Muyil is an archaeological site that is located between Tulum and Playa Del Carmen. It was one of the first Mayan civilizations in the Yucatán Peninsula and was also one of the longest inhabited. In addition to the ruins and rainforest found on the site, the Muyil Lagoon has crystal clear water and essentially operates like a natural lazy pool. If you are taking a trip to Quintana Roo, you should certainly consider a trip to the Muyil Mayan Ruins, not just to experience the history of the site, but to swim in the Muyil River Float.
Overview of Muyil, Sian Ka’an, and the Muyil River Float
History of Muyil
Muyil, also known as Chunyaxhe, was an active Mayan city from around 300 BC to 1500 AD. In the heyday of the city, it served as a major trading port due to the Sian Ka’an Lagoon found behind it. These man-made lagoons enabled the ancient Mayas to trade goods such as honey, feathers, chewing gum, salt, and chocolate. Evidence points to this city have strong ties to nearby Coba and Tulum.
As nature often wins, many of the homes, temples, and other structures found here were overtaken by the jungle in the 500+ years since the site was abandoned. The site was re-discovered in the 1920s, and since this time, effort has been made to reconstruct and restore some of the original structures there. When you visit the site, you’ll now see large Mayan temples, many of which have a similar architectural style as found in Tikal in Guatemala. Some of these include:
- The Castillo: This narrow temple is the tallest structure on the site at 59 feet. It features a five-tiered pyramid crowned by a small temple. This building in particular has a very similar style to the ones found in Tikal.
- Temple of the Herons: A temple that features stucco decorations on its walls
- Pink Palace: A shorter tiered temple that features a chamber at the top
What I liked about this site is that they have left buildings in their natural state as well, so that you can see how the jungle really reclaims the land if left unattended.
Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve
Sian Ka’an and the surrounding ruins have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, the biosphere is the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean, and in my humble opinion, one of the best things to do in the Yucatán peninsula. Within this reserve, you will be see an abundance of local flora, animals, and many bird species. In my experience, it really does give you a true jungle exploration experience, and is great for anyone who enjoys nature.
Muyil River Float Experience
The Muyil lagoon is also known as Chunyaxché lagoon, and behind the lagoon you’ll find the ancient Mayan canals. Although they do appear quite natural, they were actually carved out by the ancient Mayans who once lived here. These ancient Mayan canals are also mangrove canals, and you’ll see these plants and a number of orchids lining each of the canals as you float through it.
Given the natural current, the river float could really be called the Muyil lazy river. Just put on a life jacket, and you could easily just pass the day by like this. Check out the video of my experience while there below!
As you reach the part where you start your lazy river experience, you will also see another temple right at the entrance. The purpose is not fully known, but it does keep the historical aspect of the site present throughout.
How to Experience the Muyil River Float
If you are planning to visit Muyil and want to experience both the river float and the ruins, I highly suggest that you take a tour. This is for several reasons: 1) Driving in Quintana Roo can be a bit tricky due to corrupt police, and this place is not close to anything. 2) A tour will ensure you learn as much as possible both about the ruins and the biosphere as you travel through. And 3) You’ll have all the supplies and food required to survive the hot day already at your fingertips.
The Best Muyil Tour Experience
I recommend trying this Mayan Ruins & Sian Kaan Nature Reserve Half Day Trip tour as is includes the Muyil river float, uses local guides who are very knowledgeable about the area, and also includes your Muyil ruins entrance fee. This is a small group tour, so you don’t have to worry about being with 30+ other people.
If you choose this option, your day will go a little like this:
- Get picked up by your own driver to get to the tour location. This tour has options for pickup from Tulum and Maya Riviera.
- Explore Muyil ruins and visit the temples mentioned above while learning about the site’s history.
- Walk through the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and get a close up of the local flora and fauna.
- Climb to the top of the Observation Tower. This tower is a bit treacherous to climb as the steps are very steep, but it offers really impressive views of the lagoon and the jungle. If you are afraid of heights, you certainly have the option to skip this, however.
- Take a boat trip to the Muyil canals. When you get to the docking area after walking through the jungle, you will then need to travel in a small boat to the canal area.
- Start the Muyil River Float through the lagoons of the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve. Your tour guide provides you with life jackets that you wear upside down (around your legs like a diaper). This will allow you to really use the canals as a lazy pool – no upper body strength required at all!
- Eat a Vegetarian lunch on site after the swim. The menu is likely to change, but we had a delicious veggie burrito, tamarind juice, and a sweet on my tour. It was all delicious and offered a nice chance to sit down and get to know everyone else on the tour.
This tour comes highly rated at 4.9 stars out of 5.0, and from personal experience I highly recommend it.
Private Boat Tour of the Reserve
If you would prefer to visit Muyil without other travelers, there are private options as well. I recommend the Private Tour of Sian Ka’an and Muyil Archaeological Site. It provides nearly the same experience as the site mentioned above, and may be a better priced option for you if you are traveling with your family.
This tour comes with 100% 5-star reviews, and is therefore another great option for you to consider.
Tips for Visiting Muyil
When visiting Muyil, here are a few things that I recommend that you pack in order to have the most optimal experience:
Comfortable Shoes: These could be either sneakers or ergonomic sandals. You will be walking over bumpy terrain and will need to have tread on your shoes as well so you don’t slip in wet areas.
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Biodegradable Sunscreen and/or Ecological Sun Cream: You cannot wear the usual sunscreen while floating in the lagoon as it may damage the natural environment found there. If you must wear it, be sure it is something that is environment friendly.
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Light Clothes: This maybe goes without saying as it will be quite hot no matter the time of year, but don’t wear anything too heavy. It’s hot and humid and heavy clothes will not serve you.
Swimsuit: Wear this under your clothing so that when it is time to go swimming, you can easily change for the lazy river experience.
Mosquito Repellant: This is a must as there are so many mosquitos in the area. I really got eaten alive! But as with the sunscreen, be sure that this is an environmentally friendly version.
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Light Backpack: Don’t forget to bring something that can help you keep all your things together while there. If you travel on a tour, they can keep this for you while you are on the excursion.
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Healthy Snacks: As the tour is likely to provide, this is most pertinent for those who may have dietary restrictions. Bring something that can help you stand up to the heat, especially if you don’t eat ahead of the tour.
Other Historical Sites to Visit in Quintana Roo, Mexico
The Yucatán Peninsula is full of ruins, so if you’d like to explore more while there, here are a few ideas:
- Chichen Itza: This was one of the largest Maya cities during that time, and is now one of the most visited ruins in all of Mexico. It is best known for the Temple of Kulkulcán at its center.
- Archeological Site of Tulum: This site is one of the best preserved Mayan coastal sites and served as a major port city for Coba during its heyday. It is perhaps best known for its Temple of the Descending God.
- Coba: This site contains a large temple complex, and some of the tallest pyramids in the peninsula. The tallest is Ixmoja, which is 138 ft tall!
In Summary | Muyil River Float Experience
Overall, this amazing place offers one of the most unique experiences you’ll find in the area. In addition to what was mentioned above, there are many fun activities to do, such as sea kayaking in Sian Ka’an. And as it is not as popular as the other mentioned historical sites, it should make for a quiet day as well.
The Muyil River float part of the area really makes this one of the best excursions from the nearby resorts and the lagoon definitely makes this one of the area’s most beautiful landscapes. There is so much to do in Latin America, and this unique experience is further evidence of this point!
Last update on 2024-02-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API