This post is part of the series Yucatán
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The best comes last! Our last day in Mexico turned out to be one of my favourite days as we decided to visit Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Sian Ka’an has a national park status since the year of 1986 and is one of 34 UNESCO World Heritage Sites but luckily, mass tourism has not reached the wonderful biosphere reserve till nowadays. The statistic proves it – only 80,000 tourists a year visit Sian Ka’an Reserve.
Sian Ka’an is certainly the wildest place in the Riviera Maya which is home to thousands of species of flora & fauna including more than 300 species of birds, crocodiles, lamentins, dolphins, turtles and many others. The natural wonder of Sian Ka’an encompasses 5280 km² of a protected area which is a must-visit place especially if you are a nature lover.
In Sian Ka’an you can enjoy not only the tropical forests and mangroves, savanna grasslands and coral reef, but also some Mayan Ruins. Sian Ka’an is also famous for its pristine and untouched beaches where you can enjoy snorkelling and swimming in preserved coral reefs.
If you decide to visit the protected area it is almost impossible to visit all the sides that Sian Ka’an has to offer. There are hundreds of animals living in the forests, including jaguars, pumas, ocelots and tapirs. On the other hand in the water, you can spot crocodiles, manatees, turtles, and fish.
Just to imagine how big Sian Ka’an actually is: all the different types of landscapes, including the tropical forests, palm savannahs, mangroves and marshes are located in an area bigger than Cozumel Island! But still my favourite part (except swimming in the Mayan canal) about visiting the Bioreserve – there are no crowds at all! Especially during the first two hours after opening…
We travelled to Muyil by car from Tulum and arrived at 8:00 am. It turned out, there is a group of 4 friends who came for the same reason as we did. In front of the Muyil Archaeological site, there were also two local ranges (government employees) waiting for some more visitors to come. The rangers usually arrive here around 8:00 am and the last boat goes out around 4:30 pm.
We waited another 15 minutes. Nobody came. At 8:15 the rangers decided to split into two groups – so we got one ranger and one boat just for ourselves! The whole trip felt like a private tour for only 600 MXN per person. I strongly recommend this Sian Ka’an boat tour especially if you are on a budget and if you want to explore the Biosphere Reserve (almost) by yourself!
How to Get There
There are all in all two Sian Ka’an Access Points: Punta Allen and Muyil. Each access point provides a different experience for its visitors. Punta Allen is for all who want to see the marine side of the biosphere. Muyil, on the other side, offers incredible mangroves and lagoons experience. Muyil is for all people on a budget and those who want to visit Sian Ka’an without an organized tour.
Despite the lack of information, at least Myuil is relatively easy to do by yourself. And you will save A LOT OF MONEY by visiting Sian Ka’an from Myuil! Myuil is for all who want to experience some Mayan Ruins, mangroves, lagoons, jungle and Mayan canals. What you won’t find here are turtles, dolphins and other marine life.
Visiting Sian Ka’an from Myuil is possible as a half-day trip and I highly recommend choosing the early morning!
What you can also visit here are the Mayan ruins and ancient city of Muyil including some jungle walk and climbing the observation tower inside the park. Muyil has a couple of nicely-restored temples and pyramids. Muyil is quite small, especially when you compared it to Chichen Itza or Uxmal. The visit will take ca 1 hour.
Going to Punta Allen is much more difficult and much more expensive! If you decide to visit the biosphere from Punta Allen, probably the better option is to book an overnight trip as it takes way too long to get there.
Punta Allen is for all who want to experience the oceanic side of Sian Ka’an. Punta Allen includes swimming and snorkelling in the sea and boat tour through the saltwater lagoons. From the boat, you will get to see dolphins, turtles, and manatees and sometimes crocodiles!
Exploring the Mayan Canals From Muyil
Once you arrive at Muyil, there are two options: you can first visit the ancient city of Muyil and explore Sian Ka’an afterwards, or you can skip the ruins and jump into the boat and explore the lagoons and canals of Sian Ka’an.
We decided to skip the ruins of Muyil as we already visited several other Mayan archaeological sites like Coba, Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, Tulum and Uxmal.
The water of both lagoons is so clear and clean, and the colour is absolutely mesmerizing! Both lagoons are called Chunyaxché. The lagoon’s colour changes from dark blue to turquoise and green depending on the depth of the lagoon. There are two lagoons connected by canals that were cut by the Ancient Mayan more than a thousand years ago. The canals were used by them to transport goods around the area. They are so just barely wider than the boat itself. The canal water is crystal clear, so you can easily spot black fishes swimming around.
The highlight of the trips came after we crossed the second lagoon which was much bigger than the first one. We reached the point at which we could get out of the boat and jump into the shallow water. We got a life jacket but we didn’t have to wear as normal – we put our legs through, sat in it, jumped into the cool water and floated down ourselves.
The canal is lined with mangroves, the water is super refreshing and the all-round experience is unique! The water is absolutely clear so that you can actually see many fishes swimming around your feet! Of course, I had some mind game in an attempt 😀 I tried not think about crocodiles and snakes and after the first 5 minutes it actually worked out well!
Floating down the canal was so peaceful! We were the only people there and the current did the whole job as it took us slowly down the mangrove-lined lazy river which took about 40 minutes. We didn’t need to do too much to keep moving down the canal – it was just relaxing and fun!
Things to Know Before You Go
Getting to Muyil by Car: The Mayan Ruins of Muyil and Sian Ka’an are located on the eastern side of the Yucatan peninsula, about 20 min drive from Tulum (25 km), 1h 15 min by car from Playa del Carmen (90km), and 2h 10min by car from Cancun (155 km).
Opening Times: The boat trip from Muyil is available every day from 8 to 16:30
This post is part of the series Mexico Other posts in this series: Is Cancún…
Entrance Fee: The price of the boat ride into the Sian Ka’an lagoon is $600 pesos per person (about 28 €)
Time for Visiting: The boat tour is a half-day trip (ca 3-4h)
Ideal Clothing & Footwear: Be sure to bring biodegradable sunscreen or even better – long sleeve swimming shirt and leggins since the sunlight is extremely strong! Swimming shoes are always recommendable 🙂
When is the Best Time of Year for Visiting Sian Ka’an?: The best time of the day to visit Sian Ka’an is in the early morning. Untill 11 a.m., there were almost no people there and the temperature was about 25°. It was absolutely lovely having the lagoons and canals just for ourselves!
During the tour, our guide (ranger) provided us with information about the different mangroves, ecosystems, animals and history of this area. The communication was a bit difficult without Spanish.
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If you are the type of person who prefers joining a tour, there are all kinds of guided tours around Mexico including Sian Ka’an.
Enjoy the day!
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Continue reading this series:
Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Tulum