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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 13 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Alex Robinson

With vast tracts of tropical forest, glassy rivers, lagoons and turtle-nesting beaches, this 2,800 sq km biosphere reserve, is one of the last remaining truly wild areas on the Riviera Maya.

This biodiversity hotspot is home to 103 species of mammal – including all five cat species found on the peninsular (jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay and jaguarundi) and 330 species of bird. There are also 23 known archaeological sites inside the reserve. It is home to rare wildlife including manatees and American Crocodiles and is an important nursery for fish including tarpon and sharks.

The powdery, palm-shaded beaches are spectacular, there’s wonderful swimming in clear-water creeks, kayaking and light jungle trekking and even a scattering of barely-explored Mayan ruins. The reserve lies just south of Tulum so visiting is straightforward.

Price from: £50
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 8+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

The only way to visit the reserve is with tour companies, who offer a variety of boat, swim and light trekking trips. Full-day tours leave from the visitor centre within the reserve, at Km15.8 on the Tulum–Boca Paila–Punta Allen Coastal Road (about 10km from Tulum). This runs south from the Tulum ruins to the tiny village of Punta Allen. Hotel pick-ups are possible, but at extra cost.

Be sure to take sun hats, biodegradable sunscreen, swimming costumes, sun protection and a towel to dry off. Binoculars are useful for seeing birds and small mammals.

When to do it

Tours run all year round, and it’s great to visit anytime. The weather in the Mayan Riviera is generally good all year round, and the water is always warm enough for swimming.

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Mayan Riviera

Talc-white beaches, reefs teeming with life, ruined temples in misty rainforests – the Riviera Maya offers a family or romantic beach holiday with a dash of Indian Jones adventure.