Do you want to visit Sian Ka’an from Playa del Carmen? You’ve come to the right place!
As a long term Playa del Carmen resident and local travel blogger, I personally got to experience the Sian Ka’an tour from Playa del Carmen with Kay Tours Mexico.
In this post, I’m detailing everything you need to know about Sian Ka’an and the best way to experience the tour from Playa del Carmen.
About Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
First, let’s start with some of the basics on Sian Ka’an:
What is Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve?
Meaning “where the sky is born” in the Mayan language, Sian Ka’an is a Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage site.
Sian Ka’an is comprised of a variety of diverse ecosystems including tropical forests, palm savannah, wetlands, coral reefs, lagoons, cenotes, and mangroves, as well as sandy beaches and dunes.
Covering over 652,000 hectares (1.6 million acres), it is one of the largest protected areas in Mexico and offers the unique opportunity to observe wildlife in its natural habitat.
What is a biosphere reserve?
UNESCO created a world network of Biosphere Reserves to recognize ecologically diverse sites around the world. Biosphere Reserves are securely protected land, coastal, or marine ecosystems.
Each site must be nominated and meet specific criteria before being admitted into the program. There are currently about 400 Biosphere Reserves around the world in almost 100 countries.
Sian Ka’an became a Biosphere Reserve in 1986 and was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site one year later.
Where is Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve?
To enter Sian Ka’an, you’ll have to drive along the Tulum coastal road and through the Mayan Arch, which marks the entrance to Sian Ka’an.
Tour vans, SUVs, or four-wheel drive vehicles are pretty much required along the unpaved road to Sian Ka’an as it can get very bumpy especially after heavy rain.
How to Get to Sian Ka’an
Because Sian Ka’an is so remote, it’s very difficult to get there without a tour operator. Yes, it can be done but it involves an overnight stay in Punta Allen, and relying on several different buses and colectivos that only run a couple of times of day.
You’d then have to hire a boat which overall is a lot of work! Plus, due to the remote location, there’s no cell service in the area which would make it very difficult to navigate if you were to get lost or stuck on the unpaved roads.
After I found out how complicated it was to visit Sian Ka’an on your own, I decided it would be way easier to go with an experienced tour guide that knows all the ins and outs of Sian Ka’an.
About Kay Tours Mexico
I personally visited Sian Ka’an with Kay Tours Mexico, who is a leading provider of customized private and small group tours and excursions in the Riviera Maya region.
While there are many tour companies in this part of Mexico, I definitely noticed a few things that set Kay Tours apart from the rest.
- Kay Tours offers customized private and small group tours. For me, this makes the tour so much more meaningful because you’re not just getting the same cookie cutter experience that hundreds of other tourists have gotten. If you want to spend more time in a certain area, all you have to do is ask your tour guide and they will personalize the tour just for you.
- The personal tour guides are friendly, fun, and extremely knowledgeable. Our tour guide Juan was the source of knowledge for all of the facts about the wildlife and environmental conservation on the Sian Ka’an tour.
- Kay Tours puts a real focus on being environmentally friendly. They provide each guest an aluminum water bottle with your name on it to be used throughout the tour. They also use glass bottles to reduce the use of plastic.
- Free pictures are included in the cost of the tour. After the tour you’ll receive an email with a link to a digital album to view or download all the pictures that were taken on the tour. They use a high quality professional camera as well as a GoPro so it’s great for underwater shots. Most other tour companies will charge extra for photos so this a great perk that is included in the tour.
While you may pay a little more for a private or small group tour with Kay Tours Mexico, the elevated and customized experience is definitely worth it.
About the Sian Ka’an Tour from Playa del Carmen
How much does the Sian Ka’an Tour from Playa del Carmen cost?
The small group tour to Sian Ka’an is dynamically priced based on the number of participants. For a group of 5, the price is around $220 USD per adult.
However, this can change if have more or less people in your group or if there are any children.
What’s included in the Sian Ka’an Tour from Playa del Carmen?
Here’s everything that’s included in the tour:
- A personal tour guide who picks you up at your hotel
- Certified driver and fully insured car/van with a/c
- Exclusive round-trip transportation
- Full snorkel gear provided, including wetsuits
- Lunch at the fishermen village of Punta Allen (all inclusive)
- Sanitary (WC/Showers) facilities and changing rooms
- Entrance fees, park and reef fee
- Water, soda, beer, fruit basket and snacks in the van
- FREE PICTURES in a digital picture album, ready to share
How to book the Sian Ka’an Tour from Playa del Carmen
The Sian Ka’an Wildlife Encounter tour can be booked online on the Kay Tours website here. Check out the video below to see my Sian Ka’an experience!
Sian Ka’an Tour Itinerary
The Sian Ka’an Tour from Playa del Carmen lasts approximately 10 hours. Be prepared the pickup is very early! Luckily you will be provided with coffee and a light breakfast in the van.
Note the pickup and drop off times are approximate since the tour is customized to the group’s preference.
- 6:15 AM – Pickup at your hotel in Playa del Carmen
- Travel to Sian Ka’an (approximately 2 hours from Playa del Carmen)
- Arrival to Paso Lagarto where you will board the “Del Mar” boat
- Boat Tour of the Sian Ka’an and Wildlife Observation
- Snorkeling Tour at the coral reef at Sian Ka’an
- Lunch at Punta Allen – Vigia Grande Restaurant
- Return to Paso Lagarto by boat
- Travel back to Playa del Carmen
- 4:30 PM – Drop off at your hotel in Playa del Carmen
What will you get to see at Sian Ka’an?
Sian Ka’an is home to thousands of different types of species so you can expect to see many different kinds of marine animals, wildlife, and plant varieties.
On our Sian Ka’an tour we got to see a crocodile, dolphins, sea turtles, stingrays, many different bird species, and massive starfish.
We also visited Isla de Pajaros (Bird Island) where you’ll see a large population of pelicans, frigates, and boobies-yes that’s what they’re actually called!
Sian Ka’an Snorkeling Tour
One of the highlights of the Sian Ka’an tour is the opportunity to go snorkeling in Sian Ka’an. Swimming with the animals is prohibited because it is a protected area, but you are allowed to snorkel in the coral reef.
I have to say that the reef at Sian Ka’an was probably one of the best places that I’ve snorkeled in Mexico. It was loaded with colorful fish (my favorite was the rainbow fish) and huge corals. We even got to see a small shark!
It was also way less crowded than any other Mexico snorkeling tour that I’ve been on. This way you don’t have to worry about bumping into other snorkelers or having their flippers ruin your perfect underwater shot!
What to Bring on the Sian Ka’an Tour
Below is a list of what I would recommend bringing with you on the Sian Ka’an tour:
- Beach towel: You’ll definitely want to bring a towel to dry off after snorkeling. These microfiber beach towels are great as they are lightweight and dry quickly.
- Sun hat: Wear a sun hat for UV protection on the boat but make sure you have one that fits very securely on your head as the wind can be strong.
- Rash guard: I would highly recommend bringing a rash guard, which is like a swim shirt to protect you from the sun without the need for sunscreen. Sunscreen is not allowed at Sian Ka’an so a rash guard is absolutely essential if you need sun protection.
- GoPro or waterproof camera: I would highly recommend bringing a GoPro or waterproof camera to capture your snorkeling experience. I always bring my GoPro Hero 10 and am constantly amazed by the picture quality.
- Flip flops or sandals: You’ll want to wear flip flops or waterproof sandals that can be removed easily when you’re snorkeling. The tour guides will also dump water on your feet to wash off the sand before getting back on the boat.
- Change of clothes: Bring a change of clothes so you can change out of your wet swimsuit before the long ride back to Playa del Carmen.
- Money for tips: I would also recommend bringing some extra cash to tip the tour guides at the end of the tour. This is something I often forget and then feel terrible at the end of an amazing tour experience.
Tips for Visiting Sian Ka’an
Follow these tips to make the most of your Sian Ka’an experience:
- Bring a rash guard: As I mentioned, sunscreen is not permitted on the Sian Ka’an tour (including reef-safe and biodegradable). If you need sun protection, you’ll want to wear a rash guard anytime you are exposed to the sun.
- Be prepared to be unplugged: Due to its remote location, there is absolutely no cell service on the tour. It’s a nice digital detox but be sure you attend to any important matters before you reach Tulum.
- Bring a change of clothes: You’ll go to the restaurant in Punta Allen right after snorkeling and the bathrooms there are a good spot to change into some dry clothes for the return trip.
- Book in advance: Be sure to book in advance to secure your spot as customized tour availability can fill up quickly.
While there are many options for Riviera Maya tours, I would highly recommend the Sian Kaan tour especially if you are a nature lover.
It’s a great day trip from Tulum or Playa del Carmen, and it’s one of the most unique Riviera Maya excursions offering an exclusive way to experience the untouched natural beauty of the region.
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