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.
The most famous of them is of course Chichén Itzá which is a UNESCO Heritage Site and 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.
HOW TO FIND the PLAYACAR MAYAN RUINS
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.
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!
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.
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.
There is so much to do in Playa del Carmen but visiting the Playacar Mayan Ruins should be on everyone’s list!