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Mayan Ruins, Culture, History in Cancun's Hotel Zone

by Kristin Carleen Busse (Kristin)

Cancun is more than just white sand beaches and turquoise blue Caribbean waters. This world class vacation destination also offers shopping, tours, attractions, dining, nightlife and history... ancient history.

Many travelers visit the various Mayan archaeological sites that are located in the Cancun area, but some don’t realize that you don’t have to travel all the way to Chichen Itza, Tulum or Coba for a taste of Mayan history.

If a tour that takes up most of the day doesn't sound appealing, check out the Mayan culture that's available in Cancun’s Hotel Zone.

El Rey Ruins

Most people have no idea that you can find Mayan ruins right in Cancun's Hotel Zone. El Rey is an archaeological site located at kilometer 19.5, almost directly across from Playa Delfines (Dolphin Beach) / El Mirador (The Lookout) on Nichupte Lagoon. El Rey was at its peak during the Post classic period (A.D. 1250-1630) and was an important part of the Mayan trade route. There are some 47 structures in all and two main platforms and temples. Visitors are not allowed to climb on the structures. El Rey means "The King" and the site was named for a sculpture of a king found on the site. The sculpture is now in the Museo Maya de Cancun (Cancun Mayan Museum). The Mayans may be gone but hundreds of iguanas call El Rey home.

El Rey is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm and the entrance fee is just 50 pesos (about $2.75 usd). It is easily reached by bus and you can see the entire site in 30-45 minutes. Visitors often have the place to themselves.

Museo Maya de Cancun

After spending an hour or so at El Rey, complete your tour of ancient Mayan history at the Museo Maya de Cancun (Cancun Mayan Museum). The museum consists of three exhibition rooms containing some 350 excavated objects. One of the coolest things in the museum is the 14,000-year-old skeletal remains of La Mujer de las Palmas (The Woman of the Palms), which were found in a cenote in Tulum in 2002. She is located in the first exhibition room. Outside there is an adjoining archaeological site, San Miguelito, which was inhabited until the arrival of Spanish conquistadors. Like El Rey, the site is considered to have been an important trade route stop in the region.

Museo Maya de Cancun is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 am to 6 pm and the entrance fee is 65 pesos (about $3.50 usd). Children under 13 and adults over 60 are free. It is easily reached by bus and you can explore the entire museum in an hour or two.

Just for fun... go on a hunt for Yamil Lu'um, two small temples that were most likely used by the Mayans as watchtowers and lighthouses between 500 and 700 years ago. Yamil Lu'um can be found off the beach in front of the Park Royal hotel at kilometer 12.5.

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