Playacar Maya Ruins in Mexico

Mayan Ruins in Playa del Carmen

Mayan Ruins in Playa del Carmen? Yes, there is a hidden gem that many don’t know about. Find out how to get to the Playacar Mayan Ruins, and what there is to see.

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While traveling in Mexico everyone should visit some of the Mayan Ruins and read about their fascinating history. There are more than 200 sites in Mexico and 80 pyramids in Yucatan alone.

While in Mexico we researched all the possible ruins close to us that we could go see. And interestingly we found some that were very close but there was very little information about them.

The most famous of them is of course Chichén Itzá which we visited as a part of a tour. Other popular ruins to go to are the Tulum Ruins and Cobá. But after staying in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo for almost a week, we decided to explore the town and visit ruins there.

As a surprise to us, many didn’t even seem to know about the existence of the Playacar Mayan Ruins. They are in the Playacar Resort area. The ruins are not huge and not the most well preserved either, but they are definitely worth visiting. Especially if you are into history, and are staying in Playa del Carmen.

Also, they are supposedly the only ruins you can visit free of charge.

XA-MAN HA – Mayan Ruins in Playa del Carmen

The actual name of the Playacar Ruins is Xaman-Ha which mean “Water of the North” in the Mayan language.

There used to be a total of eight different sets of structures in Playacar, but only three of them are still standing. Among the ruins you can also find parts of an old stone wall, which was built to protect the compound.

It is likely that the Mayan People chose this spot because it was practical for them. From here, it was easy to get to the island of Cozumel where Mayan women made the pilgrimage to the shrine of Ixchel.

Ixchel is the Mayan goddess of the moon and fertility. This goddess protected women who visited her sacred island. Many of them would also ask her to help them produce boys, which was what their Mayan men wanted. The island of Cozumel is very close to Playa del Carmen, and you can even see it from the shore.

It is thought that Xaman-Ha was occupied by a fishing and farming community. Because of its essential location it was also an important stop along the Mayan trade route which went all the way from Mexico to Honduras.

Xa-man Ha was most likely abandoned in 1526 after the Spanish arrived in the area. It is believed that Xaman-Ha might have been the very first place they saw when they came to Mexico.

Parts of Playacar Mayan Ruins in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
One of the structures and stairs at Mayan Ruins in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
The best preserved structure of Playacar Mayan Ruins in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.


Since we didn’t stay at the Playacar Resort which is a gated area, we had to figure out how to get in to see the ruins. We got a hint to tell the guards that you are visiting someone who is staying in the area, and we had no problems getting in.

But if you are staying in the Playacar Resort, you will have access to the ruins without asking. You can just walk right to it.

Looking for a place to stay? Iberostar Quetzal is one of the most popular hotels in Playacar area.

The walk from the downtown Playa del Carmen to the Playacar Ruins is about ten to fifteen minutes. The first signs that we saw, were right after the Playacar gates on Avenida 10, on the left side. The path leaving from the sign will take you all the way to the beach and along the way there are multiple structures.

Most people we saw there had beach towels and bags and were not interested in looking at the ruins. But we did the opposite and they were just beautiful!

Xaman-Ha sign at Playcar Ruins in Playa del Carmen.
Road sign warning about coatimundis on street at Playacar resort area in Mexico.

After seeing the first structures you should return back to the street and continue forward. Very soon, again on the left side of the road, there will be more ruins.

We also saw many iguanas enjoying the sun and some agoutis running between the rocks. Iguanas can bite, so I wouldn’t recommend going too close to them. Agoutis on the other hand seemed more shy.

Mexican agoutis are an endangered species and they are related to guinea pigs. They eat mostly nuts, fruits and seeds which they find from the ground. Agoutis looked a little bit like giant rats without a tail.

Iguanas laying in the sun at the Playacar ruins in Mexico.
Iguanas along the road
Two Agoutis eating nuts on the street in Playacar Resort area in Play del Carmen.

The ruins are hidden in the jungle so there is plenty of shade. But it still gets very hot during the day and we quickly got tired of walking around in Playacar.

It is always a good idea to bring some water with you while exploring Mexico. But you might also want to consider bringing some mosquito repellant since our kids got quite a few mosquito bites out there. For some reason, they don’t seem to bite me or at least I don’t get a reaction from it.

You could also consider combining a visit to Playacar Mayan Ruins with a beach day. One of the best beaches in Playa del Carmen is right by the ruins, so you don’t have to go too far. Or you could check out Plaza Playacar Shopping Center close by.


Most people choose to visit only Chichén Itzá because it is the biggest and most famous one of the ruins. And it is of course a UNESCO Heritage Site too. But they should not ignore the other smaller ruins that also have many stories to tell.

A visit to some of the historical sites can be perfectly combined to a visit to a cenote, a beach or to some cute local town. And even though there are tons to do in Playa del Carmen otherwise too, a visit to the Playacar Mayan Ruins should be on everyone’s list!

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  1. Wow, This place would definitely be amazing for me as it has 200 Mayan sites and 80 pyramids in Yucatan alone. My favourite genre is history and would love to visit Playacar Mayan Ruins sure. Thanks for the travel information and tips to carry water and mosquito repellents.

  2. We are in Playa del Carmen right now. I read about these ruins online. It is about a 45 minute walk from our hotel so we want to make sure we can get into see them. Did the guard not ask you who you were visiting? I’m just afraid we will walk that far and not get in. Thanks for any advice

    1. Hi Terry,
      That sounds like a long walk in the sun. Maybe you could just take a taxi? Who knows, a taxi might even able to drive you all the way in. They didn’t ask us anything and I don’t think they spoke English so there was definitely a language barrier too. Good luck!

  3. I really love visiting historical sites, and this kind of ancient architectural site is so fascinating. And yet I’ve still not made it to Playa del Carmen to visit these amazing sites. Particularly great to read about sites I hadn’t heard much about, very helpful to plan a future trip, thank you!

  4. I am planning a holiday to Xcaret at Xmas and so would love to see these ruins on my trip as I think Chichen Itza is a long way from where I will be staying. The only snag is what if the guards don’t let you in? Are there any other options to see the ruins?

    1. Sounds so much fun! Was there a Mayan archaeological site in Xcaret as well? I think I heard there was. I’m not sure if there is other ways to get in other than asking the guards. Maybe if you go to the beach and then take the path from there, not sure.

    2. The most carefree way to get in, is to go first to the beach at Playacar. It’s just south of the Señor Frogs. Walk a good distance, relax and then you find many public entrances to the community of Playacar. No one will ask you a single thing. Walk, enjoy , explore the beautiful houses and of course the ruins. And then you just walk yourself out of the gate at the bottom of 10th.
      I’ve been here for over 2 years and this is how I found the ruins. It’s also much better than walking the beach all the way back (that can get so tiring) .

      1. Thank you Adrian for confirming that you can access the ruins from the beach. I didn’t want to say it unless I was certain. We saw that one beach access had guards and they were checking who were entering, so we thought maybe that is the case in all of them.

  5. The Mayan ruins and their history sound incredible! Great idea to combine Playacar Mayan Ruins with a beach day to avoid getting too hot. I am adding Chichén Itzá also to my bucket list and will refer when I make plans to visit Mexico. 🙂

    1. Chichén Itzá was beautiful all though pretty crowded. You can read more tips for visiting there from my previous posts.

  6. OMG 200 Mayan sites and 80 pyramids in Yucatan alone!!! When will I see even one fraction of it! I am into history and would love to visit Playacar Mayan Ruins even if they are in bad shape. Thanks for the travel tips on carrying water and mosquito repellents.

  7. I’m planning a stay at a resort in Cozumel, so your mention of the shrine of Ixchel and its link to the Mayan ruins in Playa del Carmen fascinates me. I will definitely include a trip to both on my itinerary when I visit. Love the cute animals, too!

    1. Hi Jackie,
      There are ruins also in Cozumel where the shrine is. Make sure to go check it out! Have fun!

    2. Ixhel is beautiful and you can actually walk on the ruins and truly explore. It’s a beautiful park! Disfrutar.

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