If you love wildlife and nature, this is definitely the perfect place for you. Celestún is a pretty little fishing village located approximately 100 kilometers southwest of Mérida. It is known not only for its relaxed vibe, beautiful white-sand beaches and delicious seafood restaurants but also for its abundant wildlife and its river (ría).
But what makes this place even more special is the Celestun Biosphere Reserve, a wetland reserve that is home to vast flocks of flamingos, as well as herons and many other bird species. Here you can also find over 200 species of different mammals that inhabit the Celestún river. The main ones are ocelot, jaguar, tigrillo and spider monkeys together with 3 species of sea turtles and 2 of crocodiles. All these species are in danger of extinction, so it is very important to respect and preserve the environment.
There are many activities you can do here to enjoy the amazing nature of this place and appreciate its beauty.
The most popular thing to do in Celestún is to contract a boat to navigate the ría and see the flamingos. You can find these boats at the entrance of Celestún and you can easily contract with a guide. The boat costs between 1,500 and 2,000 MXN pesos and it can take up to 6 passengers. The price can vary depending on the season. While navigating the river you will see the pinkiest flamingos in the world, (due to the concentration of carotene in the water) in their natural habitat as they head to the Ría de Celestún for feeding and nesting. The best time to see them here is from December to February (nesting season). This is the only flamingo colony known in North America and it is essential to treat the birds and their surroundings with respect. Make sure your guide doesn’t get too close to the flamingos and please, don’t encourage him to do so. This is a beautiful yet fragile ecosystem and we need to protect it. Avoid loud noises and abrupt moves to not scare the birds. We recommend starting your tour early (ideally no later than 9 am) to be able to see more birds and enjoy the calm environment. Part of the boat tour includes a visit to beautiful freshwater springs, where the water is crystal clear and ideal for swimming.
If you are looking for an alternative way to explore the beauty of Celestún, this eco excursion is perfect for you. As you arrive in Celestun, after you pass the bridge, you will see a hand-painted sign on the left that reads “Manglares de Dzinitun”. Here you will find a small organization of fishermen who started this eco-venture to boost their little income and to restore the mangroves. You will jump on board of a private canoe and you will be taken through the fascinating mangrove jungle and on to the open water of the river. During this 2 hours tour, you will be surrounded by wonderful wildlife with over 300 species of birds. You will also have the chance to see flamingos without the need to jump on a motorboat and with the exclusivity of a private tour. You will not only appreciate the beautiful surroundings in total silence and tranquillity, but you will also learn about the importance of the mangrove ecosystem. Most of all, while doing that you will be supporting a community of people that joined together to rebuild and protect the mangroves.
Relax at the beach
You don’t necessarily have to do something to appreciate this beautiful place. If all you want to do is relax and do nothing, you are in the right place. As already mentioned, Celestún is a very quiet and peaceful town with few small shops, a little harbor and a long stretch of sandy beach. This is all you need to disconnect and recharge your battery. Grab your favorite book and get yourself a nice spot on the beach. Feel the wind blowing on your skin and feel the sand between your toes. When the sun gets too hot, jump in the sea and refresh yourself in the clear waters. I know it may sound like a movie scene but trust me, this is what is waiting for you in Celestún. If you feel like moving a little bit, enjoy a nice and relaxing walk on the beach. Don’t forget to stop once in a while to collect some nice shells. To perfectly end a nice day at the beach, wait until the sun disappears under the horizon and admire the beautiful warm colors painting the sky and putting up an incredible show.
Whatever activity you decide to do, make sure you stop at one of the many seafood restaurants to taste delicious food. No matter if you spend the morning navigating the river, exploring the mangroves or just chilling in the sun, you deserve a special meal. Here you will find a great variety of fresh seafood, from starters like ceviche and cocktails, to exquisite specialties for all tastes and palates. Most of the restaurants offer tables right on the beach. What’s better than eating with your feet in the sand right in front of the sea? From fish filet stuffed with seafood to fresh lobster, choosing what to order is a very tough choice. But whatever you will have, it’s gonna taste delicious! We absolutely love seafood and we always look forward to lunch when visiting Celestún.
How to get to Celestún
Getting to this paradisiac destination is very easy. If you are driving from Mérida, it will take you about an hour and a half. There are three exits from the west side of the Periférico out of Mérida. The northerly route goes via Hunucmá, the southerly route goes via Umán, and the new faster route (in between these 2) goes via Tetiz. Continue on to Kinchil and then Celestún. You will find signs along the way. To reach Celestún by bus, go to the Noreste terminal on Calle 67 at Calle 50. The trip takes about two hours and it costs around 50 MXN pesos. Buses leave almost every hour from 5 am to 8 pm.
I hope you found this article interesting and that you are now very excited to explore Celestún. Make sure you add it to your list and head there to spend a great day surrounding by beautiful nature. If time is not an issue, we highly recommend you to spend a night there. This way you will fully appreciate the relaxed vibe and the peaceful atmosphere.