Somewhere along the Yucatecan coast, there is a series of crystal-clear water channels surrounded by trees that lead to what appears to be a hidden paradise. Once you arrive at your destination, you’ll wonder how such a marvelous experience has remained a well-kept secret for so many years.
Ejido San Crisanto, located on the northern coast of Yucatán, is a treasure that has emerged from adversity and become a shining example of ecological restoration and sustainable tourism. It all began in the 1980s when a group of 35 committed Ejidatarios (communal landowners) decided to undertake restoration experiments in the area with the goal of boosting salt production, one of the main sources of income for San Crisanto, along with fishing and coconut cultivation.
However, in October 1995, two hurricanes (Opal and Roxana) hit the region, bringing an immense amount of water that flooded the community. Despite the difficulties, the residents came together and took bold measures to confront the situation. They decided to break the road and build drains to remove the stagnant water. This action marked the beginning of a comprehensive ecological project to restore the hydrology of the mangrove and protect the community against future floods.
With the support of organizations and the collective effort of locals, channels were opened in the mangrove to improve water flow. The goodness of the project was perceived by many, which led them to seek funding and expand their efforts. In 1999, their dedication and achievements were recognized when they received an honorable mention for Ecological Merit in a contest organized by SEMARNAT (Ministry of Environment).
As they continued to win awards and recognition, tourism emerged as a result of their hard community work. What started with the sale of 75 tickets for access to the mangrove turned into an impressive figure of 25,000 paid tickets in a year, prior to the pandemic. Although the pandemic affected their visitor capacity, they are currently operating at 80% of that figure and are tirelessly working to fully recover.
But going back to the fascinating mangrove that embraces and shelters the enigmatic cenote Dzonot-Dzik in the heart of its channels, the Ejido offers the opportunity to embark on a relaxed and captivating boat ride for only $180 pesos per boat (minimum 2 and maximum 5 people). It’s the perfect getaway for those craving a break from the frenzy of daily life for an hour and a half.
The channels, with their pristine waters that seem to stretch into infinity, guarantee to astonish and leave you in awe of the incredible preservation efforts carried out in this magical place. If you pay attention, you’ll be rewarded with sightings of various species that inhabit this place, from anteaters and raccoons to margays, and a symphony of colorful and melodic birds that enhance the experience. You might even be lucky enough to encounter an alligator, depending on the time of day you choose to visit the mangrove.
In addition to mangrove tours, they also offer services at their beautiful beach, Zac-Há, such as day passes ($110 pesos per person, 9 am – 5 pm) and night passes for $180 pesos per person, which includes camping space, bathrooms, and showers. Lodging in their cabins is also a great option as they have views of the beach and the coconut plantations.
Ejido San Crisanto has big plans for the future to establish itself as a complete tourist attraction. In addition to making modifications to their docks, piers, and palapas, their main goal is to promote a culture of appreciation for nature and sustainable tourism. They aim for the environmental cost of their activities to be zero, which means carrying out all their operations in a respectful manner towards the natural environment. Furthermore, they strive to carefully manage the area’s development process, avoiding uncontrolled real estate growth that could harm the ecosystem and the community’s identity.
With a combination of initiatives, Ejido San Crisanto has woven a fabric of conservation and sustainability that leaves a lasting impression on every visitor. If you want to experience a destination where the preservation of an ecosystem through a dedicated community is the driving force behind its tourism, don’t hesitate to visit Ejido San Crisanto.
Mangrove and Cenote Dzonot-Dzik tour
From 2-5 people
$180 pesos per boat
Zac-Há Beach services
Day pass: $110 pesos per person
Night pass: $180 pesos per person
Lodging in K’anab-Nah cabins
Entry schedule: 2 pm.
Departure schedule: 12 pm.
Maximum capacity of 4 people
$1,400 pesos per night
By Sara Alba
Panamanian with a Mexican accent since 2005. Editorial Assistant, a walking jukebox, and always lurking on social media, in the constant search of hidden gems to visit and share.
Photography by Alicia Navarrete, MKCT, and Sara Alba for use in Yucatán Today.
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