The Yucatan Peninsula is not only awesome, but far enough from the violence that often makes the headlines in Mexico. Here, few people are fearful of drug lords and turf wars, so feel free to explore around a bit. The Sian Ka’an (what is Sian Ka’an? click here) area is just filled with things to do which could take a month to really explore it all. Since we don’t have that long, here are three more things to do (in addition to the other three mentioned in this previous post):

1) Visit the Ruins of Muyil (Chunyaxche) (inside Sian Ka’an)

This is a bit of a cheat because I didn’t personally go here. However, it would be foolish to simply ignore this and not mention that it exists just because I didn’t plan my visit with enough time. These ruins are a few kilometers into Sian Ka’an from the west side (from the modern city of Tulum). They are not as big as the famous Chichen Itza ruins, but were also once a Mayan city. They take about an hour to explore by most accounts, and is just fifteen minutes away from the main road (there will be signs).

Read more

Sian Ka’an is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. If you haven’t seen my post, read that article first. However, now that you are in the area, what else should you do? Furthermore, inside of Sian Ka’an, what is there to do? Fortunately, these questions have very satisfying answers.

1) Track Dolphins and Sea Turtles (inside Sian Ka’an)

As you enter the town of Punta Allen, you might see some signs for “eco-tours.” Some of the town people have grown an appreciation for observing the wildlife, without harming it. In this spirit, they offer a boat ride to see some dolphins and sea turtles. The longer tours can also include viewing eagles in their nests, and crocodiles. The boat also navigates through rivers fenced by mangrove trees. It is quite a surreal experience.

Read more

Sian Ka’an

Mangroves 3Location: (Near) Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Visited: January 3-7 2011

Background and Opinion:

In a few words, Sian Ka’an is the Amazon of North America. No amount of praise can do justice to the beauty that is Sian Ka’an. This Biosphere Reserve is on the Yucatan Peninsula and is home to so many species of animals, including mammals like pumas, jaguars, dolphins, and manatees. In addition, development within this area is strictly regulated making for a pristine and truly natural environment. If nature isn’t enough, on the western side, there are some fairly untouched Mayan ruins, so go fulfill your need to act the part of Indiana Jones just this once.

Sian Ka’an is a fairly large reserve, so it was not possible to explore all of it. I took the east most route into the reserve, which is a very thin peninsula that goes from Tulum to Punta Allen, 50 km inside Sian Ka’an. The drive has thus far, been the single most memorable one in my life, surpassing the route between the Angkor Temples, along Pacific Coast Highway, or along the Okinawan coast in Japan.

Imagine this: You are driving along a single dirt road. You don’t see people or cars for the next two hours after entering the ‘Arco’ (Gateway). Then suddenly you hear noises in the dense forest next to you. When you stop to investigate, you see some large eyes and what looks like a monkey. He scurries away. As you try to find it again, you see it and about five of its family members cross the single dirt road. Or, imagine that you finally reach a small town deep inside a forest, and the first person you talk to asks “want to go see some dolphins?” Final scenario: You reach the ‘welcome center’ 10 km inside of Sian Ka’an, and are told there is an observation deck up some stairs. While you are up there, you look in all directions and see nothing but palm trees, a huge lagoon, and the Caribbean Sea as far as the eye can see, without a human in sight. If all three of these excite you, Sian Ka’an is for you.

Read more