At Sian Ka’an you can kayak through narrow canals between mangroves, climb an ancient pyramid, float in a crystal clear cenote, or try your hand at salt water fly fishing—all within a lush protected environment on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula south of Tulum.
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, on the coast of the state of Quintana Roo, extends over 1.3 million acres. Recognized as a biosphere reserve in 1986 and a UNESCO Heritage of Humanity Site in 1987, Sian Ka’an is home to a variety of habitats including beaches, coral reef, low tropical forest, wetlands, savannas, dunes, cenotes and both freshwater and brackish lagoons. Over 300 species of birds and a multitude of other plants and animals inhabit the reserve.
The Maya first settled in this area in the fifth century A.D. and there are more than 20 archaeological sites within the biosphere reserve. The largest site at Sian Ka’an, Muyil, was a trading post in ancient times. A visit to Muyil is not complete without a visit to the lagoon from which it gets its name, which is located a short walk from the archaeological ruins. Climb up to the lookout point to enjoy the view of the lagoon and the Caribbean Sea beyond.
Savor the sunrise here and you’ll understand why the ancient Maya named this place Sian Ka’an, which in their language means, “where the sky is born.” Reserve a tent/cabin from the Cesiak organization and spend the night. This is truly one of the not-to-be-missed vacation experiences in Mexico for bird watchers and nature lovers of all stripes.
Tulum holds the honor of being the most picturesque archaeological site in the Riviera Maya and the only one to have been built overlooking the ocean. A visit here offers spectacular views of the Riviera Maya beaches, Caribbean Sea and surrounding coastal region.
Tulum was an ancient Mayan fortress city that rose to power toward the end of the Classic period. The most iconic of its structures, the Castillo, is perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the clear turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean. The cliff-top Castillo, with its beachfront location and lush green landscape, is the image most often associated with the Mayan Riviera. You’ve probably seen the postcards.
An expansive walkway extends out around the ruins and a staircase nearby leads down to the beach where you can swim and sunbathe. Tulum is one of the few archaeological sites in Mexico where it really does make sense to bring a swimsuit. The best way to experience Tulum is to combine a tour of the ruins with some beach time—maybe even a refreshing dip.
Most travelers choose to visit the ruins at Tulum on day trips and organized tours. If you’re traveling independently, you’ll find that mornings are the best and least crowded time to plan your visit.
Keep in mind that Tulum is also an enchanting place to spend a few nights, so consider checking into one of the beachfront cabanas or boutique palapa hotels located near the ruins.
The coastline along this southern stretch of the Riviera Maya remains relatively undeveloped. It offers a relaxed change of pace from the resort cities to the north and serves as a great base from which to explore more of the region, including the ancient Mayan ruins at nearby Coba.
You could spend your entire vacation lazing on the powdery white sands of the Riviera Maya’s beaches. But when you’re ready for some action, be assured that there’s no shortage of exhilarating activities to be found in the region’s fantastic adventure parks.
The Riviera Maya’s unique landscape with its caves, cenotes (sinkholes) and underground rivers, as well as jungle, mangroves and beaches, provides a spectacular setting for a multitude of active adventures guaranteed to get the adrenaline pumping.
Ride through the jungle on an amphibious all-terrain vehicle, go underground rafting in a water cave studded with stalactites, soar over the jungle on 13 different zip-line circuits, or swim in the park’s gorgeous river at Xplor park, south of Playa del Carmen.
The cave at Rio Secreto is part of an elaborate system of underground caverns and waterways. Wearing a short wetsuit and helmet, you’ll alternately walk and swim through the silent depths as your expert guide teaches you about the geology and biodiversity of the area.
Hidden Worlds park offers Avatar, a “roller-coaster zip-line,” the first in the world of it’s kind, which will take you on a thrilling ride up, down and around a series of bends at breakneck speed through the dense foliage of the jungle, then dunk you in a cenote for a splash landing. Another option at Hidden Worlds is the Skycycle: pedal on a cycle suspended from a wire over the treetops at your own pace.
Whether you’re looking for soft or extreme adventure, the Riviera Maya’s adventure parks offer a variety of exciting options, both on land and in water.
At only 20 minutes from Maria del Mar you will find a designed by world-renowned golf course architect Robert Trent Jones II, the Riviera Maya Golf Club gives guests a rewarding challenge every time they step on the green. Try your hand on the 18-hole, 72-par course or our shorter 9-hole course for an early morning or midday session. Play to the breathtaking backdrop of the Mayan jungle, cenotes and limestone, as you traverse the course built into the natural environment, creating a unique challenge only found in Mexico.
A course fit for international competition, we welcome you to join our club, take a swing at the driving range, sign up for private or group courses to improve your game, and even rent TaylorMade and rental shoes for the duration of your stay.
At the end of your game you can enjoy drinks and food in our modern café in the middle of an elegant atmosphere with views to our golf course.