The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is the biggest protected area in the Caribbean and a unique place to visit! Blessed with Mayan ruins, freshwater lagoons, dense jungle, mangrove forests, and many Mayan canals reaching the Caribbean Sea, this place is a must for every traveler to this part of the world. And what’s great about these canals is you can actually float them. If you’re planning a self-guided day trip to Sian Ka’an and Muyil, read the entire article!

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Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve – Short Info

Sian Ka’an translates as: “Gate of Heaven,” “Origin of the Sun,” or “A Place where Heaven begins.” It is a vast region, lying across 5,280 km2 and home to thousands of flora and fauna species. The area became a Biosphere Reserve in 1986, and one year later, Sian Ka’an was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Located near Tulum, the Biosphere is still far away from the crowds and doesn’t attract masses of tourists.

You can access the Sian Ka’an Biosphere from Muyil and Punta Allen (the marina part), but the experiences are completely different.

Getting from Punta Allen to Sian Ka’an is the heaviest way. A self-guided day trip is hard to do as it requires extra time, money, and a 4WD rented car.

The easiest and most fun way is to get to Sian Ka’an from Muyil, as we did.

a boat making its way through the mangrove forest in Mexico

How to Get to Sian Ka’an and Muyil Ruins on a Self-Guided Day Trip

Distances to Muyil Ruins from Riviera Maya:

Cancun – Muyil Ruins: 153km, about 2 hours drive

Playa del Carmen – Muyil: 83km, about 1h30′ drive

Tulum – Muyil: 23km, about 20′ drive

 

Getting to Sian Ka’an by ADO bus

If you are traveling from Cancun to Sian Ka’an, you need to embark on a bus departing to Playa del Carmen or Tulum, and from here, take another bus with the destination, Chetumal. But finding the best connection is not always easy.

If you are traveling from Playa del Carmen or Tulum, embark on a bus with the final destination, Chetumal.

The bus station at Muyil is just in front of the entrance to the archaeological site. Once you’ve visited the ruins, a boardwalk will take you to the Sian Ka’an entrance. Go on a boat ride, float a Mayan canal and enjoy your time here. Once you’ve decided to leave, just follow the path to the main road. From the boat docks, it’s about a 5-minute walk on a small path to the bus/ Colectivo station.

We wanted to book tickets online on the ADO website but couldn’t find the destination: Muyil. The lady at the counter whom we asked seemed helpless. We asked an ADO driver for help, and he had no idea where we could find this place, or he didn’t want us to get there on our own. Everyone told us to book a tour.

After some more research, we realized that our final destination wasn’t Muyil but Chunyaxché, which is the name of the Lagoon near Muyil. But surprise: we couldn’t buy the tickets online. So we went once again to the ADO bus station and asked the lady at the front desk for two tickets to Chunyaxché. Problem solved!

The next morning, we were sitting on a bus leaving for Chetumal, eager to start the self-guided day trip to Sian Ka’an, but we soon realized our driver had no idea where the Chunyaxché station was. He began to stress out and search for info on his display. We knew he was in a big dilemma as we were the only tourists on this bus. Luckily, we could follow the track on Google. Maps, and we let our driver know as soon as we approach Muyil. He was extremely grateful and happy!

The easiest way to get to Muyil from Tulum is to head to the main Ado bus station in Tulum and get the Mayab bus. It leaves every hour, so you have more options to choose from. 

Playa del Carmen to Muyil/Chunyaxché with ADO bus: 95-pesos (4.86US$, 4.31€) per person

 

Getting to Sian Ka’an by Colectivo

Colectivos are pretty common throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. The name comes from “vehiculos de transporte colectivo” (vehicles for collective transport”), reflecting their origin as shared taxis. It is safe, quick, and, as mentioned, affordable. Just make sure you know the Colectivo stations in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum. There is no schedule; the Colectivo will leave the station as soon as it fills up. We never had to wait more than 10 minutes for a Colectivo to leave a station.

The drive takes no more than 20 minutes, and the car will drop you just in front of the Muyil Archaeological Site. The drivers usually know where to stop, so you don’t have to stress about it.

Once you’ve had enough of floating through the mangroves and exploring the area, head to the main road. Don’t worry; you won’t have to wait long for a Colectivo to show up. Road Nr. 307 is a frequented road, and Colectivos are running quite often here.

We waited no more than 5 minutes until a Colectivo arrived. The driver stopped and asked if we needed a ride, as he had two more places, so we reached Tulum sooner than we expected.

 

Getting to Sian Ka’an by car

Renting a car is a pretty common way to discover the Peninsula. Driving in the Yucatan Peninsula is safe and easy. The roads are in good condition, and you will always find a proper parking place. The rental prices are low compared to other places in the world, and the traffic is good.

If you travel by car, make sure to save the GPS Coordinates: 20°04’44.1″N 87°36’49.2″W.

The best site to book a rental car in Mexico is Discover Cars. This easy-to-use booking platform compares car rental deals from many trusted companies, which enables them to secure the best car rental prices. This is the easiest way to rent a car in the Yucatan Peninsula.

 

Book a tour to get to Sian Ka’an

It’s possible to go on a self-guided day trip to Celestun, but it does take a bit of time and planning to do it independently.

There are a few tours to Sian Ka’an and Muyil ruins from Tulum, and it certainly makes the trip much easier and takes all the hassle out of organizing things yourself and having to wait for public transport.

After being picked up from Tulum, you will be transferred to the Sian Kaan Nature Reserve. Wander the ancient ruins of Muyil, relax on a boat ride between the lagoons, float and cool off in the turquoise water past huge mangrove trees on a half-day trip. Sounds perfect?  BOOK YOUR TOUR HERE

Our Self-Guided Day Trip To Sian Ka’an and Muyil Ruins 

Before traveling to the Yucatan Peninsula, we knew we had to visit this unique place. The information found on the internet was quite elusive, and we asked around how to get on a self-guided day trip to Sian Ka’an.

The tricky part was that nobody seemed to know how to get there, although we asked some locals and an ADO driver. Everyone advised us to book a tour through the agency, but we just wanted to do it on our own terms. After some research, we realized it was easy to organize a self-guided day trip to Sian Ka’an and Muyil, not to mention affordable.

That’s how the idea of putting all the information together came about, and I hope it will help you better organize your trip to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere.

Muyil Ruins

There is a small parking lot, free of charge, in case you arrive here by car. We arrived here by bus so we just crossed the road, paid for the entrance fees and entered a different world soon after. 

The first thing we noticed was how small the site is compared to other Mayan ruins. Apparently, the Muyil site was located on a crucial trading route and was occupied for over a thousand years. The beauty of this place is also the fact that it has never been rebuilt but is still well-kept.

There are a few temples and pyramids to see here, so if you’re already here, don’t rush. We walked along the trails, admired the ruins and took some photos. The place was so quiet and lovely, with no tourists but many mosquitoes, so make sure to bring repellent (biodegradable since you are going to float lately).

Muyil entrance fee: 45-pesos (2.30US$, 2€) per person

Time spent: about 30 minutes

discovering the ruins of the Castle (El Castillo)Self-guided day trip to Sian Ka'an & Muyil ruins

the ruins of the Castle (El Castillo)Muyil Ruins

 

Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

Behind the ruins of the Castle (El Castillo), after only a 4-minute walk, we came across a gate, which is the entrance gate to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. We paid another fee and followed the path. Once again, we were the only one in the area, and having the entire place to ourselves felt extremely good.

Soon after the entrance, we realized that everything changed, and we found ourselves in the middle of the jungle. A boardwalk, about 500 meters long, led us to an observation deck. We couldn’t miss this spot, so we climbed to see the views.

At the top, we were over the jungle canopy, and we were rewarded with the most gorgeous views of the jungle and the lagoons in the distance. After that, we just followed the path until we reached the Chuanyxche lagoons.

Sian Ka’an entrance fee of 50-pesos (2.50US$, 2.30€) per person

Time spent: 40 minutes

the 1-kilometer long boardwalk leading to Sian Ka'an reserve

girl reaching the observation platform inside Sian Ka'an Reserve

 

Chuanyxche Lagoons

Once again, no one was around, and we felt slightly lost. We even asked ourselves if we’d find a boat to take us to the Mayan canals. The main reason for us being here was the idea of floating through ancient canals and dense mangroves. We walked around for a while until we found the first lagoon. To our excitement, some boats were waiting for tourists.

As soon as a guy approached us, we paid for the boat that took us to the mangrove forest and the highlight of our trip: floating down a Mayan canal. The price we paid per person was not negotiable, but we already knew that. The boat journey carried us across two picturesque lagoons and narrow canals.

We crossed the first lagoon at high speed, which was quite exciting. It was already midday, and the sun was scorching, so the breeze from the speed boat made the journey enjoyable.

Once we reached a narrow and beautiful channel, the boat slowed down and navigated until we reached the second lagoon. We could easily spot fishes swimming in crystal clear water. There was no time to enjoy the scenic views as the boat made its way to where we were about to dwell.

We left the second lagoon behind, and our boatman stopped the boat at a narrow channel. He kindly asked us to leave our belongings inside the boat and invited us to float down the Mayan canal. After providing us with a lifejacket, he told us he would wait for us at the end of our floating adventure, 15-20 minutes later.

girl trying to find a boat on her self-guided day trip to Sian Ka'an and Muyil

taking a boat ride on a self guided day trip to Sian Ka'an and Muyil

 

Floating down a Mayan canal, our favorite part of this self-guided day trip to Sian Ka’an and Muyil

Now comes the highlight of this trip: floating down an ancient Mayan canal, through mangroves, in crystal clear water. We’d waited for this adventure so long and couldn’t believe we had reached this place so easily, with no group and time pressure. We were on our own, taking time to indulge the beauty of this place and FLOATING! Basically, you just lay while the current slowly takes you through the river, taking in the sounds of the water and wildlife. 

The canal was lined with mangroves, and the water was clear and refreshing. Usually, the float takes about 20 minutes for the 1-kilometer ride. Since we didn’t want it to end, we spent 40 minutes floating down the river, grabbing the mangroves, taking lots of photos, and enjoying the ride — such a fabulous experience!

It was fascinating to imagine how the Mayans used these canals to travel and exchange goods. 

By the end of our floating trip, suddenly, it began to rain. The boatman was expecting us at a meeting point, looking revolted since we’d spent too much time on the canal. We had to walk back on a scenic boardwalk through a marsh until we reached the boat. The ride back to the dock area was amusing since it began to pour, but that didn’t bother us much. It was sizzling, and we were happy to flee the heat!

We could change into dry clothes once we reached the docks and left the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, pleased with our fantastic adventure. We only had to walk 5 minutes on a lovely path until we reached the main road, from where we took a Colectivo back to Tulum.

Boat ride: 1.000-pesos (51US$, 46€) per person 

Time spent: 2 hours 

girl floating through a Mayan Canal in Sian Ka'an

the long boardwalk taking to the boat dock on a rainy afternoon

 

Self-Guided Day Tour To Sian Ka’an and Muyil from Playa del Carmen- Costs

Playa del Carmen to Muyil/Chunyaxché with ADO bus: 95-pesos (4.86US$, 4.31€) per person

Colectivo from Muyil to Tulum: 35-pesos (1.79US$, 1.63€) per person & Colectivo from Tulum to Playa del Carmen: 40-pesos (2US$, 1.86€) per person 

Muyil entrance fee: 45-pesos (2.30US$, 2€) per person

Boat ride: 1.000-pesos (51US$, 46€) per person 

Sian Ka’an entrance fee of 50-pesos (2.50US$, 2.30€) per person

Our self-guided day trip to Sian Ka’an and Muyil Ruins: transport to/from Playa del Carmen, entry tickets, and boat ride: $1.265 pesos (65US$, 59€) per person

Our SELF-GUIDED Day Trip To SIAN KA’AN & MUYIL was a great and funny experience, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and easier to do than expected, so I strongly recommend going on your own! If it’s too much hassle or you want to enjoy a more local experience, go with a tour.

 

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self-guided day trip to Sian Ka'an & Muyil Ruins

 

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Want to explore more in the area? Check out these TOURS!

 
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