El Rey of Cancún
El Rey archaeological site doesn’t get anywhere near as much fanfare as its larger cousins at Tulum, Coba, and Chichén Itza, but it is significant in its own right. Situated square under your nose in the Cancún Hotel Zone, El Rey features beautiful natural flora, breathtaking ceremonial platforms and pillars, and an abundance of uninterested resident iguanas.
The history books tell us that El Rey flourished around 1200 to 1500 AD, and alongside the nearby San Miguelito site, was part of a Pre-Columbian “town dedicated to maritime trade and fishing activities”. While in Cancún, take a morning or afternoon to walk the grounds and admire the remnants of a people lost to history. If you’re lucky, the older gentleman who offers tours will be there (5 different languages available, he told me!), and you can take in the ruins with him as your guide.
I had grand dreams of visiting Tulum and having my breath hitch in my throat as I took in the potent beauty of the site, but alas, by the end of Day 3 in Mexico, my family was pooped. They wanted nothing more than to laze poolside at our resort. I was outnumbered, but my boys were willing to do me a solid and compromise with an afternoon somewhere closer. Zona Arqueológica El Rey fit the bill.
Why you should visit El Rey
Note: These are also the reasons why El Rey is the perfect archaeological site to visit when you’re in Cancún on a family vacation. When you have little kids, the hour or longer drive to the bigger ruins is not convenient or practical. That drive is even more unappealing when you’re working with 5 or fewer full days.
El Rey is close to everything
El Rey is located in the Zona Hotelera in Cancun, so it’s really easy to get to. You might even say it’s hidden in plain sight, as it is located just steps away from the famous Playa Delfines. If you’re staying in Cancun or Puerto Morelos, El Rey is very convenient, so there’s no need for a 1-hour+ drive to see Mayan ruins!
Small site, but great sights
The entirety of the grounds will take you less than an hour to explore- and that’s if you’re going at a leisurely pace. Nevertheless, the ruins are very interesting to see, the grounds are beautiful, and it’s worth the visit.
There are more than just ruins
Iguanas roam the grounds freely, and beautiful plants, trees, and flowers fill the grounds.
Chances are, there won’t be any crowds
El Rey’s just never, ever all that busy, and visitors tend to zip in and out of here in under an hour. When looking for archaeological sites to visit, many Cancun tourists opt for the larger ruins that get more advertising visibility, so this one often gets skipped.
It’s a budget-friendly excursion
At a cost of approximately $2.75-$3.00 per person to enter, this is an incredibly budget-friendly activity, especially for families. Note: There’s also a small fee (not more than a few dollars) that you may be asked to pay if you have a video camera on you. This is the same as at all the archaeological sites in the region.
You’ll get a break from souvenir shopping
Unlike the larger ruins, you won’t find vendors hawking wares at El Rey, so you won’t have that to distract your trinket-hungry children. Though when you’re done here, you can hop on the R2 bus on the beach-side and go up to Mercado 28 if you fancy some souvenir shopping.
How to get to there
El Rey is located right around the KM17 and KM18 markers in the Cancun Hotel Zone, making it an easy walk from many hotels on the south side of Blvd Kukulcan.
Any taxi driver will know where El Rey is located— when in doubt, say you’re looking to be dropped off across the street from Playa Delfines.