The Mayan ruins at Kohunlich are a worthwhile visit from Xcalak. They’re not nearly as crowded as Tulum and Chichen Itza, and they’re much more interactive – you can climb the structures and pyramids!
The drive to Kohunlich from Xcalak is around 5 hours, so we don’t recommend it for a day trip. It’s best to stretch it out to two days, and drive to either Bacalar or Chetumal to stay overnight (you rented a car to get to Xcalak like we suggested, right?).
When we did our trip, we drove from Xcalak and stayed overnight in Chetumal, then visited the ruins in the morning. The morning is cooler than the afternoon, and we wanted to have plenty of energy for climbing all over Kohunlich.
The ruins are about an hour from Bacalar or Chetumal, and they’re well-signed on the highway. Take highway 186 (expect the same excellent driving conditions as the 307) and then leave the 186 for a narrow, paved road with a few potholes. If you’ve conquered Xcalak’s beach road, this will be a breeze. On this narrow road we did have to slow down and pull over to let a tour bus pass.
We arrived about 9:30 in the morning, and there was a tour bus and two other vehicles in the parking lot. I think if we had been an hour earlier we would have had the ruins all to ourselves.
At the entrance is a ticket booth and a washroom with flush toilets. This site has NO food, and NO amenities. And also NO touts or sellers (hooray!). Kohunlich really does just have the ruins. Entry fee as of Feb 2018 is 70 pesos per person.
There is a map of the site at the ticket booth and we took a photo of it so we could follow the recommended path through the site. Good thing we did, because we didn’t see any other maps once we entered the site.
The restored buildings have plaques with short explanations in Spanish and English (some are very brief).
We took about an hour and a half to explore all the buildings and we didn’t rush. Having a guide would likely take longer, maybe two hours.
Like we said, one of the best things about Kohunlich is that you can climb pretty much all over everything – the really dangerous places are roped off, and signs tell you to be careful when climbing. Combined with the lack of crowds, it was like we were discovering the ruins for ourselves.
The key attraction at Kohunlich is the temple of the masks at the very back of the site (that’s where the tour spent most of their time with the guide). Steps in the middle allow you to climb up to the top of the pyramid. You’ll find well-preserved, detailed mask carvings are on either side of the stairs. The masks are roped off and protected by palapa roofs.
The other most impressive structure on the site is the 27 steps, with (naturally) lots of steps, turrets, rounded stone corners, and plazas.
Kohunlich has quite a bit of shade, but we recommend taking a hat and sunblock with you. We wore long sleeves and pants, which worked out fine. If you plan on climbing, wear sturdy shoes (leave the flip flops back in Xcalak) and take some bug spray with you.
Definitely bring a bottle of water and maybe a snack, as there aren’t any shops once you arrive at the site. On highway 186 you’ll see roadside tiendas and restaurants where you can stock up before or after you visit the ruins.
Overall a quiet Mayan site with some unique features. Visiting Kohunlich from Xcalak is an easy two-day trip, well worth a visit if you’re looking to see some less-visited Mayan ruins.
Driving time Xcalak to Kohunlich approx. 5 hours
Entry fee (Feb 2018): 70 pesos per person
Allow 1-2 hours to visit the entire site
No food or water for sale on site