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. Tours to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve from Tulum are the most common route and offered throughout the region. Some of those Sian Ka’an tours look great too, but they can get a bit expensive for budget-minded travelers. 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 around in Tulum, but no one seemed to have 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 first visit was over five years ago. We’ve since found that this post has become a helpful piece of info as people for people to use on how to get to Sian Ka’an.
As such, we now (2019) keep this travel guide up-to-date and even continue to revisit Sian Ka’an during our annual travels to Mexico. So we hope this detailed travel guide also helps you to reach this special place in the world!
How To Get to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve from Tulum
First, it should be understood 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 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 to the ocean side of Sian Ka’an 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
There are four ways to visit the coastal area of Sian Ka’an:
- 🚙 4WD vehicle
- 🛥️ Colectivo + Boat
- 🚐 Colectivo (a scheduled van)
- 🚍 Small Group Tour
Visiting coastal Sian Ka’an is best pursued by overnight trips to Punta Allen, given the transport connection times. Alternatively, if wanting to visit the Sian Ka’an beachside in a day, a small-group tour is the way to go unless you have a car that can handle the rough roads.
🚙 Tulum to Punta Allen by Car:
This option is best for anyone who may already have a car that can handle off-road conditions.
It is possible to get to Punta Allen by 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, didn’t make it very far after deciding that our rental was going to get stuck or damaged in the process.
The road to Punta Allen is not just potholes, but more like massive craters in places. It can be in bad shape, so just beware of this severe erosion if considering driving, particularly so during the rainy season. If attempting with a rental car, be sure your vehicle has good coverage and a spare tire.
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 + Boat:
This option is best for independent travelers who have at least 2 nights / 3 days to spend traveling to & from Punta Allen.
There is a colectivo that departs daily from Tulum town and goes to a pier just beyond the Sian Ka’an visitor center, where it meets with a boat. This boat continues on to Punta Allen and arrives before night. The colectivo departs at 2:00 pm from the iTour Mexico agency, directly across from the Super Aki supermarket, located right here. Expect to pay $350-$400 MXN, each way, for the colectivo + boat.
Given the timing of the morning return boat, it is required to stay overnight in Punta Allen, although you’ll likely want to stay at least 2 night (or more) to actually experience this area of Sian Ka’an during the day.
Once in Punta Allen, it’s fairly easy to hire a boat to take you out to see the marine side of Sian Ka’an, for a price, of course. Be sure to factor in lodging costs too. 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 and open to camping. 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 about $70 USD, such as at the Hotel Cielo y Selva, which receives good reviews.
🚐 Tulum to Punta Allen by Colectivo:
If for some reason, the colectivo + boat option is not running, there is another colectivo option. It’s cheaper but less practical. This 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 over the rough road, arriving in Punta Allen around 6:00 pm. If taking this colectivo, also 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.
🚍 Day Adventures to Punta Allen Sian Ka’an:
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.
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. A small size tour 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 Safari provides a full day exploring the ocean and beachside of Sian Ka’an. Instead of dealing with the bad road for hours the entire way to Punta Allen, the drive is about halfway, to the Boca Paila Lagoon, where you’re transferred to a small boat for the remainder of the coastal voyage. Stops for manatee spotting and watching for dolphins ensue while cruising towards Punta Allen. There is snorkeling at a coral reef before the included seafood lunch. (It can be lobster when in season!) Keep an eye out for birds and turtles too during this excursion, which currently runs on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays with pick-ups available anywhere from Cancun to Tulum and in between (e.g., Playa del Carmen). We haven’t personally been on this tour but it receives excellent reviews by those who have. Check current pricing, latest reviews, and availability for this tour on our GetYourGuide affiliate.
- This Sian Ka’an Adventure on Viator provides a similar experience and with direct hotel pick-up in Tulum, but it is more expensive.
Visiting Sian Ka’an from Muyil on Your Own
This option is best for those who want to experience the intriguing freshwater environment of Sian Ka’an and/or only have a half-day to pursue a journey to the biosphere.
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, exploring the inland portion of Sian Ka’an be the easiest, quickest, and most feasible. This portion of the Sian Ka’an reserve is easily accessible through the Muyil ruins. 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.
Note: a reader recently (April 2019) reported that the 205-km sign was missing and there is now and Oxxo minimart here.
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, There Are Two Options:
- 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.
- 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), about a two-minute walk 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
1️⃣ 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 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, do NOT follow the signs towards the exit. Instead, turn around and retrace your steps 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.
2️⃣ 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.
3️⃣ Step 3: Enter Sian Ka’an and Proceed Down the Boardwalk
After the 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
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!
How To Take the Sian Ka’an Lagoon Tour by Boat & Cost
The price of the boat ride into the Sian Ka’an lagoon is firmly a fixed price of
$700 pesos now $1,000 pesos per person. This is 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 $2,000 pesos and three people will pay $3,000 pesos, etc.
This fixed price of the boat ride (~51 USD) is high by Mexico standards. Yet we found it to be such a great experience and hence recommend. It’s nearly two-hours long and you’ll likely even have a private boat, all to yourself.
⚠️ Warning: As of August 2019, readers have recently begun to report a restriction on the number of boats making the trip into the lagoon. Therefore, it seems these once widely available boat trips may now be on a first-come, first-serve basis. Arrive early in a best attempt to catch a boat and avoid disappointment. And read the latest reader comments at the end of this post for most recent on-the-ground conditions. Also, please stop back by to drop a comment to let us know about this very recent change. Alternatively, consider taking a tour that includes the boat trip to ensure you can experience this.
👶 Note regarding children: While the adult price is firmly fixed, the rate for children is negotiable. We’ve received reports of children pricing from $350 pesos to $900 pesos. It’s also been reported that infants and toddlers are permitted to go on the boat tour for free. (But you must bring your own toddler life jacket).
Once you arrive at the boat docks, simply express interest about taking a boat trip with the guys at the dock. Mayan is their first language, but most speak Spanish. Usually, there is at least one person who also speaks great 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 the boat route they’ll take you on from Muyil through Sian Ka’an.
What To Expect on this Sian Ka’an Boat Tour
Again, we strongly recommend this Sian Ka’an boat tour if you can budget for the newly increased prices. It would be a shame to come out this way and miss it. This boat trip tends to be a highlight of any visit to this area of Sian Ka’an.
Here’s a glimpse at what the experience is like to help decide whether to pursue.
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 have 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 (~$240) price 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, which is around the same per-person price that’s 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 the Sian Ka’an Ocean Safari, which costs considerably less. which is a full-day, includes reef snorkeling, seafood lunch, and departs directly from Tulum.
Returning to Tulum from Sian Ka’an & Muyil
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, it’s definitely recommended to 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.
☀️ *Biodegradable* sunscreen: The chemicals in sunscreen have been found to harm this fragile environment and visitors to Sian Ka’an are now being asked not to wear any sunscreen at all into the water. So bring a shirt for the water. But if you’re going to wear sunscreen, ensure that it’s biodegradable sunscreen and does NOT contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, like this Alba Botanic SPF 45 found on Amazon. Nearby cenotes are beginning to crack down on harmful sunscreens 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 and marine life. 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).
- 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 this underwater environment, 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 $1,050 pesos per person, we recommend to bring slightly more, 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 it with you or purchase at the convenience store across the highway from Muyil.
🌮 (Optional) Food: There are some small local restaurants and convenience stores across the street from Muyil. It’s possible to grab a bite there. Otherwise, you may want to pack some snacks.
👶 (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 before your trip to Mexico.
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 $1,163 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:
- Return bus Muyil to Tulum bus price: ~$40 pesos
=Total: $1,163 pesos
At the current rate, that comes out to just under $60 USD per person. We do find the price for this DIY trip to be a bit high, particularly considering recent price increases. Yet visiting Muyil and Sian Ka’an to definitely can be justifiably worth it. It does tend to be a highlight of many travelers’ visit to this area of Mexico.
The $60 cost is also significantly less than the Sian Ka’an tours to Muyil and the lagoon. Such tours embark on a very similar route to what’s been described in this post and the cost is roughly double what it takes to do it on your own.
Whichever way you go, just know that the Muyil, lagoon boat tour, and canal float all makes for a great half-day adventure from Tulum.
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 consider using our DIY instructions.
Yet with recent (August 2019) reader comments indicating getting turned away at the boat docks, it may now be more worthwhile to consider a Sian Ka’an tour from Tulum to ensure you experience the boat trip and canal float.
We’ve heard some complaints with communications when trying to book such tours with these local operators via phone and email. Also, such Sian Ka’an tours don’t run every day of the week. So if taking a Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve tour, then we recommend booking through trusted sites like this tour on GetYourGuide that goes to Muyil and the boat trip and has a track record of excellent reviews. Check recent reviews and availability.
They are always reliable, have an up-to-date calendar, you can seamlessly book online in advance, you can view verified reviews, receive a confirmation for your booking, and a free cancelation policy at least 24 hours in advance.
If booking a Sian Ka’an tour, you’ll undoubtedly pay more than the DIY version outlined in this article. But those small group 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.
Taking a tour is also better for those who are short on time, want the ease that comes with a tour, or desire to have more in-depth information about Sian Ka’an.
We find the Sian Ka’an tours can also be worth the cost for the ocean route towards Punta Allen, like this Ocean Safari, where there’s snorkeling on coral reefs, other marine life encounters, and a seafood lunch included.
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.) have changed, let us know and we’ll edit the post to ensure it remains up-to-date in 2019 and beyond.
🙋♂️ Readers have recently (August 2019) informed us that prices for the boat trip from Muyil increased to $1,000-pesos and boats are being restricted. If you attempt taking the DIY method as detailed in this guide, please stop back by in the comments to let us know how it all went to help future travelers to the area. Gracias!
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 August 2019.