Outdoor Mexico

Southern Mexico
Page 4 of 4   |  
Map of Southern Mexico

Read through the descriptions of national parks and other protected lands in southern Mexico.

52. Volcan de San Martmn Special Biosphere Reserve - Veracruz
3,705 acres. A regular volcanic cone sheltering several ecozones as it climbs to the heights.

53. Sierra de Santa Martha Special Biosphere Reserve - Veracruz
49,400 acres. This area sheltered the Olmec, Huasteca and Totonaca civilizations. It is still sparsely populated mostly by indigenous people whose culture is quickly disappearing as its youth moves away. Also immensely important ecologically -- and just as threatened. This is one of the last pristine forests in the state, and it is threatened by mismanaged agribusiness and forest. A place to visit and cherish.

54. Chimalapas Forest Natural Reserve - Oaxaca
Almost a million acres of isolated and wild tropical forest. This is one of the most important forests in North America, and is scarcely known. The forest climbs from from 700 feet above sea level to almost 7,900. According to legend, the region is home to people who moved here rather than accept domination by the Spanish. This is a clue: don't go tripping lightly into the Chimalapas. The region is embroiled in a low-level conflict, echoing the one in Chiapas, between the government and logging interests on one side, and the indigenous people and their scientist supporters on the other. Learn your cultural codes, and travel with companions. You might want to land in the Zoque Indian communities of Santa Maria or San Miguel Chimalapa, and talk to one of the researchers there about hiring a guide.

55. Pantanos de Centla Biosphere Reserve - Tabasco
Set aside in 1992, these 741,000 acres are considered by some to be the most important wetlands in North America. Many U.S. and Canadian birds winter here.

56. Palenque National Park - Chiapas
4,374 acres. Important Mayan ruins on a forested plateau, among which are the Temple of the Inscriptions and the Palace, which towers four levels. The ruins are surrounded by a magnificent rain forest, noisy with birds, including the toucan. See Mayan Mexico 

57. Selva del Ocote, Special Biosphere Reserve - Chiapas
118,906 acres. Located in the Grijalva River Basin of Chiapas. Tropical karst landscape featuring caves, sinkholes set amidst dense rainforest and much precious wildlife including the jaguar, king vultures, and the tapir.

58. Cascadas de Agua Azul, Special Biosphere Reserve - Chiapas
6,373 acres. The area is furrowed by the Shumulja and Tulija rivers whose waters have created shallow canyons streaming blue-white waterfalls from the sides. Factor in wildlife - macaws, jaguars, tapirs, monkeys and you got a place you have to visit.

59. Huitepec Ecological Reserve
Two km interpretative near San Cristobal de las Casas, the charming, principal town of the region. Pleasant, easy place to learn about the Chiapas mountain environment.

60. Caqsn del Sumidero National Park - Chiapas
538,200 acres. Located 20 kilometers from Tuxtla Gutiirrez, El Ca&nene;on del Sumidero is a large fissure carved out by Rio Grijalva. The fissure is 1,000 meters high and about 2 km wide. At one end they've built a dam, creating a long lake. Take a tour boat (cheap) down the canyon for views of amazing scenery and wildlife. The park also has camping, hiking and a wide variety of watersports.

61. Bonampak Natural Monument & Yaxchilan Natural Monument - Chiapas
10,760 & 6,474 acres, respectively. This area, hemmed in by the Lacandona Forest, is famous for its frescos depicting the Mayan upper classes. Bonampak, besides its biological value, possesses an historical and archeological value of the highest importance, representing the Mayan culture at its most pompously splendid. The paintings are pretty faded; if you want detail, visit the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. If you want the aura and the context, journey here. There are no accomodations or services. See Mayan Mexico

62. Chan-Kin Area of Protection of Woodland Flora and Fauna - Chiapas
30,095 acres that are part of the Lacandona communal lands. This is an isolated, unpopulated, practically roadless rainforest. The plantlife has hardly been studied. What is known is that it's an important area for birdlife, including half a dozen types of raptors.

63. Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve - Chiapas
815,100 acres of lush jungle featuring old-growth tropical hardwoods, lively wildlife, dramatic scenery. Some consider the vegetation here to be the richest and most diverse of any plant community in the world. It's wet here, with lots of lakes, lagoons and rivers.

64. Lacantun Biosphere Reserve - Chiapas
152,826 acres. They ain't kidding when they call this a rainforest. This reserve is on the communal land of the Lacondona people, who are engaged in a centuries-long struggle to retain their homeland and their way of life. The jungle grows over ruins equal to those at Bonampak and Yaxchilan. See Mayan Mexico

65. Lagunas de Montebello National Park - Chiapas
14,870 acres. A temperate forest featuring 52 lakes and two Mayan archeological zones: Chin-Kultic and the Cavernas del Puente de Dios. Camping, hiking, boating, and swimming. See Mayan Mexico

66. El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve - Chiapas
294,367 acres. One of the most important cloud forests in the Americas. Spans both sides of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountain range. Home to many endangered animal species and intriguing plantlife, including tree ferns dating back to the Carboniferous period.

67. Términos; Lagoon - Campeche
1,798,895 acres, most of which is water in the river delta. Important tropical ecosystem.

68. Calakmul, Biosphere Reserve - Campeche
Translates as"Twin Towers." 1.8 million jungled acres near the Guatamalan border. Important both for its environment and for its 1000 building archelogical zone that may have been the largest human settlement in Meso-America.

69. Punta Put - Yucatan
Largely inaccessible 5,800,000 acres of jungle wilderness shared by the states of Campeche and Quintana Roo.

70. Hampolol Wildlife Station - Campeche
Located nine miles from Campeche The station covers a 250-acre area devoted to conservation research and education.

71. Uxmal
Set in the hills near Uxmal, these ruins possess a distinctive architectural style. You can camp nearby. See Mayan Mexico

72. Rma Celustun Special Biosphere Reserve - Yucatan
146,050 acres. While you're here, explore saltponds, fishing villages, and mangrove swamps. This is one of the few areas that supports the reproduction of the pink flamenco, as well as nurturing other precious species, such as both freshwater and marine turtles, jaguars, boas, and peccaries.

73. Dzibilchaltzn - Yucatan
1,330 acres near Merida. The name means"Written on flat stones." Permanently inhabited by humans since the year 500 B.C., this is one of the most important archeological areas of the peninsula. Included on the premises is a city of the Mayan classical period composed of 8,400 structures. The vegetation is low forest. The park has a museum, ecological displays and visitable archeological digs.

74. Chichen Itza
Perhaps the most famous of all Mayan ruins; definitely the most touristy. But nevermind. Chichen is an impressive, mystical, inspiring place. Hundreds throng here every Spring and Fall equinox to watch the shadow snake ascend or descend the steps of the largest pyramid. If you enjoy truly weird social scenes, visit then. See Mayan Mexico

75. Alacranes Reef - Yucatan
78 nautical miles off the Yucatan coast declared a natural reserve in 1994. The reef is comprised of five islands: Isla Desterrada (the largest), Isla Blanca, Isla del Muerto, Isla Pirez and Isla de los Pajaros. Tour boat is the only way to get there.

76. Río; Lagartos - Yucatan
116,090 acres of mangroves, salt marshes and coastal lagoons. Like Rma Celestum the climate and hydraulics of the area comes together support the pink flamenco. Activities in the park are centered around research and conservation.

77. Isla Contoy - Quintana Roo
435 acres. Fondly known as"The Island of the Birds." Four miles long and a mere 22 (or so) yards wide, this is the perfect habitat for more than 60 species of marine birds. Also a hang out spot for the marine turtle. Access is by permission of SEDESOL.

78. Chankanab Bay National Park - Quintana Roo
Off limits to swimmers, which is all the better for snorkelers who want to explore this amazing coral reef near Cozumal.

79. Garrafón National Park - Quintana Roo
Near Cancun. (Too) popular. A slightly mournful park - the main attraction, snorkeling, is marred by the fact that the coral reef is dead.

80. Xel-ha Lagoon National Park - Quintana Roo
A way over-developed tropical lagoon near Cancun.

81. Isla Cozumel - Quintana Roo
Largest inhabited island in Mexico. Dramatic coral reefs for snorkeling and underwater photography along the 18-mile protected area along the coast.

82. Tulum National Park - Quintana Roo
1,640 acres. Ruins on the beach, right next to Sian Ka'an. You could definitely spend the better part of a week in this corner of the Mexico and have a great time. See Mayan Mexico

83. Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve - Quintana Roo
1,304,000 acres along Mexico's Caribbean coast. A UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Mayan name means"He who is born beneath the sun." What you'll find is the best of jungle wildlife stretching over bays, forests, coastal lagoons, reefs, and cenotes. A 110 km barrier reef is off the coast — the second largest in the world. The place is also riddled with more than 23 unrestored Mayan ruins from different epochs. Notable sites include Chunyaxchi, Chancomac, Vigma del Lago Xamach, Tampak and El Platanal. You can hop here from (or maybe instead of) Cancun. Among the activities include ecotours, diving, swimming, camping and boating.

84. Punta Laguna - Quintana Roo
A small Mayan community of about 50 farmers who have left the door open for visitors to stop in and learn firsthand about traditional Mayan agricultural methods and life.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


park finder
step one
Where are you going?

step one
What do you want to do?

+ More Activities

GEARZILLA: The Gorp Gear Blog

Receive Gear Reviews, Articles & Advice

Preview this newsletter »

Ask Questions