Little Paradise in Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve


Following the coast passed Tulum, in Quintana Roo state, a lagoon splits the mainland. On that thin portion of the coast a road is accessible from Tulum where resorts, trendy cafes, bars, and boutiques attract travelers. Keep going and the tarmac road transforms into a dirt road marking the entrance into Sian Ka’an Reserve. At the very end of this road is Punta Allen, a small fishing village popular, 50 kilometers away. Keep going a little further and the road becomes a single track to an abandoned lighthouse. That’s where we wanted to get and camp.

Passed the traffic leading to the reserve entrance, we eventually found ourselves rolling on a peaceful dirt road. Palms dominated the side of the road, complemented by plants you only find where salt water is. Pacing ourselves at a leisurely 12km/h, we admired the birds flying in front of us, the odd iguana running in the dead palm tree leaves in the thick vegetation and the blue, white and red crabs running sideways in their burrows. It was pretty nice riding, we thought.

Tiphaine riding in Biospheric ReserveGeiger Tree flower (Cordia dodecandra)

Once in a while, there was a sandy track leading to a crystal blue ocean. We planned to take 2 days to cycle to Punta Allen, finding a quiet spot for a night, ideally one right by the beach. In Tulum, we purchased enough water and food until we reached that far outpost.

Pontoon overlooking a lagoonTiphaine cycling by the ocean in Sian Ka'an

We were overtaken by minivans and safari looking trucks loaded with tourists not really noticing us. They were more focused on seeing a jaguar, pelicans diving in the water for fish, egrets floating above them, ibis picking their food from the seaweed along the beach. Some were going diving with sharks, dolphins and sea turtles. Parts of the coast are where they nest and if you are in the right season, you might encounter some at night as they come on the beach to lay their eggs.

Apart from the tourists loaded minivans, there were trucks carrying loads of sand or rocks, reserve management vehicles, and the odd car. It was a great change from the long, straight, flat roads of the peninsula we had grown tired of. For the first time in a long while, we had scenery to admire, other than a Mayan temple.

About 15 kilometers in, we came upon a bridge going above a small mangrove area. Just before the bridge, a sign clearly indicated no parking and fishing were allowed. Yet, about a dozen of man had lines in the water and half a dozen cars were parked on the bridge. Another example of disregarding the law in Mexico which seems to be as common as tacos and corona, something we grew annoyed with.

Not long after we passed an open space leading to the beach. It was the perfect spot. We pitched the tent, put our swimming gear on and jump in clear blue water with the perfect temperature to cool us down. We took our time the following morning to enjoy this ideal spot as much as we could. We only had 25 kilometers to cover the following day anyway. But as we packed up, dark clouds formed over the dark blue horizon. It started to rain as soon as we pushed our bikes on the road. That’s when the heaven’s gate opened and the pouring started. We were soaked within the first 200 meters. A typical downpour of the rain season in this part of the world. Complaining shouldn’t even be an idea though, it was one of the first heavy rain we experienced so far.

Tiphaine and me sitting on a beach

The sun came out shining again and by the time we got to Punta Allen, we were dry again. Our bikes we dirty after going through endless potholes filled rainwater. There was a track leading to an old lighthouse, making the very end of this narrow peninsula and it was the place we elected to spend the night. Luckily, the track wasn’t too sandy and we could ride amongst mangrove and palm trees going over the road giving the impression of a tunnel. After a short 2 kilometers ride from Punta Allen we arrived at the end of the road, the lighthouse left abandoned in front of us. There were a decrepit building and flat ground beside it, the perfect place to set up camp. As soon as we stopped mosquitoes engulfed us. With dengue common here, those little bastards were not to be taken lightly. We covered ourselves with repellent and cooked dinner while listening to the sound of a quiet ocean. The place we camped the night before left us disappointed with this one. So disappointed we made the decision to return to it the following day and spend an entire day there.

Pelican diving for foodIbis flying over the oceanPelican diving for food

First, we needed to get some water for 2 complete days – at least 12 liters – and get food in a shop where supplies were limited. But most importantly we needed mosquito repellent and fuel. I had run out and Tiphaine’s propane bottle is running on fumes. While sorting out water and food at the Punta Allen’s mini super convenience store, a man walked in greeting us, asking where we were from. As it turned out, he spoke a little English so I took the opportunity to ask him where we could find fuel for my stove. He replied he had plenty and could sell me some. We met him at his house where he revealed tens of large containers full of premium fuel. Victor has a boating business in the town where a fleet of 10 boats goes on the water every day, taking tourists in the bay or in the ocean. He told us to keep an eye open for sea turtles as if was the season they came out the water at night to lay their eggs on the beach. We talked for a while before we got on our way to that ideal spot.

Again, it was empty when we arrived and as pristine as it was when we left the day before. We replicated the setup from our first visit and settled in for a day in paradise, hues of blue ocean as our backyard. For the better part of the next day, we went for dips in the warm water, had fun filming each other being submerged by gentle waves, wrote this article and read observed birds and simply relaxed overlooking the ocean. Life’s difficult.

Tiphaine riding in Sian Ka'an

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Author: Pascal Lachance

I'm Pascal, cyclist, travel lover, software developer by trade and an enthusiastic photographer. I'm now cycling around the world, take the time to visit as many places as I can!