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Why You Should Visit This Underrated Riviera Maya World Heritage Site

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When visiting Mexico, we all know about Chichen Itza and the Mayan Ruins, which are undoubtedly wonders in their own right. However, if you’re looking for something a little more under the radar with that same wow factor, this is your sign to go to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

A Tranquil Haven, Unspoiled By Mass Tourism, What Does Sian Ka’an Have To Offer?

Firstly, this tropical paradise has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987. Sian Ka’an translates from the Mayan language to mean ‘Origin Of The Sky’, and spans over 2,500 square miles of Caribbean wilderness. Picture a lush green jungle met by turquoise waters and white sandy beaches, thus creating a haven of biodiversity and untouched natural beauty. Home to a substantial part of the world’s second-largest Great Barrier Reef, it is no wonder that this is one of the most ecologically diverse areas in Mexico, and it’s right here in the Riviera Maya.

What’s refreshing about Sian Ka’an is that it’s one of Mexico’s very few natural UNESCO sites. In a country abundant with mesmerizing Mayan ruins, Sian Ka’an offers a natural paradise and something completely different.  

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

Did You Know?

Sian Ka’an is located on the southeastern shore of the Yucatan Peninsula, and it is the third-largest protected area in Mexico. Comprising tropical forests, lagoons, pristine wetlands, sinkholes, and mangroves, providing the perfect habitat to host a wealth of wildlife from around 320 species of birds, 90 species of bees, and 318 species of butterflies, to name but a few. It offers such a fascinating range of life forms. Here, you will even find dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, tapirs, and even jaguars. Even if you are not known to be a nature lover as such, you will be converted after your visit here.

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Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve Sea Turtles

How Do I Get To Sian Ka’an?

From Cancun Airport, it is about a 2-hour 45-minute drive via car or taxi, an hour and a half from Playa Del Carmen, or around 30 minutes from downtown Tulum. Or you can book yourself a day tour from your hotel.

Ado bus station


The easiest option is to head to Muyil. With tourism at an all-time high in Tulum, why not book yourself a half-day or full-day tour, or even take the Mayab bus from the main ADO bus station in Tulum to Muyil, leaving every hour or so and costing around 28 Mexican pesos or $1.45. When you arrive in Muyil, it’s 20 Mexican pesos or $1 for entrance to the Sian Ka’an park, where you will see some of the inland parts of Sian Ka’an, including the forest, mangroves, and lagoons.

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

If you like the sound of a boat ride through the ancient canals that connect the lagoons with the open ocean to some of the stillest water you can find, you might want to check out this tour. With it being so popular, the locals don’t want the canals to get too busy, therefore, the tribes are the only ones who legally provide the tours, or you can book here.

Fascinatingly, the Mayans used them as a trade route on canoes many years ago. Additionally, a visit to Laguna De Kaan is another highlight, just a 15-minute drive from downtown Tulum, a shallow lake, circling a cenote (giant sinkhole), hammocks, a swimming pier, and plenty of Instagram-able photo opportunities. Just note there are no lockers, and sunscreen is prohibited to protect the wildlife living in the lagoon.

clear water next to a beach

Punta Allen

Another option to visit Sian Ka’an is via a two-hour coastal dirt road journey from Tulum’s hotel zone to Punta Allen, which is definitely worth the trip. However, it is worth noting you may want to stay overnight to maximize your time here. It has a surprisingly good amount of accommodation options to suit all budgets.

It is the largest village in the biosphere, and this hidden gem will allow you to get closer to the action and experience the marine elements of the reserve due to its coastal location. For example, you can look out for local fishermen to take you on a tour to see wild dolphins in their natural habitat. Also, with zero light pollution, in the evenings, you can enjoy the most beautiful starry night sky.

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

This is a destination for silence seekers, nature lovers, the intrepid explorers, particularly the responsible and sustainable type. A world away from the nightlife scene and eco-chic vibes of nearby emerging destinations and often overlooked, hence making it the most perfect underrated destination you have to visit this year. 

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