Visit the Cancun Maya Museum for an introduction to the ancient Maya civilization. There are exhibits of ceramics and other artifacts excavated at archaeological sites in the Cancun area, Tulum, Coba and southern Quintana Roo, the neighboring state of Yucatan and further afield in southeast Mexico.
Archaeologists have discovered that the Cancun area was first inhabited in the Late Pre-Classic period, 300 B.C. to A.D. 100. During the Post Classic period from 900 to 1520, it was a port of call on the Mayan trade route through the Caribbean. There are archaeological sites in the Hotel Zone and on the mainland. Even the name “Cancun” has its roots in the Mayan language and there are different interpretations of its meaning, the most widely accepted is that it means “nest of serpents.”
Located next to the Cancun Maya Museum and included in the admission fee, this small site comprises several temples in jungle clearings.
Start your Mayan discoveries at El Rey, on the shores of the lagoon next to Iberostar Cancun Golf Club. The largest of the archaeological sites in Cancun Hotel Zone, it was the ceremonial center for a chain of smaller settlements that earned their livelihood from fishing, agriculture, bee keeping and trade. It reached its peak during AD 1200 and 1350.
There are 16 buildings of which Structure 38 is the best preserved, two plazas and two sacbes at the site. The name “El Rey” refers to a stone and stucco head found in a tomb at the site, which is thought to be that of an ancient leader or priest. During your visit to the site, keep a look out for huge iguanas sunbathing on the ancient temples.
Other Mayan sites in the Hotel Zone are on the Cancun Golf Course, also known as Pok-Ta-Pok (ball game in Maya) and Yamil Lu’um.
The largest archaeological site in the Cancun area is El Meco, located to the north of Downtown Cancun, between Puerto Juarez and Punta Sam. To date, 14 buildings have been restored at this Post-Classic site. The principal temple has views of the Caribbean and the Chachmochchuc lagoon.