A small palapa-covered dock stretching out into the blue waters of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Preserve.

How to Enjoy the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve: Part II Punta Allen

Last week we discussed the Muyil lagoon side of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, the Riviera Maya's best-kept secret. This week, we will delve into experiencing the Punta Allen side of the Reserve which has access to remote beaches and stunning ocean views. We will cover guided excursions from Tulum as well as DIY options. Please note that WiFi is poor in the entire area, so consider yourselves forewarned. But TBH, when you're headed to a remote location to unwind, why would you even want WiFi?

Guided Excursion Options

If you only have a day and you don't want to deal with renting an SUV (if you plan to drive to Sian Ka'an you'll need one. Trust me), then the most practical options to get to the crystal blue waters of Sian Ka'an are either a day-long guided boat excursion from Tulum, or a guided Jeep + boat tour. These tours typically range between $180 USD - $240 USD per person and last a full day.  You'll learn about the unique ecology of the area, snorkel, enjoy a nice seafood lunch, and are likely to see a wide array of wildlife ranging from birds and turtles to dolphins and even manatees.

DIY to Sian Ka'an and Punta Allen

Past the tumult of the Tulum Hotel Zone is a large archway indicating the entrance to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere. If you decide to put together a DIY excursion, this is where you'll start. Here, you will be greeted by park staff and charged a fee of 40MXN (pesos) to enter. This route takes you through the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Preserve, passing the Boca Paila bridge until you reach the Punta Allen fishing village, enjoying dozens of pristine beaches along the way.

While the drive from Tulum beach to Punta Allen is only 48 km (30 mi), it is not paved. Instead, it is a pothole-ridden path that gets muddy during the rainy season, resulting in a 1.5-2-hour drive. I highly recommend renting an SUV, though you could probably also do it on a motorcycle/moped. I DO NOT recommend attempting this drive in a small vehicle, ESPECIALLY if it has been raining.

Pro Tip: Make sure your gas tank is full before you begin your excursion.

This route follows the park’s coastline until you reach the Boca Paila bridge, where the famed giant crocodiles reside. If you’re lucky, you might see them! Past the bridge is another hour or so of driving. However, it will take longer if you (like me) decide to stop along the pristine white sand beaches and fishing palapas along the way. 

I saw a sign that said “fishing” so I drove down a small path and came across this serene sight. A quick shower passed overhead as I sat under the palapa observing the fish, reclining comfortably on my Ola Bola while I waited.


Selfie of a woman in the crystal clear blue Sian Ka'an waters with the shore in the background.


The tiny but charming fishing village of Punta Allen is home to approximately 100 families of Maya descent. They specialize in two things: tourism of Sian Ka’an and catching lobster. Carve out time to try some of the fresh catch while you’re there. 


Fresh caught Mero fish in Punta Allen Sian Ka'an Mexico

Sian Ka'an Boating Expedition

Once in the village, I asked around for the boat tours. While Maya is their first language, most residents also speak Spanish, and I found that a large number also spoke English. A boat ride costs $3000 pesos flat (appx. $150 USD). I had the option to go alone or wait for others to join and split the cost, so I decided to have a margarita and wait. I didn’t wait more than 20 minutes before being paired up with a group of 3, and we were off.

The guide took us through saltwater lagoons this time, and a different species of mangroves. To our delight, we came across a herd of manatees!

We continued on past the lagoons and into the open ocean, stunned by the many shades of aquamarine and clarity of the water. I nearly lost my mind when we came across a pod of dolphins, my favorite animal! The pod had a young calf in tow, and they guarded it closely, but were also curious about the boat. They let us float along with them for nearly 30 minutes as they played all around the boat and its wake. It took every ounce of self-restraint for me to NOT accidentally-on-purpose fall into the water with them!

After parting ways with the playful dolphins, we snorkeled through coral reef, then went swimming in a “natural pool” (called such because there are no waves due to its location among the reef) until the sun began to set. At that point we turned back to shore. Along the way, we encountered what is apparently an extremely rare sight: a white sea turtle that, judging by its size, is about 90 years old, according to our guide! I could not have asked for a better end to such a wonderful tour.

Sian Ka'an Boating Expedition

If you're planning to stay overnight in Sian Ka'an (which I highly recommend), the options are somewhat limited, but comfortable. I have personally enjoyed glamping at Cielo y Selva. They also have a tasty menu of fresh fish dishes. However, glamping is not for everyone. Sol Caribe is a highly rated boutique beachfront hotel, as is Fisherman Lodge which - you guessed it! - caters to the crowd interested in fishing with locals. Wherever you stay, make sure to bring an Ola Bola for added comfort wherever you decide to plop yourself and take in the stunning views of this Riviera Maya jewel. It took some effort to get there, so you've earned it!

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