Day trip to Sian Ka’an
Ready for some bounty beaches and amazing fauna? In the language of the Mayan peoples who once inhabited this region, Sian Ka’an means ‘Origin of the Sky’. Located on the east coast of the Yucatán peninsula, this biosphere reserve contains tropical forests, mangroves and marshes, as well as a large marine section intersected by a barrier reef. It provides a habitat for a remarkably rich flora and a fauna comprising more than 300 species of birds. This sublime area of natural beauty has been on my bucket list ever since I heard of its existence. No wonder Sian Ka’an became a designated Biosphere Reserve in 1986 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site one year later.
Now, finding practical information on the internet wasn’t easy. Most travel blogs or websites mention difficult roads in bad condition, damaged cars, expensive group tours and colectivo service with impossible schedules. Yet, I was determined to go to Punta Allen with my rental car. So I just went for it.
My conclusion + practical tips:
- The roads are fine for a normal car. If you are an alert driver, you will be able to drive ca. 40km/h.
- Tulum-Punta Allen will take you ca. 1.5h.
- The entrance is situated at the end of the Tulum coastline.
- At the entrance, you will need to pay an entrance fee of 31 pesos per person and you will receive a map of the area (which you actually won’t need because there is only one road leading south).
- Make sure you head back before dark (the road is not illuminated and at night it can get quite dark in a tropical forest).
- Bring cash money along!
Believe me, it’s an unforgettable trip! If you’re lucky, you will almost meet no one until arriving in Punta Allen. Open your windows and enjoy the sound of the rustling palm trees and chirping birds. Don’t forget to stop at the first bridge for an amazing view of the ocean on your left, the lagoon on your right and wonderful birds circling above your head. Along the way, you will find several spots where you will have beautiful views of both the ocean and the lagoon. Even more, just stop at any random sandy road and walk down to one of the many hidden beaches in Sian Ka’an. Don’t expect perfectly clean beaches with cocktail bars here. As these beaches are not commercialized, you will need to bring your own food and drinks. Nothing better than having white sand, blue sea and palm trees for your own, right?
How about Punta Allen?
The village Punta Allen is located at the end of the road and is a real fisherman village. Almost destroyed by hurricane Gilbert in 1988, it exudes a laid-back atmosphere with only a couple of bars and hostels. Local cooperatives offer fishing trips, dolphin-watching outings and snorkeling expeditions. Furthermore, there is a beautiful coral reef close to the shore where you can go snorkeling. I was totally ready and excited to jump on a boat to go watch dolphins when I realized I did not have enough cash on me… and there were NO ATMs around. Image my disappointment? A boat trip costs 2500 pesos per tour (not per person) and takes 3 hours. Although I tried negotiating (something I do every day in my job), there is no way the cooperatives will lower their price.
So… please go there, take enough cash with you, and enjoy! (and please send me pictures afterwards so that I can see what I have missed)
I had some marquesitas to soothe my inner pain: a traditional Yucatán dessert. It basically is a crispy crepe rolled up and traditionally filled with melted shredded cheese and a sweet filling of your choice. Delicious!