The Best Day in Mexico with Kids: Mayan Ruins, Cenote, Ice Cream

When I asked the kids, what was their favorite part of the trip to Mexico…their answer was…wait for it…ice cream!

Which just goes to show, that our small staycation ideas are plenty of adventure for them. Upon further prodding, they said that this day was the best because we did ALL THE THINGS. So let’s get to it!

Have you heard of Kabah? It is one of the most magical Mayan ruins on the Yucatan peninsula. Most tourists will skip it, or stop for almost no time, as an add-on to their visit to Uxmal. But they are missing out!

Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Kabah on the Ruta Puuc, and how it became part of our Best Day in Mexico!

Deciding to Visit Kabah

We started the day at the Uxmal Resort Maya, packing up our things and ready to hit the road. We were sad to leave but excited for what was to come.

This day was not planned out in advance and we had lots of options of places to visit in the area. Ultimately we needed to get to Merida for the night, but there was a world of possibilities ahead of us. We, the parents, made an executive decision to explore one more site on the Ruta Puuc.

Ruta Puuc

The Ruta (Route) Puuc is a series of Mayan archaeological sites: Kabah, Labna, Xlapak, Sayil, and Uxmal.

The road takes you through the puuc (hills) of the jungle. It is quite the experience, driving through what seems like the middle of nowhere, and coming upon these fabulous sites.

Coming from Uxmal, drive on the 261 and bypass the town of Santa Elena, as you keep going on the road. Entrance to Kabah is on your left.


History of Kabah

The structures at Kabah are from the Classic Period, roughly 600 to 900 CE. During that time, Uxmal was the main center of the regional civilization. Kabah was connected to Uxmal through a sacbe (road).

However, inhabitation of Kabah dates back to at least the Early Classic period. It is one of the few sites mentioned in the Chilam Balam book from Chumayel, which documented Mayan culture during the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

Kabah is best known for the Palace of the Masks, El Palacio de los Mascarones, also known as, Codz Poop in the Mayan language. This main structure is decorated with hundreds of stone masks of the rain god Chaac. Rain was extremely important for agriculture hence the devotion to Chaac.

The site has architectural elements of both the Petén and Chenes styles.

Visiting Kabah with Kids

Despite feeling like we might be tiring the kids of visiting ruins, having already spent a day at Uxmal and another at Cobá, visiting Kabah was a magical experience.

We arrived early and there were very few people there; we felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. The site is much smaller than Uxmal but that made it more manageable to take it all in.

In addition to all the masks, dedicated to the rain god Chac, there are many inscriptions, not all of them having been deciphered. Not only that, when you first enter Kabah, it may seem that the site is rather small.

However, there are many parts of Kabah that have yet to be excavated! Who know what other structures may be found?

In addition, it was Purim, so we let the kids run around in their costumes! How fun! Most of the site lies on one side of the road, but you can cross and run essentially into the jungle, to reach the arch. The arch of Kabah is on the sacbe (road) to Uxmal!

The arch at Kabah
Entrance to Santa Elena
Driving through Santa Elena

Santa Elena

The largest town (village) on the Ruta Puuc is Santa Elena. There are some lodging options there for those that are spending more time exploring the Ruta Puuc.

We drove there for lunch, and had the most wonderful experience. The restaurant we chose, was the only one I had researched ahead of time, but little did I know, that the food (which was delicious), was the least of it!

We discovered that the restaurant had a little oasis in the backyard, with chickens, and turkeys roaming around! The kids had such a great time exploring back there, checking out the hammocks, and a tiny pond while our food was made from scratch!

It was so nice to have some home-style cooking, that we asked for some hard boiled eggs for the road.

If you want to visit, we highly recommend, El Chac Mool– Carretera Federal 261 calle 21 DIAG x 29 y 29A # 211B, 97890 Santa Elena, Yucatán, Mexico.

our lunch in progress

Cenote Dzonbakal

From there we decided the one thing we really wanted to do before returning to Merida, was visit a cenote.

Cenotes are sinkholes, where you have access to ground water. Many cenotes are located around the Chicxulub crater (the one believed to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs).

Some, like the ones we visited on our last trip, are gorgeous. But for us, we wanted the opportunity to bathe in the freezing water of the earth!

We chose Cenote Dzonbacal because it was on the way from Santa Elena to Merida! It ended up taking us down several winding roads to reach it.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed the jungle and tiny villages along the way, and had a fabulous experience in this smaller cenote.

An Evening in Mérida

We got back to Merida in the early evening, and decided to give the kids the quintessential tourist experience: a carriage ride through the Centro and down Paseo de Montejo, and then….ice cream!

Dulcería y Sorbetería Colón located Calle 61 & Calle 62 500, on the main plaza in Merida, has become an essential stop on every trip to Merida, since our first time when we were backpacking with a baby and toddler.

Staying up late was a treat in and of itself, since we knew the next morning would be relaxed with nowhere to be until mid-day! Ha! Of course it was a busy morning…but that’s for the next time!

Have you been to Mexico? What was your best day in Mexico? And did it involve ice cream???

***Catch up on the first half of our trip: Cancun, Punta Laguna, Cobá, Mérida, Uxmal. And our complete itinerary here.

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