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Wondering what things to do in Celestun in the Yucatan Peninsula? Celestun is considered more of a ‘back to nature’ tourist attraction with the pink flamingos as the ‘star’ attraction. What a star attraction they are!
The Celestun Biosphere Reserve where the flamingos are for part of the year is located in the northwestern part of the Yucatan Peninsula on 146,000 acres. On our Facebook, we had noticed other traveller’s photos of the pink flamingos in their natural habitat, in fact, we couldn’t wait to see them. The only times we had seen flamingos were in zoos, but to see them in their natural surroundings excited us.
We were not disappointed! Celestun Mexico is the place to see them!
If you are looking to stay around Celestun and want to visit a Mayan Temple (the main tourist attractions of this region of Mexico) you will need to consider travelling to either Chichen Itza (214 km away) or Uxmal (120 km away). We would recommend that you make Merida a base to visit all that the Yucatan Peninsula has to offer.
- 1 Map of The Yucatan Peninsula
- 2 Things to do in Celestun Yucatan Peninsula
- 3 Celestun Flamingo Season
- 4 Celestun Biosphere Reserve
- 5 Celestun Beach
- 6 Rio Lagartos Yucatan
- 7 Where to Eat in Celestun
- 8 Celestun Hotels
- 9 Merida Hotel
Map of The Yucatan Peninsula
Things to do in Celestun Yucatan Peninsula
Celestun (the correct spelling is Celestun and not Celestone which is an injectable cortisone) means ‘painted stone’ in Mayan and receives over 25,000 visitors a year. It is a small fishing village with a small harbour, great seafood restaurants and a local beach.
How to travel to Celestun
There are hourly departures in a 2nd class bus from Merida Bus Station that is located on Calle 67 between Calles 50 and 52.
There are car rental companies available in Merida to travel around the Yucatan Peninsula. The journey takes between 1.5 hours and 2 hours depending on traffic.
There are several tour operators running day trips to Celestun.
Boat Tour to See Flamingos of Celestun
When you arrive at Celestun there are launches available to take you on the 2-hour boat ride to see the flamingos feeding as well as a tour through the mangroves.
The cost of the boat tour:
MXN1300 (USD$70) for the two of us (price as of 2017)
There are opportunities to reduce the cost of the boat by waiting for other passengers to turn up. We took the opportunity of having a launch just for the two of us. Our boat driver only spoke Spanish but with hand gestures etc we were able to understand most of what he was saying.
To Travel Too Tip:
- You will need sunscreen and a hat
- Ensure that you have water
- Ensure that your boat driver keeps a safe distance away from the flamingos
- Refrain from loud noises which might scare the birds from feeding
Facts about the Celestun Flamingos
What graceful elegant birds they are! They belong to the waterfowl group and are the tallest birds in this group reaching to a height of 1.5m for males and can weigh up to 4kg. They can live up to 20 or 30 years of age. They have been known to congregate in groups of up to 500 in numbers. Their long legs, long necks, and graceful movements are so wonderful to watch and when they fly off in formation it is an amazing sight to witness. They are noisy, really noisy but you forgive them because of their beauty. We were lucky to see so many in one location. They formed little groups squawking away at one another like groups of school kids in the school yard.
When they are born their feathers are grey in colour and their bills are straight. By the time they reach the age of 3 their pink colour has emerged due to their natural diet which contains high levels of beta-carotene found in brine shrimp and algae. They feed with their heads in the water.
Unfortunately, numbers have reduced over the years due to periodic flooding of their nesting environment, lead poisoning due to overhead aircraft and global warming which reduces the amount of water in the lagoons and lakes. With the lack of sufficient fresh water they cannot survive, they would have to find new locations and this, in turn, affects their mating.
Celestun Flamingo Season
We were fortunate to visit during the month of February, as we had been told that the best time to see the flamingos is between November and March when they are courting. They move further north to Rio Lagartos in the summer for nesting and birthing. There were thousands on the day we visited.
Celestun Biosphere Reserve
After spending some time watching and floating around the flamingos we headed towards the mangroves.
Along the way, we saw many types of other birds in their natural habitats such as the grey and white pelicans and cormorants.
In the freshwater springs of the Mangrove, our guide stated we may see a crocodile or two but we were out of luck on this trip. The Mangroves and surrounding jungle are also home to herons, kingfishers, woodpeckers, jaguars, ocelots, white-tailed deer and spider monkey. There are 4 type of turtles to be found in the Celestun Biosphere Reserve; Hawksbill, Green, Loggerhead and Leatherback.
Mangroves are tidal habitats comprising of varieties of trees and shrubs. Here in Celestun, the tree species are Gum, Chac’a, the Alamo, Sabal and Mahogany trees many growing to heights of between 15m-18m.
The colours of the water and the reflection of the trees in the mangroves as we sailed through gave us a feeling of peace and calm, there was no-one else around just us. We could have just sat in the launch for hours enjoying the wildlife and the peacefulness.
After your 2-hour boat ride, you can enjoy a few hours on the long stretch of the Celestun Beach.
Rio Lagartos Yucatan
Rio Largartos is the summer nesting and birthing place for the Celestun Flamingos after spending the winter in Celstun. It is a 2.5-hour drive from Merida to the northern part of the peninsular where Rio Largartos is located. It is a small town with a boardwalk which is famous for its pink sunsets.
There are several tour operators who run tours from Merida to Rio Lagartos who specialise in photography and bird watching tours.
If you are visiting the Yucatan Peninsular during Summer we would recommend travelling to Rio Lagartos instead of Celestun to see the flamingos.
Where to Eat in Celestun
There are at least 13 restaurants to choose from in and around Celestun, their specialities are seafood and local Mexican cuisine.
Located in a 5km nature reserve with private beaches Xixim Unique Mayan Hotel is one of the several hotels that you could stay in Celestun, check availability and latest prices for this 5-star hotel.
Check availability and latest prices at the Hotel & Villas Playa Maya Resorts Celestun which is 14 minutes drive from Celestun and 1 minute from the beach.
We enjoyed our stay at the Wyndham Hotel in Merida, which was in a good location in Merida with a swimming pool that was welcomed at the end of a day of sightseeing.
We highly recommend a visit to Celestun and the pink flamingos as part of your itinerary in the Yucatan Peninsula. It is a great day out. Apart from Celestun Merida should be on our list as well, the colonial buildings, the restaurants and the night time music festivities that pop up around town.
You may also enjoy our 30-second visit of boating through the mangroves of Celestun.
We would like to thank the Yucatan Travel, and Visit Mexico for their assistance for our 4 days in Merida and the Yucatan. In our visit to Celestun, our transport to and from Merida was sponsored as well as our boat ride. Our accommodation at the Wyndham Hotel in Merida was sponsored for our stay, we thank the management and staff for taking good care of us. We thank George our driver and Maria from Yucatan Travel for looking after us so well. As always, our opinions are our own.
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