Located 60 miles southwest of Merida, Celestún is a quaint fishing village where the beaches are lovely and there are no crowds. There are several hotels: Xixim, Hotel Manglares, Castillito-kin-nah Guest House, and Casa Celeste Vida Guesthouse, several very good seafood restaurants, a few small shops and a harbor. There is also a long stretch of beach with lots of shells to explore. If you only have time for a day trip, the round-trip can be done in one day; however, it is highly recommended to spend a few nights in this peaceful, beautiful part of Yucatán.
Celestún is famous not only for its seafood restaurants, such as La Palapa and Casa Peon, but also for its river or ría, beautiful flamingo colonies, fresh water springs, and calm beaches. You will also find a 36 foot tall lighthouse and salt fields near the town.
The most popular thing to do here is contract a boat to travel the ría and see the flamingos. These boats are located at the entrance to Celestún, where you can easily contract with a guide. For up to 6 passengers, the cost is approximately 1200 pesos for one hour, 1600 pesos for 2 hours; subject to change.
The flamingos of Celestún are a beautiful part of a fragile ecosystem. When you go to see them, we encourage you to treat the birds and their surroundings with respect so that they will be able to continue breeding and living there. Sometimes a guide, in order to show the tourist a good time, will attempt to get too close to the flamingos. This has a very negative effect on these exotic birds and you should encourage your guide to stay at a healthy distance. And, please don’t ask them to get closer if they are staying away. Refrain from abrupt moves or noises which might scare the birds. If we don’t protect this fragile ecosystem, the birds will not be able to survive. Needless to say, there is absolutely no hunting or shooting of anykind permitted in Celestún or Ría Lagartos.
Celestún is the main courtship area for the greater pink flamingo, during the fall and winter months, in the mangroves. Then they move to the sandy beaches of Río Lagartos for nesting and birthing. Part of the boat excursion includes a visit to the fresh water springs “Valdiosera” and “Venecia” where the water is sweet, transparent and ideal for swimming.
You will also visit the “petrified forest” Tampeten, a strange place where you can see just the trunks of these trees with their roots in the water.
And there is a small organization of fisherman trying to get an eco-venture going, to boost their other diminishing income, “Manglares de Dzinitun”. In the words of a reader: “For a modest sum I had a most enjoyable private canoe trip, poled through the shallow waters of a fascinating mangrove jungle, and on to the open water of the Ria. I’ve seen a lot of vegetation types, but never anything like this. And there were birds … real gems were the tiny and colorful Pygmy Kingfishers. Francisco was his group’s most accomplished speaker of English, and we had a good time. He knew his birds, and their English names, too; we managed to make ourselves semi-understood with a modest percentage of the words between.” ([email protected]).
How to get there:
To get to Celestún by car, 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. There are signs along the way. To reach Celestún by bus, go to the Noreste terminal on Calle 67 at Calle 50. The trip takes two hours, cost is 47 pesos. Buses leave almost every hour from 5 am to 8 pm. Tel. 924 0830 ext. 2909.
Click here to see some incredible Celestún bird photos.