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Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve
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Tulum, México - Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve Map

Enter a world unknown to all but the 1000 plant, 330 bird and 103 mammal species who reside in Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. This 5280 square kilometer natural park can be accessed from Mahaual in the south or Tulum in the north. It is bordered by the Caribbean sea and the world´s second longest continuous coral reef (110 kms). Filled with Caribbean bays and lakes of various salinity levels, the Sian Ka'an Bioreserve is the birthplace for most of the Atlantic ocean´s fish population.

Sian Ka'an in Mayan means "Where the sky is born". There are 23 Maya archeological sites within Sian Ka'an´s borders in which bones and ceramic relics have been dated to 300 bc. This area was a major Maya trading zone, with large canoes being the principal mode of transportation between Muyil and Tulum.

Nowadays the best way to explore Sian Ka'an is by rent a car. Be sure to bring a cooler with lots of water and juices. By driving south along the Tulum beach road you´ll find theSian Ka'an entrance when you come to the Maya style arch. If you are overheating in the Caribbean sun, take the short nature walk to the free public cenote and jump in the fresh mineral waters. If you are quiet you can see the blue crabs scurrying into their holes as you pass by.

Continue in your car south into the depths of Sian Ka'an... soon you will come to Playa Delfin (Dolphin Beach) on your left (which has great body surfing waves), then Cesiak (an environmentally conscious hotel, bar and restaurant) then the Sian Ka'an Welcome Center on your right. Here you´ll find a big surprise as you ascend the observation tower... an unprecedented view of miles and miles of natural lakes, jungle, mangroves and Caribbean white sand beaches. The road you have been driving has become a narrow isthmus and your view has been blocked by only a few meters of thick jungle. Can you see the top of the Maya pyramid called "Castillo" (Castle) of Muyil, far to the west?

Conservation of this precious land is vital. The further south you go towards Punta Allen, the tranquil fishing village with incredible lobster restaurants, the wilder the refuge becomes. Rent a paddleboat at Boca Paila or in Punta Allen for bird and fish watching. These waters and mangroves are primary nesting grounds for birds of a different feather. Go snorkeling in the Caribbean coral reef to see colorful fish in crystal clear waters.

One of the oldest wetland areas in Central America, Sian Ka'an bird species include egrets, king fishers, blue herons, frigates, pelicans, sea eagles and pink flamingos. Monkeys and crocodiles live as neighbors. Keep a look out for endangered species such as tapir, ocelote, jaguar and manatee, among others.

Once in Punta Allen (50 kms from Tulum), local cabanas and hotels allow you to stay the night at reasonable rates. Local fisherman will offer to take you on a boat trip where you´ll get the chance to swim on uninhabited white sand islands in company of dolphins, sea turtles and occasional manatees.

Another way to get to Punta Allen is to hire a fisherman´s boat from Muyil (15 minutes southwest of Tulum on Hwy 307) or Javier Rojo Gomez (near Felipe Carillo Puerto). Traversing the wide expanses of Sian Ka'an by boat is also a very relaxing way to go...

Entrance fee to Sian Ka'an by car is 40 pesos per person.