You’ve no doubt been to or at least have heard about the Yucatan Peninsula’s wondrous Maya archaeological sites like Tulum, Chichen Itza, and Uxmal. But did you know that Mexico’s most famous beach resort, Cancun, boasts a mini-me version of these mighty sites? Las Ruinas del Rey (the Ruins of the King) are easily accessible right off the hotel zone’s main drag, Boulevard Kukulkan, just south of the new Iberostar Cancun on the way to the airport.

Dating to around 300 BC and now open daily during daylight hours, this little complex seems to have had a focus mixing fishing, coastal commerce, and astronomy, as well as served as a royal burial ground. There are two main avenues and two main plazas, and it’s actually pretty cool – I see echoes of many other Mayan sites I’ve visited – except that instead of a heart-thumper of a workout by climbing a few stories up a pyramid in the Yucatan’s sultry heat, there’s pretty much nothing here that’s higher than two stories. What’s more, whenever I’ve visited the place has always been delightfully peaceful; you may very well find yourselves literally the only visitors. And honestly, as someone who’s dodged congestion, tour groups, and occasional floating junk at some of Mexico’s other more popular archaeological sites (especially Tulum, a favorite with cruise day trips) for me this is totally part of this site’s charm.

So…if you’re vacationing in Cancun and want a low-key, bite-size intro to Maya archaeology, or don’t have time or (Kukulkan forbid) are just too lazy to make the trek down the coast to Tulum or inland to the truly mighty Maya sites, “El Rey “is an absolute must.

If you’re vacationing at the Iberostar hotel in Cancun, El Rey Archaeological Ruins – is an absolute must! It’s populated by hundreds of Iguanas and has a great museum.