Sian Ka’an (pronounced “see on con”) means “origin of the sky” in the language of the Maya people who once inhabited the region more than 1,000 years ago. This is a fitting name for this gorgeous biosphere reserve that contains unique flora and fauna. Located near the small town of Tulum, Sian Ka’an was designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and is the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean, comprised of more than 1 million acres. Sian Ka’an offers a relaxing alternative to other overtly “touristy” destinations in Mexico. With environmental preservation in mind, visitors can feel good about supporting an area rife with extraordinary natural beauty.
Sian Ka’an ecosystem:
- Over 379 species of birds.
- Home to 115 species of mammals, 90 species of native bees, 47 species of dragonflies, 74 species of beetles, 276 species of crustaceans, 310 species of mosquitoes, and 318 species of butterflies.
- The barrier reef is made up of over 84 species of coral.
- It is visited by hundreds of species of fish.
- There are 1048 species of flora.
- Visitors can expect to see creatures that are rarely found elsewhere.
- Sian Ka’an has 150,000 hectares of deciduous and semi-evergreen forest.
- The petens, which can grow up to 30 meters tall, can only be found here, in Florida and in Cuba.
- There is a variety of marine grass, inlets, mangroves, marshes and coastal and in-land lagoons.
For a detailed description of all the beautiful beaches of the Riviera Maya, visit here. Sian Ka’an vacation planning is simple, just read on and find everything you need for your Sian Ka’an Mexico vacation.
When to Go (Weather)
The best time to visit Sian Ka’an is between November and December. Temperatures fall to around the low 80s as the hurricane season slides away. Plan a trip for the early part of the this season if you want to save money. You’ll get the benefit of post hurricane-season breezes, and hotel prices are reasonable. Not to say that it’s hard to find good room rates at other times of the year – this small pocket of the Yucatán has one of the widest ranges of price points on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. If you’re concerned about crowds, though, avoid the region from January to March.
Entry & Exit Requirements
You’ll need a passport to visit Mexico, plus a tourism card (FMM) that can be issued at any Mexican consulate, border-crossing point, Mexican tourism office, or directly from your airline. FMMs are usually issued free of charge upon arrival. Be sure to hold onto this card for the duration of your trip, as you will need to present it upon departing the country. It’s also a good idea to leave your passport and FMM in a secure location and carry a photocopy of both documents with you at all times.
If you plan to go in the water, make sure to buy reef-safe sunscreen. A popular brand is called Maya Solar. Bring biodegradable bug spray as well.
- Be flexible, our plans are sometimes subject to change based on attendance.
- All trash must be removed and elements like shells and flowers cannot be taken.
- If you visit on your own, bring any accessories for your planned activities, like snorkeling gear, water bottles and hiking shoes.
- If you choose to tour the reserve on your own, you may want to caravan with other visitors in case of car trouble or a need for other help.
Getting To Sian Ka’an
There are two main entrances to Sian Ka’an. The Punta Allen entrance is accessible from route 109. The road is not in the best condition and its safety can be subject to weather. The Muyil entrance is about a 20-minute drive from Tulum off Highway.
Many companies offer tours of Sian Ka’an that include transportation from local resorts. This can be preferable to trekking to Sian Ka’an on your own, as from some tourist locales the drive is long and desolate – a problem if your vehicle breaks down for some reason. If you choose to visit on your own, there is a small entrance fee (about $25 pesos) at the gates.
Tours can offer jeep and boat rides, hiking, wildlife watching, snorkeling, visits to archaeological sites, and catered meals. Depending on the length and complexity of your tour, prices can typically range from $40 – $160 USD.
Here are three of the most reputable organizations:
What to do In Sian Ka’an
Tours From Muyil
Early in the morning, go to Muyil town, 10 minutes away from Tulum, and take a boat tour with a local guide, crossing the lagoons and admiring the sea side of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. It is hard to believe what you see, when your eyes are lost in the clouds, in the water and the sky. For a complete relaxation and fun experience, jump into a fresh water canal with a strong current and shallow water, which will make you float all the way to the lagoon. Hike through the jungle with a local guide and admire ancient Mayan archaeological sites of Muyil. For more information call 52-984-871-2202, or visit them on the web at Sian Ka’an Tours.
Punta Allen Adventure
During dry season, you can take your own car (four-wheel is suggested) to the entrance of Sian Ka’an, just where Tulum’s beach zone ends, and venture through the dirt road all the way to Punta Allen, the largest fisherman village in Sian Ka’an. The trip will take about two hours and you will experience many road bumps, but the destination is really worth it! At Punta Allen you can take a boat tour around the lagoon and see many birds, turtles and dolphins. It’s also a good spot for an amazing sunset tour. Back in town, you can enjoy a fresh fish lunch while relaxing in the laid-back atmosphere of a tropical jungle village.
Sunset Tour of Sian Ka’an
Enjoy the mangrove labyrinths and unique lagoons of Sian Ka’an, while admiring a beautiful sunset with changing colors of the sky. For more information call 52-984-140-7870 or visit them on the web at Mexico Kan Tours.
For Bird Watchers
Take a Sian Ka’an tour between mid November to end of March, and you will be able to admire countless birds during their migration season, such as such as the Roseate Spoonbill, Boat-billed Heron, Frigate, Osprey, White Ibis, and Tri-colored Heron. You can also watch birds during any other season.
Escape to the nature.
For a total immersion into the wild, unspoiled tropical nature of Sian Ka’an, rent a beachfront bungalow and spend some time living according to the rhythms of nature, relying just on wind and sun. You will have no neighbors for miles, only you, sea and sand. For more information call 52-984-142-5401, or visit them on the web at Xamach Dos Tours.
Best Rated Restaurants (Nearby Tulum)
$-Inexpensive $$-Moderate $$$-Pricey $$$$-Ultra High End
$$$ Posada Margherita
Posada Margherita is an Italian gem that serves handmade pasta on the Yucatan Peninsula. Its menu lists classic Italian favorites like tagliatelle with red sauce or drizzled in olive oil and topped with prawns. If you stop by the beach restaurant early enough, try their famous egg-in-a-hole with a side of beans and roasted potatoes. For more information call 52-984-801-8493, or visit them on the web at Posada Margherita.
$$ – $$$ Que Fresco!
The flagship restaurant of iconic Tulum hotel is Que Fresco! It is the ideal spot to grab a coastal lunch or dinner. Not only will you be treated to supreme quality fresh food – Mayan flavors and local, seasonally sourced produce dominate the dishes at Que Fresco! You’ll also be able to enjoy some truly beautiful vistas over the Tulum coastline. For more information call 52-984-877-8523, or visit them on the web at Que Fresco!
Dine at dusk with candles places along the pathways and illuminate the dining area. The menu changes nightly based on what is caught by the local fisherman. All ingredients are locally sourced from nearby farms and markets. You will find the menu drawn on a large chalkboard, brought to each table when ordering. Get an early reservation, because the waiters cross out dishes as they are gone. For more information visit them on the web at Hartwood.
$ El Camello Jr
Originally founded by a local fishing collective, El Camello Jr is now one of the best, and arguably most authentic, places to eat in the town. Even so, it’s now widely known in both local and international circles, and this perennially popular spot is famed for its generous and super fresh ceviche and seafood dishes. Order fish tacos to ease yourself in, and bring at least basic Spanish, as English isn’t spoken. For more information call 52-984-871-2036, or visit them on the web at El Camello Jr.
$ La Chiapaneca
If you want an authentic spot to grab a quick on-the-go meal, but seafood just doesn’t float your boat, then you can’t go wrong with La Chiapaneca. This is the essential place if you want to enjoy some authentic (and incredibly cheap) tacos al pastor in Tulum, often considered the best in town. Alongside their trademark spit-roasted meats, you can also get a handful of other local treats. For more information call 52-984-114-3249, or visit them on the web at La Chiapaneca.
Best Nightlife (Nearby Tulum)
Gitano is a mescal bar and is the place to go for cocktails, dancing and lite bites. Tiny lanterns are hung on overhead branches, along with an array of beautiful chandeliers. Two cocktails not to miss are the Mescal Mule and the Stardust. The mule is mixed with Gitano’s own how made mescal, while the Stardust has mescal, dark rum, and a mixture of fruit juices. For more information call 52-984-745-9068, or visit them on the web at Gitano.
Try the expertly mixed mojitos which range from the classic to local fruits like prickly pear, to innovative combinations like cucumber basil. No matter which flavor you order, the sugarcane juice is pressed to order. The kitchen turns out some great Italian snacks to go with your mojitos. For more information call 52-984-745-4571, or visit them on the web at Batey.
This is a favorite of the local business owners. You can get an expertly mixed cocktail and chat it up with the friendly bartenders. The ingredients are fresh. Try the Maria Sandia with mescal, watermelon, lime, and worm salt on the rim. You can eat dinner here as well, with grilled seafood, rib eye, and the catch of the day. This has a picturesque open-air jungle setting. For more information call 52-998-222-2749, or visit them on at Casa Jaguar.
Papaya Playa Beach Club
The Papaya Playa Beach Club throws a major party every Saturday with guest DJs. The drinks here include mescal and papaya or the well-balanced cucumber and lime drink. Great place for dancing. For more information call 52-984-871-1160, or visit them on the web at Papaya Playa Beach Club.
Top Hotels (Near Sian Ka’an)
Casa Niños Sian Kaan – 0.3 miles from Sian Ka’an
This property is 1 minute walk from the beach. Casa Niños Sian Kaan is a detached villa is located in Tulum and and is 24 miles from Akumal. The property is 20 miles from Punta Allen and free private parking is featured. There is a sitting area and a kitchen equipped with a dishwasher. A flat-screen TV with satellite channels is provided. Other facilities at Casa Niños Sian Kaan include a barbecue. A number of activities are available in the area, such as windsurfing and canoeing. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit Casa Niños Sian Kaan.
Playaakun – 0.9 miles from Sian Ka’an
This property is 1 minute walk from the beach. Featuring free WiFi and a hot tub, Playaakun offers accommodations in Tulum. Guests can enjoy the on-site bar. Free private parking is available on site. Certain rooms have views of the sea or pool. All rooms are fitted with a private bathroom. You will find a shared lounge at the property. This hotel has a private beach area and free use of bicycles is available. Car rental is available at this hotel and the area is popular for biking. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit Playaakun.
Hippieschic Tulum Mexico Eco Glamping – 2 miles from Sian Ka’an
This property is 1 minute walk from the beach. Located in Tulum in the region of Quintana Roo, 22 miles from Akumal, Hippieschic Tulum Mexico Eco Glamping features a barbecue and a private beach area. Punta Allen is 22 miles away. Free private parking is available on site. The accommodation is equipped with a sitting and dining area. There is also a kitchen, equipped with a refrigerator and stovetop. Free use of bicycles is available at the property. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit Hippieschic Tulum Mexico Eco Glamping.
Casa Sarah Tulum – 2.4 miles from Sian Ka’an
Featuring free WiFi, Casa Sarah Tulum offers accommodations in Tulum. Akumal is 21 miles away. Free private parking is available on site. The accommodation features a sitting area. Some units have a terrace and/or balcony with sea or garden views. There is also a kitchen, equipped with a refrigerator. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit Casa Sarah Tulum.