Visitors to Cancun, especially those traveling to Cancun, Mexico on fling vacations, those quick hitters of 2-4 days, often ask me where are the closest ruins that can be found so that they can at least experience some of what the ancient Maya left behind in lieu of venturing off to Chichen Itza, Coba or Tulum. Fortunately for them, there’s two sites available within minutes of the Cancun Hotel Zone, El Rey and El Meco. In this blog we’ll explore El Rey a bit, the lagoon side ruins in the hotel zone. Currently the main information building of El Rey appears closed but entrance is available to the best of my knowledge via a small set of steps just North of the site off a sandy parking lot with a small palapa hut across from Playa Delphines.
Ruinas Del Rey or “El Rey”, located on Isla Cancun, is just off Kukulkan Boulevard at KM 17 in the Southern Hotel Zone in Cancun. Nestled, lagoon side, among the mangroves, the Maya Ruins are adjacent to the Hilton Resorts Golf Course and offer vistas from atop the Post Classical Period Maya Plazas of much of the Southern Hotel Zone and Nichupte’ Lagoon.
Entrance to the El Rey Park is approximately $3.00 US or $35 Pesos and the Park typically keeps hours between 8 AM and 5 PM for general admission. The park is easily reached via the public bus transportation system in Cancun or by Taxi.
Archaeologists estimate that habitation at El Rey by the ancient Maya occurred approximately in 900 AD and continued in part until 1550 AD, ending at the start of the Spanish Conquest. El Rey is translated from Spanish to the “The King” and was named for a ceremonial mask , a sculpture of a nobleman and a skull found on the site that honors the Maya Sun God. The sites ancient name is unknown and is still open to speculation and interpretation.
There is known to be at least 47 Maya structures on site with most being minor in design and recognition. The two primary platforms and temples still evident are believed to be the remains of religious ceremonial buildings and market areas. Today, one can still ascertain Maya engravings in the building stones and Mayan Glyphs and mural paintings almost a thousand years old.
Any mention of the Ruinas Del Rey site would be remiss in not mentioning the impressive local Iguana population that now calls the ruins home. Literally, hundreds of Iguanas wander the park area, with little fear of humans and provide for ample photographic opportunities. Park Guides routinely feed the Iguanas and the mere sight of people has the Iguanas attentive for food scraps.
There’s also a few peacocks meandering the site as well.
Overall, the site is currently considered minor in relative importance and size to the other Maya Ruins sites in the region such as Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Coba and Tulum but does give visitors the opportunity to experience the Maya of the past without leaving Cancun. The site can be toured in an hour or so and visitors should utilize a deet based insect repellent before exploring the park due to the number of mosquitoes that are sometimes prevalent.
Keep in mind that while El Rey’s days as a religious, governing and market center may be well in the past, the archaeological site is still not without its surprises. In early 2006, workmen uncovered the skeleton of an ancient Maya on the parks edges, signifying that Ruinas Del Rey may still have some stories to tell.