See Thousands of Flamingos in Celestun, Mexico

Flamingos in Celestun Mexico

Flamingos are quite the sight. Seeing thousands of them at once seems like an impossible task. Until now.

Celestun, Mexico is a small beach community just outside of Merida and is a haven for these wonderful creatures. Here, boat tours take you into an area that’s filled with flamingos, many other birds, and even crocodiles. You’ll also get to go deep inside of a thick mangrove forest, and if you’re brave enough, go for a swim in pools fed by fresh-water springs.

Come along for a ride to see flamingos in Celestun, Mexico – one of the best things to do outside of the city of Merida!

Before you head out, make sure you know the best time to go, your tour options, and the ways to get to Celstun Mexico. We’ll cover all of these topics in this post so you can plan your entire trip without a hitch!

A flamingo taking flight on the boat tour in Yucatan Mexico

When to Visit the Flamingos in Celestun

Flamingos migrate throughout the year. They stay in Celestun Mexico mainly in the winter months (November through April) for their courtship rituals. If you visit Mexico during the spring or summer, follow their migration pattern up north to Ria Lagartos instead.

Another major tip: the flamingos are most active in the lagoon during low tide when they come out to feed. So check out the tide tables before deciding when to visit.

Follow these two rules and you’re nearly certain to see hundreds or even thousands of flamingos!

How to Get to Celestun Mexico Boat Tours from Merida

By car: The drive to Celestun is fairly easy. It is 1 hour 45 minutes away and the highways are paved the entire way. We were able to pick up a car rental for insanely cheap ($25 USD for 3 days) so this could be a good option. Make sure to verify that the price you are quoted includes all necessary insurance and taxes/fees. A more common price is $25 USD per day.

By tour:

By bus: Go to the Terminal Noreste located at the intersection of Calle 67 & Calle 50. Get there early because it took our bus 3 hours to make the trip and you want to avoid the midday sun on the boat. Buses depart at 6 am, 8 am, 9 am, and 11 am. The cost is $60 pesos ($3 USD) per person, one-way. You can get return tickets at the small office in Celestun. Or hop on a colectivo.

By colectivo: We usually prefer this method, but we opted for the bus since these are very infrequent (every 1.5 hours or so) and no one could confirm the departure times from Merida. We were told they start at Calle 69 and Calle 50 in Merida and stop on the east side of the main plaza in Celestun, in front of the church. Cost $35 pesos per person.

One of the boats that you go see flamings on in Celestun Mexico

Celestun Flamingo Boat Tour Options

There are two options for boat tours of the flamingos in Celestun: the bridge or the beach. We recommend the beach but read on to know the details about why. You may prefer the opposite.

The “bridge” option is on the main highway (281) on the west side of the bridge going over the lagoon before you reach Celestun Mexico. The buses can stop here to drop you off, just make sure to ask the driver to do so. This is the official tour station, government-sponsored. But it is a much shorter tour. You start in the lagoon, fairly close to the flamingo area, and will likely be on the boat for only 1.5 hours.

The “beach” option is a collective of boat-owners who have formed on the beach near the town of Celestun Mexico. You pass by the bridge on the bus and continue into the ADO station in town. Then walk through the plaza to the beach area adjacent to it. The tours from here go for a nice ride along the coastline, then up all the way into the lagoon, passing by the bridge tour location, and finally into the flamingo area. It does take some time to travel this distance (30-40 minutes) so a lot of the tour is spent cruising at high speeds. These usually last 2 hours, but we haggled a bit and got ours extended to 2.5 hours.

It’s basically just a matter of preference. If you want a quick ride to just go to see the flamingos? Go to the bridge. If you want a longer tour and see the beach, lagoon, and flamingos, go to the beach. The prices are usually nearly identical.

Arriving at the Boat Tour

In either case, the way to get the best price is to arrive with a group of 8 people. If you don’t have 8, look for other tourists on the bus and discuss grouping together with them. Otherwise, the tour operators will charge each group individually and likely at much higher prices.

Close up shot of two flamingos in Celestun Mexico

We went on the 6 am bus and found 4 other people to group up with. When we arrived, we were quoted $300 per person ($1,800 total) AND we would have to wait for two more people to show up. We weren’t too keen on that since we had heard $1,500 per boat, so we asked for $250 per person and to leave now. He said $300 and we can leave now. Still not thrilled about the price, we asked for 2.5 hours instead of 2.

Deal. And we’re off.

Heading Out to See Flamingos in Celestun

The six of us hopped on the boat along with our captain and set off. The boat drivers are basically just drivers, not really tour guides, so don’t be too concerned if they don’t speak much English.

The water is very shallow at the coastline. But it was beautiful. Tons of emerald-colored water and birds all over the place. One bird dove down basically right next to my face as we were screaming along in the boat. Would have been a pretty nasty injury if I caught it in my face!

Michael from Off Path Travels on the boat in Celestun Mexico

After about 15 minutes, we made it south to the entrance of the lagoon. The water immediately began changing color from a blue/green in the open ocean to a lighter shade of brown in the lagoon. It had rained recently, so the color can be better inside the lagoon at times.

We started seeing all sorts of birds here, including some groups of flamingos. Pelicans, herons, woodpeckers, egret, seagulls, cormorants, ospreys, and vultures were all around as well.

We passed by the other tour operator and under the bridge and finally arrived at the main flamingo area.

Flamingos in Celestun Mexico

As mentioned above, if you visit during low tide in the winter, you are likely going to see TONS of flamingos in Celestun. And our experience was nothing but incredible. A few scattered groups of flamingos soon turned into an entire sea of them. More than I ever imagined. Flooded across the entire lagoon, from side to side, were giant groups (aka “pats” of flamingos) filling the lagoon.

Our boat slowed down and we sat there enjoying their presence. The males are bigger and a brighter shade of pink. The babies are white, even grey, and were hanging out in the shallow, protected areas near the mangroves. I’m sure the crocodiles were nearby, but we didn’t see any yet.

A group of male flamingos on the boat tour in Celestun
Grey baby flamings in the shallow part of the lagoon near Celestun Mexico

This made the entire trip out worthwhile. We have been on some boat tours recently. Puerto Suelo had tons of birds and Sumidero Canyon was a gorge of epic proportions, but the flamingos in Celestun Mexico were downright beautiful.

Mangrove Forests and Spring-Water Swimming Holes

After we watched the flamingos for 15-20 minutes, we drove off to start the tour inside the mangroves. Our driver had given tours for seven years and the experience showed. As we were riding quickly down the lagoon, we abruptly turned the boat hard, right into the mangroves.

Thankfully, his turn was precise and we slid right into the dense forest through a small channel no wider than the boat itself. The sunlight faded out and we drove deeper into the darkness of the mangroves.

The mangrove forests near Celestun

As we cruised along at a slower pace, we saw a crocodile. It was the cutest thing we’ve seen in a while. Crocodile? Cute? Yes.

It was a baby. Not more than 2 feet (60 cm) long. Still big enough to do some damage, but also funny to see creatures that are usually so massive seem so infantile. I guess everything starts off as a baby.

A small crocidile in Celestun Mexico
One of the spring-fed swimming pools on a murky day

We then reached the swimming area. Not going to lie, you need to be brave to swim here. Deep inside the mangrove forests, there are a couple of fresh-water springs that create an entirely unique ecosystem back in the depths of nature. Crocodiles, fish, woodpeckers, large trees, and even a rare spider-monkey can be found here.

The first one we stopped at had murky water that day, but Kristina – like usual – was dead-set on going for a swim. So she asked the driver if there was anywhere with better water, and he took us to another spring which was abandoned because the dock had fallen apart.

We jumped in the clear-blue water, hung out for a little while watching the fish swim around us (and seeing the other tourists on the boat looking at us like we’re crazy) then eventually climbed back into the boat. My heart was racing the whole time. Kristina had a giant smile.

Celestun Flamingos and Restaurants

We rode in near silence on the way back to the shoreline, then hopped out, said our thanks to the driver, and started exploring town. There are a few big restaurants on the beach. La Palapa is the one more favored by tourists. Plenty of fresh fish and seafood around.

A popular restaurant called La Palapa near the beach tour area of Celestun Mexico

We packed our lunch, so we opted for a nice walk on the beach, then a swim in a secluded area just a few blocks north. It was amazing.

Finished it up with a popsicle in the town plaza, then went back to where the bus dropped us off to purchase a return ticket and went back to Merida. The buses leave every hour or so, and if you’re concerned, ask about departure times when you arrive in the morning.

Michael and Kristina trying to time a picture together on the beach in Celestun

Summary of the Flamingo Tours in Celestun Mexico

The flamingos in Celestun are a sight to be seen. Thousands of them congregate in a beautiful lagoon area just outside of a cute beach town. Take a tour from the bridge for a short ride or venture out to the beach for a longer tour with a ride along the coast. If you’re brave enough, hop in the depths of the mangrove forest for a swim in the crocodile-infested waters.

Have you ever swam in an area where you knew crocodiles were living? Did it scare you or do you think they would leave you alone? Leave us a comment below to share!

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How and when to visit Celestun, Mexico to see thousands of flamingos (and some crocodiles!)

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