Cancún is known for its pristine white beaches, its all-inclusive resorts (including the magnificent Occidental Tucancún and Occidental Costa Cancún) and shimmering turquoise waters. In other words, it’s the perfect destination for a sun-and-sand getaway. But beneath the surface, there’s a world of historic and cultural delights to be found – including the El Rey Archaeological Area.
An Ancient Mayan City. El Rey’s golden age was between 1200 A.D., when the coastal city flourished as a Mayan maritime hub. But it was also an important spiritual destination, as evidenced by the temples and pyramids you’ll see here. The city was an essential link in trading routes between Xel Ha, Tankah, Tulum and Xaman Ha.
Bring Your Climbing Shoes. Climbing isn’t permitted on the pyramids at better-known archaeological areas, such as Chichén Itzá. But at El Rey, home to 47 separate structures, you’re welcome to go where you want – as long as you’re respectful and tread lightly.
The King’s City. El Rey got its name from a stone sculpture excavated here in the 1920s, which scholars believe depicts a king (rey) wearing an exquisite headdress. In order to preserve this amazing piece of pre-Columbian art, the El Rey sculpture now resides down the street at the Maya Museum of Cancún.
Hidden Gem. Unlike some other Mayan ruins, the El Rey Archaeological Area is an under-the-radar destination – meaning that there are far less crowds to deal with. As you wander amidst these evocative ruins in peace and quiet, you’ll be transported back in time.
Iguanas Everywhere! There may not be a lot of tourists at El Rey, but other residents populate the area. As you explore, you’ll see hundreds of iguanas climbing and crawling on the ruins. They’re harmless, but if you have an unnatural fear of reptiles, you’ve been warned!
Easy Access. The El Rey Archaeological Area is located right in the Cancún Hotel Zone near KM 18 , making it one of the most easily accessible Mayan experiences for guests of Occidental Tucancún and Occidental Costa Cancún.
Added Attraction. To go even deeper into Cancún’s fascinating Mayan heritage, pay a visit to the aforementioned Maya Museum of Cancún, which is home to one of the Yucatán’s most important collections of Mayan artifacts. As you gaze up on more than 400 incredible pieces of sculpture, ceramics and jewelry, you’ll be amazed at the accomplishments of this advanced civilization.
The El Rey Ruins are open for exploration between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., and admission is 50 pesos (roughly $3 USD).