Chichen Itza is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the Mayan Riviera, but Cozumel has great sites too! If you’re a history buff and are looking to travel to some of the Caribbean’s most awe-inspiring archeological sites, then exploring the Mayan ruins near Cozumel is a must. Here’s the complete guide of the best ruins you can visit while in Cozumel and what you can expect when traveling to each one.
Cozumel Mayan Ruins History
Cozumel is the largest island in Mexico, and it’s just in front of Playa del Carmen, in the state of Quintana Roo, an hour from Cancun. From the year 1000, with the rise of Chichen Itza as a great political and economic center of the peninsula, the site was integrated into an increasingly intense economic network, which would lead it to become the great city it was from 1200 AD. A military base was built during Second World War, and with it, the accesses to the Mayan ruins were lost, and thus, the jungle hid them. Only two archaeological sites are intact to remind us of this past civilization, San Gervasio and El Cedral.
San Gervasio Ruins
Of the archaeological sites in Cozumel, the most important one is San Gervasio. Here, the Mayans venerated the goddess Ixchel. This deity was one of the most important of the Mayan pantheon, as it was the supreme authority in love, fertility, and health matters. Among the most important structures of San Gervasio are las Manitas, some rooms that are believed to have been the residence of Lord Itzá de Cozumel about a thousand years ago. Other relevant buildings are the Casa Alta, the Central Plaza, El Arco, the Casa Grande, and the Chi Chan Nah, a place for rituals.
How to get to San Gervasio
It is located 4 miles east of the town of San Miguel de Cozumel and is easily accessible through the main cross road of the island, which is a paved road in good condition. Numerous travel agencies organize guided tours, and the local taxi service offers tours from the main hotels in the city. It’s open from Monday to Sunday, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. General Entrance is $188 pesos (9.50 USD). The average visit time to San Gervasio is 2 hours.
El Cedral Cozumel
The ruins of El Cedral are the oldest Mayan Ruins, dating back to 800 AD. The ruins are located in the town of El Cedral. The entrance is marked by a massive white and red arch adorned with crosses. All that remains of the historical capital of Cozumel and the former home to its largest community is a small house-sized ruin. This site is much smaller than the San Gervasio Ruins but is easily accessible. The Town of El Cedral is also home to the annual Festival of Santa Cruz and El Cedral Fair. This tradition started 150 years ago as a commemoration of an attack during the Caste War of Yucatan. These celebrations last one week and include the fair, traditional food, live music, and bullfighting.
Getting to El Cedral
The ruins of El Cedral are located in the south of Cozumel, off the highway in the town of the same name. You can travel to Cozumel via ferry from Playa del Carmen and spend the day visiting the sites. You will recognize the area immediately by the large white and red arch. If you’re interested in seeing the ruins on Cozumel, you can book with a tour operator for a combination tour of El Cedral and San Gervasio; most of these tours can be booked online or directly at your hotel. You probably won’t find tours that only go to El Cedral due to their small and remote location.
Tips for Visiting the Cozumel Mayan Ruins
- Wear comfortable shoes, sun protection, and mosquito repellent.
- If you arrive on your own, try to hire a certified guide on-site to make the most out of your visit.
- You can visit the ruins year-round, but the sites are busiest from December through April when the weather is not as warm as in the summer.
- There are fewer crowds during hurricane season from May through October.
- The ruins are spread throughout the jungle, so plan to do a lot of walking.
The San Gervasio and El Cedral ruins are a must-see for culture and history enthusiasts. Next time you’re in Cozumel, book a tour and explore these amazing archaeological sites.
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