Quintana Roo is easily one of the most beautiful states in Mexico. It borders the Caribbean Sea, has natural jungle areas, and breathtaking beaches. It’s best known as the home of Cancun and the Riviera Maya, where vacationers flock every year to soak up the sun and feel the sand between their toes. Of course, not everything is about partying on the beach. There is so much more to do in Quintana Roo than lounge on the beach, especially with all the biodiversity you can find there.

A great alternative to spending every day at the beach is to visit a nature reserve. Quintana Roo has many, so here we have a list of our top four picks for the best nature reserves in the state.

1- Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

The first reserve you must check out is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, which is easily one of the largest in Quintana Roo. There, you will find all kinds of flora and fauna, from exotic birds and fish to mangrove trees and wetlands. The whole area operates under strict ecological guidelines, so human activities are limited to things that leave little or no impact on the environment.

The best: You can do dive or snorkel with sea turtles and enjoy incredible beaches.

It is one of the most extraordinary part of the Yucatan Peninsula, it is located south of Cancun at 125 miles, 80 miles from Playa del Carmen and near of Tulum, at 45 miles. To get here you can take the road number 307 to Tulum, to the junction with Chumpon, then take a dirt road and continue until the reserve. From Playa del Carmen you can take a bus or a taxi heading to Tulum and stop at Akumal. In Tulum, you can swim with dolphins, this is the favorite program for the family, specially for kids.

Tulum in Quintana Roo state.

2- Rio Lagartos

Keeping with the wetlands and birds theme, the next reserve on the list is Rio Lagartos. Don’t let the name fool you; you will find here more birds than lizards. In fact, you will see so many flamingos you will wonder why it isn’t called Rio Flamingos or something along those lines. Just like in Sian Ka’an, you will be able to explore mangrove and wetland areas as well as sand dunes and more. It is a perfect place for bird-watching.

Rio Lagartos is part of a natural reserve in the state of Yucatan, Mexico. It is approximately 142 miles from Merida and 155 miles from Cancun.

3- Yum Balam

If you thought Sian Ka’an was a big nature reserve, wait till you see Yum Balam. This reserve covers an area of over 380,000 hectares and includes Holbox Island, another great travel destination. It is located 40 miles at north of Cancun and it is officially the largest nature reserve in Mexico, it encompasses pretty much any ecosystem you can imagine. The typical mangrove forests and wetlands share the reserve with lagoons, jungle, and even coral reefs.

4- Punta Laguna Nature Reserve

Punta Laguna Nature Reserve is much smaller than Yum Balam, and perfect for a day trip. The reserve is found around a beautiful lake, and you can find all kinds of animals there from spider monkeys to even jaguars, if you’re lucky. There are tons of types of exotic birds to watch as well, with toucans sometimes making an appearance. The best: take tours through the jungle and receive the welcome of a true Mayan Shaman before descending to rappel into a cenote.

It is located 10 miles from Chemax, 70 miles from Cancun and 62 miles from Playa del Carmen.

What do you prefer visiting?