A stunning landscape of tropical jungle, mangrove forests, and crystalline waters, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Rich biodiversity, ecoadventures, and a collection of Maya ruins draw visitors to the reserve, which stretches 75 miles (120 kilometers) along the Riviera Maya.
The area’s ecological diversity is the biggest draw to vast Sian Ka’an, which, at 1 million acres (404,686 hectares), is the largest protected area on the Mexican Caribbean. Ride a boat through the lagoons of Boca Paila and Caapechen for opportunities to spot animals like spider monkeys, crocodiles, flamingos, ocelots, and pumas in their natural habitat along the shore. Or take a snorkeling tour on the world’s second-largest barrier reef, home to more than 500 species of fish as well as dolphins and marine turtles. Other popular activities include kayak tours, paddleboarding, fly fishing, and visits to Maya archaeological sites including the El Castillo temple and the ancient trading post of Muyil, located among the mangrove forests. Guided tours and private tours help you see more of the reserve’s attractions in a limited amount of time.
Things to Know Before You Go
Sian Ka’an is a top Tulum area attraction and a must for nature lovers. It’s also an ideal family outing, popular with kids and adults alike.
Bring a swimsuit, towel, and change of clothes.
Many guided tours include pickup and drop-off at Tulum or Playa del Carmen hotels.
Boat rides can be bumpy, so medicine is advised for those who are prone to motion sickness.
How to Get There
The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is located just south of Tulum on the southeast coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, about 125 miles (200 kilometers) south of Cancun. Access points to the park are at Tulum (Punta Allen or Muyil), Chumpón, and Pulticub. Though the easiest way to get to the reserve is on a guided tour that includes transportation from regional hotels, independent travelers can also drive.
When to Get There
Tulum’s rainy season lasts from roughly June through November, so it is advised to visit outside of those months. Otherwise, the weather is mild and summery year-round.
Sian Ka’an’s Maya Roots
Sian Ka’an translates to “Origin of the Sky” in the Mayan dialect of those who originally lived here. In addition to seeing Maya ruins, visitors can float down a 1,000-year-old canal leftover from the Maya kingdom once located here.