Sian Ka’an

What you need to know about visiting Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

Overview and Facts

Sian Ka’an reserve was established on 20 January 1986 and declared a World Heritage Property by UNESCO in December 1987 due to her diversity and fascinating Mayan. It is part of organization’s Man and Biosphere program whose objective is to improve the relationship between the environment and the people.

The Biosphere Reserve covers 652,000 hectares making it the largest protected reserve in the Mexican Caribbean and the largest protected are in Mexico. The area covers ten percent of the State of Quintana Roo, and it is twice the size of Rode Island, USA.

It’s a UNESCO Heritage site known for the best archaeological sites and some of the most pristine and virgin beaches on the Mexican Caribbean coast. The area is less crowded with human traffic.

In this article, we give you everything you need to know before you make a trip to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

The Ecosystem and Climate

By 2015, the following species had been identified in the Reserve as enumerated below:

  • Birds -379
  • Butterfly -318,
  • Mosquitoes -301
  • Crustaceans -276
  • Beetles -74
  • Dragonflies -47
  • Native bees -90
  • Mammals -115
  • Coral –Over 84 species of brain coral that can reach up to seven meters in diameter
  • Flora-1048, including rosewood, mahogany, cedar, water lily, and the Chit Palm among others.

Furthermore, the area gets hundreds of fish species including bass, shad, and sharks. Visitors can also expect to see rare creatures like jaguars, spider monkeys, tapirs, and marine turtle among others.

It boasts of 150,000 hectares of semi-evergreen and deciduous forest. It is home for petens which can grow up to 30 meters tall; it is only found in Cuba and Florida. It presents a variety of inland and coastal lagoons, marine grass, marshes, and mangroves.

The Climate and Population

The average monthly temperature in January and May is 72°F and 82°F respectively. It boasts of tropical climate with summer rains. Most rain falls between May and October; September is the wettest month. Most of the population lives in the fishing villages of Punta Herrero and Javier Rojo Gomez; it’s about 1500.

How to Get to Sian Ka’an

Be warned a normal rented car might get damaged and usually it is not allowed to drive the road with it. Besides you can only drive very slow and have to be careful.

See the images – It might be better to book a tour, they go with 4wd Jeeps.

There are two entrances to Sian Ka’an namely Boca Paila and Muyil.

Boca Paila Entrance

It is the main entrance situated at the end of the Tulum beach strip. To reach here, you will take the main highway 307 from Playa Del Carmen or Cancun and head south. Take a left turning at the first connection in Tulum; here you will see a gas station and supermarket on the right. Head further down that road until you meet a T intersection and turn right at the T then drive down the beach road.

It’s about fifteen minutes while you see all the restaurants and hotels located in the beach area. Eventually, you will reach the Sian Ka’an Reserve main gate and pay the entrance fee. You will only be a few miles to the parking lot, but give yourself another thirty minutes to pass through the rough stretch. A small rental car can make the ride much easier and faster.

The Muyil Entrance

It is the second entrance to Sian Ka’an just past Tulum. To get here, keep on the 307 highway all the way through Tulum town without turning left to head towards the beach. Continue on the road for another fifteen minutes past the town and keep vigil as the entrance is not marked clearly. The door is ideal for visitors whose primary interest is to view the Mayan ruins or take a boat ride to the reserve.

Entering Sian Ka’an from Punta Allen

You can get to Punta Allen via rental car, or from collectivo which leaves Tulum Pueblo on the corner of Centuro Norte and Avenida Tulum every day at 2:00 pm. However, the road is in a bad state with endless potholes and sand.

Be warned a normal rented car might get damaged and usually it is not allowed to drive the road with it. Besides you can only drive very slow and have to be careful.

See the images – It might be better to book a tour, they go with 4wd Jeeps.

Plan to spend at least two nights if you take the collectivo since it takes about 4 hours to arrive at 6:00 pm. The return leaves at 5:00 am daily.

How to Return To Tulum from Sian Ka’an

After completing your boat ride and float for almost 2 hours, you can choose to exit either the reserve way you came in or use a more direct route by walking down the direct road back to the Highway 307. It is the most recommended approach as you will find the bus station for your return to Tulum. Alternatively, you can buy a ticket directly from the drive for a cost of 36 dollars per head.

Things to Do At the Sian Ka’an Reserve

While simply relaxing on the beach is usually the main aim of visitors when traveling to Mexico, you can do many things and will be a big shame not to explore. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve near Tulum is an extraordinary trip excursion in the Riviera Maya area.

Few operators run organized trips in the reserve; hence, visitors must find the best tours and guides. However, for the adventure lovers, it is possible to explore the area on your own even on a family tour.

There is a small restaurant in the reserve, but as you explore further, you can find an ideal stretch of the beach where you just want to hang out and relax. Therefore, remember carry everything you will need for the trip including enough water, snacks, and food for the exploration.

You can engage in core activities while touring the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

Exploring the Mayan Ruins

There are more than twenty three Mayan ruins in the Sian Ka’an reserve. It costs only 3.50 dollars or 50 pesos per head to explore the ruins, but it’s worth all the fun you will get. The ruins are not crowded compared to the Tulum ruins that stretch further north.

You will have the entire compound to yourself since the place is less crowded and you will see Castillo or Castle, the largest pyramid in the area to complete the experience.

Sian Ka’an Biosphere Boat Tour

Boat touring is the most popular means of exploring the reserve. If you are using the Muyil entrance, simply park your car and walk down towards the water where you will find many boats waiting for you. The boats carry a maximum of six passengers per trip. The boat ride per person usually costs between $ 40 and $ 45. The rates are subject to negotiation.

The boat trip takes two hours with shades to protect from the scorching sun or rain depending on the season. Watch out for dolphins and other sea creatures during the ride. Also, you are given a chance to float down the fresh water channels at the end of the boat ride making the experience fun.

The water is about three to four feet deep and crystal clear for you to see everything beneath. According to history, the channels initially curved out many ancient Mayans many years ago. The float takes around thirty minutes, and your guide will be waiting to receive you at the end of the float with your luggage.

Relaxing on Empty Beaches

Other than the said main activities, you can find an empty beach and relax depending on your preferences. Some people stumble upon these beaches by accident, while others plan for them; whatever the case, you will still have a splendid time. However, if you only want a remote, pristine beach to relax on for the day, you can enter the reserve through the Boca Paila entrance.


Sian Ka’an is, without a doubt, one of the greatest places in the Mayan Riviera, due to her remoteness; it is closed to the general public. You must contact someone who has permission to enter.

Sian Ka’an
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