Discover the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

Located on the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve is a must-visit for Riviera Maya eco-adventures.


Located on the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve is a must-visit for Riviera Maya eco-adventures. A UNESCO world heritage property located two hours south of Cancun near the small town of Tulum, it has been called the most astonishing destination in all of the Yucatan Peninsula. Here, you’ll find coastal wetlands and shimmering lagoons, incredible wildlife and eco-adventures like no other place in the world. The biosphere reserve covers 652,000 hectares – or 1.3 million acres. That makes it (by far) the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean and the largest coastal protected area in Mexico. Even better? It’s still an under-the-radar attraction. That means you can enjoy the awe-inspiring solitude and beauty of Sian Ka’an without the crowds.

During your all inclusive stay at the Riviera Maya’s Occidental at Xcaret Destination, Barceló Maya Grand Resort (comprised of Barceló Maya Beach, Barceló Maya Caribe, Barceló Maya Colonial, Barceló Maya Tropical, the all-suite, AAA Four-Diamond Barceló Maya Palace, and the all-suite, adults-only Barceló Maya Riviera) or the adults-only, AAA Four-Diamond Royal Hideaway Playacar, as well as Cancun’s Occidental Tucancún or Occidental Costa Cancún, take a day experience the Riviera Maya eco-adventures at Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve.

The Ancient Mayan Route

Long before Sian Ka'an became the beautiful biosphere reserve it is today, it was an important trade route for the Mayan civilization. Now, you can travel back in time on the Ancient Mayan Route, a waterway that takes you through extraordinary natural beauty. You’ll board a comfortable, shaded boat and journey past Mayan ruins, near stunning coral reefs and dazzling flora and fauna. Keep your eye out for a variety of wildlife, including manatees, crocodiles and an array of colorful birdlife. At some points, you’ll even be able to get out of the boat and float down the gentle canal.

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Sian Ka’an fly fishing experiences

If you’re even remotely interested in fly fishing, Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a necessary visit. The still saltwater lagoons of the biosphere are legendary among fly fishing aficionados. They love it for the spectacular natural beauty of course – but also the quality and diversity of the fish you can catch here. On a guided Sian Ka’an fly fishing tour, you’ll have the chance to land bonefish, barracuda and tarpon, all the while soaking in some of the most gorgeous natural landscapes you’ve ever seen.

Snorkeling adventures on the Mesoamerican Reef

Ask anyone who has snorkeled in the Mesoamerican Reef and their eyes will light up. This stunning natural landmark (second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef) is one of the greatest aquatic adventures in the world, with crystal clear water, an amazing array of colorful marine life and much more. The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is one of the best places to experience Mesoamerican Reef snorkeling adventures. You’ll encounter dolphins, marine turtles and as many as 500 species of fish.

Natural encounters

From tropical birds to sunbathing crocodiles to exotic butterflies, a day spent at Sian Ka’an is as close as you can get to a safari without traveling to Africa. One of the best ways to get up-close-and-personal in a respectful way with Sian Ka’an wildlife is on a comfortable lagoon cruise. You’ll travel along an ancient mangrove canal, an expert guide pointing out the multitude of animal life in the branches on the shore and – look closely – floating just beneath the surface of the water. If you’re especially lucky you may spot the endangered West Indian manatee, one of the Caribbean Sea’s gentle giants. And Sian Ka’an is a favorite spot for dolphins, too. If you’re lucky, you might spot a mother and baby dolphin frolicking in the waves. Discover more places to experience Riviera Maya wildlife.


How to get to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

The most convenient way to get to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is to hire a tour from one of several companies throughout Riviera Maya. Your Barcelo front desk staff can help you find the one that’s right for you. Sian Ka’an is located in the south of the Yucatan Peninsula. Be forewarned, the road to the biosphere can be bumpy. But don’t worry – it’s worth it.

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve fast facts

  • In the language of the Mayan peoples who once inhabited this region, Sian Ka'an means “Origin of the Sky.” The name probably comes from the fact that the skies over Sian Ka’an are some of the most spectacular in the world.
  • Sian Ka’an provides a habitat for more than 300 species of birds.
  • Along its roughly 75 miles (120 kilometers) of coastline, the property spans over 400,000 hectares of land.
  • Sian Ka’an is a protected reserve – and the only ways that visitors can experience it is via low-impact forms of tourism. During your time at the reserve, treat the natural world with the utmost respect and leave no trace. That way, Sian Ka’an will be preserved for future generations to come.
Discover more Riviera Maya eco-adventures.