Punta Allen sits at the end of a narrow spit of land that stretches south nearly 40km from its start below Tulum. There are some charming beaches along the way, with plenty of privacy, and most of the spit is within the protected, wildlife-rich Reserva de la Biosfera Sian Ka’an. Hurricane Dean whipped the region pretty good, but the mangrove forest was not substantially damaged.
The road can be a real muffler-buster between gradings, especially when holes are filled with water from recent rains, making it impossible to gauge their depth. The southern half, south of the bridge at Boca Paila, is the worst stretch – some spots require experienced off-road handling or you’ll sink into a meter of sand. It is doable even in a non-4WD vehicle, but bring along a shovel and boards just in case – you can always stuff palm fronds under the wheels to gain traction – and plan on returning that rental with a lot more play in the steering wheel.
There’s an entrance gate to the reserve about 10km south of Tulum. At the gate, there’s a short nature trail taking you to a rather nondescript cenote (Ben Ha). The trail’s short, so go ahead and take a second to have a look.
This is where intrepid adventuring really takes off. Bring a couple of hammocks, lots of water, a sixer of cerveza, and mosquito nets for remote coastal camping. Around 30km from the entrance gate is an excellent camping spot with the lagoon on one side and glorious blue ocean on the other.
One colectivo makes the four-hour trip daily, leaving Tulum center at 2pm and arriving in Punta Allen about 6pm. It returns to Tulum the next day, departing from Punta Allen at 5am. You may also be able to come on a motorboat via the mainland, though it's very expensive and less frequent.