This UNESCO World Heritage Site was dubbed Sian Ka’an, or “Origin of the Sky,” by ancient Mayas who once inhabited the region. They couldn’t have picked a more fitting name—Sian Ka’an’s 1.3 million acres (528,000 hectares) contain lush green tropical forest, mangrove trees, and aquamarine lagoons set against the backdrop of the Caribbean Sea. The area’s diverse ecosystem also houses rare species of birds, fish, and mammals such as jaguars, sea turtles, and manatees.
How to visit: Take a day trip from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum to explore Sian Ka’an by boat and get an in-depth look at the local flora and fauna. You can also snorkel on the reef and investigate ancient Maya structures at the nearby Muyil archaeological site.
Where to stay: Book a room in nearby Tulum, Playa del Carmen, or Cancun. Getting to Sian Ka’an is easy from these areas; most tours even include hotel pickup and drop-off.