It’s time for another weekend getaway in the beautiful Riviera Maya! This time, we’re exploring one of the most incredible hidden treasures in the region. Punta Laguna is a small Mayan village, home to monkeys, jaguars and plenty other wildlife. So, get ready, we’re going on a road trip.
What is Punta Laguna?
Punta Laguna is a small Mayan village that sits within a 5,000-hectare, government-protected nature reserved called Ma’ax Yetel Kooh. That is Mayan for House of the Spider Monkey and the Jaguar. This reserve is home to its own unique spider monkey subspecies, along with howler monkeys, pumas, coatis and hundreds of species of birds. The village itself gives you insight into the Mayan way of life as it is lived today. You can see thatched-roof houses, cooking over open fires and freely-roaming farm animals which are reflective of the way that these families have lived for decades.
How to get to Punta Laguna
Reaching Punta Laguna is quite easy. It is located almost a straight shot from Tulum via the Coba road. Heading from Tulum, take a right at the Coba road and follow the signs for Nuevo Xcan until you see the sign for Punta Laguna.
There are no restaurants or hotels here – it is a genuine jungle village. You will, however, want to either pack a meal with your or stop for refreshments before you arrive. Along the way to the Coba road, there are a few small towns where you can stop for refreshments and breaks. You can also check out the handicrafts made by local artisans. However, we highly recommend you skip these and see them on your way back. Pack refreshments and snacks the day before. You want to reach Punta Laguna very early in the morning to avoid the swarms of tours that arrive after 9am.
What to do in Punta Laguna
While this truly authentic Mayan village is not home to restaurants or art galleries, there is no shortage of activities to take part in. At Punta Laguna, you can purchase a tour of the jungle and lagoon (reason for which it is called Punta Laguna), to experience the wildlife and enjoy a morning full of fun activities. The reason for which you want to arrive early is to take a guided tour through the jungle trails and be able to spot both howler and spider monkeys on their morning feeding migration. You will be able to spot them around 7 or 8 in the morning. The tour also guides you down to the lagoon where you can row across to then zipline over the lush jungle.
Lastly, the tour allows you to dive into a beautiful cenote. Not first without being blessed in a Mayan ceremony. At the bottom of the cenote – if you bring a waterproof flashlight – you will be able to spot a few skulls from old Mayan sacrifices practiced in the area.
The locals at Punta Laguna are very friendly. They are often more than willing to chat about their culture and daily life. Some may even invite you to have a look insider their home. However, keep in mind that if they do so, it would be considered impolite to not buy at least a small trinket from the homeowners. Many villagers are also willing to let you take photos of them – just make sure you ask permission first!
Walk through the jungle!
Most of the villagers and guides in Punta Laguna speak Spanish or Yucatecan Maya. Although some may have some limited English skills. If you don’t speak Spanish, make sure you either have a Spanish-speaker with you, or are prepared to translate using dictionaries or an electronic device.
Within the village, you will find a small walking road that passes several trails and a cenote on the way to the saltwater lagoon. You can find a dock stretching out over the water to give you a lovely view of the water and wildlife. Fishing is strictly prohibited. Swimming, however, is at your own risk, as crocodiles have been sighted in the lagoon.
There are also a number of trails available to explore. You can view the abundant wildlife from here. The entrance fee – without a tour – for each trail is 30 pesos per person. You must also hire a local guide for 150 pesos for a group of up to 10 people. Guides are experienced and have been trained by primatologists to ensure they are knowledgeable about the wildlife.
In addition to the trails and tours, there are also some ancient ruins to explore, freshwater cenotes for crocodile-free swimming and caves for rappelling.
Bring comfortable clothing and shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking, and possibly rappelling, hiking and swimming. So, make sure you’re covered for it all.
Don’t forget to bring some energy-packed snacks such as granola bars, and bottled water. The village has no restaurants, and it is likely you won’t find any shops around. Make sure you come prepared to avoid hunger or dehydration.
We highly recommend you bring biodegradable sunscreen and insect repellent. You will be in the jungle, after all, and insects are unavoidable. Make sure it is biodegradable to avoid harming the environment.
Bring cash! If you will be buying the guided tour, paying for the walking trails or giving tips to the villagers, you must do so in cash. They will not accept any other form of payment and there are no ATMs nearby.
Most of all, however, bring your adventurous spirit! You are here to enjoy the wonderful nature of the lush Mayan jungle. Be open to learning about the lifestyle and customs of these locals. And don’t forget to snap as many photos as possible – especially of the spider monkeys! Come back next week to see where we’ll be headed next weekend!