Sian Kaan Tour Review
We recently went on the Sian Kaan tour, a spectacular journey through one of Mexico’s most pristine nature reserves.
Here’s our review!
Have you ever heard of Sian Ka’an? (pronounced SEE-on khan)
The UNESCO named Sian Ka’an as a World Heritage Site in 1986, just one year after Mexico established the area as a nature park.
So what’s so cool about it?
Everything! The landscapes, the beauty, the fact that it’s a protected park, the Mayan ruins, the channels made over a thousand years ago…
But what’s the Sian Kaan tour all about?
The Sian Kaan tour Mayan Eco-Adventure is a five-hour tour deep into the heart of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere. Along the way, you’ll visit Mayan ruins dating back to 300 B.C., take a walk through a jungle trail, climb a high observatory tower, float down freshwater mangrove channels made by the ancient Maya over 1,000 years ago, and have lunch at an awesome beach club in Tulum.
What is Sian Ka’an anyway?
What is the meaning of Sian Ka’an?
What can be found in Sian Ka’an?
In addition to some of the region’s most abundant fauna, Sian Ka’an includes sweeping wetlands, freshwater lagoons, cenotes, extensive mangrove swamps, palm savannah, petens (natural mounds), and barrier reefs.
Some of the animals that call the Sian Ka’an Biosphere their home include flamingos, pumas, jaguars, tapirs, howler monkeys, manatees, crocodiles, and vultures.
Sian Kaan Tour: Mayan Eco-Adventure
Are you ready for this?
The Sian Kaan excursion visits the unique Mayan ruins of Muyil, and includes a walk down a wooden path in the middle of the jungle as well as a boat ride through the wetland lagoons and a float down a mangrove channel.
Pick-up from Playa del Carmen depends on the location of your hotel, but plan on leaving town around 8 a.m. Expect to be back in Playa del Carmen somewhere between 3:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.
The Mayan Ruins of Muyil
If you’ve ever visited Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula, then expect to be surprised by the architecture found at the site in Muyil. Also known as Chunyaxche in Yucatec Maya, which basically translates as “wide trunk of Ceiba” (Ceiba is considered to be the sacred tree of life to the Maya), Muyil is one of the first inhabited cities along the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Of the 23 known archaeological sites in Sian Ka’an, Muyil is the most famous. The site is divided into two sectors: Muyil A and Muyil B.
The only area open to the general public is Muyil A, which we visited. It is said that the ancient Maya began to inhabit Muyil in 300 B.C. The site maintained its population up until the beginning of the 16th century when the Spanish invaded the Peninsula of Yucatan led by the infamous Francisco de Montejo.
Because Muyil remained inhabited over such a long period of time, the architectural style of the site is actually comprised of buildings representing many different epochs and regional influences. For instance, the image below of Structure 7H-3, is considered a West Coast style, similar to other constructions at sites of late occupation such as Tulum and El Rey in Cancun.
The following image of El Castillo (the Castle), however, is more representative of the type of Mayan architecture seen in the northern region of Guatemala known as El Peten.
The different sites of Muyil are connected through a series of walkways which the ancient Maya called Sacbe. The word is a compound and means white (Sac) road (Be).
These white pathways were common among the ancient Maya and can be found in such diverse sites as Tikal and Coba. Sometimes they connected one city to another, or as in the case of Muyil, the pathways ran east-west and communicated the central part of the town with the Muyil Lagoon.
If you are a person who enjoys both nature and culture, a visit to the Mayan ruins of Muyil is a nice encounter with the rich history of the Riviera Maya and its people.
Canan-Ha Jungle Trail
William Shakespeare once said, “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” To have the privilege to immerse yourself into the depths of the tropical jungle of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere is an honor that we got to share with others.
Walking along a narrow wooden pathway set between the lush foliage of this living, breathing ecosystem, I immediately realized just how far we’ve come in destroying such vital and beautiful spaces like this one, which today are so few and far between.
As I journeyed down the path I felt the forest teeming with vitality.
Along the way, signs have been erected to inform visitors of specific things of interest, such as trees and fresh water springs (ojo de agua).
About half-way down the trail stands a large tower. Not all will want to do the climb up, which is about 65 feet high and has small, steep stairs leading up to the final platform.
Once you reach the top, however, you’ll be treated to a spectacular view of the surrounding marsh, lagoon, and savannah.
If you’re lucky, you may even be able to observe some birds nesting in the treetops.
Following the visit to the Mayan ruins of Muyil and our walk down the Canan Ha jungle trail, our next stop: floating in the Muyil Lagoon.
The journey starts off in boats captained by fishermen from the local cooperative. We set course through the middle of the Muyil Lagoon in groups of about five people, entering into the narrow stretches of channels that connect Muyil to the second lagoon of Chunyaxche.
Along the way, we got to see the wetlands up close as well as the mesmerizing labyrinth of mangroves.
The boat ride itself is short, only about 15 minutes. Our group, however, made an unexpected stop along the way when the captain spotted a piece of trash in the water and returned to remove it. Being accustomed to a general crass disregard for nature by tourists and locals alike, the action of captain showed just why this lagoon is in such pristine conditions.
Floating Down Mangrove Channels
Having passed through the Chunyaxche Lagoon and into another set of mangrove channels, we disembarked at a small wooden pier where we took off our life jackets and promptly put them on in the form of diapers.
Yes, it sounds weird but it makes perfect sense.
You see, with life jackets as a diaper you jump into the water and can basically float down this narrow freshwater channel nestled in between a maze of mangrove trees and tons of orchids.
The float down these channels, which are said to have been built more than a thousand years ago by the Maya to connect these ecosystems to the Caribbean Sea, takes about 40 minutes.
Once we finished, we got out of the water and took a ten-minute walk back to the pier along a winding wooden pathway in the middle of the marsh. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera for the float or the trail through the marsh.
Lunch at a Tulum Beach Club
We ended our journey in the hotel strip of Tulum at a nice Tulum beach club called Ak’inn.
The place serves a buffet lunch of fish, chicken, rice, beans, and salad. You also get one drink with your meal. Warning: the beers are tiny.
After you eat, you can head down to the beach for a swim or to relax in one of the beach chairs or beds that Ak’iin provides to its guests.
The spectacular Tulum beach is always wonderful eye candy, and it was a nice way to end a fun excursion deep into the heart of the Riviera Maya’s Sian Ka’an Biosphere.
Things to Know About the Sian Kaan Tour
Here are a few things you should know about the Sian Kaan tour Mayan Eco-Adventure before going on the trip.
- Expect to be away from your hotel for about eight hours.
- Only take along biodegradable insect repellent and sunscreen. Believe me, you’ll want both and can’t use the others due to the damage they cause to the environment.
- Take enough money for tips for the driver and the guide. They work hard and do a good job, so while optional, a tip is always a good idea and highly appreciated.
- Make sure you take along a camera as you’ll be treated to some spectacular views. Also, take an underwater camera if you have one so you can take pictures floating down the channel.
- Take along a swimsuit, hat, towel, and change of clothes.
Sian Kaan Tour Review
All in all this tour deserves a good review. The logistics were as advertised, both the guide and the driver were professional and friendly, and the tour allows visitors to come into contact with an impressive aspect of this region’s nature and history.
The Mayan ruins are impressive, but aren’t quite as much so as those you will find in Tulum, Coba, Chichen Itza or even Ek Balam. That’s not a bad thing, just that if you’re looking for a more immersed experience in the history of the Maya then you’ll probably be better off visiting some of the other Mayan ruins of the Yucatan Peninsula.
I had the most fun walking along the Canan-Ha jungle trail, although I wish it would have been longer and more paused. It’s not every day that you get to experience the vibrant energy of a tropical jungle, much less one that is largely protected from our man-made destruction.
The boat ride through the lagoons and the float down the channels was also great. It’s just such an amazing environment, one that you probably won’t have the chance to swim in many times in your life, and I felt privileged to be able to do so.
The grand finale at the beach club was a nice touch to end the Sian Kaan tour. The food was as good as you would expect from a tour, the restaurant is set in a nice and clean palapa, and there are few beaches in the world more beautiful than those at Tulum. So even if it’s just for a few minutes, it’s always a treat to enjoy the spectacular views of those beautiful blue hues and white sand beaches of Tulum.
A final thought: the Sian Kaan tour is great but not for everyone. We know you have a limited amount of time and money to spend on tours, and it’s important that you choose the right one for your travel party. This excursion is for you if you love nature, adventure, and cultural sightseeing, but have already visited some of the other Mayan pyramids of the region. Be sure to check out our blog for our list of the top Playa del Carmen tours.
You can book your tour at the following link: Sian Ka’an expedition.
And Now For Something Completely Different…
Here comes the shameless yet proud plug for PlayaDelCarmen.com: we’re locals. We live, work, and breathe in Playa del Carmen, and know all the tours, all the hotels, and all the different things to do in Playa del Carmen and the surrounding area.
Our travel specialists want you to have the best possible experience. That doesn’t equate to spending as much as you can. It means that you enjoy the experience that best suits your needs. That just happens to be our forte.
You can contact us toll-free Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. CST at 888-537-9797. We’re also available through our social media channels and our contact page. If you want to experience the best that Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya has to offer, we recommend you do precisely that!