Finding things to do in the Mayan Riviera is not a hard thing to do, and no matter what your budget is, there are many different ways to enjoy it at its fullest.
I will try to show all options.
I definitely prefer the long way to it; hitchhiking the road and meeting both locals and tourist, sharing opinions, road tips, and learning about new spots to visit. Camping on the beach and meeting new friends over a cold beer and fresh fish caught just hours before; but this is not the easiest way to do it, I must admit. If you are not traveling on a budget and prefer something specially designed for the traveler, try any of the many tours available to visit the Sian Ka’an natural reserve and Punta Allen. These tours vary in price and activities, from off road driving on 4×4 jeeps, to fly fishing, sport fishing or bird watching, you can enjoy of an archeological and ecological hike into the jungle, or just enjoy of a boat ride around the Bay and its hundreds of channels through the mangrove. You can sail your way there from Cancun, Akumal, Puerto Aventuras and Cozumel, and tour operators in every major city in the peninsula will offer an option for you.
If you are in Tulum, getting to Punta Allen shouldn’t represent a problem, you can get a ride on a collective van departing at 2:00pm every day from the “sindicato de taxistas” which is the local taxi drivers union building, and which I only recommend if you want to pay around $20USD on transportation for a 60 kilometers ride, and this is only one way; the average rate anywhere else goes from $3 USD to $10 USD for the same distance. The road is pretty bad and unpaved, and in rainy season this road may be impossible for a non 4×4 vehicle.
Another issue is that these vans get really packed and the ride is 3 hours long, so it’s not comfortable, in many cases you get over charged as a tourist, locals pay a different fare.
So my recommendation is either hitchhike your way there, there are many cars coming in and out at all times and most of them are willing to take you with them, or you can rent a car or a scooter in Tulum, Scooters run for somewhere around $25 to $35 USD per day, one scooter is enough for two people and they are very good regarding fuel consumption. You can stay in Tulum and spend the day in Punta Allen, having wheels adds kilometers and saves time.
We decided to stay in Punta Allen instead; this charming fisherman village has much more to offer than what you may first think. With a little more than 500 people living in it, life in town flows slowly, relaxed and easy; people know each other and they love to share fishing stories and local folk over a beer at night before the lights go out.
A sky full of stars and the sound of the turf made the night delicious, a light rain around midnight got us back in to the tent. We slept over the sweet sounds of the waves braking on the beach and the rain falling on the palm trees.
Even when fishermen wake up at the crack of dawn, in the island the rest of the activities start way later, most of them are linked to the tours arriving to Punta Allen around 11:00am and electricity runs after this time too so many of the business there won´t start before this time.
You can find a few restaurants and bars in town where you can get breakfast, lunch and dinner but don’t expect a big nightlife scene here.
We met our new friend Armando Lopez, owner of Cuzan, restaurant and cabañas, while we were walking down the beach, he was getting ready to go out fishing and we asked to go along. He said yes.
On the boat, Armando told us about Punta Allen and how he got to settle there more than 20 years ago, they were the first fly fishing business in town and they saw the island grow to be what it is now.
Armando and his life partner Sonja are well known in the island and surroundings and show a great deal of knowledge about the local costumes and food. Sonja has written a beautiful book called “Painted Fish” that portrait the life style of the Mayan Riviera.
After a few hours out at sea, we returned to shore with a cargo of fresh fish that Armando´s crew would later cook for dinner. Cold beer and fresh fish with friends made an excellent way to wrap up the day.
In the next morning Armando and his crew offer us a ride back to Tulum as our trip would take us to Bacalar, over 200 Km south.
Visiting the Island of Punta Allen is something you can do on your own or with any of the tour operators all over the Peninsula. Any way you do it, make sure you make some time visit this little piece of heaven on earth.