Cobá doesn’t have Tulum’s stunning Caribbean view and beach, but its structures are much larger and more ornate—in fact, Cobá’s main pyramid is the second tallest in the Yucatán Peninsula, and it’s one of few you are still allowed to climb. The ruins are also surrounded by lakes and thick forest, making it a great place to see birds, butterflies, and tropical flora.
It’s fair to say that the town of Cobá, a rather desultory little roadside community, has never regained the population or stature that it had as a Maya capital more than 1,000 years ago. Most travelers visit Cobá as a day trip from Tulum  or Valladolid , or on a package tour from resorts on the coast.
There are two decent hotels in town, used mostly by those who want to appreciate Cobá’s rich birdlife (which means getting there right when the site opens at 7 a.m.). That could change, however, as small parks, cenotes, and other attractions open near Cobá, making an overnight stay more logical.
By Bus: A tiny bus station operates out of El Bocadito restaurant (Calle Principal). For the coast, the lone first-class bus departs Cobá at 3:30 p.m., with stops in Tulum  (US$3.50, 1 hour), Playa del Carmen  (US$7.25, 2.5 hours), and Cancún  (US$10, 3.5 hours). Second-class buses to the same destinations cost a bit less but take longer; departures are at 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 4 p.m., and 6 p.m.
There’s just one first-class bus headed inland, leaving Cobá at 10 a.m. for Valladolid  (US$4, 45 minutes) and Chichén Itzá  (US$8.75, 1.5 hours), with first-class connections to Mérida  available there. Second-class bus departures for the same route (US$2.50 to Valladolid, US$5 to Chichén Itzá, US$10.50 to Mérida) are at 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m., and 7 p.m.; note that the 8:30 a.m., 11 a.m., and noon buses go to Valladolid only, with connections available there.
By Car: Getting to Cobá is easiest by car. No matter what direction you’re coming from, the roads are smooth and scenic, cutting through pretty farmland and small towns. Keep your speed down, however, as there are innumerable topes (speed bumps) and occasional people and animals along the shoulder. Buses ply the same routes, but somewhat infrequently.
Three different roads lead to Cobá; none are named or marked, so they are known by the towns on either end. There are no formal services along any of the roads, save a gas station in the town of Chemax.
The Cobá-Tulum road (45 kilometers/28 miles) is the busiest, cutting southeast to Tulum and the coastal highway (Hwy. 307). The other two roads connect to Highway 180, the main highway between Cancún and Chichén Itzá. The Cobá–Nuevo X’Can road (47 kilometers/29 miles) angles northeast, connecting with Highway 180 about 80 kilometers (48 miles) outside Cancún and passing places like Nuevo Durango and Punta Laguna  monkey reserve along the way. The Cobá-Chemax road (30 kilometers/20 miles) angles northwest to the town of Chemax; from there it’s another 20 kilometers (12 miles) to Valladolid and Highway 180, connecting to the highway about 40 kilometers (24 miles) from Chichén Itzá.
All three roads, plus the short access road to Cobá, intersect at a large roundabout just north of Cobá village. Pay close attention to which road you want to avoid a long detour.