Celestun: Top 9 Things To Do + How to see flamingos?


Visiting Celestun (Mexico): The 9 Best Things to Do

Celestún is a fishing village in Yucatán and one of the best places to see flamingos in Mexico.

You can visit its biosphere reserve in one day from Mérida, and enjoy its long and peaceful beaches.

Here is my complete guide to Celestún with all the information you need to plan your visit: where, when and how to see the flamingos, and all the other things to do and see in Celestún.

And at the end of the article, I also give you my selection of the best hotels in Celestún for different budgets.

So, what are the best things to do in Celestun? Where to Stay?

Let’s find out!

1. See the pink flamingos

To see the flamingos in Celestún, you have to book a boat tour.

It is a small boat with a maximum capacity of 8 people and a guide/driver that will take you through the Celestún Biosphere Reserve, also known as Ría Celestún.

This is where the fresh water of the Celestún river meets the salt water of the Gulf of Mexico and creates a rich ecosystem.

There are 300 species of birds, such as ducks migrating from Canada, pelicans, herons, albatrosses, frigate birds, but the main attraction are the pink flamingos.

A colony of pink flamingos in the Celestún reserve.
reserva de celestún
Celestún reserve

After a 15-minute stop at Tambor to watch the birds feeding and resting, the boat takes you to the mangroves of Dzinitún which are home to a diverse fauna: crocodiles, monkeys, ocelots, kingfishers, etc.

My favorite place was the 2600 ft long mangrove tunnel. It’s a great place to take pictures!

Especially because the water has a unique color (red, yellow, green) due to the sunlight, the vegetation and the sulfur of the water.

Afterwards, there is a 15-20 minute stop for a swim in the Ojo de Agua Baldiosera (an ojo de agua is a kind of small cenote)

If you don’t want to go in the water, there are also small wooden walkways, quite nice to walk on.

celestun manglares
celestun manglares
celestún túnel de manglares
celestun mangrove tunnel

Where to buy the ticket to see the flamingos?

This tour leaves from the beach, next to the main square.

There are two options to take the boat tour in Celestún: the short version and the long version.

Short tour (1h30): This is the official tour of the fishermen’s cooperative located west of the bridge that crosses the river, just before reaching Celestún.

The place is easy to find because there are large signs.

You must first pay at the ticket office and then go to the dock where you are assigned a boat.

This tour starts directly on the river, near the flamingo colonies.

Long tour (2h15-2h30): This tour leaves from the beach, next to the main square.

This is the tour I recommend because it goes along the coast to finally get to where the flamingos are and allows you to see more wildlife along the way.

However, as the distance traveled is longer, the boat speeds up and moves more.

  • So, which one is better? The only real difference is the length of the tour. If you have limited time in Celestún, choose the one on the bridge side.

My advice
Another option is to take this tour to Celestún from Mérida.

It includes pick up from your hotel, boat ride to see the flamingos, swim in the ojo de agua, mangroves and lunch on the beach:

How much does it cost to visit the flamingos?

The prices are more or less the same, around 2400 pesos for a boat of 6 to 8 people.

You can wait for the boat to fill up or pay for a private tour.

Of course, the advantage of the private tour is that you can talk to the guide and ask him to stay longer in certain places.

Where to park in Celestún?

If you book the flamingo tour from the town (bridge), you can park for free.

If you choose the beach side, the public parking lots charge about 10 pesos per hour.

The best option is to find parking near the main square.

2. Ecotourism

Celestún is one of the best destinations for ecotourism in Mexico!

You can do the same tour I described above by canoe or kayak (2h30 or more, depending on the guide)

It is an eco-friendly tour because it does not use a motor boat: no pollution and no stress for the birds!

The tour is private and takes place in harmony with nature.

Another advantage is that departures can be as early as 5h30-6h in the morning, but of course you need to contact a guide in advance.

The tour focuses much more on bird watching and on the effort to restore the mangroves and the estuary.

If you have time, this is definitely an activity not to miss in Celestún.

celestun kayak
celestun kayak

3. Exploring Jaltun Park

This is another place to visit in Celestún that, unfortunately, not many people know about.

It is an ecotourism park that focusses on environmental conservation and biodiversity awareness.

They offer guided tours by canoe or kayak to discover wildlife and plants of the mangroves.

You can also follow hiking trails, visit the botanical garden and its orchids, see the crocodile farm and swim in a natural pool.

This is an educational site, so it is a good option if you are looking for an activity to do with kids in Celestún.

4. Enjoy the beach

Relaxing on the beach is one of the best things to do in Celestún, because it is much less crowded than the beaches of Progreso or the Riviera Maya.

It is wide, the sand is fine, the water is calm and shallow, perfect for the whole family.

If you want to have a cocktail, there are several beachfront restaurants near the main square.

And since Celestún is on the west coast of the Yucatán, you can watch the sunset directly from the beach.

My advice
Another peacful beach option near Mérida is Sisal beach.

As it is mainly visited by local families, it is very quiet during weekdays.

On the way you can also stop at the cenote El Pocito in Hunucmá.

playa celestún yucatán
playa celestún yucatán

5. Visit the pink salt lake

In Celestún there are some evaporation ponds, as in Las Coloradas.

These pools of pink water with a beautiful mirror effect are natural and not artificial like the ones in Ría Lagartos.

The pink color of the water and the flamingos is due to the artemia salina, a small crustacean found in the water that contains carotene.

The salt extraction of Celestún’s lagoons dates back to the time of the ancient Maya, who used salt to preserve certain foods such as meat.

Today, the people of several communities in the area collect salt, still using traditional methods.

If you go in the morning (before 10 am), outside the rainy season, you can see how they shovel the pure salt into small mounds.

  • Access is free of charge
  • How to get there: you can either take the boat tour from the beach or go on your own by car or moto-taxi (ask for the ex-hacienda Real de Salinas)
  • I do not recommend walking because it is 3 miles (one way) from the center, there is no shade and the sun is very strong.

My advice
There is another place, even less touristic, to see a pink lake: the salt mines of Xtampu, located between Telchac and Dzemu, near Mérida
salinas de Celestún
Las salinas de Celestún

6. Eating great seafood

Celestún’s main source of income is fishing, besides salt extraction.

During the boat ride, the guide told me that 90% of the inhabitants of Celestún live from fishing. I’m not sure how accurate this number is, but it shows that Celestún is a great place to eat seafood and fish. 😋

Several people had recommended La Palapa restaurant to me, which is very popular with tourists.

It is true that it has a nice location on the beach, but I wanted a quieter, more local restaurant.

By chance I found Chivirico restaurant (corner of 11th and 12th street) and it was a nice surprise. It does not have an ocean view, but it is more affordable, the service is very friendly and everything we ordered was delicious.

I really liked the fried bananas (40 pesos), the grilled fish fillet (110 pesos) and the garlic shrimp (160 pesos).

7. Sleeping in the jungle

Yes, it is possible to sleep in the jungle of Celestún!

Located in front of the sea, the Xixim ecotourism hotel is the only hotel inside the reserve.

It is a small luxury hotel perfectly integrated into its surroundings, with 32 rustic and cozy cabins, some with ocean views, others even with a small private pool.

The hotel is divided into two sections: one for families and one for adults only. Both have direct access to a 3 and a half miles of private beach.

Kayaks, paddleboards and bicycles can be rented to explore the area.

There is also a wellness center with yoga, meditation, massage and aromatherapy classes, as well as a gym.

In addition, there is very little internet (often none) and no television, so it really is the perfect place to relax.

celestun hotel xixim
The Xixim Hotel in the Celestun Reserve

8. Strolling through town

You can take the opportunity to stroll around the town of Celestún.

There is not much to see, but you can visit the main square with its church and its market where you can find local handicrafts and very good fresh fruit juice!

You can also take the classic photo of the colorful Celestún letters and buy Celestún salt.

pueblo de celestun
celestun town

9. Visiting nearby towns

On your way from Mérida to Celestún, you can explore some of the charming villages that reflect the local culture.

For example, you can visit Hunucmá, where you can see how they make sandals from henequen fiber, leather, and fur. You can also cool off in the cenote El Pocito, a hidden gem inside the home of the hospitable Mr. Sergio!

10 minutes from the center of Hunucmá is the archaeological park Sihunchen.

If you are interested in history and nature, you can check out the archaeological park Sihunchen, just 10 minutes from Hunucmá. This is an ecotourism center that offers accommodation, swimming pool, trails, and guided activities such as bird watching and visiting the ruins.

Other villages that are worth a stop are Kinchil and Tetiz, where you can admire the main square and churches.

My advice
If you want to enjoy the scenic route from Mérida to Celestún, you should go by car instead of taking the bus. The bus stops at several places, but you won’t have much time to explore the villages. Driving gives you more flexibility and convenience! 

Where to sleep in Celestún

Celestún is a great place to spend the night and relax away from the hustle and bustle.

But finding a good hotel in Celestún can be tricky. Many of them are expensive and not very appealing.

Don’t worry, though. There are also some hotels in Celestun that give you a lot of value for your money.

So here are my top picks for places to stay in Celestun, for different budgets:

  • Hotel Beach Don Gonzalo: A good budget option in Celestún very close to the beach and town center. Cozy, with pool, from 55 usd per night!
  • Castillito Kin Nah: Small beachfront beachfront hotel with pool, ideal for couples and families. Garden, private beach, simple but very clean rooms with patio. from 110 usd per night!
  • Playa 55 Beach Escape – Adults only: A very comfortable and modern hotel with private access to a deserted beach, ideal for a romantic stay in Celestun! Modern air-conditioned rooms with oceanfront balcony. Rooftop terrace, swimming pool with hammocks, sun loungers, free rental of bicycles, kayaks and paddle boards, from 145 usd per night!

How to get to Celestún from Mérida

How to get to Celestun by plane

The closest airport to Celestun is Merida airport, 55 miles away.

Manuel Crescencio Rejon International Airport receives several flights from Cancun and Mexico City (1h55)

To find your cheap flight ticket to Merida or to find your international flight to Mexico, I recommend you to use our flight comparator, in partnership with Skyscanner: it’s the guarantee to pay the best price!

How to get to Celestun by public transportation

  • By bus: ADO bus from Terminal Noreste (Calle 50 corner 65) 70 pesos, 2h30. Departures every hour from 6h in the morning. The last bus returns to Mérida at 5 pm
  • By colectivo: depart from the same place (Calle 50 and 65 in Merida), but are less frequent, 40 pesos

A good option is to go by bus to arrive early, and return by colectivo from Celestún’s main square (in front of the church) to pay a little less.

Joining a Celestun Tour from Mérida

A Merida to Celestun day trip is a great way to see the flamingos and enjoy the nature without any hassle.

This tour to Celestún from Mérida is a great option. They will pick you up from your hotel, take you on a boat ride to see the flamingos, let you swim in the ojo de agua, show you the mangroves, and treat you to a delicious lunch on the beach.

Book the Celestun tour here:

How to get to Celestun by car

Getting to Celestun from Mérida takes between 1h30 and 1h45, following Highway 281

Renting a car is for sure the best way to explore Celestún and make the most of your stay!

To rent a car, personally, I always use Rentalcars.com, for a few reasons:

  • You can easily compare the rental cars prices between all the agencies: for sure the easiest way to find the best rate!
  • Cancellation is often offered free of charge: no need to worry if you change your mind
  • Rentalcars offers full insurance coverage at a lower price than the rental companies, so it’s an instant saving with no effort

Simply click on the green button to find your rental car at the best price:

Celestun vs Ria Lagartos: Which one is the best?

If you are looking for a place to see flamingos in Mexico, you have two options: Celestun and Ria Lagartos. Both are located in the state of Yucatan and are home to thousands of these pink birds.

But you don’t have to visit both places on your Mexico trip, unless you are a big fan of birdwatching.

They are very similar: they are coastal wetlands that are protected by the government, and they host a variety of seabirds, including huge colonies of flamingos.

To choose the best one for you, there are two things to consider.

1. The best time of the year to see them:

  • From May to September, Rio Lagartos has more flamingos
  • From December to March, Celestun has more flamingos

2. Other attractions nearby

  • Celestun is closer to Mérida, Uxmal and the border with Campeche
  • Río Lagartos is closer to Valladolid, Ek Balam, Chichén Itzá, Cobá and the Riviera Maya

My advice
In summary, Rio Lagartos is easier to fit into your Mexico itinerary, while Celestun offers a more authentic experience (in my opinion) as it is less crowded and more relaxing, especially if you stay there overnight!
Las Coloradas in the Ria Lagartos Reserve. Photo Esaú Alberto Canto Novelo

When to visit Celestún

The best time to visit Celestún is from December to March and especially in January, when there are more flamingos: the water level is at its lowest, which creates ideal conditions for these species that do not swim… but walk!

How long to visit Celestun?

You can see the flamingos and savor some seafood in one day in Celestun.

But if you want to relax and watch the sunset on a Yucatan beach away from the crowds, you might want to stay for two days in Celestun!

What to do in Celestun in 1 day

Here is my suggested itinerary for visiting Celestún in 1 day:

  • In the morning, leave Merida for Celestun (1h40 by car, 2h30 by bus): try to get there before 11am!
  • Take a boat tour to see the flamingos (it lasts between 1h30 and 2h15 depending on where you start and if you have to wait for other passengers)
  • Back to the village, if you’re hungry, there are several seafood restaurants on the beach
  • In the afternoon, take some time to walk and relax on the beach

My last tips for visiting Celestun

  • Bring cash: they don’t take cards. I only saw one ATM in Celestun (HSBC in the main square, Calle 10) and it was out of order.
  • Get there early: to make sure you can get a boat, but also to avoid crowds and enjoy this natural place. Keep in mind that around 3:30 pm, the flamingos go to sleep.
  • Use mosquito repellent: I didn’t see many mosquitoes on the beach, but in the reserve they are hungry and persistent.
  • Be a responsible tourist: to avoid stressing the flamingos, you should keep a distance of at least 20m. The guides usually follow this rule, but if you see them getting too close, please ask them to back off 🙏
Book your trip now and save money!

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celestun yucatan
celestun yucatan



I have created this blog to give you all my best tips to plan your next trip to Mexico, regardless of your budget. I share detailed itineraries, advice about places to visit as well as recommendations for transportation, hotels and restaurants. I hope I will also help you to discover amazing off the beaten path destinations in Mexico!

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