Known for its complex environment, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a unique natural attraction to visit in Mexico. From the thick Yucatan jungle, freshwater marshes extend out through lagoons and even Mayan-built canals, all the way to a thriving barrier reef in the Carribean Sea. Perhaps it’s all of this reflective water for which the Mayans called this area “Sian Ka’an,” meaning “Origin of the Sky.”
Several years ago while traveling through the Yucatan, we really wanted to visit this natural Unesco World Heritage, located near Tulum. But we couldn’t figure out exactly how to get to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve on your own. You can easily find Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve tours from Tulum. Some of those Sian Ka’an tours look great too, but they can get a bit expensive for budget-minded travelers like us. We knew that there must be some way to easily get to Sian Ka’an on your own.
While trying to figure out how to get to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve from Tulum, we researched on the web and asked locals in Tulum, but they hadn’t a clue. Popular guidebooks only referenced the Sian Ka’an tours from Tulum too, just as hotel staff did.
Eventually, we pieced together information like a puzzle, slowly figuring out the logistics of how to get to take a DIY day trip from Tulum to Muyil, which has easy access to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Through a bit of trial and error, we were successful.
It turns out, despite a lack of info, Sian Ka’an is, in fact, easily reachable from Tulum, Akumal, and Playa del Carmen, among other nearby Riviera Maya locations.
We had such a great time exploring Sian Ka’an on our own. The half-day trip to Muyil & Sian Ka’an is filled with fun and even a few unexpected experiences along the way.
Since we were not able to find any detailed info on how to get to Sian Ka’an on your own, we decided to put together this travel guide on our blog, in an effort to give back to the travel community. That was nearly five years ago now. We’ve since found that this post has become a helpful piece of info as people are researching logistics on how to get to Sian Ka’an.
As such, we now keep this travel guide up-to-date and even continue to revisit Sian Ka’an during our annual travels throughout Mexico. So we hope this detailed travel guide now helps you to also reach this special place in the world!
How To Get to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve from Tulum
First, you need to understand that Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a massive area, sprawling across 5,280 km2 (2,039 sq mi). For perspective, Sian Ka’an is even larger than the nearby island of Cozumel!
Being so big, there are multiple access points into Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
The two most common Sian Ka’an access points from Tulum are:
- Punta Allen
Two Sian Ka’an Access Points: Punta Allen vs Muyil
Although you can access Sian Ka’an Biosphere reserve from both Punta Allen and Muyil, each of these two access points provides for two completely different experiences and contains two very different ecosystems. The other key difference is the ease of reaching each of these two Sian Ka’an destinations.
Here’s what to expect.
Punta Allen: Oceanic Sian Ka’an That’s More Difficult to Reach
If you want to see the oceanic side of Sian Ka’an, including beaches and saltwater lagoons, then the Punta Allen route to the Sian Ka’an may be for you. This is the marine part of Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve to go snorkeling on coral reefs. Even from the boat, you will get to see more marine life, such as dolphins, turtles, and manatees!
Experiencing coastal Sian Ka’an is a great trip. The only downside is the extra time & effort or the higher cost it can take to reach from Tulum. It’s difficult to get from Tulum to Punta Allen on your own. If you have a rental car, it’s unadvised (often impossible) to drive there without 4WD under the current road conditions. If relying on public transport to get to Punta Allen, you must allow for multiple days, given the timing of the once-a-day colectivo (shared van public transport) from Tulum doesn’t reach Punta Allen until evening.
A final consideration is taking one of the great small-group Sian Ka’an tours that journey by land and sea all throughout this coastal portion of Sian Ka’an, all in a single day. These Sian Ka’an tours can be worth the splurge, but travelers on a budget may find them to be a bit pricey. Check current prices here. If that’s not in your budget, you can still reach the fresh-water inland environments of Sian Ka’an on your own via Muyil, as described below.
Muyil: Mayan Jungle & Freshwater Sian Ka’an in a Half Day Trip
If you want to see the inland jungle, Mayan ruins, wetlands, freshwater lagoon, mangrove forests, Mayan-carved canals, and float down said canals, you’ll find this all from the Muyil access point to Sian Ka’an. You will not experience as much marine life as on the ocean side (no dolphins, turtles, etc.), but it’s still a very beautiful natural environment.
Logistically it’s much easier to get to Muyil on your own. The Muyil access point to Sian Ka’an is also much more cost-effective compared to Punta Allen. It’s also a quicker trip, as going to Sian Ka’an via Muyil is a very doable DIY trip that can be accomplished in a half day.
This remainder of this article primarily goes into detail about how to get to Sian Ka’an via Muyil on your own. But first, here is some quick information should you desire to go the Punta Allen ocean route to Sian Ka’an instead.
Visiting Coastal Sian Ka’an Via Punta Allen
Tulum to Punta Allen by car:
You can get to Punta Allen by rental car if you have an SUV with all-wheel-drive. When we were last there in June 2018, the pothole-ridden road to Punta Allen was in awful condition due to rains that have been eating away at this rough dirt road. We attempted the drive in a 2WD rental car, but we didn’t make it very far after deciding the car would likely not make it without becoming stuck, getting a flat tire, or other damage. It’s not just potholes, but more like massive craters. It’s in bad shape, so just beware of this severe erosion if considering driving.
To get from Tulum to Punta Allen, simply head south on the dirt road past all the beachfront hotels and cabanas. When the hotels end, you’ll drive through a Mayan arch. A Sian Ka’an visitor center is just beyond, where you can check in and begin to attempt to drive down the very rough road ahead.
Tulum to Punta Allen by Colectivo:
The colectivo from Tulum to Punta Allen departs Tulum Pueblo on the corner of Centauro Norte and Avenida Tulum daily at 2:00 pm. The colectivo making the daily journey takes about four hours to complete the 55-km (34-mile) ride, arriving in Punta Allen around 6:00 pm. If you take this colectivo, plan to spend at least two nights at Punta Allen, because the return colectivo back to Tulum only departs from Punta Allen at the early hour of 5:00 am daily.
Once in Punta Allen, it’s fairly easy to hire a boat to take you out to see Sian Ka’an’s marine side, for a price, of course. Be sure to factor in lodging costs too, if planning to stay overnight which is necessary if using the colectivo. There are a few fishing lodges in Punta Allen and prices vary. Pre-setup tents on the beach start at $20 per night for travelers on a shoestring budget who want to camp. Although beware that during the off-season of the summer months, these camps and even hotels tend to close-up until November. Hotels in Punta Allen start at $75 USD, such as at the Ascension Bay Bed & Breakfast, which receives great reviews.
If you don’t have a 4×4 to drive or don’t have three days to dedicate to the roundtrip public transport from Tulum to Punta Allen and back, then there is also the option to take a day trip for a full day excursion exploring the ocean side of Sian Ka’an.
Day Adventures to Punta Allen Sian Ka’an:
Taking full-day jeep & boat excursions to the oceanic side of Sian Ka’an can be a very convenient and attractive option to explore Sian Ka’an’s marine environment all in one day. The small size (6 people) keeps things intimate and boats help to avoid that slowgoing rough road. This convenience comes at a price, of course, but it can be worth the splurge. Inclusions like the seafood lunch, hotel pick-up, and snorkel equipment help to justify the spend. If you’re considering pursuing one of these tours to see the lagoons and ocean side of Sian Ka’an, here are a few good options to book online:
- Sian Ka’an Ocean Boating & Snorkeling Adventure provides a full day exploring the marine side of Sian Ka’an. Instead of dealing with the bad road for hours all the way to Punta Allen, you’re instead driven about halfway, to Boca Paila Lagoon, where you’re transferred to a small boat (5-6 people) for the remainder of the coastal voyage. Stops for manatee spotting and bird watching ensue as you cruise towards Punta Allen. You then go snorkeling in the crystal clear waters at a coral reef before the included seafood lunch. (That’s lobster when in season!) Keep an eye out for dolphins and turtles during the entire 9-hour excursion which currently has departures every day of the week, and is actually good value for the money, considering everything they pack into one full day. Check current pricing, latest reviews, and availability for this tour on Viator.
- Sian Ka’an Adventure provides a similar experience, but it is slightly more expensive.
- From Playa del Carmen: This ocean boating & snorkeling Sian Ka’an excursion, follows a similar track as listed above, but this one departs from Playa del Carmen, not Tulum as the others do. The 13-hour trip departs from Playa on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Visiting Sian Ka’an from Muyil on Your Own
Given the logistics of attempting a Punta Allen trip on your own and the added costs associated with taking an excursion to this coastal side of Sian Ka’an, you may instead decide to explore the inland portion of Sian Ka’an that is more easily accessible through Muyil. Visiting Sian Ka’an via Muyil is doable in a half-day and on your own. The remainder of this article provides detailed directions and instructions specifically on how to visit the Muyil section of Sian Ka’an on your own.
Tulum to Muyil by Car:
Simply take Highway 307 south to the ruins of Muyil, which you’ll be able to easily recognize and will be on the left side of the road, just before km 205. It’s roughly a 20-minute drive south of Tulum town (22.5 km).
There are signs for Muyil and a small parking lot that always seems to have spaces available. It’s easy to find. You can’t miss it.
How To Take the Bus from Tulum to Muyil:
The buses from Tulum to Muyil come frequently, about every 30-60 minutes, so you can go to Muyil by bus at virtually anytime. There is no need to reserve a ticket in advance. There are usually many seats available. Simply head to the main ADO bus station in Tulum (on Avenida Tulum between Alfa and Jupiter).
Buy a ticket from the ticket counter (not on the bus) and ask for a ticket to Muyil. The cost for the one-way ticket from Tulum to Muyil is $28 pesos.
Important note: The destination listed on your ticket will NOT read Muyil, but do not fret that the ticket agent misunderstood you. Your ticket will instead list the destination as Chunyaxché, which is an alternate name for Muyil.
The bus ride is a quick 20-minute straight shot from Tulum to Muyil. The Muyil bus stop is actually a few hundred meters past the Muyil ruins entrance. But if you ask the bus driver nicely to get off at the Muyil ruins, he’ll likely oblige which will save you a two-minute walk.
But if not, just be sure to get off at the Muyil bus stop, which looks like this (below). If you get off here, you’ll simply have to walk a few minutes to get to the ruins.
Once at Muyil, You Have Two Options:
- (1) Visit the Muyil ruins, then walk along a boardwalk in a jungle marsh, climb up an observation tower, and continue along the boardwalk to the boat docks. This takes approximately 1 hour (maybe 2 hours, if you take it really slow). We recommend this option if you have the time to explore.
- (2) Get directly to a boat to explore Sian Ka’an. If you opt to bypass the ruins and go directly to the boats, then drive or walk south on HWY 307 just past both the Muyil ruins entrance and bus stop until you get to a dirt road on your left (East side of the road) at mile marker 205. It’s about a five-minute walk (or 1-minute drive) down a small dirt road, where there is a secure parking lot ($50-pesos), steps from the boat dock.
But instead, we recommend visiting the Muyil ruins and jungle boardwalk first. Detailed directions are in the following section. And below is a map to help understand the layout of Muyil, the lagoon, and other points of interests discussed next.
Directions to the Sian Ka’an Boat Dock via Muyil Ruins & Boardwalk
Step 1: Enter Through Muyil and Explore the Ruins
You’ll clearly see the entrance to Muyil from the parking lot. There’s a proper ticket counter to buy your entrance ticket to this archeological site.
- Muyil entrance fee: $45-pesos, parking is free.
- Muyil hours: 8:00 to 5:00.
- Muyil restrooms: There are toilets near the entrance of Muyil.
Plan to spend about 20-30 minutes exploring the Muyil ruins. It’s an interesting archeological site to visit. It may not be as impressive as the nearby Tulum ruins or even Coba. But part of the appeal of the Muyil ruins is that you’ll likely have this archeological site entirely to yourself since it is only seldom visited. And it’s still quite impressive! The Muyil ruins have not reached the mass-tourism market, so it’s so nice to be able to enjoy the tranquility and history of this ancient Maya city.
Muyil is actually the most important Mayan city among the 23 settlements located within the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. The well-manicured site is anchored by three main structures. You’ll encounter them in this order:
- the Entrance Plaza,
- the Castle (AKA Building 81-3), and
- Temple 8 (AKA Building 9k-1)
Once you reach the third main structure, Temple 8, don’t follow the signs towards the exit. Instead, turn around and go back to “the Castle,” pictured below. It’s easy to identify El Castillo (the Castle) in Muyil since it is the largest pyramid structure of the site. There is also a sign to help verify you’re at El Castillo. It’s important to locate this particular ruin, because it is behind El Castillo is where you find the nature trail and boardwalk to the boat docks. See below.
Step 2: Locate the Trail from Muyil ruins to the Muyil Lagoon:
Once you’ve located El Castillo, walk around to the back side of the Castle. It’s here that you’ll find a white plaque on the ground that explains what a Sacbe is (it’s a pathway the Mayans built). Just beyond that informational plaque, you’ll then see the actual Sacbe itself. The wooden sign with yellow paint, as pictured below, helps to ensure you’ve found the correct trail.
Go on and walk down this trail into the jungle. It’s about a 5-minute walk until you reach a boardwalk with a formal entrance to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
Step 3: Enter Sian Ka’an and Proceed Down the Boardwalk
After your short stroll down the sacbe, you’ll eventually reach a sign about the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Behind that Sian Ka’an sign, you’ll see a palapa ticket booth. This is where you pay a Sian Ka’an entrance fee of $50-pesos, per person, to enter the boardwalk, known as “el sendero Canan-Ha,” or “the Canan-Ha trail.”
From this point onward you’ll be on this wooden path through the lush Yucatan growth. It’s a scenic 500-meter walk through the jungle marsh that winds over the wetlands. A sign indicates that it should take about 40-minutes to complete the walk, but we believe a more reasonable estimate is 20-minutes or so. If the bugs are buzzing (and they likely will be), you’ll walk briskly across the trail.
Observation Tower: Just after you’ve gone about halfway across the 500-meter boardwalk, you’ll come to an observation tower. It is definitely worth the steep climb to take in the nice view of the nearby Muyil lagoon before continuing further down the boardwalk. This rickety tower allows you to see well above the jungle canopy.
After the tower, the Canan-Ha trail soon opens up to a dirt road, where you’ll clearly see the lagoon and boat docks. If you don’t want to take a boat ride around the lagoons and Mayan canals, you can head back the way you came. Or walk down the dirt road, which is a more direct route back to the main road and Muyil parking lot.
But we instead highly recommend taking in the full experience of a boat ride through the lagoons of Sian Ka’an and even a float down a Mayan-dug canal. This all tends to be the highlight of a trip to Sian Ka’an via Muyil.
Sian Ka’an Lagoon Tour and Canal Float
How To Take the Sian Ka’an Lagoon Tour by Boat & Cost
Taking a boat tour through Sian Ka’an is the main event of this half-day DIY trip. This boat journey travels across two scenic lagoons and weaves into a narrow canal. It’s a fun ride across the sparkling clear water!
The price of the boat ride into the Sian Ka’an lagoon is firmly a fixed price of
$600 pesos now $700 pesos per person. This seems to be non-negotiable and no discount is given for groups of two or more. So if there are two people, expect to pay a total of $1,400 pesos and three people will pay $2,100 pesos, etc.
This fixed price of the boat ride (~$37 USD per person) does seem a bit high by Mexico standards, yet we found it to be worth it for the adventure that follows and hence recommend. It’s nearly two-hours long and you’ll likely even have a private boat to yourself.
Note regarding children: While the adult price is firmly fixed at $700 pesos per adult, the rate for children is negotiable. $350 pesos is the going rate for kids. It’s also been reported that infants and toddlers have been permitted to go on the boat tour for free. (But you must bring your own toddler life jacket).
Express interest about taking a boat trip with the guys at the dock. Mayan is their first language, but most speak Spanish. At the last visit, one guy also spoke perfect English.
If he’s not there and you don’t speak much Spanish, then try to remember the following phrase: “Cuánto por una excursión en bote para dos personas?” (Translation: How much for a boat tour for two people?)
This should help to initiate the transaction. Even if your Spanish is really lacking and you can’t remember that phrase, still you should be able to work it out. They’ll know what you’re here for. You already know the price. Miming and smiling can go a long way. They’re all very nice, friendly, and non-aggressive.
Get chatting with them and take this tour around the Sian Ka’an lagoons and canals! The guys usually arrive at the docks around 8:00 am or shortly thereafter and the last boat goes out around 4:30 pm.
Here’s where you’ll go.
What To Expect on this Sian Ka’an Boat Tour
Again, we strongly recommend this Sian Ka’an boat tour. It would be a shame to come out this way and miss it. We were very glad we went.
You’ll cruise around the lagoon and into narrow canals that are just barely wider than the boat itself. The water is crystal clear, so you can easily spot fish swimming around. But look up in the air too, as Sian Ka’an is known for over 300 species of birds.
Eventually, you’ll reach a small Mayan ruin that was used for commerce centuries ago. The boat docks here to take a look around.
Yet the highlight is next when you’ll get the opportunity to float down an ancient Mayan canal! The canal is lined with mangroves and the water is very clear. It’s also super refreshing, after that short but sweaty trek through the hot & humid jungle! A lifejacket is provided to float down the canal with.
We recommend packing your own mask and snorkel to be able to view the fish and other critters that live amongst the mangroves. We saw many fish and crabs that we would have otherwise missed.
The boatman stays with the boat as you float down the canal on your own, which takes about 15-20 minutes. He eventually meets you a spot where you can then walk back to the boat on a scenic boardwalk through a marsh.
Eventually, this magical journey ends and you’ll return back towards Muyil through the same lagoons and canals you had entered.
Note: There’s Also a 4-Hour Boat Tour of Sian Ka’an from Muyil but It’s Expensive
The boat excursion around the lagoons and canals, as described above lasts about 90-minutes or potentially up to 2 hours. It does not venture into the ocean environment of Sian Ka’an. You will not see dolphins, sea turtles, etc.
There is a 4-hour version for $4,500-pesos (~$240), per boat, that the boatsmen at Muyil are currently offering. This expanded tour will continue further towards the ocean, so you may see some marine life. But it does not reach the barrier reef for snorkeling. The $4,500-peso seems outrageous to us. But it could be worthwhile if you have a group that can share the cost. If you happen to have six people, the price per person for this lengthier 4-hour boat tour would be $750-pesos, only a modest increase from $700-pesos you’ll be charged for the 2-hour boat tour.
Otherwise, if you really want to see the ocean side of Sian Kaan, you’d be better off booking this Boating & Snorkel Adventure. which is a full-day, includes reef snorkeling, seafood lunch, and departs directly from Tulum.
Returning to Tulum from Sian Ka’an
Upon completing the nearly 2-hour boat tour and float down the canal, you can either exit the reverse way you came in on the trail back to Muyil. But for a more direct route (recommended), simply walk down the dirt road back to Highway 307 where you’ll find the bus station for the return to Tulum.
You can purchase a ticket directly from the bus driver this time, which should cost somewhere around $30-$50 pesos per person. Alternatively, there are many colectivos and taxis that ply this route. Expect to pay $20-$40 pesos per person for a colectivo or perhaps up to $100-pesos for an entire taxi back to Tulum. If you’re charged higher than that, we recommend declining. There will be more affordable options coming along semi-frequently, whether bus or colectivo.
What to Pack on Your Day Trip to Sian Ka’an & Muyil
Although it’s just a half-day trip, you should definitely bring a daypack. There are some essential items that you’ll need throughout your journey into Sian Ka’an.
Here are some things to pack for a visit to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve:
- Bathing suit: Be sure to wear or pack a bathing suit so that you can float through the canal during the boat ride. The canal float is a must-do!
- Towel: You’ll probably want to dry off after that canal float, but your hotel may not appreciate (or allow) taking their towels with you. We love these lightweight microfiber travel towels.
- Sun protection: The Yucatan sun is strong. Bring sunglasses and a hat.
- *Biodegradable* sunscreen: The chemicals in sunscreen have been found to harm this fragile environment, so if you’re going to wear sunscreen, it is important to use biodegradable sunscreen like this Alba Botanic SPF 45 found on Amazon. Nearby cenotes are beginning to crack down on sunscreen too.
- *Natural* Mosquito Repellent: In the area from the Muyil ruins to the boat docks, it can be pretty thick with mosquitos and other annoying bugs. But be careful not to use repellent with DEET since it is found to be highly toxic to fish. The repellent will wash off when you do your canal float, harming the fish in the biosphere reserve. Instead, consider a natural insect repellent like this plant-based Repel that works well for us at keeping those mosquitos away.
- Camera: You’ll probably want to take a few pictures to capture this experience, so consider bringing your camera and be sure to charge it the night before. Or at least bring a phone to snap a few selfies.
- Underwater Camera: Bring a waterproof camera if you want to take it with you while floating in the canal. GoPros are fantastic but the $400+ price tag is not. Did you know that you can find knockoff GoPros on Amazon for only $50? That’s what we’re using and they work great! Check out this CamPark 4K Action Cam. Without an underwater camera, be sure that you’ll be comfortable leaving your camera with the boatman while you’re floating. (Note: The Sian Ka’an boat guides do tend to be entirely trustworthy, but you still may not feel comfortable leaving any expensive equipment).
- Waterproofing: There’s not too much splashing during the boat ride, but it would be awful if there was a slip-up that caused your camera or phone to get wet. We use and recommend:
- A good waterproof case for your cell phone is worth every penny of its $10 price to give you the peace of mind of not ruining your phone. It will also allow you to use your phone in the water during your canal float. (Really!)
- Also, consider bringing a dry bag to keep all of your belongings safe and dry during the boat ride.
- Mask & snorkel: While you can still enjoy the canal float without a mask and snorkel, we strongly recommend to bring a mask. The boat does not provide them for you. So if you want to see underwater, you must bring your own. The water in the canal is super clear and a mask will enable you to see fish, crabs, and other ecology living in the mangroves that line the canal. If you don’t already own a mask, we can suggest this US Divers mask & snorkel which is a fantastic mask for the price. You can also use it to snorkel at the beach reefs and in the cenotes during your trip to the Riviera Maya.
Note: There’s no need to pack bulky fins for Sian Ka’an. It’s a leisurely float.
- Money: While the trip should total about $850 pesos per person, we recommend to bring about $1,000 pesos person, just in case any pricing has changed, an emergency, or if something else comes up.
- Drinking water: Mexico is hot. Don’t get dehydrated. We recommend packing at least a 1.5-liter bottle of water per person. Bring with you or purchase at the small convenience store across the highway from Muyil.
- (Optional) Food: There isn’t much in the way of food out this way aside from a tiny convenience store / little restaurant across the street from Muyil. It is wise to pack a snack. Or if you are going to be making the trip to Muyil over lunchtime, you may want to pack a picnic lunch.
- (For infants only) life jacket: Life jackets are required for the boat trip and are provided for adults and children. However, they do NOT currently have life jackets for infants. If you are traveling to Sian Ka’an with a baby, be sure to bring your own infant life jacket.
- Travel insurance – It’s a good idea to have travel insurance, not only for a trip to Sian Ka’an, but for any trip throughout Mexico. You never know what could happen during travels here. You could get sick, a flight gets canceled, hurricanes (June-Nov), your phone falls in the water, camera gets stolen, etc. Travel insurance will help you and cover the costs from any such unfortunate circumstances. We never roam around Mexico without it. We use and have been happy with World Nomads, which has what we’ve found to be the best price & coverage combination. Usually we get their regular plan, but you may want to consider upgrading to the Explorer plan if you’ll be doing lots of snorkeling and/or other adventure activities. Enter the dates for your trip to get a quick estimate. (Takes 1 minute.)
- What Else To Pack for Your Mexico Trip? The packing suggestions above are just a few recommendations specific to Sian Ka’an. You may want to check out our Ultimate Packing Checklist for other packing tips and to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.
DIY Muyil & Sian Ka’an Prices – Total
This DIY trip to Sian Ka’an, the Muyil ruins, boardwalk, boat tour & float, and busing to/from Tulum comes to a total of $863 pesos per person.
To recap, here are the costs for this day trip including all entrance fees and public transport:
- Tulum to Muyil bus price: $28 pesos
- Muyil entrance fee: $45 pesos
- Sian Ka’an Boardwalk entrance fee: $50 pesos
- Boat tour around Sian Ka’an lagoons price: $700 pesos
- Return bus Muyil to Tulum bus price: ~$40 pesos
=Total: $863 pesos
At the current rate, that comes out to about $45 USD per person. We do find it to be a bit high, respective to other activity prices we’ve encountered throughout many months of independent travel across Mexico. Yet we found it to definitely be worth it! It makes for a great half-day adventure from Tulum. Plus, that $45 is a downright bargain in respect to what you would otherwise pay for a private Sian Ka’an tour.
Do-It-Yourself vs. Sian Ka’an Tours
For us, we like getting a good deal and don’t mind doing a little more work and having some uncertainty to save a few bucks. If that sounds like you too, then we recommend giving our DIY instructions a try.
But if you’re short on time, want the ease that comes with a packaged tour, or desire to have more in-depth information about Sian Ka’an, then a proper tour may be the better option. There are a few companies in Tulum that you can book Sian Ka’an tours with once you arrive. The going rate is more than $2,000 pesos per person.
We’ve heard some complaints with communications when trying to book such tours with these local operators via phone and email. Also, they don’t run every day of the week. So if taking a Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve tour, then we recommend booking on Viator. They are always reliable, you can seamlessly book online in advance, you can view verified reviews, receive confirmation for your booking, and they have phone support in English if needed.
If booking one of these Sian Ka’an tours, you’ll undoubtedly pay more than the DIY version outlined in this article, but the packaged tours do include the convenience of hotel pickup from all over the Riviera Maya, snacks, drinks, entrance fees, guide, etc. This all can help to justify the higher price. We find the Sian Ka’an tours to be most worth the cost for the ocean route towards Punta Allen, like this Boating & Snorkel Adventure, where there’s snorkeling on coral reefs, other marine life encounters, and a seafood lunch.
But the biggest benefit to going with any Sian Ka’an tour is the added information you’ll receive. A guide will be able to share so much more knowledge about Sian Ka’an than what you’ll find by doing-it-yourself. This convenience and knowledge does come at a higher cost, so simply weigh out what is more important to you personally.
Have You Visited Sian Ka’an?
If you’ve ventured out to Sian Ka’an on your own, please let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear about your experience. Also, since this post has become a resource for people traveling to Sian Ka’an, we do try to keep it up-to-date with any changes over time. So if you’ve gone and have noticed that any of this (prices, procedures, etc.) has changed, let us know and we’ll edit the post to ensure it remains up-to-date into 2018 and beyond.
Also, if you found this article helpful and if you like to travel, consider staying connected by joining us and a few thousand other travel-lovers on the Roaming Around the World Facebook Page, where we’re continuing to dole out travel inspiration and tips during our 5-year adventure around the globe to over 80+ countries.
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Happy travels to Sian Ka’an and have a great trip to the Yucatan!
Publishing note: This post about Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve was initially written in February 2014 and last updated July 2018, just after our latest visit to this fascinating place along the Riviera Maya.