Biking to Punta Allen
Sian Ka’an, which in Mayan means “where the sky begins”, is one of the biggest natural reserves in Mexico and human heritage from Unesco since 1987. You can access this protected area mainly from 3 entrances: Tulum (right at the last end of the known Riviera Maya), Muyil (from Chunyaxche lagoon) and Felipe Carrillo Puerto. Once in you’d be surrounded by jungle, wildlife, and nature, all of it worth being explored by all adventurers.
Knowing this beforehand we were certain we had to visit it and clearly not the touristic way, which is spending only one day (or more precisely a couple of hours) on an excursion or by car. We needed to sleep in the area for at least one night (we were so charmed, we stayed longer), and we also set ourselves up to some adrenaline adventure starting right from the beginning: before reaching the fishermen town where we would sleep, Punta Allen. While researching you find hundreds of stories from people walking or taking a 5-hour drive through the dirt roads (especially on the rainy season - from May to October). We decided to bring our bikes, by far the best choice of the trip. And although we were counseled not to from people at Tulum’s tourism office and by other locals, we are glad we still did (and yes, this is a normal behavior… we ask everyone about something even though we may not follow advice).
The adventure’s day Eve and on
The plan was to camp a few kilometers away from the Tulum-side reserve’s main entrance the eve of this expedition. This way, we would wake up at dawn, start biking early, enjoy a stop at Boca Paila’s beaches, and finally reach Punta Allen in the afternoon.
We did camp at our chosen stop and woke up right before sunrise (even without being inside the reserve a beach sunrise is always stunning). We quickly took breakfast and got ready to leave when we realized we forgot to bring enough cash and obviously there were no ATMs at Punta Allen. So we spent quite a while searching for an ATM which would let us withdraw pesos! We couldn’t believe that simply for being at Tulum’s hotel area, all ATMs had to hand out US dollars. Finally, we were ready and began our trip around 7:30am.
After crossing the entrance arch, we paid and were calmed down by the gatekeeper, who assured us all the negative comments we had heard were not true, he motivated us and gave us key information so we could measure our progress. Our main stops would be crocodiles’ bridge, Boca Paila, lagoon intersection (the final point of Tulum’s and Riviera Maya’s expeditions) and finally Punta Allen.
As we began pedaling, we immediately noticed the difference… we were truly in wildlife, only surrounded by nature and by hundreds of unexplored roads: the smell, sounds and the dirt road we were following, parallel to the sea on the left and bordering the lagoon on the right… it all gave me a unique feeling I could relive forever. Along the first kilometers, there are a couple of occupied lots, afterward just nature… as awesome as it is, it also makes it harder to recognize how far have you got. That’s part of the beauty, right? We were searching for “El último maya” which we knew should not be far from the entrance but had not been able to find it before the trip, well, we didn’t find it either on our way there because we kept going without realizing we passed it. And something similar occurred with a couple of beaches because we thought those weren’t the ones, we even missed Boca Paila.
Luckily, the crocodiles' bridge is impossible to miss. It offers the best view anyone could ever imagine. The bridge literally divides the sea from the lagoons as the merge underneath it. The blue and turquoise colors of the water, the infinity of the landscape and the so many other colors around it fill you with energy! At the same time you are admiring it and taking its essence you are wishing you were not there on the top of a construction (as simple as it may be) ruining or damaging this natural and beautiful place.
As you keep going, more surprises await… innumerable giant crabs walking next to the road, the many road signs of jaguars, a small snake with fluorescent eyes and skin, which I almost ran through because I didn’t realize on time it was a snake until I was almost next to it.
After a while, we began feeling the distance and the day’s exercise. As usual, we began the adventure not as expert cyclists or nature explorers but as amateurs. So with no tools to let us know the distance, location, etc, we were estimating the distance by the time we calculated should take us to get to each of the planned stops. That’s why it is no surprise we missed the beach we were looking forward to cooling us down during the late morning. As we went through, we didn’t know it was past us and we simply assumed we were biking slower due to tiredness and the weight of our bags. At some point, we found again some tour buses parked on the road so passengers could take the boat on the lagoon. We stopped to drink some water and talked to them about our plans and day so far… this is when we were informed where we were, a little over 10 kilometers to Punta Allen. Tired, but proud, we kept going until we finally saw Punta Allen’s welcome board.
We left our bikes at our campsite as we wouldn’t use them until the day we left and headed to Akumal. The first and most important thing we did was rest over the sand and cool down at the beach, the beach is not what Punta Allen is best known for, but that is what we needed; this is how we happily started our adventures at this fishermen Coast, perhaps one of the few authentic Quintana Roo’s coasts.
I would love to recommend Punta Allen to everyone; however, the truth is it is not for everyone, or not unless they are aware of what it consists of and accept it. Punta Allen provides a magical experience: fresh food is a delicacy, the coral reef in this area is better preserved, and marine animals can live in their natural habitat. On the other hand, for being inside a protected reserve, the road is and should remain as a dirt road, there is no electricity 24 hours (or not by default, it is not recommended to request it as it requires a lot of diesel and generates great amounts of pollution), there are no phone lines. People there communicate nowadays with video call services on electricity hours over satellite internet. The final reason why I consider it is not for everyone is I believe everyone who steps in has a great responsibility of taking good care of it and sharing this responsibility of caring and good use of resources.
There is so much more to say about this biking adventure, about Punta Allen and about Sian Ka’an, but that would be in a future story. Our trip was fully enjoyable.
- It is advisable to bring insect repellent, hat or cap and water; remember heat can be extreme, mainly from April to September
- Take care of the nature, take all your trash with you