Day Trips from Xcalak – Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve Tour
This one is actually not a day-trip per se, but is something to consider on the drive down or back to Cancun if you have some extra time. The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a huge protected area south of Tulum and Ascension Bay and extends to just north of Mahahual in the Espiritu Santo Bay.
The tour starts and ends at the Mayan ruins of Muyil and lasts for 4 hours. We highly recommend that you go with Caamal Pastor . He is a local independent tour guide who grew up in the area. He is very knowledgeable and speaks English.
A couple of tips, contact Pastor at least a couple of days in advance so he can organize boats etc. If you are staying in Tulum or even Cancun before coming to Xcalak, book a tour in the morning and you will still have plenty of time to make it to Xcalak before dark. Secondly, Bring sunscreen and good bug spray as the jungle does have mosquitos.
You meet Pastor in the parking area of the Muyil archeological site. It is located about 20 minutes south of Tulum. Muyil is a much smaller site than you will find at Tulum, or Coba, but it is an active excavation site, and much more intimate. Since I have been going there, they have excavated and reconstructed a large section of temples right at the entrance. And as of this writing (August 6, 2017) they were excavating another small temple right along the path. Pastor will take you to the main buildings and explain the history of the site, while pointing out the local flora and fauna in the jungle around the site.
Next is a walk through the jungle on a boardwalk. Midway through there is an observation tower that you can climb up. Not recommended for people afraid of heights! The five flights of “stairs” up are more like a ladder. Only 5 people can be on it at any one time, but it gives you a beautiful view of the surrounding jungle and the Muyil lagoon. From there, it is a short walk to the Muyil lagoon. There is a Conanp (National Park Ranger) station there and a dock. From there you will hop on a panga that will take you through the Muyil lagoon to a canal/creek cut by the Mayans to the larger outer lagoon. Then to the mouth of a natural creek that runs all the way to the Boca Paila lagoon. You disembark at the site of an ancient Mayan structure that might have been an ancient sanctuary or toll booth.
Here is where you put on your life vest and float for nearly a kilometer down the meandering creek. Pro tip: put on your life vest like a diaper. E.g. put your legs through the arm holes and snap it up upside down. That way you can float in a sitting position. You float through crystal clear water through mangroves and grass savannah. We went the first week of August so missed most of the orchids, but from May through July the orchids and bromeliads are in full bloom. Pastor also has a wealth of information on the ecosystem as you are floating through. Finally, after nearly a kilometer in the cool water, you get out and walk the boardwalk back to the boats. But wait that’s not all you get. Pastor also provides some food at the end!
Try to come May through July to catch the orchids and bromeliads in bloom. Even the few we saw in early August were pretty spectacular. It is still worth it even if you miss the orchids though!