Celestún is an ecotourist’s paradise on the Yucatán coast. It will enchant you with its landscapes of clear skies and beaches with clear waters, as well as its diverse wildlife and the sense of freedom you’ll feel during your visit.
It’s the refuge of the famously beautiful flamingo, and I can assure you that seeing them all together, coexisting and showing off their pink plumage, with the blue sky full of fluffy, white clouds as a backdrop, is one of the best views you’ll ever come across. Celestún is also home to numerous other bird species and even crocodiles within the Celestún Biosphere Reserve, declared a World Heritage Site in 1979 and covering more than 21 km.
If you come to the Yucatán Peninsula for a few days, this trip is a must and it’s perfect for a full day in nature. Take a refreshing dip in an Ojo de Agua (a freshwater spring), then spend the rest of the day chilling on the beach and eating in one of the restaurants overlooking the water. As you can imagine, Celestún is a great visit to do with your family (including small children and seniors), friends, or significant other.
What to do in Celestún?
One of Celestún’s main attractions is the boat tour along the estuary to see the flamingos. At the entrance to town, next to the bridge, there’s a visitor center with parking, restrooms, a store, and a dock. You can hire the tour at a fixed rate of $1,800 pesos for six adults (or four adults and two children). If you have a smaller group, you can fill the space with other visitors and divide the total cost. With your ticket in hand, you’ll be assigned a boat. Ready to start the adventure?
The tour lasts a little over an hour and includes a visit to see the flamingo colony, an expedition through the mangrove, and access to the Ojo de Agua. No food or beverages are allowed on board, as a measure in waste reduction and to help protect the environment. The boat ride is safe since it goes at a moderate speed, so you won’t need to wear a life vest. The itinerary takes you within the estuary, which is a shallow connection where fresh and saltwater meet.
During the tour of the estuary, on the way to see the flamingos, you can also see ducks, seagulls, pelicans, and a variety of migratory birds. If you are wondering when is the best time to go see the flamingos, in autumn and winter you will find the highest concentration of these birds; this is because they hibernate in the reserve during these months. However, you can find some flamingos in Celestún throughout the year.
Why Are the Flamingos so Pink?
The sights you’ll see in this paradise are exceptional. The flamingos in Celestún are very pink because of the algae (artemia salina) they consume and the high concentrations of carotene in the water. The boat will get close enough for you to hear them chattering and playing, while respecting environmental measures to protect them and not be invasive. You’ll probably never tire of watching them, but the journey is just beginning.
Advancing further into the estuary, you’ll reach Isla de Pájaros, an ecosystem where unique plant life, herons, and many other birds coexist. Get ready to take some unique pictures. You’ll also visit an enchanted forest of sorts where you’ll see red, white, and black mangroves with whimsical formations that will make you think of an aquatic fairytale.
To finish the tour, how about taking a quick dip in the Ojo de Agua Baldiosera? It’s a beautifully cool freshwater spring. Access is controlled to maintain a healthy distance between visitors and you can stay there for a bit while you swim around. The tour ends back at the pier, and from there you can hit the beach.
Celestún also offers one of the most beautiful and cleanest beaches you’ll ever find. It’s a public beach and on one side of the pier you’ll find Palapas you can rent, this is especially convenient if you go with your family or friends. On the other side of the pier, there are several restaurants to satisfy your craving for seafood, La Palapa has tables inside and others overlooking the sea. The menu is quite extensive – perfect for all tastes – but their fried fish is a favorite among visitors.
On the beach, you can rent lounge chairs, banana rides, and even take a tour similar to the one we have described, but departing from the beachfront. Stay there long enough to appreciate a beautiful sunset in shades of pink and purple as only Celestún can offer.
Celestún is located just over 91 km west of Mérida, approximately an hour and a half drive on a fairly good road. You can also take a bus from the terminal in Mérida’s Centro (Calle 67 x 50 and 52), buses leave every hour from 6 am to 8 pm. Another option is to take an organized tour from Mérida, several travel agencies arrange day trips.
Editorial by Violeta H. Cantarell
Born in Mérida, Violeta is a communicologist dedicated to writing and creating content on tourism, fashion, and entrepreneurship. She has recently started working as an English-Spanish translator.
Photography by Violeta H. Cantarell for its use in Yucatán Today.
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