Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve | Mexico


This protected area of Mexican Caribbean comprises approximately 1.3 million acres of tropical ecosystem and it is 75 miles long from North to South. Sian Ka’an is home to 23 different archaeological sites of pre-Columbian culture, with relics dating up to 300 AC. 103 known mammal species and 336 known bird species inhabit this unique area. It is also a nesting ground for many species of wading birds and an important nesting site for two endangered sea turtle species. Sian Ka’an is believed to be inhabited in the Pre-Classic and Classic Periods in the chieftainships of Cohuah and Uaymil.

The northern section of Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve contains what is thought to be an ancient trade route through lagoons and mangrove channels between the cities of Tulum and Muyil. Habitats of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve Coral reef The boundaries of the Sian Ka’an include about 68 miles of the second largest barrier reef in the world, which extends to Belize and Honduras. The reef is habitat to several endangered species. - Sian Kaan  Mexico 6

Beaches – The beaches of Sian Kaan biosphere reserve constitute a very important habitat. They are nesting grounds to many species of wildlife, as well as an important transition zone between land and ocean. During May through August, the beach is a nesting site for four species of endangered sea turtles: green turtle (Chelonia mydas), Kemp’s ridley sea turtle(Lepidochelys kempii), leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta).

These species have lost important nesting sites along many parts of the Caribbean coast. Wetlands Water plays a vital role in the existence of the ecosystems, named mangroves, savannas, swamps and marshes. It determines whether they fresh or salty watered. Wetlands of the costal line of Sian Ka’an function as a protective buffer between the land and the ocean, for they absorb the impact of storms. Wetlands are home to the immense variety of wildlife and vegetation, including the endangered species.

The conglomeration of the algae known as periphyton is evident in these waters. These algae play an important role in the dissolution of calciferous soils and they are an invaluable source of food for many species of fish, mollusks, and insects. Mangroves These areas are crucial for the survival of many species of fish, birds, insects, reptiles, and other plants. Many species of mangrove filter contaminated water and trap loosened sediment, making them protectors of the coral reef and other habitats.

There are four different species of mangrove found in Sian Ka’an: Rhizophora mangle (red mangrove), Avicennia germinans (black mangrove), Laguncularia racemosa (white mangrove), and Conocarpus erectus (grey or buttonwood mangrove). Cenotes Cenotes, or sink holes are a large system of caves, formed by the underground rivers and filled with fresh crystalline water. The majority of cenotes are interconnected through underground tunnels. There are occasional cenotes that are found to be completely isolated. Some of them may contain fish and other species that have evolved over time into completely different forms of wildlife. Fresh water lagoons The fresh water lagoons of Sian Ka’an are fed by small springs of the subterranean aquifer system.

The fresh water, filtered from the center of the peninsula, goes through several layers of limestone and heads toward the ocean in underground channels, rivers and systems of cenotes. These lagoons lodge various species of fish and pants that can hardly be found anywhere close to the coastal regions. Brackish water lagoons Ocean water and inland fresh water meet and mix in the brackish water lagoons along the coast of Sian Ka’an. These lagoons are lined with mangroves and salt resistant grass, which is home to fish and mollusk that makes from the area an excellent nesting ground for wading birds and two crocodile species: Crocodylus moreletii y Crocodylus - Sian Kaan  Mexico 8

Tropical rainforest Various mammal species reside in Sian Ka’an within the tropical rainforest, located in the western part of the reserve. These forests contain many species of trees, including chechem, chicozapote, mahogany, tsalam, and other valued hardwoods. The environmental importance of preserving these areas has been increased due to the demand for the hardwood, which puts pressure on the Neo Tropic countries.

Things to do in Sian Kaaan Biosphere Reserve:

  • If you are wondering discover the area by yourself: rent a jeep in Tulum, take the Boca Paila road  , enter into the Sian Ka’an Biosphere and go directly to Cesiak. (check – how to get to Sian Ka’an from Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Tulum)
  • Spend the day in Cesiak ( Centro ecologico de Sian Ka’an), watch the amazing mexican caribbean sea without crowds in their exclusive beachclub and have lunch in there.
  • Take a tour from Community Tours Sian Ka an and discover the amazing mangroves from the area. The tours that normally they offer are: Kayaks trips, fishing and tours to watch the sunset.
  • Go directly to Boca Paila where you will find more options to make tours such as: watch the dolphins, swim with turtles, snorkel, kayaking and more.

Where to eat in Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve:

  • The only known place to eat in Sian Ka’an is at the hotel of CESIAK (30 minutes away from Tulum) or in Boca Paila you will find small mexican restaurants.

How to get to Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve from Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Tulum

Drive the highway #307 south, pass Tulum Ruins and at the traffic light turn left. Follow Boca Paila, Punta Allen and Sian Ka’an signs. After passing all the hotels in Tulum you will enter to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, getting into the Punta Allen road wich is famous for it’s holes, sand dunes, being flooded , but its beautiful with an amazing ocean view.

To get to Boca Paila you will drive around 45 kilometers. To get to CESIAK you will drive around 20 kilometers.

Where to stay in  Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve:

There are two hotels in Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve

– Xamach DoS

– Cesiak ( Centro Ecologico Sian Ka’an)

In this two hotels, theres nothing around, only jungle.

However, if you are looking for something not so natural, we recommend you book a hotel in Tulum.



Travel guide to the Riviera Maya, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum. Features hotels, original activities, tours, restaurants and wedding planning.
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