How to visit Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve Tulum
Sustainable tourism in the Mexican Caribbean
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a unique natural attraction to visit in Mexico. From the thick Yucatan jungle, freshwater marshes extend out through lagoons and even Mayan-built canals, all the way to a thriving barrier reef in the Carribean Sea.
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What is the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve?
Sian Ka'an Mexico
A sublime area of natural beauty, Sian Ka’an is home to thousands of species of flora and fauna, which is why the region became a designated Biosphere Reserve in 1986. A year later, Sian Ka’an was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO and it remains the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean. Possibly the most astonishing part of the Yucatan peninsula. All of this reflective water for which the Mayans called this area “Sian Ka’an,” meaning “Origin of the Sky.”
It is located 2 hours south of Cancun near the small town of Tulum. When you are travelling to the Riviera Maya, especially to Tulum. Tulum has two great attractions, one being the Tulum Ruins and one is the UNESCO World Heritage Site Sian Ka’an, still not very known, but when visiting Tulum or the Riviera Maya, you should not miss to do a tour with Visit Sian Ka’an tours. There is no place alike anywhere in the Riviera Maya.
Where Is Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
Sian Ka'an Map
Sian Ka’an, Quintana Roo, is just south of Tulum. This is why it’s often referred to as the Tulum nature reserve, but this isn’t strictly true as Sian Ka’an National Park is past Tulum.
But you do need to pass through Tulum to get there. Most of Sian Ka’an is protected land and not inhabited, so if you want to stay there you will need to visit Punta Allen which is a small town within the Biosphere.
How To Get To Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
Tulum to Sian Ka’an
To access the reservation at any of the five entrances you must go to the information booth and pay about 50 pesos (approximately $ 5 or € 4).
• Take The Bus To Sian Ka’an from Tulum To Punta Allen
If you are staying in Tulum, you can catch the bus, colectivo, from Tulum to Punta Allen in Sian Ka’an. You catch it close to the ADO station in Tulum. Avoid this option during the rainy season (from march to may) as the raoad can get totally washed out! From Punta Allen, you will be able to book a Sian Ka’an boat tour for the next day so you can see the reserve.
• Rent A Car And Drive Yourself To Sian Ka’an
It is a good idea to rent a car and drive to Sian Ka’an but make sure your car is good and the road is accessible and in a good state. check the weather to make sure it will get dry!
TIPS: do not tell the rental car company where you are going. Why? Because they know how bad the road is and that it’s very likely you will either get the car filthy driving through the mud, or you will have a flat tire. Before you rent the car, make sure they have no clause in the contract telling you that you can’t go off-road in the car. Driving to Sian Ka’an is considered going off-road, so you will be breaking your contract going there. Drive slow, take your time, and you´ll be fine.
Bicycle rental is very popular in Tulum since many people move in this mode of transport. If you like to go to the reserve with your bicycle, from Tulum Pueblo to the entrance of the reserve it is a 55-minute journey, passing through the hotel zone. bring water to hydrate yourself, sunscreen and insect repellent, and a hat or a cap. We recommend that you go very early or in the evening as the sun is very strong in the afternoon. By bicycle, getting to Punta Allen is a long time, we advise you not to go far and enjoy the virgin beaches that surround the reserve,
• Book One Of The Biosphere Tours To The Reserva Sian Ka’an
Your final option, and most sensible option is to do a Sian Ka’an excursion with a reputable tour agency. You won´t have to worry about the driving, you can choose to get 1 day tour or multi-day tour, you´ll have a wonderful day!
What to do in Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
Sian Ka'an excursion
If you do decide to visit Sian Ka’an without a tour then you will need to get yourself to Punta Allen. It is recommended to spend 2 to 3 days to enjoy it fully, knowing that the boat tour is the thing you should´t miss out. Sian Ka’an boat tours only go from Punta Allen, so you must go here and speak to the boat captains directly to organize your boat tour. If you don’t do the Sian Ka’an boat tour, there really isn’t much point in visiting.
Thing to know if you are solo travelers or 2 people: Community tours Sian Ka’an have fixed prices for renting a boat for the tour, and negotiation is hard, The price is per boat, not per person. What this means is that as a solo traveler in Mexico you would pay $6000 Mexican Pesos ( price june 2020) to do the tour. The maximum people you can have on the boat is 6, so you can wait for people you might be able to join to fill up a boat. In general, captains are kind and put you on a list and get you when they have enough people to fill up a boat. But it also means that maybe no one will show up. Most of the time it is cheaper to just book a spot on a tour than take the public bus and organize the tour yourself.
TIPS: Book the tour in the morning because you have a better chance of seeing dolphins and other wildlife, snorkeling with turtles and go to a virgin beach in the morning. Then spend the afternoon and evening chilling in Punta Alen.
Others Sian Ka´an interest points
• Information Center ― About 10 kilometers from the entrance of the reserve is the visitor center. This place will allow you to rest on the way and enjoy activities in the lagoon. You will find information panels about the reserve, a pier , an observation tower and you can rent kayaks or take a boat ride through the Caapechen lagoon.
• Visit Punta Allen ― Punta Allen is a fishing village where you will find places to sleep and eat seafood with a local Maxiacan vibes. There is only 4 restaurants and they have no electricity from 2 pm until 7 pm each day, then again from 2 am until 7 am, so you will need to bring a book! There really isn’t a lot to do there, but it would be a cool experience to spend a night there for sure.
• Playas ― On the way, you will see that there are several virgin beaches where you can stop. They are very beautiful and you can have the beach to yourself just to enjoy a refreshing swim.
• Lighthouse ― Take a walk (2km) through the native jungle to the lighthouse, enjoying the beach and the mangrove. Bring your mosquito repelent!
The other part of Sian Ka’an: Muyil
Mayan Jungle & Freshwater Sian Ka’an in a Half Day Trip, it is what you will find in Muyil. Inland jungle, Mayan ruins, wetlands, freshwater lagoon, mangrove forests, Mayan-carved canals, and float down said canals, you’ll find this all from the Muyil access point to Sian Ka’an. You will not experience as much marine life as on the ocean side (no dolphins, turtles, etc.), but it’s still a very beautiful natural environment. Logistically it’s much easier to get to Muyil on your own. The Muyil access point to Sian Ka’an is also much more cost-effective compared to Punta Allen. It’s also a quicker trip, as going to Sian Ka’an via Muyil is a very doable DIY trip that can be accomplished in a half day.
Get to Muyil from Tulum
• By car ― Simply take Highway 307 south to the ruins of Muyil, which you’ll be able to easily recognize and will be on the left side of the road. It’s roughly a 20-minute drive south of Tulum town (22.5 km). There are signs for Muyil and a small parking lot that always seems to have spaces available. It’s easy to find.
• By bus ― The buses from Tulum to Muyil come frequently, about every 30-60 minutes, so you can go to Muyil by bus at virtually anytime. There is no need to reserve a ticket in advance. There are usually many seats available. Simply head to the main ADO bus station in Tulum (on Avenida Tulum between Alfa and Jupiter). Buy a ticket from the ticket counter (not on the bus) and ask for a ticket to Muyil (Chunyaxché). The cost for the one-way ticket from Tulum to Muyil is $28 pesos.
• Muyil info:
- Muyil entrance fee: $45-pesos, parking is free.
- Muyil hours: 8:00 to 5:00.
- Sian Ka’an Boardwalk entrance fee: $50 pesos
- Boat tour: $1,000 pesos per person
- Muyil restrooms: There are toilets near the entrance of Muyil.
• Visit the Muyil ruins ― then walk along a boardwalk in a jungle marsh, climb up an observation tower, and continue along the boardwalk to the boat docks. This takes approximately 1 hour (maybe 2 hours, if you take it really slow). We recommend this option if you have the time to explore.
• Get directly to a boat ― to explore Sian Ka’an. If you opt to bypass the ruins and go directly to the boats, then drive or walk south on HWY 307 just past both the Muyil ruins entrance and bus stop until you get to a dirt road on your left (East side of the road) at mile marker 205. It’s about a five-minute walk (or 1-minute drive) down a small dirt road, where there is a secure parking lot ($50-pesos), about a two-minute walk from the boat dock.
We recommend to start with visiting the Mayan ruis (allow 20-30 minutes exploring), then walk all the way to the laguna though el sendero mirador laguna (20-minutes) enjoying the lush jungle scenery. Take the boat tour on the laguna, highlight of a trip to Sian Ka’an via Muyil. The boat tour into the Sian Ka’an lagoon costs$1,000 pesos per person. This is non-negotiable and no discount is given for groups of two or more. It is a great experience and hence recommend. It’s nearly two-hours long. You’ll cruise around the lagoon and into narrow canals that are just barely wider than the boat itself. The water is crystal clear, so you can easily spot fish swimming around. But look up in the air too, as Sian Ka’an is known for over 300 species of birds.
You’ll have the opportunity to float down an ancient Mayan canal! The canal is lined with mangroves and the water is very clear. It’s also super refreshing, after that short but sweaty trek through the hot & humid jungle! A lifejacket is provided to float down the canal with. Make sure you bring your own mask and snorkel to be able to view the fish and other critters that live amongst the mangroves.
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Where to stay in Punta Allen
Book your trip
Are you ready to book your trip? .Here are the websites you can use to book your trip, get inspired with the best things to do in your destinations and travel smarter.
- Kiwi.com– A great website to book your flights. It has good airfares but you need to search regulaly as the prices are constantly changing
- Booking.com – The best website to book your accommodation, you can book and cancel free up until a certain point, especially when your plans are forever changing. It’s easy to use and has one of the widest selections.
- Airbnb – You can get some really nice places to stay here. If you don’t have an account and you click on this link then you will get $36 off your first booking.
- Hotel.com – Huge choice of hotels with free cancellation up until a certain point. It’s easy to use and has one of the widest selections.
- Agoda – Agoda is very good if you are searching hotels, resorts, houses. They always have attractive promotions.
- Get your Guide – It is a platform where you will find tours and excurtions in Cozumel and every part of the world.
- Xcaret Group – Xcaret Group is the most famous theme park in the Riviera Maya. If you visit Cancun, check their prices here to get good discounts.
- Viator – If you need to find inspiration about things to do in Cozumel, check on Viator to see the tours they offer for diving and other activities
- Rental Cars – Looking to rent a. car while you are away? I always book through Rental Cars as they do a search of all of the big sites and find the best deals.
- Yacht Rental – If you are thinking of spending time in a paradise beach destination with friends or family, this is a good option to enjoy the beach life.
- Sailing Trip – For cruising holidays, book a sailing trip, they have many trip destinations, lehghts and standing.
- Dive the World – If you are a diver, book a diving trip with them. They have dive packages everywhere in the world with very attractive prices.