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Playa Celestun

by Brent May

Located 107 kilometers or 60 miles west of Merida, Celestún is a small fishing village located in an area classified as a Natural Park and Biosphere Reserve. Several explanations for the name “Celestun” can be found. The close Mayan word means “painted stone.” The close latin word, celestial or heavenly is exactly what you’ll think when you spend some time here.

Celestun is known for its flamingo reserve, its many sea birds (over 200 species) and for its boat or canoe trips in the mangrove lagunas. You can also take a night excursion to observe crocodiles. Some will tell you not to swim there because of the presence of crocodiles, but they have abundant food and have no reason to attack people. 

What’s more, the water is very clear and transparent, so if you are afraid, you can immediately see what lies below. The sea here is truly emerald colored, very calm and shallow, which makes it an excellent spot for visitors. The sand is white. Along the beach, several restaurants or stands will offer you refreshments under parasols, with freshly caught fish right next to the beach. You can also invent a picnic. Ask around for local fried fish. Find some tortillas and a cold beer. And sit on the beach under some palm-thatched shade and enjoy. Now that’s an experience!

The beach is rich in biodiversity: you can also take a boat trip to the mangroves, go canoeing and kayaking. Even though Celestun is known for its diverse ecosystem, it is not a crowded place. You can go to the isolated beaches without being surrounded with many visitors.

On the way to Celestun from Merida, along the highway, you will find many small towns like Kinchill or Tetiz at the exit of Merida. These small towns lie a mile or so off the main road. You can take a tuk-tuk tour of the colorful city of Kinchill, or take a tour of the Mayan city whose name means “Place of the sweet potato,” Tetiz.

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