25 Amazing Day Trips From Merida That You Need to Take

share this article

posted by Shelley | last updated March 26, 2021


Looking for the best day trips from Merida, Mexico?

You’ve come to the right place because I have called Merida home since July 2019… and in that time, I’ve done quite a few day trips! I know first-hand that while there’s seemingly no shortage of things to do in Merida itself, there’s also no end to the number of amazing day trips from Merida!

Centrally located in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Merida’s location makes it the ideal home base for all the amazing day trips highlighted in this article.

🏡 Need a Merida Airbnb? 12 Stunning Airbnbs in Merida Mexico You Need to Book Now

From swimming in cenotes to climbing Mayan ruins, strolling the streets of colonial cities to exploring UNESCO World Heritage Sites — and even crossing one of the Seven Wonders of the World off your bucket list — you won’t run out of day trips from Merida Mexico!

Ready to discover the 25 best Merida day trips? Let’s get to it!

woman making a heart shape with her two hands at the pink lakes in mexico - day trips from Merida
Las Coloradas
underwater sinkhole called a cenote to swim in with blue water and vines going into the water - day trips from Merida
Cenote Ik Kil
green and pink buildings in a colorful colonial town - day trips from Merida
Valladolild

day trips from Merida - Pinteret pin
PIN THIS FOR LATER

find the info you need

Map of Merida Day Trips

Each Merida day trip mentioned in this article is located within 2.5 hours (or less) of Merida. For your convenience, they have been pinned to this Google map for you!

Keep in mind that as you venture to the more rural parts of the Yucatan Peninsula, your cell signal sill start to go in and out. If you’re driving your rental car, you’ll want to download an offline map via Google Maps or Maps.me before you embark on any of these Merida day trips.

💁‍♀️🎙 While you’re at it, make sure to also download some travel podcasts too!

Merida bus travel

If you’re not renting a car in Merida, no worries! You have plenty of day trip options using Mexico’s public transportation system. From buses to colectivos (shared vans), rest assured you can get to every place in this article — even if you’re not driving to them.

Mexico’s main bus company is ADO, with big, luxury-class busses that have AC, large comfy recliner seats and outlets at each one to charge your gadgets. They have daily trips to and from the majority of places listed here. You can buy your tickets online, or at the bus station.


Merida Car Rental

The easiest, most convenient way to go on Merida day trips? A rental car from Discover Cars, of course.

If you’re wondering Is it safe to drive in Mexico? The answer is yes, as a general rule, the Yucatan Peninsula is considered safe for visiting and for driving. However, there’s the obvious caveat to that…

Since you will be driving in another country, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with Mexico driving laws, or ask the agent at your car rental for advice. For your convenience, there are 12 useful Mexico driving tips below to help you with how to drive in Mexico.

🚗💨 12 Useful Mexico Driving Tips

1. Rent with a reputable company! As they say, “you get what you pay for.” For a reliable Cancun car rental company, go with Discover Cars.

2. Avoid driving at night. When you live in Mexico long enough, you start to realize many people simply avoid driving at night, if they can. If you do drive at night, stick to only main roads and highways.

3. Always use the couta, or toll, roads. Yes, they cost money, but they are much better maintained and generally considered safer. Pro tip: Bring cash for the tolls.

4. Download an offline map. Your signal will go in and out as you travel through rural areas of the Yucatan Peninsula, so download an offline map from Google or Maps.Me. You’ll also want to download some podcasts and music while you’re getting that map.

5. Speed limit signs are in kilometers per hour, not miles per hour. You don’t have to worry about conversion math here; just make sure the speed limit sign number matches your speedometer number.

6. Do not use your cell phone while you’re driving. Not only is this unsafe, it is also illegal. In fact, even having your phone in your hand is a ticket-able offense, so try not to even hold your phone while driving.

7. The rumors are true about the cops expecting bribes. If the cops pull you over, and they only will if you give them a reason to, they will expect a cash “payment” in exchange for not ticketing you.

8. Mexican roads are notorious for their abundant amount of topes (speed bumps). Make sure you keep your eyes on the road, as topes don’t always have signs alerting you to them.

9. Mexico’s gas stations are not self-serve. When you stop for gas, an attendant will pump it for you and take your payment. These people don’t actually work for the gas station, and live off tips. When they finish, it’s customary to tip them at least $10-20 pesos ($0.50-$1).

10. Mexico’s traffic lights go from green to yellow, to flashing yellow for a few seconds, to finally, a red light.

11. Make sure you purchase Mexican car insurance. You are generally not covered in any way through your U.S. company when you drive in any other country.

12. Most travel insurance policies cover driving. In case you’re wondering Should I get travel insurance for Mexico?… The answer is hell yes! There’s a whole page of this website dedicated to travel insurance, because it’s just that important — maybe even more so when traveling during the pandemic.


25 best Day Trips From Merida

1. Valladolid

MERIDA TO Valladolid DAY TRIP

Valladolid is an increasingly popular Merida day trip destination. It is also one of Mexico’s 135 or so pueblos magicos, or magic towns.

It is known as one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Mexico — so get your camera ready! There are many gorgeous buildings to photograph, especially on Valladolid’s prettiest street, Calle de los Frailes. When you’re hungry, head to the famous La Casona de Valladolid restaurant, and walk to the back to photograph the large talavera tile fountain after your meal.

Don’t miss the town’s impressive colonial churches — the Convent de San Bernardino de Siena and Iglesia de San Servacio. The Iglesia de San Servacio is Valladolid’s main church; find it in Valladolid’s Zocalo (Main Square).

Just outside of the Convent de San Bernardino de Siena, you’ll find another photo op. This is where you’ll see the large, colorful letters spelling out Valladolid.


🤔 What is a Pueblo Magico?

Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism has awarded the prestigious designation of “Magic Town” to about 135 small towns in the country. These towns meet certain characteristics including amazing natural beauty, unique cultural history, rich folklore and more.

green and pink buildings in a colorful colonial town - day trips from Merida
Downtown Valladolid, Mexico
tall old stone church with colorful flags flying in front of it - day trips from Merida
Iglesia de San Servacio
Calle de los Frailes

Love art? Head to the Casa de los Venados, a private home-turned-gallery. Owners John and Dorianne Venator open their home once a day at 10am for a tour to see their 3,000-piece collection of Mexican folk art.

If you want to buy some folk art or artistic souvenirs in Valladolid, head to Kuxtal Cafe & Mexican Art. They sell many styles of folk art, handmade by artists from all over Mexico, at one of the best cafes in Valladolid.

Best Cenotes Near Valladolid

Ready to cool off with a swim in one of Mexico’s famous cenotes?

You’re in luck because some of the best cenotes in Yucatan are located within 30 minutes of Valladolid. These include Cenote Ik Kil, Cenote Oxman, Cenote Suytun and Cenote Zaci; though there are certainly others.

underwater sinkhole called a cenote to swim in with blue water and vines going into the water - day trips from Merida
Cenote Ik Kil
cenote natural swimming pool - day trips from Merida
Cenote Zaci
Cenote Suytun underground cave in the Yucutan Peninsula Mexico
Cenote Suytun

Best Valladolid Airbnbs

With just so much to see and do, you might want to make Valladolid an overnight or weekend trip. Here are the best Airbnbs in Valladolid — are all located in the best part of town, and hosted by Airbnb’s vetted Super Hosts — so all you have to do is book, and enjoy your Valladolid trip!


2. Campeche City


MERIDA TO Campeche Day TRIP

A UNESCO World Heritage Site — Mexico has an impressive 35 of them — the walled city of Campeche is known as one of the most colorful Yucatan towns. Its historical significance, however, comes from its fort walls.

Located right on the Gulf of Mexico, centuries ago, San Francisco de Campeche’s location made it vulnerable to pirate attacks. Nowadays, with pirates posing less of a threat, you can take a leisurely walk along the walls atop the Fuerte de San Miguel (Saint Michael’s Fort).

There, you’ll see the old cannons pointed directly at and the Gulf of Mexico, and get some amazing city and water views. It costs about $25 pesos ($1) to walk atop the fort walls along the ramparts, but it’s money well-spent.

🚙💨 Head here for an entire Merida to Campeche Day Trip Guide.

outdoors tables with umbrellas for shade at cafes in colorful downtown campeche city mexico on a merida day trip
three tables with umbrellas for shade at an outdoor cafe in campeche city, mexico

Now, back to these colorful Campeche buildings… While most Mexican colonial towns follow a color scheme, the entire downtown Campeche City is painted in every color of the rainbow. 

Though not large at only about 30 square blocks, leisurely stroll the entire downtown before stopping at one of the Instagram worthy Campeche cafes, Altagracia Cafe or Chocol’Ha Cafe, for a sweet snack.

A few of Campeche’s downtown streets are pedestrian only, and restaurants have tables set up outside so you can dine and enjoy the colors. The most picturesque of these is Calle 59, where you’ll enjoy La Parrilla, La Choperia, and others.

After eating, head to the Zocalo (Main Square) and hop on one of the tranvias (trams) for a Campeche tour of the city. At the end of the day, head west to the Malecon (walkway) to catch the sunset on the Gulf of Mexico.

Colorful colonial town
yellow wall surrounding a fort - day trips from Merida
red trolly next to a park and near a large colonial church - day trips from Merida

Best Campeche Airbnbs

With just so much to see and do, you might want to make Campeche City an overnight or weekend trip. Here are the best Airbnbs in Campeche — are all located in the best part of town, and hosted by Airbnb’s vetted Super Hosts — so all you have to do is book, and enjoy your Campeche City trip!


3. Izamal


MERIDA TO Izamal DAY TRIP

Izamal has been nominated for the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, and is one of Mexico’s 135 amazing pueblos magicos (magic towns). These two draws make Izamal a very popular Merida day trip.

Known as “The Yellow Town,” Izamal is, well — yellow! The word yellow is in italics because all buildings in downtown are painted yellow.

Downtown Izamal’s small “pueblo” size means you can stroll the whole area in about two hours. Don’t feel like walking? Take a calesa (horse-drawn carriage) tour to see all the sights, including the Convent of San Antonio de Padua, in town’s Zocalo (Main Square).

When you work up an appetite, head to Kinich Restaurant or Mercado Municipal De Izamal (market) to try authentic Yucatecan food. At the mercado, be on the lookout for one of the area’s most interesting dishes, dzik de venado (shredded venison), a local delicacy.

If you have extra time after seeing the city, head to the Izamal Mayan archeological sites just outside of downtown — Kinich Kakmo Pyramid and Zona Arqueologica de Izamal.

yellow walls in old city and yellow horse and carriage buggy - day trips from Merida
colonial town with yellow walls and man on his bike in the street - day trips from Merida

4. Chichen Itza


MERIDA TO CHICHEN ITZA DAY TRIP

As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, does Chichen Itza even need an introduction!? A Mexico bucket list travel destination, Chichen Itza is one of the most popular Merida day trips.

Chichen Itza is also one of Mexico’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and one of the most important Mayan archeological sites on the planet. Chichen Itza shares the title of most visited archeological site in the country with Mexico City’s Teotichucan — the two both averaging 2.75 million visitors a year!

With so many visitors, you’ll want to get to Chichen Itza as close to 8am when they open as you can, so you can beat the crowds. Getting there early also means you’ll beat a lot of the midday heat.

When visiting Chichen Itza, head to see its iconic El Castillo (The Castle/Temple of Kukulcan), the one in most Chichen Itza photos. There’s also the Temple of the Warriors, Sacred Cenote, Grand Ball Court, Group of a Thousand Columns and Wall of the Skulls.

As you might have gathered, Chichen Itza is big — as in 740 acres big! With a site of this size and historical significance, you’ll want to take a Chichen Itza tour with a knowledgable guide to explain all of the site’s secrets and significance. 

You can also hire an onsite guide; though know during busy times, you might not be able to. Upon arrival, you’ll see many guides by the entrance selling day tours for about $1,000-1,500 pesos ($50-70). If you want to hire a guide onsite, remember to bring enough pesos to pay them.

Chichen Itza mayan pyramid behind some plants
Chichen Itza’s El Castillo (The Castle/Temple of Kukulcan), the most photographed of the site’s structures.

Chichen Itza Tours

Looking for a more in depth tour, with your transportation from Merida covered? Check out these amazing Airbnb Experiences to Chichen Itza and some additional Mayan archaeological sites.

What is an Airbnb Experience?

While most are now familiar with Airbnbs themselves, the company’s relatively new experiences (tours) are just as amazing!

Similar to traditional group tours, I’m actually a bigger fan of Airbnb Experiences! I’ve done several of these all over Mexico, and think they’re great because:

  • You’re directly supporting a local and the local economy.
  • They are usually smaller groups, which means a more personalized experience.
  • You can instantly book them online, so you won’t have to spend your precious travel time finding a tour company.
  • Like with an Airbnb stay, the guide gets rated at the end, motivating them to do a great job.
  • They are a great way to meet other solo travelers.

Best Mayan Ruins Near Merida


5. Uxmal Mayan Ruins

Merida to Uxmal day trip

Though overshadowed in name by Chichen Itza in name recognition, Uxmal, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is just as impressive. It is also much less crowded and touristy, seeing only about 10% the amount of annual visitors as Chichen Itza.

Besides the obvious of smaller crowds at Uxmal, you won’t be approached by souvenir vendors, deal with endlessly searching for parking, and all the other perks that come with visiting hidden gems over popular destinations.

If you’re wondering Do I visit Chichen Itza or Uxmal? there is one reason that might convince you to pick Uxmal!

tall stone mayan pyramid of Uxmal, near Merida, Mexico, Yucatan Peninsula
El Adivino (Pyramid of the Magician), the largest pyramid at Uxmal.

Can you climb the pyramids at Uxmal?

The top reason to choose Uxmal over Chichen Itza?

You’re actually allowed to climb the structures and one of the pyramids at Uzmal. Chichen Itza does not allow visitors to climb it’s pyramids.

While visitors aren’t permitted to can’t climb the large El Adivino (Pyramid of the Magician), you can climb the nearly-as-tall Great Pyramid right next to it. From the top, you’ll have amazing views of the entire Uxmal site.

You can also get up close and personal with the intricate carved stone on Uxmal’s buildings to see the beautiful design esthetics the Mayan Puuc sites are famous for.

aerial view of a mayan archeological site - day trips from Merida
Yes, you can climb the pyramids at Uxmal! Here’s the view of the Uxmal Mayan ruins site from atop the Great Pyramid.

Best Hotels in Uxmal

Pair your visit to Uxmal with a visit the other four Mayan archeological sites on the Puuc Route, as well as the Choco-Story chocolate museum and Uxmal Mayan Planetarium. Booking a hotel in Uxmal means you can leisurely explore one of the most amazing and unique cities in the Yucatan Peninsula!


6. Ruta Puuc/Puuc Route


Merida Day Trips: Ruta Puuc

Uxmal has several buildings in the Puuc style — but it’s not the only with this esthetic. There are actually five archaeological sites along what is called the Ruta Puuc (Puuc Route), a 19-mile drive.

These other four sites, Labna, Kabah, Sayil and Xlapak, all feature the same stone carving esthetics and Puuc-style elements. 

Aesthetics aside, another amazing thing about seeing these lesser-known sites is that there’s a good chance you’ll have them all to yourself.

Pro tip: Unless you hire a taxi or driver for the day, you’ll need your own rental car to do the Ruta Puuc.

large stone building at mayan archeological site - day trips from Merida
Sayil Mayan Ruins | Ruta Puuc
tall, large mayan pyramid - day trips from Merida
Kabah Mayan Ruins | Ruta Puuc
mayan ruin site made of carved bricks - day trips from Merida
Xlapak Mayan Ruins | Ruta Puuc

7. Coba Ruins


MERIDA DAY TRIPS: Coba

The Coba ruins site is in the state of Quintana Roo, home to Tulum, Cancun and Bacalar Lagoon, “the Maldives of Mexico.” Coba is more of a complete Mayan city than most other Yucatan ruins. Many people will even rent a bike at the entrance to see the whole place, or hire a bike taxi guide to take them around.

The entire Coba site is about five miles in total, which is a bit of a trek. Combine this walk with the climb up Coba’s largest pyramid, Ixmoja/Nohoch Mul, and you’ll definitely get in your steps for the day.

🦟 Pro tip: Bring insect repellent; Coba is deep in the jungle!


8. MAYAPAN RUINS


MERIDA DAY TRIPS: Mayapan

Another of the lesser-visited Yucutan archaeological sites, but again, this usually means you have the whole place to yourself! You’re free to climb all the structures and explore virtually uninterrupted.

Cenotes near mapapan Ruins

If you’re planning to visit, combine it with a stop at some of the cenotes near Mayapan to cool off. Here are some of the best ones nearby: Cenote Nah Yah, Cenote Telchaquillo and Cenote Suem.

old mayan archeological site with stone pyramid building - day trips from Merida

9. DZIBILCHALTUN RUINS


MERIDA DAY TRIPs: Dzibilchaltun Mayan Ruins

Dzibilchaltun (pronounced zee-bee-shal-tune) is the closest Mayan ruin site to Merida. Though small, there’s also an onsite museum with Mayan artifacts and a cenote to swim in, Cenote Xlacah. It is a popular site to visit on Spring and Autumn Equinoxes, to see the sunrise at the Dzibilchaltun pyramid.

Cenote Xlach

When planning to visit, make sure you factor in some time to swim in Cenote Xlacah at Dzibilchaltun. This open, swimming pool style cenote is very popular with locals, so head there early to beat the crowds.

Cenote Xlacah is the closest cenote to Merida, and Dzibilchaltun is the closest Mayan ruins to Merida, at only about 30 minutes north of the city.

mayan pyramid stone building - day trips from Merida
Dzibilchaltun Mayan Ruins
Cenote Xlach

10. Las Coloradas (Pink Lakes)


Merida to Las Coloradas Day Trip

Las Coloradas (The Blush) are Mexico’s famous pink lakes in the Yucatan Peninsula. These pink lakes gained popularity after a viral Instagram photos a few years back, but because of their remote location, they are still an off the beaten path Mexico destination.

In fact, if you’re not driving, Las Coloradas isn’t really accessible by public transport. For this reason, the best way to visit is by booking a tour of Las Coloradas.

Why is the water pink at Las Coloradas? 

Las Coloradas has pink water because of the red algae, plankton and brine shrimp that live in this salty water. The salt content in this water is so high, this area has been used as a natural salt mine by the Mayans for centuries.

In fact, the flock of wild Yucatan flamingoes that live in this part of Mexico drinks this water, which in turn keeps their feathers pink!

What is the best time to see the pink lakes in Mexico?

The pink color of the lakes shows brightest on very sunny days. Keep this in mind if you plan to make the trip from Merida. On overcast, non-sunny days, the water will not be vibrant pink.

For photography, the lakes show brightest during (approx.) 11am-1pm, when the sun is directly overhead. The lakes are pink year-round, so the real factor is the sun… meaning definitely check the weather report before heading there.

Can I swim in Las Coloradas? 

A few years back, the Mexican government stopped allowing swimming. The reason for this is that the salt content can actually be toxic on the skin.

While there’s no one around monitoring if you go in or not, there’s also not a hospital too close to Las Coloradas, so don’t risk your health and safety for a photo.

woman making a heart shape with her two hands at the pink lakes of Las Coloradas, near Merida, Mexico, Yucatan Peninsula

Las Coloradas Tours

It’s not super easy to get to Las Coloradas unless you have a rental car. In fact, even after you arrive in the closest town, Rio Lagartos, you’ll need to coordinate a boat to take you over to Las Coloradas.

The easiest way to see these pink lakes?

On a tour, like the Chichen Itza & The Pink Pools Tour. This amazing tour goes to both Las Coloradas and Chichen Itza, so you can cross two places off your bucket list in one day, and the Live the Pink Sea & Exotic Beaches Tour, which goes to Las Coloradas, Rio Lagartos, and Cancunito beach.


Nearby Merida, Mexico Beaches


Merida to Progreso Day Trip

11. Progreso Beach 

Puerto Progreso is the closest beach town to Merida, and also one of the best places to windsurf and kitesurf in the Mexico.

As the “puerto” in the name might have cued you in on, this is also a cruise port. On days when a ship docks, expect thousands more people than usual in this chill beach town. If you’re looking to have Progreso all to yourself, check to see if there’s a cruise docking before you visit.

Once you arrive in Progreso, stroll down the Malecon (walkway) for a bite to eat and to get a better feel for the town. Find your favorite spot to rent a beach chair from (about $100 pesos/$5), or head to one of the best Progreso beach clubs, Silcer Beach Club and El HaGuay.

El HaGuay is located right next to the giant, colorful Progreso letters, on the eastern end of the beach. They let you have a beach chair for the day for free, as long as you order food and drinks. Silcer Beach Club is located closer to the center of town, and generally more of a party atmosphere than El HaGay.

For a sunset dinner, head to the western end of the beach to eat at one of the best restaurants in Progreso, Eladio’s Bar. For a fancier atmosphere, check out Almadia and Crabster Seafood & Grill.

Auto Progreso: Merida to Progreso Bus

Don’t feel like driving? No worries, there’s an easy way to get to Progreso from Merida — the Auto Progreso. Auto Progreso has a private bus terminal, and departs about every hour from Merida to Progreso Beach.

small beach town of progreso, near Merida, Mexico, Yucatan Peninsula

12. Sisal Beach

MERIDA DAY TRIPS: Sisal

Looking for quieter, more relaxed beaches? Look no further than Sisal, one of Mexico’s 135 (or so) pueblos magicos (magic towns)!

Sisal has a cute pier to walk down, a few places to eat and drink — but little else. It is where Merida locals head for an alternative to the livelier Progreso beach.

🏖 Pro Tip: Rent a beach chair under a palapa outside of the Muelle de Sisal restaurant. Rentals are about $50 pesos ($3) for the day, and if you’re ordering from the restaurant, you can also use their bathroom all day.

long dock on a the water covered in beach sand and people walking on it - day trips from Merida
The pier in Sisal. | Photo by José Angel Vera Félix

13. San Crisanto Beach


MERIDA DAY TRIPS: San Crisanto

San Crisanto is among the the prettiest Merida off the beaten path beach, and one of the most beautiful and relaxing.

It is a coconut grove, and there’s usually more coconut trees than people on any given day at San Crisanto beach, so this is the place to relax and be in quiet, beautiful, uninterrupted nature.

You can rent a cabana for the day for about $75 pesos ($3), but be sure to either pack a cooler with lunch and drink, as there’s no restaurants on the beach.

palm trees and huts on a beach
San Crisanto, a Merida, Mexico Beach. | Photo by Gaspar Emilio Segura López
Ojo de Agua Mangroves

You can also make this more of a complete day trip with a boat tour through the mangroves and a stop at the Ojo de Agua swimmin’ hole. 


14. Telchac Beach


Merida Day Trips: Telchac Puerto

Puerto Telchac is a small fishing town. The boats pull right up the sand on the area’s not-at-all crowded beaches. There’s also a Malecon (walkway) along with beach and an also small downtown where you can buy snacks and drinks.

Laguna Rosada (Pink Lakes)

The coolest thing around Telchac is the Laguna Rosada (Pink Lagoon). In case you didn’t know, Mexico has pink lakes in Yucatan! You’ll find info about the more famous ones, Las Coloradas, below; but know they are quite far from Merida. If you want to see the ones closest to the city, head to the pink lakes of Laguna Rosada near Telchac.

the pink water in the las coloradas lakes, near Merida, Mexico, Yucatan Peninsula
Mexico pink lakes in Yucatan at Laguna Rosada near Telchac. | Photo by Ricardo Rosales

15. Chelem Beach


MERIDA DAY TRIPS: Chelem 

The final beach town is the most up-and-coming for expats moving to Yucatan’s beaches.

Chelem is still on the quiet side, but you’ll find a few more amenities here, like stores and restaurants. It is another Yucatan fishing town, so life here revolves around boating and the beach.

However, Chelem is a stop for birdwatchers looking to see some of the area’s wind flamingos. The large Yucatan flamingo flock usually hangs out around Chelem from about June-December.

Want to see the flamingoes in Chelem?

Hed to the beach where you’ll find many boat operators offering tours to the Ria Chelem river to see the flamingoes and also many other bird species.


16. Celestun Bioshpere Reserve


Merida to Celestun Day Trip

Located in the small town fishing village of Celestun, you’ll find the Ria Celestun Biosphere Reserve. This large nature preserve is the best place to see flamingos near Merida. Besides the Celestun flamingoes, this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is one of the best places in Yucatan for bird watching.

Celestun Flamingoes

The large flock of featured Yucatan residents travel throughout the peninsula during the year, so they move between a few places. The best time of year to see them in Celestun is from December-February, though they do live in the area from November-April.

Besides flamingoes, this is the best place to kayak in the Yucatan. The secluded beaches of Celestun are also beautiful, so head to one of the thatched-roof restaurants for some fresh ceviche after a long kayak ride.

🛶 Want to take a kayak tour in Celestun? Book the Kayak Tour on the Emerald Coast now.

flock of over 100 pink flamingoes in Celestun, one of the Best Mexican Beach Towns
A sea of flamingos in Celestun.

17. Rio Lagartos


Merida DAY TRIPs: Rio Lagartos

Besides Celestun and Chelem, you can also head to Rio Lagartos to get your Yucatan flamingo fix. They stick around this area in large numbers from March-June, though some stay year-round. the Rio Lagartos natural area is known for having some of the best bird watching in the Yucatan, with more than 300 species calling it home.

Besides birding, many take a boat tour on the Rio Lagartos (Alligator River), where like the name implies, you’ll likely see some alligators. The boat tour also goes to an area where you can cover yourself in natural clay for a baña Maya, or Mayan bath!


Best Haciendas Near Merida


18. Hacienda Santa Cruz

MERIDA DAY TRIPS: Hacienda Santa Cruz

Looking to have a spa day in Merida?

Look no further than the gorgeous Hacienda Santa Cruz. This gorgeous, restored 17th Century hacienda is the perfect place to relax all day in a beautiful setting.

Stroll the grounds to see the gardens, eat some brunch, and then head to the Mayul Spa treatments that range from homey facials to hydromassage to a traditional Mexican temazcal ceremony.

Photo courtesy of Hacienda Santa Cruz

19. Hacienda Yaxcopoil


MERIDA DAY TRIPS: Hacienda Yaxcopoil

Hacienda Yaxcopoil (pronounced yash-coh-poh-eel) was built way back in ca. 1650. It has been fully restored, and is incredibly gorgeous. In fact, it’s known as one of the prettiest haciendas in Merida.

As with most of Merida’s best haciendas, this one is mostly rented out for private parties and events. When not rented out, you can visit and tour the grounds.

The inside of the house itself is basically a museum. From the outside, you can tour the beautiful grounds and see all the old machinery used to make Merida’s main export — sisal, a thick, sturdy agave-plant fiber used to make twine.

yellow hacienda yaxcopoil, near Merida, Mexico, Yucatan Peninsula

20. Cenotes Hacienda Mucuyche


MERIDA DAY TRIPS: Cenotes Hacienda Mucuyche

The grounds of this 18th Century hacienda have been left in semi-ruin, but that’s all part of the effect. Hacienda Mucuyche and its cenotes are gorgeous, and kind of look like the Garden of Eden meets The Blue Lagoon!

In addition to the rustic Mexican hacienda vibes, there’s two cenotes onsite, Cenote Carlota and Cenote Azul Maya. They are super refreshing to jump in for a swim after your guided tour of the grounds.

💡 Pro tip: They only offer tours Monday-Sunday from 9am-3pmBook your tour here!

natural swimming pool - day trips from Merida
old hacienda with stone architecture - day trips from Merida
old stone architecture in a tropical setting - day trips from Merida

Best Cenotes Near merida, Mexico


The final section of this guide is all about visiting Merida cenotes. These amazing natural treasures are some of the best things to do in Merida during your trip… but before we get to the best cenotes in Merida, let’s first clear a few cenote FAQs up.

Cenote FAQs
  • Cost: Cenotes have entry fees, though they are minimal. The more popular ones that provide amenities like restrooms, on-site restaurants, etc., should still cost no more than $300 pesos ($15) to enter. Most are closer in price to about $50-100 pesos ($2.50-5).
  • Cash Only: Bring cash to cover both your entry and food. Most cenotes are in rural areas, and won’t have WiFi or the ability to take credit cards.
  • Accessibility: Different cenotes have different levels of accessibility. Many will have well-maintained stairs with handrails, especially the more popular ones. Some have make-shift stairs, and some have ladders.
  • Water shoes: Water shoes really help! As cenotes are natural pools, most have slippery rocks, muddy ground, etc. Water shoes also help you not slip in general, especially when walking down any staircase entryways. (I see this a lot!)
  • Life Jackets: I have never been to a cenote that didn’t provide or rent life jackets; but if you can’t swim, you might want to do additional research on the cenote(s) you’re visiting.
  • Sunscreens and lotions: Don’t apply sunscreen, lotion, insect repellent — anything — before getting in a cenote. Many require you to rinse off before entering, so even putting anything on will be a waste.
  • Photos: Want those people-less Instagrammable cenotephotos? Go on a weekday, and arrive early! You also might want to bring one of those waterproof phone holders that go around your neck.

What is a cenote?

To make a long story short, cenotes are basically underwater sinkholes containing crystal-clear, freshwater. They are only found in a few places on Earth, with the largest concentration in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, where there are close to 6,000!

We can see and swim in them because the limestone once covering the water has collapsed and/or eroded throughout Earth’s existence. ⁠After the limestone’s collapse, we’re left with either a completely exposed above-ground cenote, or an underground cenote that you access by going into a cave.

Now that we know what a cenote is, let’s check out some of the best cenotes near Merida.


21. Cenote Ik Kil


Merida day trips: Cenote Ik Kil

Cenotes come in all shapes and sizes, with varying degrees of convenience for visitors, meaning some some have onsite bathrooms, some won’t; some have restaurants or sell snacks, some don’t; some have stairs leading into the cenote, some ladders, etc.

Ik kil Cenote is one of the best cenotes in Yucatan because it has everything you’d need. As you might have noticed, Cenote Ik-Kil is also stunning, and because of this, it’s one of the most popular cenotes to visit.

Best time to visit Cenote Ik-Kil

As one of the most Instagram worthy cenotes in Mexico, combined with its proximity to Chichen Itza, makes Cenote Ik Kil the one on everyone’s radar. During peak hours/days, expect as many as 100 people swimming with you in that beautiful blue cenote water.

If you can, visit Cenote Ik Kil on a weekday. If you only have the weekend to go, try to arrive by 10:30am. Cenoete Ik Kil is open daily, 8am-5pm. 

cenote ik-kil swimming hole with vines hanging down into it, in Valladolid, near Merida, Mexico Yucatan Peninsula

22. Cenote Oxman


Merida day trips: Cenote Oxman

Considered one of the best cenotes near Valladolid, Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman, is a great option if you want that Cenote Ik Kil look, and less of its crowd. Cenote Oxman also has a fun rope swing to enter the cenote with.

This cenote is located on the ground of Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman, so you can even get in a little hacienda tour before or after your swim.

Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman natural swimming pool, in Valladolid, near Merida, Mexico Yucatan Peninsula

23. Cenote Zaci


MERIDA DAY TRIPs: Cenote Zaci

This cenote is located only a few blocks from downtown Valladolid. With such easy access, this one is a favorite for both locals and visitors alike. In fact, locals seem to treat Cenote Zaci as the town swimming pool!

As Valladolid is a relatively small pueblo, there aren’t too many locals to compete with for space, though of course, weekends are much busier than weekdays.

🍽 Pro Tip: There’s an onsite restaurant and if you spend $100 pesos ($5) on food/drinks, you can swim in the cenote for free.

Cenote Zaci natural swimming pool, in Valladolid, near Merida, Mexico Yucatan Peninsula

24. Santa Barbara Cenotes


MERIDA DAY TRIPS: Santa Barbara Cenotes

The Santa Barbara cenotes are located in the pueblo (small town) of Homun. This is a group of three cenotes — Cenote Chaksikin, Cenote Cascabel and Cenote Xoch. The first two are in caves and the last one is a semi-open cenote.

To visit, head to the Santa Barbara Cenotes on the map. At the entrance, you’ll pay either $200 pesos ($10USD) for entrance to the cenotes, or $300 pesos ($15USD) for a meal of your choice at the onsite restaurant after visiting the cenotes.

From there, you can take a rental bike (included in the cost), or take a horse-drawn cart to the first cenote, Cenote Chaksikin, about 1/2-mile away. After that, Cenote Cascabel is the second one, and Cenote Xoch is third. When you’re done, you can ride the bike back, or take the horse carriage.

Cenote Santa Barbara natural swimming pool, in Valladolid, near Merida, Mexico Yucatan Peninsula
Cenote Cascabel, one of the three Santa Barbara cenotes. | Photo by liongrrl

25. Cenote X’Batun


MERIDA DAY TRIPS: Cenote X’Batun

This hidden gem cenote is not on many tourist radars, and it’s never very crowded. Located only about 45 minutes from Merida, and very close to the beautiful Hacienda Yaxcopoil, you can combine these two into a Merida day trip, and still be back in the city for a nice dinner.

When visiting Cenote X’Batun, you get the best of both worlds as there are actually two cenotes here — an above-ground cenote, and an underground cenote.

Final thoughts: Merida, Mexico Travel

Is Merida safe?

This is the # 1 most asked question about visiting this country — Is Mexico safe for travel? Given mainstream media coverage, Mexico has a bad wrap. However, this is a huge country, and yes, there are parts you should avoid… but Merida isn’t one of them!

In fact, the entire Yucatan Peninsula is considered quite safe, not just Merida. Many opt for not only Merida day trips in their rental car, but entire Yucatan road trips to visit the must see Yucatan destinations in a single trip.

However, given that no place on Earth is 100% safe, have a look at the info below and do consider getting travel insurance for Mexico, especially if you’re renting a car in Merida.

Should I get travel insurance for Mexico?

Want an added level of security and peace of mind during these strange travel times? Just as you insure your car, home and body, you can also insure your luggage, belongings and health while traveling.

I’ll be honest, when I first started traveling solo, I wasn’t insured. However, after years of solo traveling, I wised up… now, I even have a whole page of this website dedicated to travel insurance, because it’s just that important!

If Mexico and Mexico City travel safety are on your mind, get your free quote below now!

10 General travel safety tips
  1. Always listen to your intuition — because your intuition is always right.
  2. If you get a sketchy or uneasy feeling about a person or place, get away from that person or place asap. Don’t worry about making a kind, nice or politically correct exit from a creepy person or bad situation — Just get away fast.
  3. Don’t walk home alone at night.
  4. Don’t keep your phone, keys, wallet, passport, or anything valuable in your back pocket.
  5. Learn some basic Spanish. If you can’t learn it, save this infographic as an image on your phone so you have something to use even if you’re off-WiFi.
  6. Take all of your belongings into the bathroom with you, rather than asking a cafe/bar neighbor to watch your things. This is annoying, for sure, but it works to not get your stuff stolen.
  7. Speaking of bar neighbors… don’t take drinks from strangers and/or leave your drink unattended.
  8. Don’t wear flashy clothes, expensive jewelry, designer sunglasses, etc.
  9. Keep some cash in your pocket so you don’t have to pull your whole wallet out every time you need to pay.
  10. When in doubt: Get Travel Insurance!
Register for the STEP Program

Make sure you enroll in the free STEP Program before your trip. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, allows U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico to document your trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

After you’ve registered, the U.S. Consulate in Merida can contact you in the event of an emergency, including natural disasters, civil unrest, etc. STEP can also put you in touch with your family and friends back home in the event of an emergency while abroad.

Need a Merida Airbnb?

As a Merida local since July 2019, I went ahead and used my knowledge of this city to compile a list of the best Airbnbs in Merida for you. These are all located in the best parts of town, and hosted by Airbnb’s vetted Super Hosts… so all you have to do is book and enjoy your Merida trip.


what to pack for Merida

As far as how to dress in Merida, Mexicans tend to dress on the conservative side. However, Merida and the Yucatan Peninsula have a hot, tropical climate — so think flowy, breathable, light-weight clothing. As Mexico sidewalks aren’t the easiest to walk on, and you’ll want to opt for flats over wedges or heels.

FREE Printable Packing List for Mexico

Wondering exactly what to pack for Merida and all of Mexico? Download your FREE printable packing list for Mexico below — it covers both Mexico beach packing and Mexico city packing. This multi-page Mexico packing checklist covers everything you’ll want to bring, and more importantly, what not to bring to Mexico.


Did we miss any amazing Merida Day Trips?

Please join the conversation in the comments down below and share your knowledge!


Enjoy these related blogs!


Please join me on my Solo Travel & Mexico Travel adventures


¡Hola Chicas!

I’m Shelley, a former Miami travel magazine editor who ditched the office for the world!

I started this Blog and Podcast to help women like you cross Solo travel and Mexico travel off your bucket list… READ MORE

podcast cover-woman on a colorful colonial street

A solo travel podcast

meets Mexico travel podcast

🎧 Click to Listen Now

         

Affiliate disclosure

This page may contain affiliate links, meaning when you make a purchase, I make a small commission. Affiliate links cost you nothing, and help keep my content free! It’s a win-win for us both 👯‍♀️ READ MORE

Best Solo Female Travel Podcast: Dream To Destination

Best Solo Female Travel Podcast: Dream To Destination

Looking for a Solo Female Travel Podcast?  You’ve found it — the Dream To Destination podcast is a solo travel podcast meets Mexico travel podcast… and sometimes, a podcast about solo travel in Mexico. Tune in each Monday, when host Shelley and guests discuss...

I’d L❤️VE to hear from you!

7 Comments

  1. Lisa

    I absolutely love how colorful each and every one of these locations are! who knew there were so many neat places to explore in this part of mexico! adding it to my bucketlist!

    Reply
  2. Shannon

    Great info! The cenotes all look amazing!

    Reply
  3. Courtney

    Merida is one of the first places I want to visit once I feel comfortable flying again. (Especially since it’s getting cold where I am!) I love this list, and thank you for sharing these lesser known day trips, too. I had never heard of the ‘Magic Town’ designation, but that sounds like a great travel planning tip to look for when visiting other cities in Mexico, too. I was thinking of a week or two, but now I wish I had a whole month to visit!

    Reply
  4. Megan

    I totally want to go to Celestun now and see the flamingos!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Megan: It’s such a cool experience to see so many of them in the wild… I believe there are something like 30,000 that live there.

      Reply
  5. Krista

    I would love to visit those Mayan ruins! Great list of day trips you’ve put together, they all look incredible.

    Reply
  6. Nina Clapperton

    Mexico is always truly stunning, but your photos make it more so. I love the bright pops of colour, especially as Canada gets drearier and drearier. Saving for future trips!

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest