit. As I’m wondering around all these paths, I spotted a bridge over what looked like a cenote or a cave of some sort. But there was furniture down there. Like someone setup a patio underground. So cool. But the coolest part was that I finally spotted an agouti! And then another one! Love those things.

After trying desperately to get a picture of the agouti with their cute little Guinea-pig-butts, I finally found that exit I had been looking for. The guard station was stopping cars, but not pedestrians. Maybe this could be my way in? That would have to be for a different day. It was way too hot.

Agouti bottom
Agouti bottom! There is a entire patio setup down there.

Must… wake… up… earlier!

Okay, this was it. I woke up all early to get to the Playacar Ruins before it got too hot. This time, I skipped the ferry terminal and headed straight for that other entrance. I spotted a shortcut by Carl’s Jr. and gave it a go. Bingo! I was in. I got to check out the Mayan Ruins in no time (I skipped the cairns covered section). Now I’m properly prepared to play tour guide the next time someone stops by for a visit! And I saw another agouti! It does not get better than that.

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1 Comment

  1. Now you are behaving like a local. Good for you.

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