Ancient canals in Sian Kaan

Waterways of Sian Kaan Biosphere

This month we are celebrating all the bodies of water in the Riviera Maya, and inside the Sian Kaan Biosphere lies one of the most fascinating water features in all of Mexico, the maritime canals of the ancient Maya. 1,200 years ago the early Maya hand dredged a trade route between the cities of Tulum and Muyil thus linking Muyil, a village with a land locked lake located 12 kilometers inland, to the Caribbean Sea. The route stretches over 20 kilometers and winds through lagoons and mangrove rich with natural beauty at every turn…all waiting for you to discover!

Natural Diversity

These canals run through four different, delicate ecosystems that are home to over 300 species of birds, over 100 different mammals, 1200 plant species and 52 different types of fish swim in these waters. Monkeys, manatee, crocodiles, sea turtles and puma are just a few of the animals that live here. With all of this incredible diversity, you never know what you might catch a glimpse of while floating along the canals.

Sian Kaan, Riviera Maya

Canal of the Sian Kaan Biosphere


23 archaeological sites have been discovered inside the reserve, some of them sitting on the banks of the canals with well preserved interior rooms. Explorers have found human remains, pottery shards, and other Maya artifacts in these canals that date over 2,000 years old and originated as far away as Honduras and Guatemala. While drifting in a ponga down these canals, it is almost haunting to think of the hundreds of Maya who dug tirelessly for days on end to create them. This unspoiled area looks now just as it did centuries ago when they were rowing their canoes along these watery alleys to trade in Cozumel and Chetumal. The canals themselves could be considered “ruins” yet Mayan descendants are still using them today as fishing routes and for boat tours to provide a modern day living.

Mayan ruin

Mayan ruin in the Sian Kaan Biosphere


CESiak offers eco-friendly boat and kayak tours that will take you down this canal system and across lagoons with a local guide who is knowledgeable about the flora, fauna and history of these mysterious waterways. The boat tour includes floating along the natural current of the cool, clear waters in a life jacket and ruin trekking. Important items to bring with you include a bathing suite, biodegradable sun screen and bug repellant, a hat, sunglasses, drinking water and binoculars.

Winding through these canals surrounded by green mangrove is a completely different experience than the typical tourist visit to the local “nature parks”. Out on the water, you get a privileged perspective of these pristine areas. If you are looking for an authentic Riviera Maya vacation experience, an eco-adventure down these ancient waterways is it. After one of these canal tours, you will never think of the Mayans or the Yucatan the same way. Book a tour on your next Mayan Riviera vacation, you’ll love every minute of it!

Immerse yourself in peace and beauty at one of our Sian Kaan vacation rental.

Mayan canal in Tulum, Mexico

Boat tour in the Sian Kaan

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