In the language of the Mayans who once inhabited this region, Sian Ka'an means 'Origin of the Sky'. Established in 1986, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere is the largest protected area (1.3 million acres) in the Mexican Caribbean. Less than two per cent of Sian Ka’an is private property. There are restrictions in place to ensure natural resources are used in a balanced way: maximum allowable building sizes depend on the plot. Some vegetation, such as palm trees, cannot be removed—an aim intended improve the relationship between the people and the environment.
The biosphere reserve provides a habitat for a remarkably rich flora and a fauna comprised of more than 1000 species of plants, 379 species of birds, as well as large numbers of mammals, butterflies, beetles, dragonflies, and crustaceans. Visitors can expect to see creatures that are rarely found elsewhere. This includes manatees, four species of marine turtle, howler and spider monkeys, the rare Jabiru stork, jaguars, pumas, ocelots, pink flamingos, toucans and tapirs.
The Sian Ka’an is a diverse environment formed by a complex hydrological system. It contains tropical forests, marshes, mangroves, marine grass, inlets, and many coastal and in-land lagoons. It is also home to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the worlds’ second largest barrier reef. Here you will find 84 species of coral, including the brain coral, which can reach up to seven meters in diameter. The reef is visited by hundreds of species of fish, including macabí, sharks, shad, bass, and palometa.
Punta Allen, home to less than 500 inhabitants, is the largest village in the Sian Ka’an found at the end of the Boca Paila Peninsula. Sitting roughly 50 kilometers from Tulum, the fishing village has only about 4-5 blocks of sandy streets going inland from the sea and is only about 6-7 streets wide. Multiple markets, restaurants, and other conveniences can be found scattered throughout the village.