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Merida Mexico: Ultimate Merida Travel Guide (Yucatan)

The ultimate food and fun guide to Merida Mexico & the surrounding Yucatan state.

Wondering what to do in Merida Mexico? This mega guide showcases our absolute top picks for anyone on a short trip to Merida. Consider this the Cliffnotes to having an unforgettable Merida experience – Food, Fun and travel/arrival advice.

If you are visiting Merida Mexico for more than 72 hours, we’ll link you out to more options to fill your time in the only city to have been voted Latin American Capital of Culture twice!!

After living in downtown Merida Mexico for over 6 months, we’ve explored and trialled as much of the culture, food and Merida nightlife as we possibly could! And now we want to share our top favourite things to do in Merida Mexico – The capital of the Yucatan.

*DISCLOSURE: Some links in this article are affiliate links. These are links that may earn us a commission if you choose to make a purchase based on our advice. These commissions allow us to keep providing top quality info, for free, on our blog. We work hard to ensure we only promote companies we believe provide quality options for our readers, but take no responsibility for them. Please use our links to support us and keep our blog running.

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1. An Introduction To Merida Mexico

  1. History, Weather & Why Visit
  2. Downtown Merida Mexico Map & Neighbourhoods
  3. Get Your Free Interactive Tourism Map

2. Things to do in Merida Mexico

  1. Culture & History
  2. Museums & Galleries

3. Food, Restaurants & Nightlife in Merida Mexico

  1. An Introduction To Dining In Merida
  2. Where To Eat & What To Eat
  3. Food Tours & Cooking Classes
  4. Cantinas (Traditional Bars)
  5. Nightlife & Late Night Bars

4. Out of Town Attractions

  1. Merida Beaches
  2. Cenotes Merida (Natural Sinkholes)
  3. Mayan Ruins Near Merida (inc. Chichen Itza)

5. Day Trips From Merida (Self Guided Itineraries)

  1. Mayapan Ruins / Cuzama Cenotes / Izamal (Yellow City)
  2. Uxmal – Chocolate Museum – Hacienda San Pedro Ochil – Cenote Dzonbacal & X’batun
  3. Celestun Yucatan Flamingos biosphere & beach
  4. Chichen Itza & Valladolid

6. Shopping & Markets

7. Merida Festivals

8. Accommodation – Best Hotels In Merida Mexico

  1. Merida Mexico Luxury Hotels & Haciendas
  2. Merida Mexico Boutique Hotels
  3. Mid Range Hotels
  4. Budget Hotels & Hostels
  5. Vacation Rentals & AirBnB Discount
  6. OUR FULL List Of Hacienda Accommodation (Opens in new tab)
  7. OUR FULL “Best Hotels In Merida Mexico” article (opens in new tab)

9. Transport & Arrival

  1. Get to Merida (From Cancun / Belize / Riviera Maya etc.)
  2. Get Around Merida

10. Travel Insurance

Merida Mexico: A Brief Introduction

Downtown Merida Mexico Yucatan - Mayan Meets Spanish colonial

Mayan Culture Meets Spanish Colonialism – Merida Mexico

 

A Very Quick History of Merida Mexico

Merida Mexico is the capital of the Yucatan state, and the largest city in the Yucatan Peninsula (A region which includes Cancun & Riviera Maya). The population of the metropolitan area is about 1 million. But the city is almost entirely low rise buildings, so it’s very spread out.

Merida was founded in 1542 by Francisco de Montejo on the site of a Mayan settlement, T’hó. It was named after Merida, Spain and it’s the largest of 4 places in the world named Merida.

Most of Merida’s iconic colonial buildings, many of which are still occupied today, were built in the 18th & 19th centuries. Though many of the main religious buildings around the centre of the city are older – such as the Cathedral de San Ildefonso, completed in 1598.

By the early 20th century, international trade in henquen (used to make ropes) made Merida one of the richest cities in the world for a time.

Merida has the 3rd largest centro histórico (Historic Centre) in the Americas (After Mexico City & Havana, Cuba).

The Yucatan Peninsula is homeland to the Mayan civilization (Chichen Itza etc.). The Mayan population still living here today form the largest indigenous population in the Americas. Mayan is a distinct language and culture which you’ll find being celebrated throughout Merida and the Yucatan Peninsula.

The Yucatan Peninsula has long been identified by its inhabitants as distinctly different from other parts of Mexico and for some of the 19th century was declared independent from Mexico.

 

Merida Mexico Weather

The best months to visit are December to March for consistently dry and sunny weather. It also becomes pleasantly cool in the evening (Down to 15c/60f) at that time of year (still t-shirt weather though!) and the sun is low enough throughout the day that you can benefit from shade from buildings when walking around the city.

April & May are the hot and dry season. May can be oppressively hot (40c/105f). But lower humidity can keep it bearable.

June through September may be described as the wet season. That typically means it rains and/or thunders once a day in the afternoon – rather than all day. Storms are typically short and rainfall is only super heavy occasionally, not every day.

October & November are transitional months moving to being drier and less hot than the summer.

For the full weather stats, click here.

 

Why Visit Merida Mexico

Everyone’s reason to visit will come down to different things, but this is our number one reason to be here:

The city exudes life & fun 24/7 and you can breathe in the food, culture and a warm welcome on every corner.

At the time of writing, we’ve visited 86+ countries around the world. Aside from the countries we grew up in, Merida is now the one place we’ve chosen to live longer than anywhere else. Locals seem to really live their lives more in Merida – where existence flows from your heart and not from your job.

Merida is almost entirely free from pretension. And you are invited to come and taste a little bit of that freedom for yourself because everyone is welcome in Merida Mexico. From colonial mansions to the more rundown corners of every barrio, there is bright color and a real sense of humanity, where strangers still greet you in the street (in Spanish, of course).

Downtown Merida Mexico Yucatan: color & culture

Merida Mexico: A city of color and culture

Here are 9 highlights which contribute to making Merida a must for your next vacation (or re-location!)

  1. Merida has been voted Cultural Capital of Latin America twice. It was the first ever cultural capital (year 2000), and the only city to be awarded the title twice (2000, 2017). The sheer quantity of cultural events in this city has been astonishing.
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  2. Merida is the safest major city in Mexico. Want to walk home by yourself at 3am? You’ll feel safe.
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  3. You can Day-trip to Chichen Itza (Wonder of the World). It’s just a few hours drive from Merida. In close proximity… A biosphere reserve with thousands of flamingos. The yellow city. Hundreds (if not thousands) of “cenotes”, natural sinkholes filled with crystal blue fresh water. And, much more! (see below)
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  4. Yucatan service is fantastic – and Merida even more so. Unlike the tourist hotspots of Cancun & Playa del Carmen, Merida still offers a genuine welcome to all, not just because they want a bigger tip from rich tourists. Visitors are still welcomed as guests, not as dollar signs.
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  5. Everything is to be discovered. With so much of the city existing in the gardens and courtyards of Merida’s colonial heritage, there is a whole world behind the doors tourists don’t dare to open. We’ll help you find those lesser explored gems.
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  6. Boutique is king. Currently, the city is not overrun by chain hotels. Instead, most tourists in downtown Merida find themselves in colonial style accommodation – with stunning architecture. The best news is, there are boutique options for every budget!
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  7. Live Music Is Everywhere! From Cuban rhythms and salsa dancing to ska and Rock n Roll, live music can be found more easily than any city we’ve ever been to and it’s almost always free. Street performances, free concerts, bars & restaurants. Get absorbed by the energy of live performance.
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  8. Dine all night! Food is a priority for Meridians, you won’t get shut out early from eating. You’ll find most evening restaurants serving a full sit-down menu until at least 11 pm, some until 1 am or later.
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  9. Tourism is growing fastcome here sooner rather than later. Not only has Merida been repeatedly featured in house hunters international, the amount of press surrounding it’s 2017 cultural capital award has massively boosted its profile. New direct airline routes, and now a planned expansion to the airport show a clear trend in increasing tourism.

NOTE: The city is genuinely aged in many places. Some buildings are in disrepair, streets do have pot-holes. Sidewalks outside the well-maintained centro, are often damaged and you need to be careful while you walk. But, the inconsistency of maintenance is part of the reason the city feels alive, that it feels old, that it feels authentic. Embrace the chaos and you’ll discover why Merida has grabbed a hold of us and kept us here so long.

Map & Districts (Colonias)

The map below shows a rough approximation of the colonias (neighborhoods) of downtown Merida Mexico (Centro). This map will help you get a general orientation of all those different parts of Merida Mexico that will be referred to throughout this mega guide.

It will also help you think about what part of town you might want to stay in.

Credit: Google Maps. The Colonias of Merida Mexico (State Capital of Yucatan)

Paseo Montejo – Merida Mexico

Paseo Montejo is the grand tree lined boulevard of Merida Mexico. Impressive colonial mansions are spaced along the Paseo – a street that actually extends much further north than the map above shows.

Cafes and restaurants allow a perfect vantage point for watching people and traffic pass by. This is a relatively up market part of town.

Santa Ana – Merida Mexico

Santa Ana is central enough to be a short walk from the heart of the action, just out of downtown enough to be a little more peaceful and less touristy, and north enough to give much easier access (skipping most of the downtown Merida traffic) to the modern northern suburbs, malls and out to Progreso (Merida Beaches). Santa Ana park itself has a younger vibe than other parts of centro – it’s artsy and many new late night bars are popping up.

Santiago – Merida Mexico

Santiago is the latest big colonia for expats – it feels like the entire neighborhood is being refurbished right now. It has its own distinct essence that separates it from downtown Merida. It’s next to downtown, but its vibe remains independent. The church was founded there in 1637 and is a center piece for the Santiago park that is always busy with locals.

Santa Lucia – Merida Mexico

Santa Lucia is the relatively upscale part of downtown just north of Plaza Grande. Unlike many of the other colonias on the map, Santa Lucia is very much inner city, though still with that colonial feel that makes it seem like you are really in Latin America. This part of town is aimed at the more sophisticated visitor looking to dress up to eat out and pay a little more for the privilege.

That said, it’s still got plenty of lively options as you move a few streets away from Parque Santa Lucia.

Mejorada – Merida Mexico

Yet another very historic part of the city. Mejorada was home to Merida’s first hospital, built in 1562. The area is also home to the railway station – now housing an art school. Mejorada park itself is very peaceful, surrounded by small bars, and home to Almendros, an institution to traditional Mayan food since the 70s.

Chen Bech – Merida Mexico

To the east of Mejorada is Chen Bech. This is still very much a local neighborhood – but the expats are just starting to move in. There is not a lot for tourists in this area yet, but it seems like it has some potential to become the next central hub for those traveling on a budget. Walking distance to the city, and ready for improvements. Explore here for a taste of local only life.

Downtown & Plaza Grande – Merida Mexico

The absolute heart of Merida. This area of downtown Merida Mexico revolves around the Plaza Grande which is constantly host to different cultural events. It’s a lively part of town focused on tourists, locals, families and more. It’s the accessible home of Merida’s history, while still being the modern heart of everyday life.

San Juan – Merida Mexico

San Juan, and San Cristobal (below) are the slightly more run down parts of centro. They are primarily shopping districts and in need of a make over – then again the rough and original vibe has its own appeal. San Juan square is home to many street food carts at night – one of the only parts of centro still busy with street food.

Between San Juan and the main ADO bus station, you’ll find many of the super budget accommodation in downtown – including places renting by the hour, with “hostesses” outside.

San Cristobal – Merida Mexico

San Cristobal sits to the east of Merida’s central market. It’s a bustling area full of traders coming in and out. You’ll find a lot of discount clothing stores and other shopping close to the edge of the market. But like San Juan, it’s got a rough and ready feel to the area.

Although this region was one of the original parts of the city, dating all the way back to the 1540s, the church in the area was one of the last to be built – completed in 1796. The church is an important one in Merida, worth a visit.

San Sebastian & Ermita – Merida Mexico

This colonia seems poised for re-development. But such things are happening slowly. Like most of Merida, even in the more run-down parts of the city, the locals are incredibly welcoming of tourists. Although the colonia itself is a little limited on cultural events and restaurants/bars for now, it’s a short distance from the center and is more affordable. You won’t be seeing a lot of tourists around this colonia, which can be a nice option for those looking for a little more immersion!

Get Our Complete Merida & Yucatan Free Interactive Tourism Map

Every attraction, restaurant, and hotel listed in this article – plus many more of our top picks – are featured on our exclusive, custom Google map overlay. Access all the info live on your phone/tablet or computer (including all new updates) at any time by getting access to our Free Map.

Tourist favorites – as well as local secrets that almost all tourists miss!

Featuring Merida Mexico, Riviera Maya (inc. Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum) and around the Yucatan Peninsula. Click To Get The Map.

 

 

Things To Do in Merida Mexico (Culture & History)

 

1. Downtown Merida Mexico: Traditional Cultural Dancing

Downtown Merida Mexico: Traditional Cultural Dancing

Downtown Merida Mexico: Traditional Cultural Dancing

One of the most unmissable things to do in Merida Mexico is to attend a local cultural dance performance.

Dressed in traditional white dresses, embroidered with colorful flowers, the Mayan ladies dance to the sounds of trumpets and a 12 piece band.

The lively sound of brass accompanies choreographed moves that have been a part of Merida’s culture for many years. There is often a surprise dance involving beer – you’ll have to spot that one for yourself.

There are many opportunities to enjoy the local dancing in downtown Merida Mexico – and they are almost always free to attend. The most iconic options are:

Thursdays in Merida Mexico: The Yucatecan Serenade is held in Parque Santa Lucia from 9 pm. It normally gets very busy and it’s advisable to turn up by 8.30pm to get a good seat. The event has run for 40+ years, every week. Traditional dance and guest singers and musicians. Cost $Free.

Sundays in Merida Mexico: In the Plaza Grande at 1 pm, a longer version of the traditional dances with the big band. The whole of the central square is also filled with street food. Other musical acts play periodically through the day and into the evening.

Other events with dancing:

Mondays in Merida Mexico: At Plaza Grande, enjoy Vaqueria Night from 9pm. Watch the Ballet Folkloric perform to the sounds of the Jaranera orchestra.

Tuesdays in Merida Mexico: Parque Santiago hosts Musical Memories – which starts at 8.30pm. This is not a dance performance, it’s local people from the older generation coming to dance to the big band. You can join them!

Saturdays in Merida Mexico: Located at the “Remate de Paseo Montejo”, Noche Mexicana – Evening (Scheduled from 8pm, but we’ve seen it start around 7pm sometimes). Varying musical and/or dance performances and artisanal market stands showcasing local food and crafts.

2. Things To Do In Merida Mexico: Cemetery – Cementerio General

downtown Merida Mexico Yucatan - Cemetery

The colorful cemeteries of the Yucatan

In this region, the cemetery’s are a celebration of life, not the mourning of death. Find beautiful and colorful tributes to loved ones.

Wednesday nights at 8pm you can attend a night tour of the cemetery (In Spanish). Otherwise, you can visit during the general daily opening hours 8am – 5pm.

Location: Cementerio General – Meet at the corner of calle 90 & Calle 66 diagonal (Near the cemetery museum)

3. Things To Do In Merida Mexico: Free Walking Tour of Plaza Grande

downtown Merida Mexico Yucatan - Plaza Grande

Plaza Grande – In the heart of Merida Mexico

Merida is one of the oldest cities in Latin America (Founded in 1542). The Plaza Grande has long been the center of life in the city and taking a free walking tour will introduce you to the history of the clash between Hispanic and Mayan culture, as well as learn about the architecture and evolution of Merida city center.

Our friends at Pink Cactus Tours run a free walking tour (1.5 hours) at 9.30am and 6.30pm each day. Meeting outside the Catedral de Mérida.

4. Things To Do In Merida Mexico: Mayan Ball Game: Pok Ta Pok (Fridays)

downtown Merida Mexico Yucatan - Pok Ta Pok - The Mayan Ball Game

Pok Ta Pok – The Mayan Ball Game in Plaza Grande, Merida Mexico

In the heart of downtown Merida Mexico, the ancient sport of Pok Ta Pok is still played every Friday night.

Painted with body art and adorned by feathers and head-dresses, two teams of stocky Mayan men attempt to get a round ball through a hoop using only their hips to hit the ball.

Played on the cobbled streets of Plaza Grande, expect chanting, scrapes, and scratches and, as a finale, the ball is lit on fire.

Unlike in historic Mayan tradition, the team captain is not beheaded at the end of this ceremonial ball game. But fire, action, and competition make this a top “oooooh! and aaaahhh!” event.

Time: 8pm (Arrive before 7.30pm to get a good seat with a clear view)

Location: Plaza Grande, in front of the cathedral.

 

5. Things To Do In Merida Mexico: Bici-Ruta (Weekends)

For Bici-Ruta, the streets of downtown Merida Mexico are blocked off exclusively for cyclists. Hundreds of locals and tourists get on their bikes (You can rent bikes easily) for exercise and fun.

Even if you don’t want to ride, just turn up to watch and take in the ambiance.

If you need a bit of exercise after indulging in all the traditional Mayan cuisine, this is one of your best choices of things to do in Merida Mexico.

When & Where: Passeo de Montejo (Every Sunday 8.30am to 12.30am, AND First Saturday of the month Evening 5pm to 9pm)

Additional events outside of downtown Merida are also available, see the official Bici-Ruta site for complete listing.

 

Our complete guide of 40+ Things To Do In Merida Mexico is coming soon!

Things To Do in Merida Mexico (Museums & Galleries)

Merida is home to a burgeoning art & culture scene. Take some time out from the afternoon heat to relax and learn more about the Maya history and local art.

Gran Museo de Mundo Maya Merida Mexico

Merida Mexico Yucatan - Gran Museo de Mundo Maya

Gran Museo de Mundo Maya – Merida Mexico

The Gran Museo de Mundo Maya is a huge modern museum dedicated to the history and culture of the Mayan world.

Learn the fascinating story of how the dinosaur killing meteor of 65 million years ago landed just north of the Yucatan peninsula – creating the massive underground network of cenotes (Underground lakes/sinkholes).

See exhibits which demonstrate the Mayan way of life and their progression through history. You’ll want to spend 2 to 3 hours exploring the prolific collection of artifacts.

Where: Calle 60 – Highway to Progreso.

 

Merida Museums: Palacio Canton (Anthropology and History Museum)

Step inside an exquisitely well preserved colonial mansion on Merida’s historic Paseo de Montejo. View the exhibits of the region’s Mayan heritage.

Note that the colonial mansion and the museum are all-in-one. Other listings online claim these are two different attractions, but they are not.


When & Where:
Tuesday to Sunday 8am to 5pm. Paseo Montejo #485.

 

Merida Galleries: Nahualli Casa de los Artistas (House of the Artists)

Nahualli is a relatively small art space housed in another of Merida’s stunning colonial buildings. The art of Melva Medina and her husband Abel Vazquez represents Mayan/Mexican culture through nature and people. Blending traditional designs with more abstract interpretations.

When & Where: Parque Santa Ana, Calle 60 #405. 10am-2pm & 4pm-8pm. Closed Sundays.

 

Merida Galleries: Folk Art Museum of Yucatan (Museo de Arte Popular de Yucatan)

A small museum gallery dedicated to the traditional Mayan art, crafts, and clothing of the Yucatan region. If you visit the Gran Museo (listed above) then you won’t see a lot of additional examples here. If not, a quick hour at the folk art museum can be interesting.

When & Where: Calle 50-A #487. 10am-5pm. Closed Sundays.

For Exact Locations Of Every Attraction, Restaurant, Hotel etc. listed on this article (and from all our other Yucatan articles) don’t forget to grab a copy of our FREE Custom Google Map Overlay – All our top picks marked in one simple map.

Merida Mexico Food – Where To Eat & What To Eat

merida mexico market Yucatan - M60

M60 Night Market – Merida Restaurants

Merida is the capital of Yucatan. Yucatan food is distinctively different from other parts of Mexico, with a strong influence from traditional Mayan food.

As well as the classic Mayan dishes, ingredients from colonial occupation have been introduced to create some great fusion dishes. Spanish & Lebanese cuisine are two of the strongest influences.

It should be noted that a lot of dishes are simply “Mexican” and are wrongly attributed to being Yucatan food simply because they are present on many menus. eg. Queso fundido, guacamole, tacos (in general)

In this section, I’ll list our Top 6 must try Yucatecan foods – and our favorite places in Merida Mexico to eat them. This is just a fraction of what you should eat here…

Our complete guide to Yucatan food, as well as our in-depth Merida restaurants guide (both Yucatecan and international cuisine) are coming soon!

Understanding Merida Eating Hours

Before listing the food, a quick note on when to eat. Meal times work very differently from in America, Australia & The UK. If you intend to get the most out of eating at Merida Restaurants, and want the ambiance and experience that locals get, you may have to adjust your eating times.

The below info is a guideline but there are plenty of exceptions depending on the individual restaurants.

7am to 1pm – Breakfast / Brunch

The exact timings vary, but typically, brunch style dishes continue to be served later than you’d expect. This is because lunch is later than you expect.

For example, often places selling tacos – which you might assume you’d eat for lunch, will be pretty much sold out of the best options by midday.

2pm to 6pm – Lunch

Some of the most popular lunch spots in Merida Mexico will not get busy until after 3pm. For example, Eladios (More below), is open 11.30am to 9pm. But if you come early for lunch at midday you’ll be in a huge restaurant by yourself and miss all the afternoon live entertainment. If you arrive instead for dinner at 7.30pm, you’ll find the customers clearing out and the band packing up.

Many of the traditional local bars (Cantinas) are open until 10pm, but main food service will often end by 6 or 7, and it will be snacks (botanas) only after that time.

8pm to Midnight – Dinner

Many evening restaurants don’t open before 7 or 8. Even if they do, it’ll be you and a couple of other Gringos having dinner at 7. Head for dinner after 9 for more atmosphere! If you had a 2-hour lunch at 3pm, you won’t need to eat before 9 anyway!

 

Merida Mexico Restaurants – Top 6 Yucatan Food to try, and where!

Currently, our number 1 Merida restaurant for traditional Mayan Food is Manjar Blanco. It’s a family business where the mother runs the kitchen and she’s been cooking the most traditional Mayan Food all her life. She’s currently compiling a book about every dish in the region with recipes so secret that they are possessed by locals who don’t even speak Spanish – just Mayan.

The definitive version of almost every classic dish on the list below is best at Manjar Blanco… But, in the interests of variety, you might also like to visit some establishments with the second best option!

Best Cochinita Pibil / Lechon

merida mexico food Yucatan food - Lechon & cochinita Pibil

Yucatan Food: Lechon Panuchos con cuarrito at La Lupita in Mercado Santiago

Cochinita pibil is slow roasted pork. Cooked underground, wrapped in banana leaves, baked in a “pib” – the traditional Mayan oven. The classic time to eat this is Sunday morning after the pig has been slow roasting all night.

One of the best versions is at La Lupita, inside Mercado Santiago (The main municipal market in Santiago Park). The restaurant has blue table cloths, it’s right in the center of the market, about 50 meters from any entrance.

Lechon is also slow roasted pork with a different spice profile. Lechon is served with an additional piece of chicharron (Deep fried pork fat – like crackling). But, for the best version, ask for your Lechon “Con Cuarrito” – which includes the dark roasted fat, rather than the re-fried chicharron.

The meat is served in your choice of corn tortillas, panuchos or salbutes. Our preference, panuchos. As the plain corn tortillas strong flavor overpowers the delicate pork, in our opinion.

Where & When: La Lupita, Mercado Santiago. 7am – 1pm. Sunday morning is bustling and when the most stalls at the market are set up.

 

Best Queso Relleno – Restaurant Manjar Blanco

Yucatan Food: Queso Relleno @ Manjar Blanco Merida Mexico

Yucatan Food: Queso Relleno @ Manjar Blanco

Queso Relleno means “Stuffed Cheese”. Queso Relleno is a hollowed out ball of Dutch Edam cheese – but the stronger type, not the mild type. The cheese is filled with minced pork, normally spiced with the local achiote. This is then covered in the blanco sauce (a white sauce made from turkey stock, flour, butter and sometimes saffron).

To finish, this is topped with a rich tomato salsa. Some restaurants garnish with olives too.

There are a few important factors that make the difference between a great queso relleno and just having a bowl of meat and cheese:

  • How the cheese is cooked – it needs to have been heated enough to soften. If the cheese is still hard, the texture ruins the dish.
  • Salt in the pork. Because under seasoned pork mince prevents the meat from popping with flavor.
  • Rich tomato salsa. The sweetness of the tomato brings together all the other elements. A bland salsa flattens the whole dish.

Manjar Blanco get all these elements perfect, and present the dish well too!

When & Where: Manjar Blanco, opposite Parque Santa Ana, calle 47 #496. Open 8am – 6pm, but the lunch menu is served from midday.

Mexico From The Source - Lonely Planet

 

Looking for the ultimate guide to Mexican cuisine? Check out the latest foodie guide (cookbook) by Lonely Planet “Mexico From The Source.” From street-food vendors to Michelin-starred chefs, in this guide Mexico’s best local cooks share their passion for food and 60 of their region’s classic recipes so you can make them too!  Click HERE for more information

 

 

Best Relleno Negro – Bar La Ruina

Warning! This is real, authentic cooking – not fine dining. It may not look pretty but it is by far the tastiest relleno negro we’ve had.

Yucatan Food: Relleno Negro @ Bar La Ruina

Yucatan Food: Relleno Negro @ Bar La Ruina

Relleno Negro translates as “Black Stuff”. It really is just a load of stuff (Turkey mainly) thrown in a jet black sauce made from recado negro chile. It’s not as spicy as it may sound, but some versions carry a medium heat.

The second component of the dish is a giant meatball  with a whole boiled egg inside. A couple of slices of this meatball are served with a portion of relleno negro. In some places, they don’t serve the meatball, just a bit of boiled egg. But really, the meatball is an essential part of this traditional Mayan food – so you’ve gotta have it.

Bar La Ruina is a cantina. More about those later in this article. When you order a drink, you’ll get a load of free food too (called botanas, see below).

They have a classic cantina front bar with saloon doors, as well as a restaurant out back that sometimes has live music in the afternoon.

Bar La Ruina is almost 100% for the local crowd, you rarely see tourists in there. It is not a fancy place, but their relleno negro is the best. It has a lighter sauce than the versions sold in fancy restaurants and it’s closer to black soup than black sauce. It lets the flavor of the stock shine through – salty and delicious.

NOTE: Bar La Ruina have a rotating menu and relleno negro is not always available. Relleno Blanco is a reasonable substitute (not as good though). Avoid the Costillas (ribs) they were terrible!

When & Where: Bar La Ruina calle 69 #570. Open 12pm to 10am. Meals mainly between 12 and 6pm. Once the food runs out, you miss out. 3pm is a good time to visit.

Dessert: Frijol con Puerco Gelato – Pola Gelato

Pola Gelato Merida Mexico

Pola Gelato

Pola Gelato Merida Mexico

Pola Gelato: Sour Orange & Cherries

This unique combination is only available in one place in Merida Mexico (possibly in the world).

Frijol con puerco (pork & beans) is a classic Yucatecan stew, traditionally made for dinner on Mondays in homes across the Yucatan Peninsula. At Pola Gelato, this classic dish has been converted into a gelato. Yes, pork and beans in a gelato!

The traditional deserts of the region are somewhat limited. We’ve pretty much found:

  • Flan (Egg based flan without crust)
  • Queso Neopolitan (Flan with cheese)
  • Candied pappya (or other sweetened fruits)

These are not particularly unique. Though they are normally pretty tasty.

Combining pork and beans with gelato is unique though, which is why it made the list! Only available on Mondays.

Not up for pork in your gelato? Pola Gelato is constantly creating new flavours – as well as classics for everyone, like chocolate, rum and rasin etc. They also create new local flavors, like sour orangs and cherry. Or crazy combos like blue cheese ice cream – which is really good!

When & Where: Pola Gelato. From lunch til 10pm. Calle 55 #467d. Monday for pork and beans. Any day for rotating new flavours!

 

Breakfast: Best Huevos Motuleños

Huevos Motulenos @ Maiz, Canela y Cilantro (Merida Mexico)

Yucatan Food: Huevos Motulenos @ Maiz, Canela y Cilantro

The most famous local breakfast dish is Huevos Motuleños. Which is eggs in the Motul style. Motul is a town about 45 minutes east of Merida. The best version of this is arguably to be found in Motul itself, of course, perhaps from a lady called Doña Evelia who’s been cooking up eggs in the market their for a long time!

But, to get a great version of the dish in Merida Mexico, try out restaurant Maiz, Canela y Cilantro near parque Santiago. This is a true home kitchen experience where you are pretty much eating in their lounge. Plenty of breakfast options on offer.

When & Where: Calle 70 #464. 8am to 5pm (Breakfast might not be available in the afternoon.

 

Best Botanas (Snacks) – Eladios

Epic Botanas @ Eladios Bar Merida Mexico (yucatan food)

Epic Botanas @ Eladios Bar Merida Mexico (Includes Papadzules, Relleno Negro, tamales, niño envuelto and many more! All this food for the price of two drinks!

Botanas are free snacks provided with the purchase of drinks. Many cantinas and bars offer these all over Merida.

By far the most impressive selection of botanas is offered up at Eladios bar. Drink prices are higher than most place (49 Pesos for a bottle of beer) but that drink will include many plates of food. By the time you’ve ordered 2 beers per person, you’ve feasted on a full meal.

It’s not just the quantity that makes Eladio’s a winner. It’s also the variety. Other bars bring basic things like kibis (lebanese meatballs) and peanuts. At Eladio’s, you get portions of tacos with various fillings, and our personal favourites “Niño Envuelto” which are cabbage rolls stuffed with meat and rice.

Live music every afternoon.

Where & When: Eladio’s (Centro Calle 59 # 425) but they have many locations around Merida Mexico. Open 11.30am to 9pm. But between 2pm and 6.30pm is the best time to visit. Wednesday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday seem most popular.

 

Coming Soon – Our complete guide to Yucatan food & Merida restaurants.

Can’t wait? Grab a copy of our Yucatan Food, Travel & Attractions interactive map – It’s Free and lists all the most important restaurants, bars, cenotes and attractions around the region. Much more convenient and comprehensive than one of those tourist map images!

Merida Mexico Food Tours & Cooking Classes

Merida Mexico Nightlife, Bars & Cantinas

Merida is one of those cities that always has something going on. The best places to enjoy the Merida nightlife though are those secret local hangouts. We’ve spent over 6 months tracking them down…

la negrita merida mexico nightlife cantinas merida mexico nightlife El Cardenal cantina merida mexico nightlife

About Merida Mexico Nightlife – Cantinas vs Bars

Cantinas are traditionally local neighbouhood bars. They often have swinging saloon doors, and many of the original ones in Merida date back to the early 20th century – though many newer ones have been built too.

One distinct characteristic of Cantinas is they typically open the same hours – about 1pm – 10pm. Although some bars that close later than this may also be called Cantinas, the traditional closing time used to be 10pm.

Most of these Cantinas used to be “male focused”. ie. pretty female waitresses and doors and windows that were blocked out so you couldn’t see what was happeing inside, from the street.

Some Cantinas are still like this. But we’ll only be recommending the ones that are gender equal. Which happily, is most of them in central Merida.

We characterise “bars” as being different from cantinas if they stay open past 10pm, or are only open in the evening.

Botanas (Snacks) – it should be noted that most cantinas, and some bars, also provide free snacks if you order a drink. These free snacks will keep coming unless you tell them to stop bringing them! They are included in the price and you will not be charged extra for snacks you did not specifically order off the menu.

Botanas can vary from basics like peanuts or popcorn (palomitas), through to something more like tapas, where you may get mini-tacos and more!

IMPORTANT NOTE: Walking through those saloon doors into the unknown, or through a unasumming entrance way to find a huge garden bar, can be intimidating. Once you spend a lot of time in Merida you come to realise that all the best places where the locals hang out are somewhat disguised.

If you stick to only the obvious places, where the other tourists are you will NEVER experience the real Merida. You will miss the essence of this incredible city.

The real throbbing life of Merida is through a secret courtyard, in the cool of the evening, after the heat of the day has subsided.

Merida is very safe, and locals are incredibly welcoming and mainly just want to talk to you – not sell you things or rip you off (This isn’t Playa Del Carmen!!!). If you walk into a locals only cantina you are assured to feel llike you are in an episode of Cheers, and the next time you come back the waiter will probably remember you too!

 

Best Merida Cantinas

We’ve visited 25+ cantinas during our time here. From refurbished hipster Merida spaces like La Negrita Merida, to super-local cantinas like Leoncitos where grandma is in the kitchen and you know the 5 old guys at the bar have pretty much reserved the same bar-stool for 40 years.

So the below options are a very short list of the top 4 that are most central and easiest for non-spanish speaking tourists to visit.

Our comprehensive guide to Merida Cantinas is coming soon!

Another option is to visit multiple Cantinas on a guided tour.

El Cardenal

El Cardenal Cantina Merida Mexico Nightlife

Half & Half Avocado Pizza & Longaniza (Like chorizo) Pizza. BUT, the Poc Chuc Pizza is the best!

Established in 1915, this is one of the longest running cantinas in Merida. The bar area is been beautifully refurbished, and the bar also has a busy garden area out back.

The owner, Syed, speaks perfect english, but the staff typically speak no English at all but are very helpful. Try the Poc Chuc (grilled pork) Pizza which has a frijoles (beans) sauce instead of tomato or the Guacamole pizza.

Their “Ojo Rojo” which is a michelada with clamato juice (then mixed with beer) is the best I’ve had in Merida.

They have live music often in the evenings though the quality is hit and miss (Monday Jazz nights have been very good). Check the facebook page for details.

When: 1pm to 10pm everyday.

Who: All ages (those of legal drinking age). Mostly locals but occasional groups of expats and tourists dropping in.

Price: Bottled beer 27 pesos. 2 for 1 cocktails on selected days.

El Cardenals Cantina on Facebook

Dzalbay

Dzalbay Cantina houses the standard cantina feel (with saloon doors and wooden chairs) but has been nicely refurbished with a striking bar area and colourful murals across every wall. From day of the dead characters to movie stars.

Dzalbay Cantina Merida Mexico Nightlife

Dzalbay Cantina: Merida Mexico Nightlife

Aside from live music on Saturday afternoon, the bar is normally relatively quiet. So why do we go there?

They have an upstairs terrace decorated with painted wooden pallets. It’s a really chill spot. They also serve one of our favourite Merida microbrews – Gitana. A pale ale with some intense hops. Very refreshing and unseen at all the other craft beer locations we have visited in Merida Mexico.

If you visit before 7pm they also do some pretty decent botanas – Their pumpkin seed dip is particularly good. Don’t expect foodie miracles, but it’s good for free food.

When: Midday to 10pm. Closed Sundays. Live music most saturdays around 6pm.

Price: Bucket of 5 local beers: 120 Pesos. Craft beers (bottled) 55 pesos.

Who: All ages.

Dzalbay on Facebook

El Porvenir

This is one of the nicest “Local Cantinas”. It’s been partially refurbished and it’s clean with some colourful murals on the walls. But, unlike the other cantinas on this list, you’ll pay super local prices. Deals vary but all day prices of 10 pesos (60 cents) for a 355ml (12oz) beer are not uncommon.

El Porvenir Cantina: Merida Mexico Nightlife

El Porvenir Cantina: Merida Mexico Nightlife

We’ve found a number of really interesting local places where you can grab a 1.2 liter beer (41oz) for 35 pesos (less than $2 USD). That includes free botanas. You rarely see tourists in such places and some are rough around the edges (though the patrons are always friendly).

We’ll be releasing info about some of our most local finds in the full Cantinas article – coming soon!

When & Where: 11am – 10pm. Food served until about 6pm. Last drinks at 9.30pm. Corner of Calle 52 & 53.

Price: Bottled beer maybe as cheap as 10 pesos.

Who: All Ages (of legal drinking age). Almost exclusively locals.

La Negrita Merida

La Negrita Merida is the ultimate hipster Merida cantina (It should be noted that in Spanish “hipster” can be a negative term. We see it in the positive English meaning of a place that has taken old things and made them trendy again). It’s also the most famous cantina in the city.

Is it the best? That depends on your preferences. It’s certainly one of the most popular, and the overall style of the place has thus been replicated elsewhere. La Negrita Merida is the original of a new wave of upcycled cantinas. And it’s built on real history – as a cantina has been present on the site since 1917.

La Negrita Merida Mexico Nightlife

Come early – in the evening it’s standing room only. Early afternoon @ La Negrita Merida

La Negrita is quite literally the only place in Merida we’ve ever been asked for “More Tip” after getting bad service. It’s the most famous cantina and is visited by a lot of tourists, though it’s still mainly locals who visit. Perhaps an expectation of 20% has been set by the gringos that visit? Even though 10% is typical for good service in Mexico. The management confirmed that waiters should not be hassling tourists for more tips, it’s not their policy, and we hope this was an isolated incident.

La Negrita Merida is always very busy from about 5pm. To the point of standing room only during peak times (Around 6pm to 9.30pm) and waiting for a table for some time. The free botanas is typically just popcorn later in the day. BUT, the atmosphere is top notch. As is the decor (For the hipsters!) They regularly have great live music, the drinks are cheap and they have a good selection (including many craft beers).

If you arrive earlier, you’ll get faster service and a bigger selection of free botanas, so typically we only visit here in the afternoon in time to get a seat before the crowds arrive. But we do highly recommend La Negrita Merida – It’s often chaotic but it embodies the essence of fiesta!

When: Midday to 10pm.

Who: Mainly 18 to 45, but all ages welcome.

Price: 20 peso draft beer. Bucket of 5 craft beers with chicken wings 225 pesos.

La Negrita Merida on Facebook

Best Merida Mexico Nightlife & Live Music Bars

Once again, we’ve visited a lot of bars in merida (For research purposes only, of course). There is a little something for everyone from late night tea and coffee (we don’t go to those places though…) to chill out with a beer, to Salsa dancing, to Rock n Roll bands, to Cuban latin percussion groups, to DJs.

As before, this list is a fraction of the places to go out, but we think these are some of the best in Downtown Merida Mexico if you are here for a short visit.

La Fundacion Mezcaleria

Mezcal is a Mexican spirit famous from the state of Oaxaca. Similar to tequila but with a smoky flavour. So the La Fundacion Mezcaleria is a late night bar selling many varieties of Mezcal – as shots (Caballitos) or in cocktails.

La Fundacion Mezcaleria - Merida Mexico Nightlife

La Fundacion Mezcaleria – Merida Mexico Nightlife

The crowd is mainly under 35. The bar is owned by the same person as La Negrita Merida, and a lot of people come from La Negrita when it closes at 10pm – And we like La Fundacion a lot more than La Negrita. Hostels in the city also seem to direct backpackers to drink here, so if you want to meet other younger foreign travelers then this is a good place to do it.

You can also try eating deep fried crickets (chapulines) – These little salt bombs are a lot tastier than they sound. Especially when served in guacamole. You could just order a guacamole con chapulines, and let your friends try it without telling them what is hiding inside!

On Wednesday from 9pm they offer a free salsa dancing lesson. The bar has a mix of live music and DJs.

When: 8pm til 3am Wed to Sat, and 8pm to midnight on Sunday.

Who: Younger crowd. Locals & Tourists. Get noisy later, but the garden area is quieter.

Price: Free entry before 10.30pm. Cheap drinks (25 peso cocktails) and nightly happy hours.

La Fundación Mezcaleria on Facebook

 

Malahat Speakeasy

Have you been to a speakeasy before? It’s a 1930’s style prohibition bar. Typically selling lots of strong cocktails. The key characteristic is that it’s a secret. These speakeasy bars were hidden to avoid being found by police.

Malahat Speakeasy Bar - Merida Mexico Nightlife

Secret Drinking @ Malahat Speakeasy Bar – Merida Mexico Nightlife

The Malahat Speakeasy in Merida is perfectly legal to drink at, but it is very hidden! And for a city like Merida, where even the famous bars are often hidden, you can imagine how hard this place is to find!

The bar only has about 20 seats, and really is just for those people who make the effort to find it – we like to keep it a little secret.

But I’ll give you a clue, it’s in a back alley of the carpark behind Parque Santa Lucia. You can ask the staff in Apoala for directions 🙂

When: 8pm to 3am Wed to Sat. Live bands sometimes on Wed & Thurs from 10pm.

Who: Chilled atmosphere. 25-50 age group.

Price: Free entry. Top shelf cocktails from 120 – 150 pesos. Reservations recommended.

Malahat Speakeasy on Facebook

Pipiripau – Hipster Merida Bar

Pipiripau is a hipster bar inside a refurbished colonial building. It has a huge outdoor backyard with upcycled furniture. Upbeat live latin music & dancing every night in the evening. Peak time is around 10pm – midnight. It can be hard to get a table outside on a weekend evening.

Hipster Merida Mexico Nightlife: Pipiripau Bar

Hipster Merida Mexico Nightlife @ Pipiripau Bar

One of the unique reasons to come here is the “pox” cocktails. Pronounced “Posh”, pox is a mayan spirit distilled from corn. It’s definitely a bit rough around the edges, but when mixed with

When & Where: Not listed on Google maps (But it is listed on our Free Interactive Merida Map, GET IT NOW) – but it’s on calle 62, between calle 53 & 55. It sometimes opens afternoon, but the main event is in the evening (from 8pm to 1am).

Who: Mainly 18 to 45. Band is moderate volume in the garden, loud on stage. Expats and locals.

Price: Free entry. Pox cocktails 70 pesos (2 for 1 for ladies on Thursdays). Beers and basics are cheaper – 25 peso draft beer etc.

Mayan Pub – Beer Garden

Another classic example of a Merida Bar that looks uninviting from the front, but is busy and very interesting once you head out the back to the huge, shady garden.

Lively Merida Mexico Nightlife @ Mayan Pub

Mayan pub has live music most nights, with a variety from rock n roll, to reggae to jazz.

The music quality is hit and miss, but the atmosphere is good and the drinks are cheap for central downtown.

When: 7pm to 3am Wed to Sun. Bands play around 9.30pm to 12.30am.

Price: Normally free, some bands charge a small cover charge (maybe 30 pesos). Cheap Beer (1.8lt Jar for 90 pesos) & Cocktails (45 Pesos)

Who: 18 – 45, but all ages really (of legal drinking age). Easy going place. Bands can be loud, but seats at the back for a more peaceful experience. Expats and locals.

Mayan Pub on Facebook

Aguita Benditas – Live Music & Air Con

This bar only opened in summer 2017, and Merida has quite a fast turnover of bars, so it’s never certain how long they will last. But, this place has been popular since opening.

During the long days of the summer months, it’s nice to get a bit of air con when you go out. Aguita Benditas is one of the few live music bars that is fully air conditioned.

(Currently) Great resident band playing Latin dance music (Fri/Sat/Sun).

When & Where: Not Listed on Google Maps – but it’s on Calle 47, opposite HSBC (And it is listed on our Free Interactive Merida Map, GET IT NOW). Near Parque Santa Ana. Live music from around 7 on the weekends.

Price: Free entry. Very good fishbowl cocktails for 60 pesos. 2 for 1 beers 50 pesos.

Who: All ages (of legal drinking age). A bit loud when the band is on, otherwise moderate volume. Mainly locals.

 

Hermana Republica: Merida Craft Beer Microbrewery (Cerveza Artesanal)

Hermana Republica is the restaurant brand attached to the Merida Mexico microbrewer “Patito”. They make about 10 different beers at their main site just north of the city. Although you can eat and drink there, the Merida Mexico Downtown location on Calle 64 is more convenient and is situated in a semi-restored colonial building with a lot of character.

Craft Beer Merida @ Herman Republica Bar Merida Mexico Nightlife Craft Beer Merida @ Herman Republica Bar Merida Mexico Nightlife Craft Beer Merida @ Herman Republica Bar Merida Mexico Nightlife

Live music some nights. IPA is our favourite craft beer from their range. They also have tasting paddles. The vanilla stout is also a winner. And best Carajillo in town (It’s an espresso cocktail with Licor 43, served on ice). Garden and air con area.

They also have a high quality menu from a passionate chef. Even the free botanas with the beer are artesanal standard.

When: Officially open 1pm to 11pm but seemingly open until 1am most nights. Closed Sunday.

Who: 25 & up. Expats and locals.

Price: Carajillo is 70 pesos. Glass of craft beer is 55 pesos.

Hermana Republica on Facebook

 

Merida Mexico Beaches

Merida is an inland city. So there are no Merida beaches, but there are number of beaches within a short distance of Merida.

Progreso (Merida Mexico Beaches)

The closest and most convenient option for Merida Beaches is Progreso. The sand is white, but the water is green and often has quite a lot of seaweed – though that fluctuates. Progreso gets very windy, which can be a good thing in the summer, in winter it can make it too cold to swim (unless you are a hardy northerner!)

Merida Mexico Beaches: Things to do in progreso mexico

Progreso (Merida Mexico Beaches)

Progreso is the local cruise port and has a quite touristy beach. But this also means there are lots of food options, convenience stores for beer etc.

The most obvious of things to do in progreso is rent a palapa (big thatched open sided Gazebo) on the beach. You can rent a palapa for the whole day for 100 pesos (for 4 to 6 people total), and you can bring your own drinks in a cooler. Or, you can walk over to the convenience store to get a beer, or pay one of the waiters to get you drinks or food.

The Palapas close down at 6pm, so it’s 100 peso whether you turn up in the morning or at 5pm. Some owners will ask for 200 pesos if you are a gringo. Walk east away from the pier to find a place with the regular price.

There are very few other things to do in Progreso Mexico other than eating, drinking and beach.

NOTE: As Progreso is a cruise port, on cruise ship days the beach area near the pier can get very busy and you are more likely to get overcharged for things. Carnival cruises docks year round on tuesdays and thursdays. Other ships dock on different days during the peak winter season – search google for the up to date port schedule.

The beach is busier with locals and families on Weekends. Typically Friday is the least busy day to visit.

Where to eat in Progreso

There are a lot of mid price places along the beach mostly doing edible food. But if you want great seafood and drinks at an amazing price, eat where the locals eat:

Yum Ixpu – Traditional Mayan seafood restaurant. Every thing from whole fried fish (pescado frito) for about 100 pesos, to octopus ceviche. Beers for 25 pesos. Yum Ixpu On Facebook. Calle 31 No. 207. This is off the beach, but worth the quick walk. Opens 10.30am to 6pm. If you arrive after 2pm on the weekend, you will likely have to line up for a table.

Yum Ixpu - Thing to do in progreso mexico. Yucatan Progreso

Yum Ixpu – Expect a line if you arrive after 2pm

Maya KA – Right opposite the beach, this restaurant bar has some quirky faux Mayan decor, and a swimming pool (Unlike most bars on the water front). This bar is mainly for tourists (both Mexican & international), the food is fine, nothing outstanding. Giant prawn quesadilla for 130 pesos.

Maya KA - Thing to do in progreso mexico. Yucatan Progreso - Merida Mexico Beaches

Maya KA Progreso – Beach front bar with a pool

La Antigua Progreso – Unlike the other beach restaurants, this restaurant is situated in an authentic, refurbished colonial building. They even a have a pool out back. They have a real focus on quality cuisine, it’s not a place aimed at cruise passengers and excessive drinking. Visit here for a little more sophistication.

Getting to Progreso

A cheap and easy aircon bus runs from the “auto progreso” bus station in central Merida, about every 10 to 15 minutes all day, slightly less frequently in the evening. A return ticket is less than 40 pesos. The trip takes 1 hour from central Merida – less when there is no traffic.

 

Clesetun Mexico (Merida Mexico Beaches)

Our favourite of the Merida beaches is sadly the furthest away. Most people travel to Celestun to visit the celestun biosphere reserve and see the thousands of flamingos that feed there.

Celestun Yucatan - Celestun Mexico - Beach Sunset - Merida Mexico Beaches

Merida Mexico Beaches @ Celestun Yucatan

But, the beach itself is the cleanest of the Merida Beaches options, with perfect white sand, and sunset facing. The restaurants and bars are right on the sand, so it’s the perfect place to enjoy a drink and listen to the waves. It’s far less busy than progreso.

Pampanos is our choice for seafood – The Prawn Spaghetti with butter has the biggest prawns (depending on season) we’ve seen almost anywhere in the world (sourced very locally).

Getting to Celestun Mexico

Full info on your transport options are in the “Daytrips From Merida” Celestun daytrip section below – See daytrip 3.

 

Sisal (Merida Mexico Beaches)

Sisal is the smallest and typically quietest of the Merida beaches, with long stretches of empty sand, but with very limited restaurant options. It’s closer to Merida than Celestun but involves two buses with no aircon to get there.

Merida Mexico Beaches - Sisal

The Malecon (Pier) @ Sisal Beach (Merida Mexico Beaches)

If you have the time, go to Celestun instead. If you are desperate to have a more local experience and avoid Progreso, then Sisal can be a nice daytrip for quiet beach combing.

We ate at Muelle de Sisal the food was very average, but ok.

Getting to Sisal

Take a collectivo from the “Terminal de Taxis Hunucma” on Calle 64 – runs frequently (When they fill the bus), perhaps every 20 minutes. Then change collectivo in Hunucma, and walk out of the bus station to the bus stop on calle 28 opposite the Farmacia Yza Hunucma.

Total cost is about 40 pesos each way, total.

 

Best Cenotes Merida (Natural Swimming Holes)

Cenotes are natural sinkholes. A network of underground rivers connect these sinkholes together across the Yucatan peninsula. The Yucatan region is estimated to have about 30,000 access points to cenotes. Most of these are not easily accessible. So there is a much smaller selection of Cenotes where tourists and locals regularly go to swim.

Your options range from tiny backyard cenotes that have been opened to the public, to huge cavern systems which have been commercialized and outfitted with visitors in mind. And everything inbetween!

There are options for all tastes, the ones below are a few of the best cenotes close to Merida. But our complete interactive map details many more of the best cenotes for both swimming and scuba diving, along with photos and accurate locations.

The best Cenotes Merida are actually not in Merida. You need to take a bus, a tour or rent a car to find those cenotes.

If you just have a short time in the region, these are our top suggestions for the most unmissable cenotes Merida experiences.

Cenotes Merida: Cuzama

Cenotes Merida: cuzama cenotes - cuzama yucatan

Cenotes Merida: One of the Cuzama cenotes from the north route

Cuzama Cenotes are an entire network of cenotes all within a short distance of each other. But Cuzama offers a uniquely different experience from other cenotes in the region… To reach each cenote on the route, you travel in a horse pulled train cart along old plantation tracks.

It’s bumpy but it’s certainly a memorable experience. You run along a single track, just wait and see what happens when someone is coming back on the same track towards you!

Cenotes Merida: cuzama cenotes - cuzama yucatan - train cart

Cenotes Merida: Take a horse pulled train cart to the Cuzama cenotes

It’s impossible to reach the Cuzama cenotes by car, so it’s required to hire the guide and horse cart. This can be done from two different locations – each starting location leads to 3 different cenotes.

The north car park (located at “Cenotes Cuzama”) has 2 fantastic cenotes and one cave cenote with very awkward access that is less inspiring. This is the better of the two routes for active people (need to climb down ladders.) – See photos above.

The south route, which begins in the small town of Chunkanan, has one fantastic cenote (Chelentun) and two others that are less exciting, though the cave cenote (Tzapakal) is very unique! The south route has slightly easier access then the north route.

Merida Cenotes: Cenote Chelentun - Cuzama Cenotes

Cenote Chelentun Entrance

Merida Cenotes: Cenote Chelentun - Cuzama Cenotes

Merida Cenotes: Cenote Chelentun, a semi underground blue water cenote

Cenote Tzapakal Cave Cenote


Price:
300 to 350 pesos per cart (up to 4 people). Includes driver & guide. Tipping 10% is appreciated but not expected.

Cenotes Merida & Valladolid: Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman

Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman is actually a long way from Merida but is getting a mention because it’s our favourite swimming cenote in the whole Yucatan Peninsula.

Cenotes Merida: San Lorenzo Oxman

Cenotes Valladolid: San Lorenzo Oxman

The cenote is on the outskirts of Valladolid, less than an hour from Chichen Itza. It’s a deep, cylindrical cenote with perfect blue/turquoise water. Tree routes hang down 20+ meters from the top of the cenote, all the way to the water level. The water then goes another 40+ meters in depth from there.

Aside from being visually stunning, the cenote is also in the grounds of a hacienda. It’s less touristy than many cenotes, but with the benefit of having a bar and restaurant serving Mayan and international food above the cenote.

Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman

Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman – Valladolid

It’s a picture perfect place.

Price: 40 pesos for entry to cenote and hacienda grounds.

 

Cenotes Merida: X’Batun / Dzonbacal (at San Antonio Mulix)

2 cenotes situated close to one another – and a short drive north of Uxmal, so perfect for a combined day trip (see Itinerary below).

Enjoy two types of cenotes too – Dzonbacal is semi open with blue water to 30 meters. Cenote X’batun (Pictured) is an open cenote with lilies.

A post shared by juan2590 (@junocutz5) on

Price: 50 Pesos (For foreigners) for access to both

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Pyramids & Mayan Ruins Yucatan (Best Mayan Ruins Mexico)

The world famous Chichen Itza Mayan ruins are not the only major Mayan ruin site in the Yucatan. There are many, more peaceful, locations to see Mayan pyramids.

In this section I’ll introduce some of the best Mayan Ruins Yucatan which can easily be reached from Merida Mexico, and some information about the history and culture. To find out more about actually visiting and organising your trip, see the section on “Daytrips From Merida” below. You’ll need to take a tour or rent a car.

Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins

Why visit the Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins: Chichen Itza is considered a Wonder of the World. It’s one of the largest Mayan ruins sites and the main pyramid stands in its full glory. One side restored to look as it would have at its peak, the other side showing the wear of time since it was built.

Best Mayan Ruins Mexico - Chichen Itza Mayan ruins

Chichen Itza – Restored on the right, original on the left (Best Mayan Ruins Mexico)

It was one of the largest Mayan cities in the region and was of significant importance from 600 AD to 1200 AD.

It’s modern fame sees the Chichen Itza Mayan ruins receive more than 1.4 million visitors per year. If you arrive much after 9am each day, you will be sharing the experience with a lot of other visitors.

At the time of the Spring and Autumn equinox, during the late afternoon, The northwest corner of the structure casts triangular shadows that create the appearance of a snake wriggling down the staircase. Thousands attend this remarkable bi-annual event.

At least 2 to 3 hours is recommended to get the most out of visiting the Chichen Itza Mayan ruins.

Opening Times: 8am to 4.30pm. Best time to visit is at 8am, before the crowds arrive and before the heat of the day.

Price: 242 pesos (as of 2017) total is made from 2 separate tickets you have to buy to enter. This is for the unguided tour.

Learning about the Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins: We hired a guide from the ticket office (900 Pesos). After many years of visiting historical sites, we’ve decided that having a guide is by far the best way to experience such places. It beats having a guide book by a long way.

You could also get the guided experience by joining a tour direct from Merida – if traveling solo or as a couple, a tour can work out almost as cheap as car rental, gas, food and guide hire – with the bonus of convenience and meeting some new people!

Some Tour Options:

Chichen Itza Day Trip From Merida (Round-trip visit – Through Viator)

Chichen Itza Day Trip From Merida (Round-trip visit – through Get your guide)

Chichen Itza Tour Starting in Cancun with drop off in Merida (Visit the Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins in conjunction with traveling across state to Merida – Through Get Your Guide)

Or travel the opposite way – Chichen Itza tour starting in Merida with drop off in Cancun.

OR Stay overnight near Chichen Itza:

Beat the crowds by staying overnight near Chichen Itza and getting to the gate at 8am.

Luxury: The Lodge – A luxury lodge with 3 restaurants and 2 outdoor pools. Just a few minutes walk from the less busy Chichen Itza back entrance.

Mid Price: Mayaland Hotel & Bungalows – Great value within short walking distance of Chichen Itza. The large grounds of the hotel include some of the ancient ruins.

Budget: Dolores Alba – Simple budget hotel with a pool and an affordable restaurant. Situated opposite cenote Ik Kil. Double rooms can feature 2 double beds, for up to 4 people to share. Perfect for families or backpackers willing to share (but not dorm beds).

See All Chichen Itza options on Expedia | booking.com | Agoda

 

Uxmal Mayan Ruins

Uxmal is due south of Merida. The original city was founded around 500AD, with it attaining primary local dominance during the period 850 to 900 AD.

Uxmal Ruins

Uxmal Ruins (One of the Best Mayan Ruins Mexico)

Uxmal is the only major Mayan city which did not have an on site Cenote for water supply. Chac, the Mayan God of rain, is highly honored in the decorative works at Uxmal. The inhabitants of Uxmal prayed for rain to fill the “chultunes” around the city, which were underground cisterns.

In the question of Uxmal vs Chichen Itza, both have there own personal positives and negatives. Although Chichen Itza’s main pyramid may be one of the best in the whole Mayan world, Uxmal has 3 Pyramids – one of which you can still climb.

Also, Uxmal’s governor’s palace has the longest facade of any in the Mayan world. Uxmal is less busy and for the most part, to the casual observer, better preserved/restored.

Opening Times: 8am to 5pm general entry. 7pm to 8pm Sound & light show. Uxmal does not suffer the same influx of tourists that Chichen Itza does, but arriving early to avoid the heat is always a good idea. That said, you will find plenty of shady trees and buildings to retreat into.

Price: 177 Pesos for the two entrance tickets. 72 pesos extra for sound & light show.

Learning about the Uxmal Mayan ruins: We hired a guide for 700 pesos (English speaking) from next to the ticket office. Visiting Uxmal a second time, without a guide, we realized just how much having a guide adds to the experience.

Uxmal Ruins: tours from Merida Mexico

Get the full and convenient guided experience direct from Merida.

Uxmal, Kabah & Chocostory (chocolate museum and tasting) Daytrip from Merida (w/ Get Your Guide)

Uxmal Group Day Tour (w/ Viator)

Uxmal Afternoon / Evening tour with sound & light show + Use of hotel facilities & pool. (w/ Viator)

Uxmal (and Kabah) 2 Day tour including hotel & Uxmal evening light show (w/ Viator)

Uxmal Hotels

Uxmal is close enough to Merida to make an easy day trip or a tour as above. The main reasons guests choose to stay at one of the nearby hotels is because Uxmal also offers evening sound & light shows.

Uxmal Luxury Accommodation Top Pick: The Lodge At Uxmal – The closest hotel to Uxmal ruins

Uxmal Mid Price Accommodation Top Pick: Hacienda Uxmal Plantation & Museum – 3.5 star resort with full spa & restaurant. Opposite the Uxmal ruins site entrance.

See All accommodation options near Uxmal on Booking.com | Expedia | Agoda

Mayapan Ruins

The Mayapan ruins represent the last, most important outpost of Mayan civilization before the Spanish conquest. This city could have housed about 12,000 inhabitants and was at its peak from around 1263 until the 15th century.

Mayapan Ruins (One of the best Mayan Ruins Mexico)

Although the Mayapan ruins are not as grand and complete as those at Uxmal or Chichen Itza, the site offers a glimpse into the more recent history of the Mayan people.

Plus, you can often visit the whole site while hardly seeing another person. Also, aside from Dzibilchaltun (below) this is one of the closest Mayan ruins to Merida.

Opening Times: 8am – 4.30pm. It’s quiet most of the day. There is very little shade, so early is better. 1 hour is more than sufficient for a visit.

Price: 40 pesos

Tours to Mayapan Ruins From Merida: Private Adventure Tour: Loltun Caves and Mayapan from Merida (w/ Viator)

Dzibilchaltún

Dzibilchaltún is the closest Mayan ruin to Merida, being just a little north of the cities main ring road and taking only 30 minutes from Centro by car or taxi.

Mayan Ruins Merida Yucatan Mexico - Dzibilchaltún - Temple of the dolls

Temple of the dolls @ Dzibilchaltún

Dzibilchaltun does not have a pyramid, but it was an important Mayan settlement that was occupied from 300BC and still during the Spanish invasion. In fact, some of the Mayan buildings were dismantled and the stones were used to build a Franciscan chapel amongst the Mayan ruins.

So this is the only site in the region where colonial and Mayan buildings stand side by side.

Another part of the site is the temple of the dolls which is a temple that was found underneath another temple (Building temples upon old temples was a common Mayan practice). The doll artifacts that were found there are housed in an on-site air conditioned museum.

A visit to the museum is certainly a bonus to visiting this site, as you can learn about Mayan civilization without hiring a guide. Another bonus is the beautiful and clear turquoise cenote covered with lilies.

Cenotes Merida Mexico - Dzibilchaltún - Cenote Xlacah

Cenote Xlacah @ Dzibilchaltún

Price: 137 pesos (Inc. Museum, ruins, cenote) + 20 peso parking fee.

Opening Times: 8am to 5pm (Museum closed Mondays). A mix of shade and open space at this site. But you can cool off with a swim in the cenote!

Best Day Trips Outside Merida Mexico

These are 4 of our favorite day trip itineraries from Merida Mexico. The easiest way to complete these in a day is by renting a car, taking a tour or hiring a driver. Some of these locations could also be visited by public transport but it would be difficult or impossible to complete each full itinerary in a single day by bus.

1. Mayapan (Mayan Ruins) – Cuzama (3 Cenotes by horse train) – Izamal (The Yellow City)

Take a tour to visit Mayapan, Cuzama and/or Izamal self-drive following our itinerary outline:

8.30am Collect rental car in Merida and drive to Mayapan

Pre Book Your Car Rental In Advance (Be aware that very cheap options almost certainly add extra insurance at the time of pick up – and might not let you drive away using your own independent insurance without leaving a deposit in excess of $10,000.)

9.30am Arrive at Mayapan Mayan Ruins Yucatan (1 Hour)

These are impressive Mayan ruins where (as of 2017) you can still climb to the top of the main pyramid. Arriving early you might be one of the only people on the whole site. Learn more about Mayapan in the Best Mayan Ruins Mexico Section above.

11.20am Cuzama Cenotes (3 Hours)

There are many Cuzama cenotes. As explained in the above cenotes section, they are accessed by a horse pulled train (300 to 350 pesos per cart for 4 people). We prefer the route from the station (in a car park) north of Chunkanán. The alternative route is from the vendors in the town.

3pm Late lunch at Kinich restaurant in Izamal (1 Hour)

Kinich Izamal Restaurant

Tortillas made the traditional way at Kinich Izamal Restaurant

After driving to Izamal, visit one of the best places for traditional Mayan Food – Kinich. Eat under the Mayan style thatched roof. The “Filete a la Yucateca” is a good option to try which is less seen on typical menus. You can take photos of the ladies preparing the food in the open kitchen.

4pm Izamal Yellow City Walking Visit (1 hour)

Izamal Mexico - The Yellow City - Horse Carriage rides around the city

Horse carriage rides around the city – Izamal Mexico – The Yellow City

Izamal is known as the yellow city because almost every building in the center is painted bright yellow! It’s spectacular and very photogenic.

Izamal Mexico - The Yellow City - The Convent of

Izamal Mexico – The Yellow City – Convento de San Antonio

From Kinich restaurant, you can walk around the main town, the central park and the Convento de San Antonio. Or you can hail down one of the horse buggy guys to take you round – negotiate a price in advance.

6pm (OPTIONAL) Hacienda Teya

Either spend a little longer exploring the streets of Izamal or take a quick stop at Hacienda Teya on the way back to Merida. This historic Hacienda (Plantation) features classic colonial architecture and a restaurant. Hacienda Teya closes at 6.30pm

 

2. Uxmal – Chocolate Museum – Hacienda San Pedro Ochil – Cenote Dzonbacal – X’batun

You can take a tour to visit Uxmal:

Uxmal, Kabah & Chocostory (chocolate museum and tasting) Daytrip from Merida (w/ Get Your Guide)

Uxmal Group Day Tour (w/ Viator)

Uxmal Afternoon / Evening tour with sound & light show + Use of hotel facilities & pool. (w/ Viator)

 – Please note, the tour company itineraries above will vary from our itinerary below.

OR self-drive following our itinerary outline:

8.30am Collect rental car in Merida and drive to Uxmal

Pre Book Your Car Rental In Advance (Be aware that very cheap options almost certainly add extra insurance at the time of pick up – and might not let you drive away using your own independent insurance without leaving a deposit in excess of $10,000.)

10am Arrive Uxmal (1:45 Hours)

Uxmal Mayan Ruins - Main Pyramid - Best Mayan Ruins Mexico

Main Pyramid of the Uxmal Mayan Ruins

Uxmal Mayan Ruins are one of the best Mayan ruins in Yucatan. Read more in the “Mayan ruins near Merida” section above.

12pm Visit Choco Story Mexico (30 Min)

A quick visit to the chocolate museum for tastings and an opportunity to learn more about the chocolate making process.

1.15pm Lunch and visit at Hacienda San Pedro Ochil (1:15 Hours)

Hacienda San Pedro Ochil - Day trips From Merida Mexico

Hacienda San Pedro Ochil – Day trips From Merida Mexico

Haciendas are Mexico’s equivalent to plantations. Old colonial mansions with the original purpose of farming and productions. Visit Hacienda San Pedro Ochil for lunch in a peaceful colonial surrounding. See the old plantation equipment and enjoy traditional Mayan food.

2.45pm Visit Cenote Dzonbacal & Cenote X’batun (2:15 Hours)

Two cenotes very close by to one another. Dzonbacal is a semi-open cenote with blue water up to 30 meters deep. Cenote X’batun is an open cenote with turquoise water, green lilies and water flowing in. Learn More about Cenotes above.

6.45pm Arrive back to Merida

Every location from these day trips, and all places mentioned in this article are listed on our Free Interactive Tourism Map:

 

3. Celestun Yucatan Flamingos

During the Celestun flamingo season from November to April, the Celestun biosphere reserve becomes filled with thousands of Flamingos! Taking a Celestun boat tour is a must do experience.

celestun biosphere reserve tour - celestun mexico - merida mexico flamingos

Celestun flamingos

PRO TIP: The best time to see flamingos en masse is during low tide. This is when they come to feed. Make sure you check the tide times before choosing when to take a tour.

This can mean that you might need to stay overnight in Celestun in order to be there at low tide – Browse Celestun Hotels and accommodation

Or, if you don’t have time or the tide times are low tide during the middle of the day, You can book your entire trip from Merida including the boat tour, transport to and from, and a beach visit.

To take a Celestun biosphere reserve tour, you’ll need to take a boat trip to get the best views. If not booking a complete tour, you can turn up to the Parador Turístico Celestún during daylight hours and barter for a boat and guide (2 hours trip). If you turn up during peak times (like on a cruise ship day) you may not be as likely to get a guide. Very few guides speak English, which is why booking a tour in English in advance can be a better idea if you don’t speak Spanish.

Merida to Celestun

There are 3 primary options for getting from Merida to Celestun:

1. Take a Tour: As mentioned, Take a tour and have everything sorted for you.

2. Rent a car:

If travelling as a group of 4, a cheap car rental is typically not too different in price to taking a bus – once you factor in taxi costs to and from the bus station, and return bus tickets. Travel by car is significantly quicker than bus, taking about 1.5 hours instead of 2.5 to 3 hours.

This makes it much easier to get the whole trip done in a day – including stopping at the beach for a nice seafood lunch and a swim. (We recommend Pampanos for the best food, or Poseidon for the swim up bar – food ok, not great)

The swim up bar @ Poseidon, Celestun Yucatan

The swim up bar @ Poseidon, Celestun Yucatan

Pre Book Your Car Rental In Advance (Be aware that very cheap options almost certainly add extra insurance at time of pick up – and might not let you drive away using your own independent insurance without leaving a deposit in excess of $10,000.)

3. Take the local bus

Merida to Celestun buses leave from the Noreste Bus Station – typically every hour on the hour during the day, but this can vary. A one way ticket is about 120 pesos.

The bus takes about 2.5 to 3 hours. So completing the entire trip, seeing the Celestun flamingos and enjoying the beach and lunch is pretty hard to do all in one day unless you are in a rush – though it is possible if you leave early and low tide happens to fit perfectly with your timings.

Otherwise, staying overnight at the beach in a Celestun hotel is actually very pleasant as the beach is one of the best in Yucatan, and there are plenty of food options.

Overnight accommodation: Celestun Mexico Hotels

There really are not a lot of hotel options in Celestun that are bookable online easily. Here are some of our top picks:

Celestun Mexico Luxury Hotels: Xixim Unique Mayan Hotel – Luxury out of town beach front property, north of the biosphere.

Celestun Mexico Budget Hotels: Hotel San Julio – Simple lodgings right on the beach (as in, you can walk out of your room 10 seconds onto the sand) a couple of minutes walk from the town of Celestun.

 

4. Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins

Chichen Itza is less than 2 hours from central Merida by car. So it’s easy to do a day trip there and back.

The simplest option is to take a fully organized tour:

Chichen Itza Day Trip From Merida (Round-trip visit – Through Viator)

Chichen Itza Day Trip From Merida (Round-trip visit – through Get your guide)

*Organised tour itineraries will vary from our itinerary below.

OR you can self drive:

8.30am Collect rental car in Merida and drive to Chichen Itza

Pre Book Your Car Rental In Advance (Be aware that very cheap options almost certainly add extra insurance at time of pick up – and might not let you drive away using your own independent insurance without leaving a deposit in excess of $10,000.)

Few rental agencies open before 8am. You could collect the car the night before if you want to get to Chichen Itza earlier. Or stay overnight near Chichen Itza – more info below.

10.30am Enter Chichen Itza (2 hours)

Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins - Best Mayan Ruins Mexico

Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins – From The South, non-refurbished side.

We recommend hiring a guide on site, or purchasing an audio guide app on your phone in advance. More info about Chichen Itza is above in the Best Mayan Ruins Mexico section.

12:45pm Leave Chichen Itza for Valladolid

1.45pm Hacienda Lorenzo Oxman (2 hours)

This is one of the lesser visited cenotes & Haciendas and it’s one of our favourites. Follow a long dirt track all the way to the main building. Then enjoy lunch by the pool from a menu of Mayan and international options.

Best Cenotes - At Hacienda Lorenzo Oxman Valladolid

Hacienda Lorenzo Oxman, pool and restaurant – Near Valladolid

Then take the steps down into the picturesque cylindrical open topped cenote. With perfect blue water! For more info see the Cenotes section above.

4pm Valladolid and optional Cenote (90 Mins)

Convento de San Bernardino de Siena - Valladolid

Convento de San Bernardino de Siena – Valladolid

Take a drive past Convento de San Bernardino de Siena to take some photos, then park up in the center of Valladolid and take a walk around the central square and/or visit one of the most famous city center cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula – Cenote Zací. Once inside you’d hardly even realize you were in a big city!

5.30pm – 7.30pm Take a 2 hour drive back to Merida

PRO TIP: If you want to see Chichen Itza without the crowds, you need to be inside and to the main Pyramid by 9am latest. Which is almost impossible on a day-trip unless you rent a car the night before.

We typically make visiting Chichen Itza an overnight trip and stay in accommodation nearby so we can be at the ticket booth 8am sharp.

Chichen Itza Hotels – Our Top Picks

Chichen Itza Luxury Hotels: The Lodge – A luxury lodge with 3 restaurants and 2 outdoor pools. Just a few minutes walk from the less busy Chichen Itza back entrance.

Chichen Itza Mid Price HotelsMayaland Hotel & Bungalows – Great value within short walking distance of Chichen Itza. The large grounds of the hotel include some of the ancient ruins.

Chichen Itza Budget Hotels: Dolores Alba – Simple budget hotel with a pool and an affordable restaurant. Situated opposite cenote Ik Kil. Double rooms can feature 2 double beds, for up to 4 people to share. Perfect for families or backpackers willing to share (but not dorm beds).

See All Chichen Itza options on Expedia | booking.com | Agoda

Back To Guide Menu (top)

More day trips… New article coming soon! Full itineraries and maps will be available.

 

Shopping – Merida Mexico Market

From souvenirs to fruit and veg, Merida is a big city with plenty of shopping options. The best news is, as it’s not a tourist city like Cancun or Playa del Carmen, they haven’t become too pushy yet. A lot of places have fixed, marked prices on items so you don’t have to barter.

Shopping is everywhere downtown, but here are some of our top picks.

Mercado Lucas De Galvéz – Merida Mexico Market

Mercado Lucas De Galvez is the main wing of what is an expansively covered market in the south of the city. From the front entrance you can head left towards the fruit and veg market, or due south into the jewelry and clothing/shoes etc. Or you can just walk around for a couple of hours and explore.

merida mexico market

Mercado Lucas De Galvéz – Merida Mexico market (Centro)

This Merida Market has everything – it’s just a matter of finding it.

There are also street food vendors dotted around the place. Tacos and tortas (sandwiches) made with local favorites like cochinita pibil (pulled pork) and pastor (pork doner kebab style). All at super low prices.

Where & When: Corner of 56 & 65a. 5am to 6pm – But different vendors open at different times and on different days. Wednesday to Saturday 9am to 11am might be considered peak time for finding food and shopping options open.

 

Sunday Merida Mexico Market in Plaza Grande

As part of Merida’s Sunday Fiesta every week in the main Plaza Grande, not only do you get live entertainment, but also the square is filled with street-food stalls, and the park comes alive with vendors selling traditional crafts and clothes.

Sunday Merida Mexico Market in Plaza Grande

Covered Food Stalls @ The Sunday Merida Mexico Market in Plaza Grande

Don’t miss the main dance show around 1pm.

Where & When: Plaza Grande. Stalls are setting up from 8am. And packing down from 5pm. Exact timings seem to be down to the individual vendor.

Remate Artesanal Market

As part of the Saturday night “Noche Mexicana” the Remate de Paseo fills up with small artisanal vendors selling everything from honey to earrings.

Where & When: The Remate (Very south end of Paseo Montejo). From 7pm every Saturday.

Plaza Grande, Santa Ana & Paseo Gift Shops

If you are specifically looking to pick up souvenirs, there are plenty of options.

The ones you’ll most likely walk past (just by accident) are on calle 62 as you walk south into Plaza Grande. If you look like a tourist, you’ll probably have people calling you into their stores. This is probably the only part of Merida where shop owners are a little pushy. Still, they leave you alone if you say no.

A more relaxed option is to head to calle 47, opposite Parque Santa Ana, as well as to the east of the park, the street is dotted with small gift shops selling carved statuettes, traditional clothing, keychains and more.

The Church @ Parque Santa Ana - Merida Mexico

The Church @ Parque Santa Ana

Finally a mention for El Studio on Paseo Montejo, and the Posheria (or Poxeria) next door. El Studio sells quirky art pieces – the day of the dead and Frida crafts etc. The Posheria is a liquor store / Bar (10am to 10pm) which sells a large range of the local spirit “pox” pronounced “posh”. This Myana spirit is distilled from corn. Where: On Paseo Montejo, next door to Hennessey’s Irish pub.

Why waste time searching each place out when we already have an instant interactive Google map with every item in this guide listed – plus a lot more places to explore! Get Access To Our Free Tourist Map.

Shopping For Clothes In Centro

Affordable clothes shopping is prolific around downtown Merida. The many streets outside and surrounding the Mercado Lucas De Galvez.

Shoes, bags, dresses, suits. Almost every building is shopping in this area. It’s a hectic part of town, and deals are everywhere to be found. (but just remember you often get what you pay for and the quality isn’t always the greatest)

A good place to start is Vertiche (Corner of 65 & 58). This is right in the heart of the shopping district and you can go in any direction from here to explore the shopping options. Or, if you head inside Vertiche, which from the outside appears like a small place, it actually goes on forever.

Live the rest of downtown Merida, the greatest rewards go to those who explore beyond the facades.

Merida Mexico Festivals (Fiestas)

With its exhaustive cultural calendar, as well as the regular weekly events, like the Sunday Fiesta in Plaza Grande, or the Tuesday Musical Memories in Parque Santiago, Merida also makes room for some big parties on a more infrequent basis.

Noche Blanca (twice a year)

The Noche Blanca (White Night) celebrates the art and music of the city. Free performance stages are set up in the parks and squares around the city. Bars and restaurants put on extra entertainment events. Museums and galleries open for free with special expositions and performances. Street artists and performers roam the streets of Centro drawing crowds wherever they go.

Noche Blanca Festival, San Juan Park, Merida Mexico

One Of Many Stages of the Noche Blanca Festival @ San Juan Park, Merida Mexico

It’s a city wide party around Centro!

When: Always on a Saturday night (from around 7.30pm to 2am). Normally 2nd Saturday in December, and June. But check on Google before booking your trip. December is better for weather, but book your hotel way in advance.

See our top picks for Merida Mexico Hotels in all price ranges below – Click here.

 

Food festivals – Chicharron Festival

Chicharron is now a world famous product. In its simplest form, it’s fried pork fat. And that’s probably the only version you would have outside Mexico – something similar to pork rinds.

Merida Mexico Festivals - Chicharron Festival Merida

A cluster of Chicharronerias in South Merida Mexico play host to the festival

But the Chicharronerias – stores dedicated to chicharron – are selling more than just crispy pork skin snacks. Also delicious pork belly and other tidbits. The concept is, all the parts of the pork that are not considered “premium” get sent to the chicharroneria and they do their best to turn them into to something mouthwatering.

Some more enticing than others, like the pork belly… Some for the brave, like various organs. Whatever your preference, there is no denying that pork lovers are going to have a great time at the Chicharron festival. Plus, it wouldn’t be Merida without live music and a lively atmosphere.

The festival was run for the first time in 2017 and was such a huge success that the council has agreed to run it twice a year from now on. We were there, it was packed!

If you can’t make it for the festival, you can visit one of the many Chicharronerias on a regular day (typical hours 9am – 3pm, 6 days a week, closing day varies depending on the store)

Where: At calle 95 & 64.

 

Merida Fest

Merida Fest is an annual festival of food and culture that takes place every January. It runs for about 2 weeks in January.

It’s basically Merida on steroids. Because this city is already highly culturally active. Merida fest is another step up with more events than usual. Plus special tasting menu nights, and restaurants putting on sampler menus at a discount price too.

An idea of just how much is going on can be seen by checking out one of the old schedules.

 

Day Of The Dead (Dia de los muertos)

Mexico’s internationally renowned festival (The Mexican version of Halloween) is also celebrated in the Yucatan. Here the festival is born from the Mayan tradition and is locally known as Hanal Pixan.

The festival runs from Oct 31st through Nov 2nd. But the main street event is on the final evening where families follow the precession from San Juan all the way to the Cementerio General.

Expect faces painted as skulls, on locals wearing traditional clothing. Plus other street side events along the procession site. Example Events map.

We hope to attend this festival for the first time in 2017! Updates coming soon. For now, Read more about one blogger’s experience of the event in Merida Mexico.

Christmas & New Years – Not A Big Party

On Christmas Eve (Night) you will find many of the restaurants and bars closed. People return to their families instead of going out. Christmas day has some restaurants open with limited hours, but also more for family time.

New Year’s Eve has a much larger selection of places open but is not the massive party you might see in other countries. If you are looking for fireworks, these mainly seem to be going off at private parties. The central square of Merida was moderately busy but no events were taking place in celebration.

 

Best Hotels in Merida Mexico

This section is intended as our top picks of hotels in different price categories in Merida. There are very few big international hotel chains in Merida, though new ones are certainly arriving…

This means that of the best hotels in Merida, most of them do not have that many rooms in their inventory. So it’s advisable to book early if you want to stay in a specific hotel that you love the look of.

Many of the best hotels in Merida are small boutique style, often built into refurbished colonial buildings. This doesn’t mean that all the options have a luxury price tag, what it does mean is you can often find a gorgeous historic style hotel at varying price points.

Below are our top picks, but we also have a longer article featuring more of the best hotels in Merida Mexico.

Or, compare all Merida hotels prices on Hotels Combined

Merida Mexico Luxury Hotels / Hacienda Accommodation

Our top pick for a luxury hotel in Merida:

Casa Azul Monumento Historico

Get the celebrity treatment with world-class service at Casa Azul Monumento Historico.

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Set in a 19th-century listed building just 2 blocks from Paseo Montejo. Casa Azul Monumento Histórico boutique hotel offers an outdoor pool, restaurant, and luxurious suites.

Each stylish air-conditioned suite is uniquely decorated with antique furniture and artworks.

Location: Calle 60 #43

Check Availability and PricesAgoda | Booking.com

Our Top Pick For a Luxury Hacienda Stay

A Hacienda is an old colonial plantation. These grand country houses are dotted all over the Yucatan. By their nature, Haciendas are not present in the center of the city, but outside.

Hacienda Xcanatun

This 18th century hacienda has been converted into a small luxury hotel with outdoor swimming pool and spa.

Hacienda Xcanatun’s rooms offer spacious luxury with colonial decor & marble flooring.


The onsite restaurant, Casa de Piedra offers a relaxing veranda to enjoy a fusion of French cuisine with Caribbean and Yucatan ingredients. There is also a bar and outdoor seating overlooking the verdent gardens.

Location: CALLE 20, S/N, 97302 Mérida, Mexico

Hear what others think: Tripadvisor Reviews

Check Availability and Prices: Agoda | Booking.com | Hotels.com

See Our Full Article On Hacienda Options From Around Yucatan (Varying price points)

 

 

Merida Mexico Boutique Hotels

Our top pick for a boutique hotel in Merida Mexico:

Casa Lecanda

Why you’ll love it: This beautifully restored home is a true oasis in the heart of Merida. Each room is named after a family member and has it’s own distinct style. Also make sure you try one of their cooking classes to discover the best in Yucatecan cooking…the breakfasts are also amazing and very traditional. This is an adults only hotel so it’s great for couples or singles looking for some quiet time.    

 

Location: Calle 47 No 471 x 54 y 56, 97000 Mérida, Mexico

Hear what others think: Tripadvisor Reviews

Check Availability and Prices: Agoda | Booking.com | Hotels.com

Mid Range Accommodation

Hotel Santa Ana – Best Hotel (Low-Mid Pricing)

Located in Mérida’s town center and offering an outdoor pool, Hotel Santa Ana has an ideal location, only 200 m from popular Paseo Montejo Avenue.


The rooms include aircon, fans & cable TV.

Location: Calle 45, 503. Colonia Centro, 97000 Mérida, Mexico

Hear what others think: Tripadvisor Reviews

Check Availability and Prices: Agoda | Booking.com | Hotels.com

 

 

Best Hotel (High-Mid Pricing)

Hotel Medio Mundo

Why you’ll love it: Only 4 blocks from the Mérida Plaza Grande Square, Hotel Medio Mundo is in a colonial building with an outdoor swimming pool and tropical garden patios. It includes a 100% vegan café serving international cuisine.

Rooms at Hotel Medio Mundo are spacious and feature a fun Mexican decor with tiled floors. Some are air-conditioned, others have ceiling fans. All rooms have an en suite bathroom with shower.

Location: Calle 55 No 533 x 64 y 66, 97000 Mérida, Mexico

Hear what others think: Tripadvisor Reviews

Check Availability and Prices: Agoda | Booking.com

Looking for more options? See our longer article featuring more of the best hotels in Merida Mexico.

Budget & Hostel Accommodation


Nomadas Hostel (With private rooms & dorm options)

Why you’ll love it: Located in a colonial house just 5 blocks from Mérida’s main square, Nomadas Hostel has an outdoor swimming pool and hammocks. Free breakfast and 24-hour reception desk.

All double rooms with private bathroom feature a double bed, tiled floors, and Mexican styling. Dorm beds also available.

Location: Calle 62 No 433 x 51, 97000 Mérida, Mexico

Hear what others think: Tripadvisor Reviews

Check Availability and Prices: Agoda | Booking.com

Merida Mexico Vacation Rentals & AirBnB

 

Merida Mexico AirBnB

Merida is an ideal city to visit using Airbnb. So many private homes in downtown Merida are old restored colonial buildings, and it’s as if every large house has a private pool. So you can get close to a hotel experience even in the more moderately priced AirBnBs.

Never used AirBnB? Get $25 off your first stay using our link.

 

Vacation Rental Merida Mexico

We found our first vacation rental by just turning up for a few days and asking around.

If you want something a bit more certain, you can search google for vacation rentals. Things to bare in mind:

  • A lot of real estate rental sites are showing long term rentals, check the lease period before applying.
  • Anything modern looking at a great price with a pool is probably in North Merida (The new town) and not in the historic center. If it’s got a pool and is less than 8000 pesos a month, double check the location. Central locations are listed at the top of this article.

Check out Vacation Rentals On Expedia

 

Transport – Getting To Merida

Options for getting to Merida, as well as getting around Merida.

Air Travel to Merida

To arrive in Merida & the Yucatan by air you’ll likely fly into to either Cancun or directly to Merida.

Currently, Merida is a relatively quiet airport, though air traffic is increasing. With important US hubs like Dallas & Miami now flying direct, many US visitors can reach Merida with one simple domestic change. For Canadians a direct flight just opened up from Toronto.

For those flying from Europe, avoiding the USA altogether is a much simpler plan (because of strict regulations and long immigration lines), and the best option is to fly into Cancun which has many direct flights from London, Milan and more.

If arriving from South or Central America, Mexico city is also a simple stop off point before flying directly to Merida.

Direct flights to Merida From:

Toronto, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Belize City, Mexico City, Havana (Cuba), Cancun.

More routes are opening. The frequency of above flights varies according to the season.

If you arrive at Cancun and want to fly direct to Merida, It’s a short 1 hour hop. Flights are operated by Aeromar & Mayair.

Search Flight Options Now

Private Transfers From Merida Airport To Your Hotel

You can pre-book a private transfer for your whole group, or book a place in a shared transfer.

Select from multiple options after entering your airport, hotel, and dates. Check Prices & Availability of Airport Transfers.

 

Taxi from Merida Airport To Downtown Merida (And Your Hotel)

Uber is illegal in Merida. Although many Uber drivers still operate in the city (lots!) they will rarely take a pick-up at the airport as its the number one place they get caught.

If you want an Uber pick-up, you’d need to walk all the way out to the main road. Airport to Centro is about 75 Pesos.

For a licensed taxi, you can buy a pass from one of the booths near the airport main entrance/exit. This should cost somewhere between 200 & 300 pesos.

Bus From Merida Airport To Merida Bus Stations

Supposedly there is a regular ADO service from outside arrivals to ADO CAME bus station (corner 70 & 71), and Fiesta Americana (North of Centro). Information on this is hard to find and we have not personally seen ADO buses arriving at the terminal.

You also have the option to walk out to the main road and hail any public bus heading towards Ccentro (north). The bus may be labeled “Aviacion” or “Centro”, or if you happen to spot one with the name of the colonia you are heading to, that will also work. Regular buses are 8 pesos. ADO bus would be more than this.

Bus Travel to Merida From Elsewhere in Yucatan

The main bus company running comfortable and regular routes across state is ADO. The have regular services to Merida from other major centers in the Yucatan peninsula and beyond.

Merida being the capital of Yucatan makes it an important transport hub and hence easy to get to.

ADO Bus from Cancun to Merida

The central ADO bus station is on Ave Uxmal, opposite the Mega supermarket. Regular buses run to Merida all day.

Check the ADO website for up to date timetables.

ADO Bus From Cancun Airport to Merida

There is a semi-regular direct bus from Cancun Airport to Merida (Fiesta American – not the central CAME bus station).

The bus takes about 4 hours. This is far more convenient than having to go to central Cancun from the airport to then catch a bus.

You can buy the ticket at the airport on arrival, normally at a premium of about 25% over the advanced purchase price. As the bus is infrequent, check the departure time fits with your flight arrival:

Search The ADO Bus Website for times and prices.

We’ve never successfully purchased a ticket online using our international MasterCard, but this might be just our bad luck.

Collection at Cancun airport terminal 2 & 3. Ask an assistant for help in finding the ticket office and bus stop. Allow enough time between scheduled arrival and bus departure time to clear immigration and find the correct pick up point.

If the times do not suit your arrival you can take one of the regular ADO buses to downtown Cancun, then transfer from there to Merida. But it’s easier to wait an hour or two at the airport than do that if that is an option for you.

ADO Bus From Playa Del Carmen or Tulum to Merida Mexico

If you are visiting Riviera Maya first, it’s easy to make the trip from there to Merida. The bus takes 4 to 5 hours depending on the route you book. Buses run as often as hourly, all day.

You could also make the most of your transfer by visiting Chichen Itza on the way!

Chichen Itza Tour Starting in Cancun with drop off in Merida (Visit the Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins in conjunction with traveling across state to Merida – Through Get Your Guide)

Or travel the opposite way – Chichen Itza tour starting in Merida with drop off in Cancun.


Belize to Merida

There are some direct flights from Belize City to Merida with Tropic Air. You can check latest pricing for these flights on Expedia.

There are also direct buses from Belize City. Though the Belize border is notorious for being a bit tricky.

If coming from San Pedro in Belize, there is a fast ferry running directly to Mexico (Chetumal) which is much easier than going via Belize city. Port entrance through immigration in Chetumal is also much more pleasant than at the land border.

San Pedro, Belize

San Pedro, Belize

The San Pedro Belize Express Ferry only runs once every 2 days. See schedule and book online.

Visa Fees Scam

Many travelers refer to entry/exit fees at the Belize border as a scam. It’s not always a scam…

For a visit to Mexico, the government requires you pay a tourist tax once per visit. This can be collected on entry or exit. However, if you do not carry proof that you have already paid the tax, the border guards will charge you again.

So, if you have paid the tax as part of a pre-purchased exit or entry flight to Mexico, you need to provide evidence (from your purchase invoice) that the tax has been paid in advance, otherwise, you will be expected to pay again.

Belize also charge an exit tax. This will be done at Belizean immigration. This is a different government collecting a different tax. If you somehow already paid the Belizean tax prior to arriving at the border, once again, you’d need to show evidence of that.

 

Car Rental Travel to Merida Mexico

Driving from Cancun to Merida is easy. The new superhighway (toll road) is wide and straight and gets you from Cancun to Merida in less than 4 hours.

You can consider renting a car direct from Cancun Airport. Search rental options from Cancun airport now

As with rental companies in many countries, they are always trying to find a way to force upsells on you. From our experience, if you find a very cheap offer online (A few dollars per day) which offers an online independent insurance, also at a discount, it is highly likely you will then also be forced to pay the in-house insurance by the rental company on pick-up.

Be suspicious of any rental offer that charges less than 400 pesos per day for a small vehicle with insurance. You can call to confirm what extra charges will be expected.

 

Transport – Getting Around Merida Mexico

Merida is one of Mexico’s more affluent cities and getting around is relatively easy – and very cheap.

Merida By Taxi

Regular taxis and meter taxis are easy to hail, even at night. Find a main road and wait.

Before getting into a taxi, ask if they have a meter. Just because it says “taximetro” on the side of the taxi doesn’t they have a working meter, or that they will run it for gringos.

If they will not run the meter then you have to barter or wave them on. As a tourist, if you get in the cab and then ask the price they will almost always rip you off. Sadly, even with Merida’s welcoming attitude to tourists, taxi drivers are still ready to overcharge you.

Negotiations are normally polite and easy but expect to be quoted a little above the going rate. Any price negotiated includes the tip, it is highly uncommon to tip taxi drivers in Merida even if they run the meter. If they help you take your bags into your hotel, you may want to tip 20 pesos but it is not normally expected.

NOTE: A short taxi ride (5 to 10 minutes), say from the ADO bus station to Santiago, shouldn’t be more than 40 pesos. Taxis really are cheap.

UBER

Uber is technically illegal in Merida, although a lot of Uber drivers still operate and the app works just fine, for now. The Uber cars are almost always air-conditioned (Meter taxis rarely are). You also have the ease of a fixed price, no bartering and automatic payment.

CABIFY

Cabify is a taxi app that connects you with licensed cab drivers. This is legal and helps you get a fixed and fair price. But, the taxis might not be as plush as Uber. Cabify on Android. Cabify for Apple OS.

Merida & Yucatan By Bus / Collectivo

With taxis being very affordable to get around town (Rarely more than a few dollars (30 to 75 pesos), even for a 20+ minute journey) we don’t bother with the bus for inner-city journeys.

The city buses are noisy and without air-con. But, if you are counting the pennies, 8 pesos for a bus ride across town is crazy cheap!

For more info on some of the inner-city bus routes, check this article.

For buses out of the city:

There are many frequent services to town all around the region from Merida. Most are air conditioned and prices are reasonable (ie. return trip to Progreso, 36 pesos. One way to Celestun, about 100 pesos)

There are different bus stations for different destinations. Once again, this article has some good info on that.

NOTE: Buses will drop you off anywhere on their route – just ask the driver to stop, anytime.

Collectivos

Collectivos are mini buses that ply many of the routes that do not demand a full size bus – as well as competing on some of the routes that do. They are almost always white with a red stripe.

Colectivo Merida Mexico

The “Colectivo” Mini buses cover many routes from Merida Mexico and around the Yucatan.

Some destinations, like Sisal are only reachable via collectivo. Unlike a public bus that may run to a schedule. The collectivos typically run when they are full (or almost full), unless they are heading on a route where they will pick up many passengers.

You are charged by the distance you travel, and the driver will ask for money as you exit the vehicle. Pricing is similar to public transport.

Collectivos leave from many destinations in the city and you can hail them down if you see one driving past – but they will not go out of their way to take you somewhere other than their pre-defined routes.

Merida & Yucatan By Car Rental

There are options to rent a car from Merida Airport. Fiesta Americana (North of Centro) also has store-fronts for most major rental brands.

Pre Book Your Merida Car Rental In Advance (Be aware that very cheap options almost certainly add extra insurance at time of pick up – and might not let you drive away using your own independent insurance without leaving a deposit in excess of $10,000.)

Merida On Foot

If you are staying in the centre of Merida, visiting the city on foot is easy. It’s also one of the best ways to stumble upon new places accidentally. Behind every arch and doorway lies a secret world and new places are opening and closing all the time.

Just bare in mind that sidewalks are uneven and often in poor condition outside of the main downtown area.

NOTE: During the middle of the day it can be very hot, and especially in summer, there is often no shade at all as most of the buildings are low-rise and offer little protection.

 

Insurance

Protect yourself against unforeseen problems – Always travel with insurance.

USA Residents

For US travelers on a short vacation, your US health insurance is unlikely to cover you in Mexico, or for emergency medical transport back to the states. Although healthcare is cheaper in Mexico than the US, emergency health care could still set you back thousands of dollars and you might not be able to leave the country until you have paid your bills.

For simple vacation insurance, check out Allianz

If you are planning a longer trip to Mexico – or a long term trip through Mexico and on to other countries, we recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance and we’ve written an article about why we think they are the best choice for longer trips.

Some key benefits:

  • You can easily extend your cover indefinitely without having to return home first AND can make claims while still traveling – rather than having to go home to claim.
  • World Nomads are set up for adventurers and have simple options to cover adventure sports including Scuba diving.
  • You can even purchase your insurance once you are already on the road.

 

UK, Europe, Australia & World Visitors

As above, but with the added bonus of saving some money:

Get a 5% discount off your World Nomads travel insurance policy (Not available to USA / Canadian residents). Learn More About Our FoodFunTravel.com Exclusive Discount.

 

Get Our Free & Interactive Online Merida & Yucatan Tourism Map

Every attraction, restaurant and hotel listed in this article – plus many more of our top picks – are featured on our exclusive, personalized google map overlay. Access all the info live on your phone/tablet or computer (including new updates) at any time by getting access to our Free Map.

Tourist favourites – as well as local secrets that almost all tourists miss!

Featuring Merida Mexico, Riviera Maya (inc. Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum) and around the Yucatan Peninsula. Click To Get The Map.

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Merida Mexico: Things to do, Restaurants, Yucatan Food, Day trip Itineraries, Nightlife, Best Mayan Ruins, Merida Beaches, Markets, Best Hotels in Merida... Merida Mexico: Things to do, Restaurants, Yucatan Food, Day trip Itineraries, Nightlife, Best Mayan Ruins, Merida Beaches, Markets, Best Hotels in Merida... Merida Mexico: Things to do, Restaurants, Yucatan Food, Day trip Itineraries, Nightlife, Best Mayan Ruins, Merida Beaches, Markets, Best Hotels in Merida...

Comments 7

  1. Sadly you missed San Crisanto – the nicest and cleanest white sand beaches in Yucatan. Also the coconut nursery of the Yucatan with rows of pristine coco trees

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  4. Pingback: Merida, Mexico: The Perfect Base for Day Trips Around the Yucatan (With Video) - Goats On The Road

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