Are you based in Merida and want to see something other than the Mayan ruins sites, cenotes, or old colonial buildings? Does a powdery sand beach, beautiful pink flamingos, and a maze of mangroves sound amazing? Then, a Celestun self-guided day trip from Merida should definitely be on your list.
Are you unsure how to do it on your own, whether it is worth visiting, or what to see in Celestun? Don’t worry—I’ve got you covered!

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Things to Know Before Your Celestun Self-Guided Day Trip from Merida

flamingos in Celestun - self-guided day trip from Merida

I knew I wanted to visit Celestun and see the flamingos the moment we reached Merida, but finding the right information about getting there and booking the boat trip was confusing.

Not many consider it worth taking the two-hour bus ride to get there only to see some flamingos or a deserted beach, but I am so glad we decided to go on this self-guided day trip!

It was worth the trouble of doing some research since we had such a fantastic time indulging in seafood at a restaurant on the beach, strolling through the sleepy town, viewing wildlife, and enjoying the warmth and hospitality of the locals! 

About Celestun

Celestun is a secluded fishing village well known for its mangrove forest, which occasionally hosts a vast flamingo population. It is also known for its beaches, which serve as a hatching ground for sea turtles.

On one side, you’ll have the biosphere reserve; on the other side is the ocean, so it’s rather a sleepy town, and the nightlife is almost nonexistent.

But if you’re looking for a laid-back village with no one around, you should consider this Celestun self-guided day trip from Merida.

How far is Celestun from Merida?

The distance from Merida to Celestun is 90 kilometers, and depending on your means of transportation, the journey takes 1 to 2 hours. 

Best time to visit Celestun on a self-guided day trip from Merida 

The flamingo season in Celestun starts in November and lasts until April, with December to February being the best months to spot the world’s largest population of American flamingos. By March, the migration starts over, and they’ll be soon gone. If you travel during those months, a Celstun self-guided day trip should be high on your list; just make sure to start your day early.

beautiful bird in Celestun, Mexico

Even if you come in the off-season, that doesn’t mean you should skip a boat ride through the mangrove forest and visit other area residents.
If you’re coming for the beaches, remember that they are not as spectacular as those on Quintana Roo but definitely have a chilled vibe.

Is Celestun worth visiting?

I can definitely say YES. Even if it is only a day trip from Merida, it is worth the trip. If you visit in the right period of the year, you can see flamingos, explore the mangrove forest, and lie down at the beach.

It’s also a great way to escape Merida’s fever for a couple of days, slow down, and unwind. Take long walks on the beach, indulge in Mexican cuisine, and explore the Ria Celestun mangrove forest! 

What to bring on a Celestun self-guided day trip from Merida?

Have you ever seen a flamingo flying in the wild? Bring your binoculars for a better view of these majestic beauties. I don’t have to mention the zoom lenses since you’ll see the flamingos only from a boat, from a considerable distance. 

It will also get hot, so wear a hat or a scarf to have on you during the boat ride. 

Are you visiting Celestun for the beach or to swim in a freshwater spring? If you plan to spend a couple of hours at the beach, bring a swimsuit and sunscreen. 

You’ll find everything here in terms of food, so grab some snacks from a street food vendor and go on a picnic on the beach. Or maybe try some delicious seafood while admiring the sea at the terraces along the beach. 

Lastly, remember to bring insect repellent, as there are mosquitoes in the mangroves—and they are nasty!

 

How to Get to Celestun on a Self-Guided Day Trip from Merida

Depending on your budget, you can choose from several transportation options to get to Celestún from Mérida. You can get from Merida to Celestun by renting a car, taking a bus, taking Colectivo, or booking a tour.

a hilarious taxi bike in front of a building in Celestun on a self guided trip from Merida

By car

You can get to Celestun by renting a car, a common way to visit this part of Mexico. The best site to book a rental car in Mexico is Discover Cars. This easy-to-use booking platform compares car rental deals from many trusted companies, which enables them to secure the best car rental prices. This is the easiest way to rent a car in the Yucatan Peninsula. The rental prices are low, and they usually include insurance.

The drive takes no more than 1 hour and 30 minutes, and the road is pretty good. You can even rent a car for the day from one of the rental offices in Merida at a reasonable price. Drive westbound on Highway 281, and you’ll reach Celestun in no time!

By public bus

Daily, Oriente buses leave hourly from Noreste Terminal in Merida, located at the intersection of Calle 67 & Calle 50(write Terminal Noreste Merdia in Google Maps, and you’ll find the right location). There is also the possibility of taking the bus to Celestun from Merida Centro Historico. 

Go early in the morning, at 6 am or 8 am, as the drive takes a bit over two hours. The last bus from Merida to Celestun is at 8 pm.

Buy either a return ticket or only a one-way ticket, and decide later how to return to Merida.

To return to Merida, take the Oriente bus from the bus station at Calle 13 between Calle 4 & 6 in Celestun, which is in the center of town.

The disadvantage of taking the bus is that sometimes it takes forever to depart, even when the number of passengers per vehicle has already been reached. Consider renting a car if three hours on a bus seems too much for you!

By Colectivo

Paradero de Combis Celestun – Merida is the company that runs between those places multiple times a day( simply write the name in Google Maps and you’ll find the right location)

Adress: 97000, entre 48 y av. 1° de mayo, Calle 67 454p, Calle 67 454p, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc., Mexico ( in front of the public market) 

Their timetable changes frequently and they are not very reliable so maybe you should consider taking the public bus. 

You can find the Colectivo parking area in Celestun, near the bus station, and they usually depart 15 minutes before buses do. As soon as you recognize the Catholic Church(Iglesia Católoca) in Celestun, you’ll be able to find the bus/Colectivo station as well.

Book a day tour from Merida, the safest bet! 

If renting a car or spending almost three hours on a bus is not an option, you might consider joining a tour. You will be picked up directly from your hotel in Merida, so you don’t have to stress about getting to Celestun. You’ll get to explore the Ria Celestun Biosphere Reserve, take a scenic boat ride through the mangroves, swim at the freshwater springs, and enjoy some free time at the beach. 

BOOK YOUR TOUR TO CELESTUN HERE

How we did it. We wanted to travel by Colectivo to Celestun, but the information on our departure station was incorrect. So we went by bus to Celestun and came back via Colectivo. Next time, we’ll make sure to rent a car, since it will give us more free time to enjoy the beauty of this place.

 

Best Things to Do in Celestun on a Self-Guided Day Trip from Merida 

 

Ria Celestun Boat Ride to see the Flamingos

going on a boat tour to see the flamingos in Celestun, on a self-guided day trip from Merida

Flamingos have always been a fascination with their elegant curvy necks, long, backward-bending legs, beautiful pink color, and graceful gestures.

Observing them in the wild from a distance is the main reason why you’re considering going on a Celestun self-guided day trip from Merida, am I right? So, let’s dive in. There are two alternatives to getting the boat:

Going on a boat tour from the beach 

Once in Celestun, leave the bus station behind and head to the beach. You will see many motorboats waiting here. The tour takes around two hours and drives you through a beautiful lagoon to the Pink Beauties area.

The boatmen do not speak English, but don’t you worry; there is no need for translation. The wildlife makes herself present in no time, and you just want to keep silent, admire the views, and take in the sounds. 

Going on a boat tour from the bridge

Just before you reach Celestun, the road passes a small bridge. Make a quick turn to the left, and you’ll see the parking lot. You can embark on a motorboat tour from here to see the flamingos. It’s the authorized boat parking lot, closer to the flamingo area, which makes this tour shorter but surprisingly costly. 

If you are short on time, choose this option. Just make sure to ask the bus or Colectivo driver to stop here; otherwise, you will have to walk back around 1.5 kilometers. 

Join a public boat and split the cost with others, although sometimes you might have to wait for others to join. Or book your private boat.

TIP. Usually, the prices are per boat(around 3,000 pesos for six people), so for a more cost-effective experience, ask others to join your boat or wait for other tourists who are also interested in a boat ride(the price for individuals is 500 pesos). We asked another couple traveling on the same bus from Merida to share a boat with us, and we split the bill. 

Our Celestun self-guided day trip from Merida experience

flamingos in Celestun - self-guided day trip from Merida

After leaving the dock, we soon reached the beautiful coastline. Suddenly, everything changed: the scenery transformed dramatically, and the place felt quiet and alluring. Birds were waiting to be captured, and fish escorted our boat for nearly 20 minutes when we finally reached the flamingo spot. 

The color of these birds was so vibrant, and they looked so relaxed. Apparently, the colors appear from the crustaceans they consume, but it takes up to two years for the youngsters to turn pink. The boatman slowed the boat down and let us enjoy the silence for another 20 minutes—such a joy to be here and watch them in their natural habitat. We were amazed by the number and the beauty of these elongated necks and spindly legs pink birds, who just stood there and let us photograph them! 

Along with the pink, bright birds, we witnessed other birdlife: herons, egrets, cormorants, pelicans, and spoonbills. 

 

The Mangroves Forest 

taking a boat tour through the mangroves forest in Celestun - self-guided day trip

taking a boat tour through the mangroves forest

After observing the flamingos, the boat slowly made its way into the mangrove forest. We were suddenly in a completely different world, so we left the boat and walked on a wooden walkway to get deep inside the thick mangrove forest. 

Soon, we reached a freshwater spring called Ojo de Agua, but no one from our group was brave enough to swim as the wetness didn’t look so appealing. We hoped to spot an alligator but had no luck at all. After that, we returned to the boat station and ended our 2 hours tour.

 

Playa Celestun

empty beach in Celestun

If you were to come to Celestun just for the beach, it would be well worth it. It’s not as glamorous and polished as Cancun or Tulum, but it’s serene here. Everything seems natural and unadulterated, as if time had stood still. There is a charm that almost makes me return to this forgotten village.

Since many people come to Celestun only to see the flamingos, the beach is mostly deserted. If you’re coming on a Celestun self-guided day trip from Merida, you should consider spending some time here. Lay in the sun, collect seashells, sample seafood on one of the terraces, or take a walk on the beach! You can even see pelicans in the distance if you keep your eyes peeled.

If you stay overnight in Celestun, don’t forget to watch the sunset from the beach, something you don’t get to witness in Quintana Roo.

Explore the Village 

exploring Celestun village

After visiting the Ria Celestun Reserve, you still have plenty of time to explore the sleepy village.

If you are hungry, there are a few nice restaurants with fresh seafood. However, if you buy snacks from the food stalls, picnic on the beautiful white sandy beach. Maybe some cute stray dogs will accompany you along, but they are harmless.

Exploring the village is another must-do thing on this Celestun self-guided day trip from Merida.

standing in front of the beautiful Catholic Church in Celestun, Mexico

Walking around the village’s central part, you will notice the beautiful Catholic church guarding the plaza. You’ll find some dusty small shops and eateries, but other than that, everything looks frozen. Get lost in the maze of lanes, witness how the locals live and indulge in the atmosphere.

Want to explore more? For a small price, rent a bicycle taxi and driver from the beach to take you through the village. You will love it!

man selling ice-cream in Celestun, Mexico

My recommendation is to taste some homemade ice cream from the man selling it on the streets near the beach before heading to the bus or Colectivo station. It will be simply delicious!

Overnight in Celestun on your self-guided trip from Merida

man standing in front of his house in Celestun, Mexico

If you have time and travel independently, consider staying in Celestun overnight. Leave Merida around noon and arrive in Celestun in the late afternoon. Get a boat tour about this time of the day. The sun is lower on the horizon, and you will have more vivid colors of the pink residents and water. The only downside is the limited chances of sharing the boat with other tourists.

 

Planning a Trip to Mexico?

Get an eSIM before the trip

Because phones have become our most important devices, it’s necessary to have a data connection as soon as you step foot in a different country. Your home data plan might only work if you paid for a much more expensive package, finding wifi connections in airports or train stations might be tricky, and seeking a local store to buy a SIM card might be exhausting. Forget all of that!

You just purchase an e-SIM, install it on your phone, and activate the plan when you’re ready to use it. Getting out of the plane and instantly connecting to data was a game changer for me. I didn’t have to waste time standing in line to get a local SIM card or finding a wifi connection to book a taxi to reach my hotel.

If you ask me, getting an e-SIM is a quintessential part of traveling. There is no physical installation and no long-term commitments. And the best part is that you can always top up or purchase a new plan through the app. Pretty convenient, right? Find the best data plan for Mexico HERE.

Secure your travel insurance

We never leave home without travel insurance designed to cover our expenses if something goes wrong. If you’re still on the lookout for travel insurance for your trip to Mexico, I highly recommend HEYMONDO, a trusted insurance provider for leisure and business trips, backpackers, long-term travelers, and digital nomads. Their travel insurance protects against theft, flight delays, injury, illness, cancellations, and much more.

Mexico related articles

If you’re planning a trip to Mexico, then you might want to take a look at my other travel guides about Mexico:

EXPLORING COBA RUINS ON YOUR OWN, MEXICO

10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN MERIDA, MEXICO

EXPLORING CHICHEN ITZA ON YOUR OWN, MEXICO

SELF-GUIDED DAY TRIP TO SIAN KA’AN & MUYIL RUINS. Are you interested in floating through a mangrove forest in a crystal-clear Mayan canal on a self-guided day trip? Learn how from this article!

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Celestun - self-guided day trip from Merida

 

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