Based on its geographical location, it’s no surprise that Sisal feels like an island on the mainland. Characterized by colonial architecture and thought-provoking murals, when I arrived to Sisal I felt tricked. I had explored every other beach in Yucatán, but had never visited Sisal. How could I have missed it? Sisal might be the most beautiful of them all.
Adjacent to the state reserve “El Palmar,” Sisal is a small population inside a big stretch of wild beach. Only 50 km from Mérida, Sisal appears remote, because “Beach Highway” doesn’t extend to its shores. Cut off from this major road, Sisal remains isolated, creating a local beach vibe unlike any other Yucatecan port.
The pueblo of about 2,000 inhabitants owes its architecture to its history. Sisal was the state of Yucatán’s first major international port. Established in the early 1800s, Sisal was the answer to the rising henequén industry. Farms with rows of these spikey plants popped up all over the peninsula, becoming the region’s most important export commodity. Boxed in wooden crates stamped with the seal of the port “Sisal,” people all around the world still refer to this fiber as “sisal.” By the late 1800s, Progreso had replaced Sisal as Yucatán’s most important port, taking on the export of henequén to the world.
Over time, this shift resulted in a strengthened local culture and community-driven conservation projects. In conjunction with locals, one of México’s largest and most influential universities “UNAM” established an ecological research center in Sisal, which is dedicated to understanding the complex system of mangroves and lagoons, the fresh water highways that lead to the saltwater ocean, and the biodiversity of our underwater friends.
You should go to Sisal because of its spacious, sandy beaches and wild dunes, which invite you to run and play on the abundant shores. From the long pier, surround yourself with bright turquoise water and rambunctious waves. Enjoy nature’s nectar straight from the coconut or chow down on the catch of the day with your toes tucked in the sand.
Before heading back to Mérida, visit the “puerto de abrigo” (harbor) and photograph the countless boats owned by local fishermen. Our cover photo takes its inspiration from the sheer number of these simple boats, asking you to think about the importance of community over commercialization in the local fishing industry.
Photos by Amanda Strickland for Yucatán Today use
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