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All about Celestún in Mexico

Updated: April 6, 2024

Main Category: Day Trips


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Author: Tobias

Celestún is a beautiful biosphere reserve with beaches, mangrove forests, flamingos and many other wildlife. Celestún is about 105km away from Mérida. The journey by car takes about 1h 20min from the city center of Mérida and the place is most of the time bustling.


Day Trips


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Reserva de la Biosfera Ría Celestún, Yucatán, Mexiko







105km from Mérida

Travel Time:

1h 20min from Mérida


No entry fee

Price Level:




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Celestún is a small sleepy fishing village on the Emerald Coast, northwest of Mérida. Celestún has miles of natural beaches with soft white sand and calm water.

The beaches are lined with coconut trees, some of which are completely unspoiled, and numerous seafood restaurants, so stay for a lunch of just-caught seafood before heading back to Mérida.

There is a small road in Celestun that runs parallel to the beach (but offers no view of the beach). But there the restaurants along the road are directly on the beach. However, it is not a great street if you only want to stroll around - as in Progreso, for example.

Emerald Coast

The Emerald Coast (Costa Esmeralda in Spanish) is an unofficial name for the the 98 km long coastal area in the north of the Yucatan Peninsula. The name comes from the emerald colored water.

Some interesting figures:

Figures about Emerald Coast
Figures about Emerald Coast

The Emerald Coast
The Emerald Coast

Celestún beach

If you also want to go to the beach, you will be interested to know that Celestún, together with Sisal, has the most beautiful beaches on the Emerald Coast in the north of Yucatán.

The beach (Celestún Playa) is nice and wide, relatively crowd-free, and oriented to the west, this allows you to watch beautiful sunsets over the sea. The beach is ideal for relaxing walks and sunbathing, as well as water sports such as kayaking.

If you want to snorkel, you can, of course, but the water is not ideal. Due to the conditions in the Gulf of Mexico, the water is a bit murky and you don't have very good visibility underwater.

Relaxing on the beach
Relaxing on the beach

Biosphere reserve

The real attraction and most popular thing to do in Celestún is to visit the 600 square kilometer biosphere reserve "Reserva de la Biósfera Ría Celestún" with the "Parque Natural del Flamenco Mexicano de Celestún".

As the name suggests, it is home to countless flamingos - estimated at around 25,000 - which nest in the surrounding mangrove forests. On the bird island "Isla de los Pájaros" you can also observe other water birds like cormorants, pelicans, frigate birds, egrets or ibises.

The mangroves can thrive in salt water because their leaves can excrete the excess salt. The bushes and trees are anchored by roots and intertwined. Between the mangroves also turtles, crocodiles or snakes feel at home.

We recommend a boat tour, which usually takes about two hours and can be booked locally. Prices are per boat so you could try and join other people to split the cost.

The biosphere reserve is part of a vast wetland corridor in the west of the peninsula. In 2003, the reserve was included in the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB).

At the edge of the mangrove forest
At the edge of the mangrove forest

A few tips

As already written, you should pay attention to the travel time, depending on how important the bird life is to you. Another tip: You should use insect protection, because especially in the mangroves there are a lot of mosquitoes.

The boats stay at a safe distance to avoid disturbing the birds. If you want to photograph the flamingos (or animals in general), you should use a zoom lens.

Without a decent zoom lens, the impressive flamingo will otherwise become just a pink blob. And on the other hand, an ultra-wide angle lens is a good choice for the landscape shots.

Pink pelicans
Pink pelicans

How to get to Celestún from Mérida?

You can reach Celestún very easily by car on a well-maintained road. From Mérida, Celestún can be reached by bus every hour (travel time is also about an hour or a bit longer). You can take a public bus from the corner of Calle 67 and Calle 50 in Mérida.

If you go by car, you can park either at the bridge or at the beach. The bridge is closer to the flamingos. Directly by the bridge (there is only this one), on the side of the village, is the landing stage for the boats.

But the boatsmen will probably come up to you anyway and offer their tours. For a boat with room for 5-6 people, you should expect to pay about Mex-$1,500-2,000.


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Best Mérida Day Trips

If you would like to explore the Yucatan Peninsula and Mérida with a guided tour, there are wonderful experiences from Viator. We have selected the three best tours for you.

You save time and nerves, get all the insider tips you need from an expert tour guide and can join up with others if you wish. And it's also safer to travel in a group.

Chichen Itza, Private Cenote, Food Experience & the magic Izamal

My Top Recommendation (likely to sell out)

Chichen Itza, Private Cenote, Food Experience & the magic Izamal

The very best Chichén Itzá tour and free cancellation. It starts from US-$97

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Another very special experience

Tour to Cenote of Santa Barbara and Acanceh area from Merida

This! Super beautiful cenotes! You have free cancellation. It starts from US-$114

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Not either/or, but also!

Celestun Beach Mangrove Boat Ride from Merida

One more must-have. You also have free cancellation. It starts from US-$122

average rating is 4.5 out of 5
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