During our trip, we want to try to visit as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as possible. So when we plopped down in the town of Tulum for a few nights and noticed that the World Heritage site of Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve was just south of us, it was definitely an excursion we would seek out. But I just needed to figure out how.
Information on how to get there on your own was scarce and it took me a bit of researching. But I finally was able to piece it together. If you’re interested on how to visit Sian Ka’an on your own, here you can find my very detailed instructions on how to visit Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve on your own.
Mayan Muyil Ruins
The Mayan ruins of Muyil are near one of the entrances to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, so it’s a very convenient stop to take in before entering the Biosphere Reserve. We enjoyed touring the ruins as we had them nearly all to ourselves since it is not one of the main sites which draw in tourists. They arguably aren’t quite as impressive as some of the major ruin sites either, but nonetheless still well worth a visit and so much more enjoyable to experience without the tourist masses.
The Winding Way to Sian Ka’an
We then walked down an old Sacbe that took us to an entrance into the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Then we hopped up onto the boardwalk that wound its way around the jungle marsh above the water.
After about ten minutes down the boardwalk we arrived at an observation tower where we climbed up to get our first look and a grand birds-eye view of the scenic freshwater lagoon and surrounding marshes.
A Boat Ride in Sian Ka’an
After emerging from the boardwalk and out to the lagoon, we hired a small boat to take us on the water deeper into the Biosphere Reserve. We were soon whisked away on a fun boat ride across the lagoon. We then came to a narrow canal through a sawgrass-like marsh that our guide explained was carved out by the ancient Mayans. The canal connected two lagoons and was used by the Mayans as an easier trade and commerce route. The canal was perhaps about three to four feet deep and the water below was crystal clear and only a few feet wider than the small craft we were traveling on. We could watch fish dart by as our boat approached, slowly glided down the canal.
After crossing the next lagoon, we started to go down another canal but then stopped at a small dock in which our guide directed us to get out and took us to a small Mayan ruin that was used for commerce thousands of years ago.
A Float Through Mayan History
When we went to get back in the boat, our guide instead handed us life jackets and told us to hop in the water and float down this canal the Mayans had dug centuries ago. Awesome! We grabbed some masks and dove on in for a relaxing float through mangrove forests and other habitats. The current of the canal did all the work for us.
It was interesting to see the mangrove habitats not only from above, but also below. There were a number of fish, crabs, and other aquatic life that called these mangroves home. This canal float was the highlight of our little tour.
We were a little unclear as to how or when to exit. After about 20 minutes we questioned if we were going to eventually end up in the ocean.
But after about a half an hour of floating, we came upon another dock and found our guide sitting there. So we popped out and took a fifteen-minute walk across a boardwalk back to where our boat was docked. The views reminded me of the Everglades.
We jetted around the lagoon a bit more and through another canal on our way back to the dock we departed from.
Sian Ka’an is Awesome
This was a fantastic excursion from Tulum that I’m a bit surprised more people don’t embark on. We only briefly crossed paths with one very small tour group of eight people during the entire four hours or so we were in the area. We had the entire beauty of this place to enjoy all to ourselves in the height of the season. I highly recommend taking the time to come out here if you’re ever in the Mayan Riviera.