Coba Ruins and Cenote Tankach-Ha

We don't much care for Tulum, so good thing we have another day trip planned.  It's off to more ruins and cenotes!

Figuring out how to visit these places independently using public transport was a challenge.  We could easily book an all inclusive tour for $90  a person or hire a private taxi for $100 plus admission to the ruins and cenote ($15).  Tulum seems to be set up for tours only, but I knew it could be done! The bus station and our hotel both said there are no colectivos, just one inconvenient 10:00 am bus which would get us to Coba way too late.  The key to handling the crowds at these ruin sights is to get there when the gates open, otherwise you'd literally be swept up in a flood of people.  Even extensive googling and travel forum stalking didnt give me a straight forward answer, so I  peiced together bits and peices of information and hoped for the best.

On the way back from Muyil yesterday we asked the colectivo driver if there was a colectivo to Coba.  He told us where to find the stop in town and that it left around 8:00 in the morning.  The LP book confirmed that the Coba colectivo stop was on Osiris Norte at Tulum Ave, next to the Kahlua Restarunt. Sure enough there was a sign so that was a good start.

The van left when finally six people showed up, around 8:30.  It surprised me that this travel option was so unpopular.  There's usually no many people waiting for colectivos and this time is was like pulling teeth to get people there.  It just confirms that most tourists here are visiting Coba on tours.  Anyway, we paid our $4 each and 45 minutes later we arrived outside the gates of Coba shortly after they opened.

We paid the $4 entry fee and went straight to the bike rental area.  Coba is a massive site so it was well worth the $3 each to rent bikes.  We originally had decided to spring for a guide so we would know what we were looking at but had a change of heart.  It costs $35, and while worth it for the quality of information we decided that we didn't have the patience to be a captive audience and follow a guide around.  We mooched a minute or two here and there if we happened to be near a tour group's English speaking guide and would get a snippet which is all we want we anyway.

We hopped on the bikes and made a beeline for Nohoch Mul, the Great Pyramid, about 2 km from the enterance and usually the last structure on the tour.  We made it our first stop so we could beat out the crowds already forming at the enterance.  The path was peaceful and almost deserted.

   It's the 2nd tallest in the Yucatan Peninsula and still allows climbing to the top.  We were smart to skip the smaller structures along the way, knowing we would backtrack to see them on our way out.  Arrivng at the pyramid we had it almost to ourselves sharing it with just a few others.  

By the time we made our way down, there were hoards of people scrambling their way up.  We had a lovely time cruising  around the paths at Coba and left quite happy.Outside the enterance there are many restaurants to choose from.  Even though they are twice the price as in town, we didn't want to walk much further.  Luckily we chose one that also gave us great information on getting to the cenotes by bike and the return time of the ADO bus (3:30 pm, 2 shops down from the bike place).  Two shops over from where we ate we rented bikes for $3 and with a map they provided pedaled the 6.4 km to Tankach-Ha on a well signed road.  The cenotes are big business for Mayan communities and they want to make sure people can find them.

Like the last bike trip we took this one was just as hot.  Really really hot. But at the end we knew we had a cool cenote to jump into!

At the destination there are three cenotes to chose from, but we chose to spend all of our time at Tankach-Ha because they have 5 and 10 meter jumping platforms.  You can bet Maya was super happy about that! This cenote is a really nice cave, and not too crowed at all. 

I didn't do the jumping part because I felt I had used up all my daredevil luck with the Tarzan swing, zip lining, and repelling at the other cenotes. But you can bet Maya jumped the 10 meters, twice!

Just a recap for anyone wanting to do this day trip from Tulum.  I have no clue if there are additional colectivos or busses, but this is what we did:

8:00 am colectivo from Osiris Norte, leaves when full, 70 pesos
70 pesos Coba enterance fee
50 pesos bike at Coba, no time limit
50 pesos bike rental to get to Cenote Tankach-Ha
55 cenote enterance fee
3:00 pm ADO bus, departs outside Coba gate, 80 pesos
80 pesos for lunch

385 pesos or about $23 per person, sure beats a tour or taxi!


Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve

Easy as pie, we caught our bus to Tulum from Bacalar.  It wasn't so easy on the bus though because it seemed the AC wasn't working and the windows would not open.  Imagine riding in your car in the middle of summer but with 50 other sweating and oxygen deprived people....lets just say that when the bus pulled into the Tulum  station three hours later I grabbed my day pack and was the first one off the bus.  

Tulum Pueblo  (not to be confused with Tulum Playa) is considerably less than charming.  The only reason we are here is for the day trips we have planned.  It's cheaper, generally, to stay  in Tulum Pueblo but the beach is a 20 minute bike or 10 minute colectivo ride away.  We didn't come here for the beach crazy as it seems, plus we have had lots of days of clear blue water to enjoy already.  There are a million tourists, travelers, backpackers, etc here and we are just one more drop in the bucket.  The place is completely over run, over priced, and over rated, but like I said we are here for the day trips.  The food in the small local places is dang good though, what's not to like about delicious 45¢ tacos? And the people who live here are nice too.

Day trip number one is to the ruins at Muyil and the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve to float down Mayan carved canals.  It's not easy to find clear instructions on how do take day trips from Tulum independently, the hotels seem to only know how to direct you to an expensive private taxi or a tour.  We found 
this link from roamingaroundtheworld.com to be a huge help.  We followed their advice about the bus and the trip worked out perfectly. We walked around some low key ruins for about an hour and were just about the only people there.  

Follow this path behind the main temple and it leads you into the jungle of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve.

Another  small enterance fee is paid and the trail becomes a raised boardwalk through the forest.  

The first stop is the observation tower.  I'm not good at estimating heights, but the tower goes well above the tree canopy for a beautiful view of the jungle and lagoon.  The tower was strudy and well constructed but  I'll say it was a bit unnerving climbing up basically slightly inclined ladders to a thatch roof hut.  

Continue along the path and it opens up to a dock where small boats wait to ferry passengers across the lagoon to the canals for about $35 per person.  It's a steep price but it is sustainable tourism run by Mayan people who live here. More of that crystal water!

Arrivng at a small dock,  the driver instructed us to leave our things in the boat and step into the canal which is crystal clear and has a gentle current.  Water feature #4, canals dug by Mayans 1000 years ago.  The 30 minute float cuts through whispering grasses and shady mangroves.  Just a few small  fish here and there and a very mellow flow.  

Over too soon, another small dock appears where our shoes are waiting but no sign of anyone.  The dock leads to another elevated Boardwalk that leads a long long way through hot grassy marsh lands.  Our boat awaits, we jet across the lagoon and back to the Reserve.  We traced our path back through the jungle, the ruins, and finally to the highway where we have lunch and coo over another stray kitten.  We wait about 10 minutes on the side of the road for a Tulum bound colectivo.  Back to the room for siesta and later hop on bikes to find yet another great meal.