Celestun is a secluded fishing village with a beautiful white sandy beach well known for the vast population of flamingos. If you travel to Merida and you want to see something different than the Mayan ruins sites, cenotes or old colonial cities, a Celestun self-guided day trip from Merida should definitely be on your list.
HOW TO GET TO CELESTUN
RENT A CAR. You can get to Celestun by a rented car, a common way to visit Yucatan peninsula. The rental prices are low, and they usually include insurance. The drive takes no more than 1 hour30 minutes, and the road is pretty good.
BY BUS. Four buses per day are leaving from Noriente terminal in Merida, located at the intersection of Calle 67 & Calle 50. Go early morning, at 6 am, or 8 am because the drive takes almost 3 hours. You can take the bus back to Merida from Calle 13 between Calle 4 & 6 in Celestun. Buy a one-way ticket and decide later how to come back to Merida.
BY COLECTIVO, our favourite way of travelling in the Yucatan Peninsula. We wanted to travel by Colectivo to Celestun, but our information regarding the departure station was not correct. So we went by bus to Celestun and came back via Colectivo. You can find the Colectivo parking area in Celestun, near the bus station and they usually depart 15 minutes before buses do.
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BEST TIME TO VISIT CELESTUN
Flamingos migrate throughout the year, but you will find them in Celestun between November and April. If you travel during those months, a Celstun self-guided day trip should be high on your list. By March the migration starts over.
THE BOAT TOUR
The main attraction in Celestun is the motorboat tour to see the flamingos and the mangroves forest. There are two alternatives to get the boat:
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. From here you can embark on a motorboat tour to see the flamingos. It’s the boat authorised 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 driver to stop here; otherwise, you will have to walk back around 1.5 kilometres.
FROM THE BEACH
Leave the bus station 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 and to the flamingo area. The boatsmen do not speak English but don’t you worry; there is no need for translation.
TIP. Usually, the prices are per boat, so for a more cost-effective experience, ask others to join your boat tour or wait for other tourists also interested in a boat ride. We asked some tourists travelling in the same bus with us from Merida to share a boat with us, and we split the bill.
THE FLAMINGO AREA
We passed the beautiful coastline, and after 20 minutes we reached the flamingo area. We were amazed by the number and the beauty of the flamingos. The colour of these birds was so vibrant, and they looked so relaxed. It seems like the colours appear from the shrimps they consume, and 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 there and watch them in their natural habitat. Beside flamingos, we witnessed other birdlife too: herons, egrets, cormorants, pelicans and spoonbills.
THE MANGROVES FOREST
After watching the flamingos, the boat slowly made its way into the mangroves 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. After that, we reached a spring pool, but no one from our group was brave enough to swim. We hoped to spot an alligator but no luck at all. After that, we headed back to the boat station and ended our 2 hours tour.
RELATED: SELF-GUIDED DAY TRIP TO SIAN KA’AN & MUYIL RUINS. Are you interested in floating through a mangroves forest, in a cristal clear Mayan canal, on a self-guided day trip? Learn how from this article!
EXPLORE THE VILLAGE
Now it’s time to explore the village. Take some time to see how the locals live and how Celestun village looks like, simply indulge in the atmosphere. If you are hungry, there are a few nice restaurants with fresh seafood. Though, if you pack your lunch, go on a picnic on the beautiful white sandy beach. Walk around the main square, and you will see a little church and some small shops. Taste some 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!
You can rent a bicycle taxi from the beach to take you through the village, for a small price.
SPENT THE NIGHT OVER IN CELESTUN
Leave Merida around noon and arrive in Celestun 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 colours of flamingos and water. The only downside is that the chances of sharing the boat with other tourists are limited. There are plenty of B&B’s and hostels to spend the night over.
WHAT TO BRING
- bring your binoculars and zoom lenses
- wear a hat or a scarf
- bring a swimsuit if you are brave enough to take a swim in the spring pool
- pack a lunch and go on a picnic on the beach
- bring insect repellent and sunscreen