Celestun Biosphere Reserve
The Celestun Biosphere Reserve is an easy day trip from the city of Mérida. If you get an early start, it’s possible to visit the reserve in a day from Cancun or other parts of the Mexican Riviera. Just be prepared to spend a large portion of your day on the road, since it’s almost a 5-hour drive. Once there, you’ll be able to cruise down the estuary and drift through the mangroves, where you can observe flocks of flamingos feeding on crustaceans. Also be on the lookout for spider monkeys.
Things to Know Before You Go
A must-see for bird lovers, the reserve’s “Bird Island” is where cormorants, frigate birds, and great egrets nest.
Restaurants and beach shacks in Celestun serve freshly caught seafood.
Don’t apply sunscreen before swimming in the reserve’s freshwater spring as it can contaminate the water.
How to Get There
The best way to get to the Celestun Biosphere Reserve is via boat. You can hire a guide in town or book a day trip from Mérida, which includes round-trip transportation. If driving from Mérida, which is about 57 miles (92 kilometers) away, take Highway 281; there is parking near the beach and at the entrance to the preserve. Or you can catch a bus in Mérida at the station that’s located at the corner of Calle 50 and Calle 67.
When to Get There
Between November and March is the best season to visit Celestun Biosphere Reserve to see the flamingos, with January and February being prime time. During Semana Santa, which takes place around the Easter holiday in Mexico, nearby villagers visit Celestun, so it may be more crowded than usual during this time.
Slightly closer to Cancun, Ría Lagartos is also well known for its flocks of flamingos and sandy beaches that are attract groups of tourists. In addition to the pretty pink birds, Parque Natural Ría Lagartos is home to more than 380 bird species, including egrets, herons, pelicans, and falcons, plus crocodiles.
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