Costa Maya & Southern Caribbean Coast

This archaeological site sits on a jungle-backed grassy area. The ruins, dating from both the late pre-Classic (AD 100–200) and the early Classic (AD 300–600) periods, are famous for the great Templo de los Mascarones (Temple of the Masks), a pyramid-like structure with a central stairway flanked by huge, 3m-high stucco masks of the sun god.

The thick lips and prominent features are reminiscent of Olmec sculptures. Of the eight original masks, only five remain relatively intact following the ravages of archaeological looters. Large thatch coverings have been erected to protect the masks from weathering, but you can still get a good look at them. Try to imagine what the pyramid and its red masks must have looked like in the old days as the Maya approached them across the sunken courtyard at the front.

A few hundred meters southwest of Plaza Merwin are the 27 Escalones (27 Steps), the remains of an extensive residential area.

The hydraulic engineering used at Kohunlich was a great achievement; 90,000 of the site’s 210,000 sq meters were cut to channel rainwater into Kohunlich’s once-enormous reservoir.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Costa Maya & Southern Caribbean Coast attractions

1. Dzibanché

15.34 MILES

Though it’s a chore to get to, this site is definitely worth a visit for its secluded, semi-wild nature. Dzibanché (meaning ‘writing on wood’) was a major…

2. Kinich-Ná

16.68 MILES

Part of Dzibanché (ticket price includes entry to both), but well removed from the main site, Kinich-Ná consists of one building. But what a building: the…

3. Nohmul

20.22 MILES

For a taste of how Belize's many majestic ruins may have looked to early explorers before being excavated and landscaped, head to this vast jungle-covered…

4. Laguna Milagros

24.94 MILES

Paddle out on a kayak or simply have a swim in the azure waters of Laguna Milagros, about 23km west of Chetumal, in the town of Huay-Pix. Waterfront…

5. Corozal Museum

25.9 MILES

Called 'A Window to the Past,' the exhibit at this little museum focuses on the experience of the East Indian population, who arrived around 1838 as…

6. Santa Rita

26.13 MILES

Santa Rita was an ancient Maya coastal town that once occupied the same strategic trading position as present-day Corozal Town, namely the spot between…

7. Cuello

26.46 MILES

Close to Orange Walk Town, Cuello (kway-yo) is one of the earliest-known settled communities in the Maya world, probably dating back to around 2400 BC,…

8. Fort Barlee

26.61 MILES

At the center of town, this fort was built in 1849 by Caste War refugees for protection from attacks by hostile Maya. Only the remains of the brick corner…