The Riviera Maya is still unencumbered by civilization and consists of many nature parks and eco parks because of its vast tropical rainforests, jungles, the Caribbean Sea, coral reefs, and its white sand beaches. Surrounded by so much beautiful nature and the world’s interest in witnessing it have led to the development of conservation and environmental protection measures, resulting in many protected nature reserves and parks. Thanks to their conscientious efforts, many endangered plant and animal species have been saved from extinction. While vacationing in the Mexico Caribbean, a visit to the nature parks will provide many unexpected, wonderful surprises. To name a few:
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
Located south of Cancun in the Riviera Maya, the Sian Ka’an (meaning “where the sky is born”) Biosphere Reserve is a beautiful, expansive, protected nature reserve and UNESCO World Heritage site. The quiet serenity and beauty of the Sian Ka’an wilderness is mesmerizing. It was established to safeguard endangered plants and animals, while making sustainable use of natural resources.
Consisting of 1.3 million acres of land, Sian Ka’an spans 70 miles of Caribbean coastline, protecting its crystal clear lagoons, wetlands, mangroves forests, savannas, jungles, coral reefs, plants, and animals. Just some of the many animals on the reserve are pumas, jaguars, ocelots, three different monkey species, crocodiles, three turtle species, various bird species, and colorful tropical plants.
Activities and tours can be scheduled at the Sian Ka’an Visitor Center, located about 11 miles (18 kilometers) south of Tulum on the beach road towards the village of Punta Allen. The Visitor Center is located in the center of this primitive reserve and offers lodging with easy beach access and ecotourism activities, such as sustainable training, kayaking by day or by night through the wetlands, bird watching tours, sea turtle eco tours, and bicycling across the reserve.
Isla Contoy (Contoy Island) was declared a National Park in 1988 but has been protected by the Mexican government since 1961 because of its unrivaled natural beauty, consisting of secluded white sand beaches and native palm trees.
Although the island is very small, it is identified as the most important nesting place in the Mexico Caribbean for sea birds with more than 150 bird species migrating and residing there. Some of the more easily spotted birds are the brown pelican, double-crested cormorant, and frigate.
The island is also an important nesting place for various species of endangered sea turtles. Located 30 miles north of Isla Mujeres, Contoy Island offers guided tours by resident biologists of this unspoiled tropical paradise.
Tres Rios Nature Park
Tres Ríos Nature Park is in one of the most exquisite areas of tropical jungle in the Riviera Maya, just outside of Playa del Carmen. A private, protected nature park, Tres Ríos provides ecotourism adventures and educational experiences in its natural haven of lush, green plants, colorful flowers, indigenous animals and birds, cenotes, underground caves, ravines, rivers, and of course, the pristine white sand beaches of the Mexico Caribbean. Many customary activities such as snorkeling, diving, swimming, kayaking, hiking, and guided tours of the park are available. Tres Ríos also has a bird sanctuary, a botanical garden and nursery, and a Mayan cultural center.