Celestun Travel Guide

Ptrx McCarthy

Celestún is the quintessential Gulf of Mexico fishing port, with calm blue waters and wide sandy beaches, dotted with open-air restaurants, small hotels and the homes of fishermen. At the end of each day they drag their boats to safe haven on the shore, completing the postcard view tourists come here to see. Slow moving and tranquil, Celestún rests now at a balance point between its traditional fishing lifestyle and a new existence as an ecotourism destination. The placid sea calms you instantly and your first words in Celestún might likely be, "I could stay here forever."

Founded in 1718, Celestún means "painted stone" in Maya and is located in the southwest corner of the state, just north of the Campeche border on the Gulf of Mexico. An overnight stay is worthwhile – Celestún is just far enough from Mérida to make a day trip a tough sell, though doable.

The star attraction is the Ría Celestún Biosphere Reserve. A mangrove forest borders this estuary and shelters flamingos numbering in the tens of thousands, fresh water springs and a petrified forest. The simple majesty of the estuary and its animal life moved Hector Ceballos-Lascurain in 1983 to coin the word ecotourism.

Before ecotourism arrived Celestún depended solely on a robust fishing industry and the production of salt, as it has since Mayan times. Grouper, dogfish and king crab are caught here, among others, and the annual octopus harvest is exported as far away as Japan. Peak visiting time for flamingo viewing is between March and August. Endangered sea turtles make a laborious crawl onto beaches to lay their eggs during the months of April, May, June and July. Local Maya villagers visit Celestún during Holy Week, or Semana Santa, when the town's patron saint is set afloat amid hundreds of candles and pushed out to sea, creating a moving nighttime event.

Where to Go in Celestun

TOP PICKS BY OUR LOCAL EXPERTS

ECO PARAISO XIXIM HOTEL

KM 10 DEL VIEJO CAMINO A SISAL

Ría Celestún Biosphere Reserve

expert pick

Visit the Ría Celestún Biosphere Reserve for a boat trip that brings you close to spectacular flamingo hordes, an especially great kids activity.

La Playita

Calle 12 No. 99, between Calles 9 and 11

La Playita is a laid-back Celestún restaurant right on the beach that serves very fresh seafood.

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