Looking for the best things to do in Mérida, Mexico? In this guide we’re sharing the best things to do in Mérida, Mexico, plus where to stay, our favorite places to eat, and more!
To kick off our 2023 adventures we decided to head to Mérida, Mexico for two weeks! We were in need of a “workcation,” which for us, means going somewhere and knocking out a bunch of work, while also having a bit of fun. With how close Mexico is to Texas, and how much we have loved Mexico in the past, it felt like the best option for us.
But Mexico is a large country, with many incredible cities, so how were we to choose where to go? Our goal was to visit a less touristy destination that had beautiful buildings to check out, delicious food, and a variety of different activities nearby…and Mérida checked all of our boxes!
Watch our experience in Mérida, including exploring the city, eating tons of local foods, and going on two day trips!
During our two weeks in Mérida we fell in love with the city! It was the perfect homebase for us and we enjoyed many walks all around town, tried as many restaurants as we could (plus revisiting some favorites many times), checked out free events, and went on a couple day trips.
And in this guide we’re sharing 20 of the best things to do in Mérida, Mexico, plus other helpful tips for your visit, where to stay, and so much more!
Looking for more things to do in Mexico? Check out our Mexico guides and vlogs!
- 10+ Yucatán food items to try in Mérida, Mexico (& where to get them!)
- How to get to Uxmal ruins by bus from Mérida
- Everything you need to know to visit the Uxmal ruins near Mérida, Mexico
- 5 Day Mexico City Itinerary
- Watch all of our Mexico Vlogs
Note: this guide contains affiliate links, which means that if you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!
About Mérida, Mexico
Mérida is located in the northwest part of the Yucatán Peninsula, in the Mexican state of Yucatán. In fact, it is the capital and largest city in the state, with almost 1 million residents!
Although home to Mayans for centuries, the city was founded in 1542 by Francisco de Montejo, a Spanish conquistador, and today is known for its Mayan history and colonial architecture. The city was once home to five major Mayan pyramids, which were destroyed and their ruins were used to build some of the important buildings that make up the city today.
Beyond its architecture, it is also said to not only be the safest city in Mexico, but one of the safest in all of North America! While things can happen anywhere (so always be alert!), we will say that we never once felt unsafe (even at night) or had any safety issues while visiting the city.
20 FUN Things to do in Mérida, Mexico
One of the things we loved most about visiting Mérida is that there is always something to do! From just walking around and admiring the buildings, to checking out one of the nightly events, to going for a day trip, it’s a very vibrant, hopping city!
Below are 20 fun things to do in Mérida, as well as in the surrounding area!
Visit Plaza Grande
The heart of Mérida is Plaza Grande, which is a large, square park surrounded by many important buildings and iconic photo opportunities! Here are some of the iconic buildings and other spots to check out while here!
Catedral de San Ildefonso
The Catedral de San Ildefonso was built in the late 16th century and is considered to be the oldest cathedral in the Americas, and that includes North, Central, and South America! You are able to go inside the cathedral and admire the architecture, which is equally as impressive on the inside as it is on the outside.
Pasaje de la Revolución
Next to the cathedral is Pasaje de la Revolución, which isn’t a building per se, but is a large covered pedestrian-only passageway. The passageway is sandwiched between the cathedral and MACAY, which is the Mérida Museum of Contemporary Art, and the museum displays artwork in the passageway on a rotating basis. We highly recommend coming here at night, when the colored lights on the ceiling are lit up!
Palacio de Gobierno
On the north edge of the Plaza Grande is the Palacio de Gobierno. Built in 1892, the two story classical building houses the offices of the government of the state of Yucatán. You can visit this building’s inner courtyard and upstairs, where you’ll find 27 huge mural paintings by Yucatecan painter Fernando Castro Pacheco, which depict history between the Mayans and Spanish. The building and paintings are free to visit and admire and is definitely worth a quick visit!
Palacio Municipal de Mérida
Also framing Plaza Grande is the Palacio Municipal de Mérida, which is a pink building with a clocktower and gorgeous archways on both the first and second floor. This building has a great view of Plaza Grande from the second floor and it is open to the public to visit, you’ll just have to check in with security. They also have free bathrooms here (at least they were free during our visit)!
Museo Casa Montejo
Finally, on the south side of the plaza is Museo Casa Montejo, which is a museum in a 16th century house that was built by Francisco de Montejo and was the first building built after Merida became a city. It is one of the few examples of Renaissance civil architecture from the 16th century and has different rooms that show how wealthy Yucatan families lived. This museum is FREE to visit and only takes about 30 minutes to go through!
Colorful Mérida blocks
On top of all the history that Plaza Grande oozes, there are also plenty of photo opportunities, including the colorful Mérida block letters, which can be found in many of the Pueblos Magicos across Mexico. You can’t visit Mérida and not get a photo in front of this sign!
As a huge gathering place in the city, Plaza Grande has lots of seating options, with the most unique being white pairs of chairs called “kissing chairs,” as the chairs face each other. They are perfect for hanging out with your friend or significant other!
Go on a free walking tour
One of our favorite ways to experience a new city is to go on a walking tour and the tourism office in Mérida, which is located on the bottom floor of the Municipal Palace, offers FREE walking tours!
These tours happen every day, except Sunday, at 9:30AM and leave from outside the tourism office. They are about 1.5 hours long, but make sure to arrive early, as we read they are capped at 25 people per tour and ours seemed pretty close to full on a Friday. The guide does speak Spanish and English and depending on who all is on the tour, will alternate speaking both.
On our tour we walked around Plaza Grande, before heading towards Parque Hidalgo and Iglesia de Jesus. We learned so much more than we could’ve on our own, both about the history of Mérida, as well as the history of specific buildings.
Even though the tour is free, be sure to tip your guide! A good range would be $100-$200 Mexican pesos per person. If you want a different tour option than the one offered by the tourism office, there are some other options with different start times, including this tour from Free Walking Tour Mexico or Estacion Mexico.
Walk along Paseo de Montejo
One of the main tourist areas in Mérida is the Paseo de Montejo, which is named after the city’s founder, Francisco de Montejo.
This street is inspired by the French Boulevard and is lined with palm trees and other large trees, plus huge mansions, including some that have been renovated and converted into museums you can visit. A couple popular museums to check out are Quinta Montes Molina and Museo de Antropología e Historia.
There are also many shops, restaurants, and other businesses that line the boulevard, but one of our favorite spots to check out on this road was Monumento a La Patria! This monument has 300 hand carved figures that tell the story of México from the establishment of Tenochtitlán to the mid 20th century, as well as different figures that are significant to the Mayan culture. There is so much to see and look at and we read that it took 11 years to complete!
Attend a FREE local event
There is almost always something free to do in Mérida! The city hosts almost nightly free events, ranging from dancing, to a Mayan ball game, to video projections on the Cathedral. Some of the top events to check out are:
Monday night (9 PM): Vaquería at Plaza Grande
On Monday nights, there is Vaquería, which is a traditional Yucatán celebration and dance at Plaza Grande, just outside of the Palacio Municipal.
Tuesday night (8:30 PM): Dancing at Parque de Santiago
Unlike the other dancing events listed, this is not a performance, but rather live music that the public comes to dance to. This would be really fun to go join!
Friday night (8 PM): Video mapping on Catedral de San Ildefonso
Many regular events were canceled during our time in Mérida due to Mérida Fest, but this is one event that we were able to catch! Every Friday night at 8 PM, they put on a video mapping show on the Cathedral in Plaza Grande, which is so beautiful! You get to watch different displays dance along the cathedral, along with music and/or narration.
Saturday night (8 PM): Pok Ta Pok
Pok Ta Pok is a Mayan ball game that dates back thousands of years and the players can only use their hips (we also heard elbows and knees) to score. And every Saturday night, they play this game at Plaza Grande! Unfortunately this is one event that was canceled during our visit due to Mérida Fest and we were SO bummed to not see it, but we did get to see one of the courts at Uxmal.
NOTE: We suggest checking with the tourism office about the current days and times of these events, as they do change over time.
Bike the streets during BiciRuta
Not only is Mérida an extremely walkable city, it is also bike friendly, and another fun event to check out in Mérida is BiciRuta!
BiciRuta means “bicycle route” in Spanish and every Sunday from 8 AM-12:30 PM, 5 km of roads, starting at Monumento a la Patria and ending at Parque de la Ermita, are closed to cars so that the public can bike and walk on them!
Along this route you’ll get to bike down Paseo de Montejo and see its mansions, can stop at different cafes, explore Plaza Grande and its Sunday market, and more!
When we visited we hoped to join in on the fun of this event and rent bikes from BICIMERIDA, but once again, they unfortunately weren’t doing BiciRuta due to Mérida Fest, so we weren’t able to experience this weekly Mérida tradition. Next time!
Walk the streets and admire the beautiful architecture and buildings
Paseo de Montejo isn’t the only street worth seeing when visiting Mérida! Most streets in Mérida are filled with tons of color and character. Everywhere we went there were interesting and beautiful buildings and houses to admire. We couldn’t stop saying “wow” and “oh how beautiful” to ourselves as we walked the streets!
Just wandering around you’ll stumble upon delightfully vibrant streets on your own, but a beautiful spot we found was Calle 64A. We had heard that this section of street was one of the most colorful in Mérida and the rumors were true!
Eat delicious Yucatán foods
One thing we LOVE about Mexico is the regional variety of cuisines and the Yucatán, including Mérida, is no exception! The Yucatán’s cuisine has been heavily influenced by its Mayan roots and offers many food items that are unlike anything else we have tried in Mexico!
Some of the themes we noticed when trying Yucatán food is the high presence of turkey as a protein, as well as hard boiled eggs. Pork is also prominent and many meats are slow cooked, instead of grilled. As for spice, they love habanero and you’ll find it in salsas and sauces.
Eating Yucatán food is hands down one of the top things to do in Mérida and below are some delicious restaurants to visit that offer Yucatán food items.
To learn much more about Yucatecan foods and where to find them in Mérida, check out our guide to trying Yucatecan foods which also includes some tips on ordering food in Mexico. You can also watch our Yucatán food tour video where we tried 12 Yucatán dishes!
La Chaya Maya
Maybe the most popular restaurant in Merida is La Chaya Maya. There are two locations, but we went to the La Chaya Maya Casona location because it has a beautiful open-air courtyard in the middle of it, which is a common theme at restaurants in Mérida, which we loved!
At La Chaya Maya you can try many Yucatecan dishes like cochinita pibil, papadzul, huevos, motuleños, poc chuc, and lots more! We tried the papadzul and poc chuc and both were excellent!
Taqueria La Lupita
In our two weeks in Merida we went to Taqueria La Lupita FIVE times! The Airbnb we stayed in was only a 5 minute walk from the market where Taqueria La Lupita is and that definitely played a part in why we went so many times, but we also went back again and again because it is ridiculously good!
We loved their lechon al horno, relleno negro, and cochinita pibil on either salbutes or panuchos! One important thing to know is that this is mostly a breakfast and lunch spot, as they close at 1:30 PM.
Maíz, Canela y Cilantro
Maíz, Canela y Cilantro is a weekend-only, family run restaurant serving several different traditional Mexican dishes, as well as Yucatecan dishes. We recommend the huevos motuleños!
The restaurant itself is beautiful, with a cozy outdoor courtyard. And on your way out to the courtyard, you’ll pass by the kitchen, which looks just like a kitchen in a home rather than an industrial kitchen you might normally find in a restaurant. It made us feel like we were just eating at a local’s house!
Similar to La Chaya Maya, at Manjar Blanco you can find tons of traditional Yucatecan dishes, with maybe most famous being their cochinita pibil, which was featured on Netflix’s Taco Chronicles. And we can confirm it is very tasty!
We also tried sopa de lima, which is a soup similar to tortilla soup, but made with lima agria, as well as queso relleno, which is a stuffed Dutch cheese.
Besides the delicious food, what takes Manjar Blanco to another level is the ambience and atmosphere. They have beautifully decorated inside and outside areas where you can eat. And you may even see some cats!
It’s a tie between Taqueria La Lupita, El Apapacho, and Wayan’e for our favorite restaurant we tried in Mérida. Wayan’e is said to be one of the best taco spots in Mérida and is very highly praised for its castacan, which is crispy pork belly. We ordered ours in taco and torta form and had heard to add cheese, which you never have to tell us twice to do!
And we can confirm…it is worth the hype! I think our reaction in our Yucatán food tour video spoke volumes as to how much we loved it!
The meat is so fatty, tender, and rich, which is only heightened by the addition of cheese. It was PERFECT! And their salsas and chaya con piña/lima aguas frescas were amazing too! We had to walk quite a ways from our Airbnb to get to Wayan’e (and did it twice), but we’d walk miles and miles again for this treat!
Similar to Taqueria La Lupita, this spot is mostly for breakfast and lunch, as it is only open until 2:30 PM.
Museo de la Gastronomía Yucateca- MUGY
The Museo de la Gastronomía Yucateca shares the ingredients and flavors of the Yucatecan cuisine through exhibits, demonstrations, and a restaurant to sample traditional dishes.
It is housed in a casona, which means big house, and the exhibits share the history of the people of the Yucatan Peninsula’s use of beans, chiles, turkey, pork, and other ingredients. The demonstrations will show you how these ingredients and dishes are prepared including how they roast a whole pig in the ground. In the outdoor village at the back of the museum you can see a recreation of thatched palapas where the demonstrations take place.
The restaurant is highly rated and is high on our list to try and experience on our next visit!
Marquesitas are like crunchy crepes and are a very popular sweet treat in Mérida! The batter, which tastes similar to a waffle cone, is poured onto a grill, and traditionally is filled with queso de bola, which is edam cheese from the Netherlands, the same cheese used for queso relleno. It is then filled with toppings and rolled up once crispy!
As for toppings, a couple of the most popular ways to order them are with cheese and nutella or cajeta (caramel). We tried one with nutella and cheese and another with cajeta, lechera (condensed milk), and cheese and both were super good, but the second time we went we took them to another level and got them with cheese, cajeta, lechera, nutella and a banana! The banana makes the dessert a meal!
We read that the marquesita originated in Mérida in the 1900s when an ice cream vendor’s sales were down in the winter, so he created the marquesita to use the waffle cone in a different way. We aren’t 100% sure if it’s true, but we’re sure glad it was created!
You can find these fun and delicious treats all over town, mostly at night from little stands that are often driven around by an attached motorcycle. We tried two different stands and our favorite was this marquesita stand, mostly because he really loaded up the ingredients!
Try other amazing restaurants
You can find more than just Yucatán dishes in Mérida! Mérida is also home to some other amazing restaurants that have delicious Mexican food items that aren’t necessarily from the Yucatán. Below are some of our favorites for each meal!
This small spot makes some amazing breakfast! We LOVED their chilaquiles and their horchata con cacao, which was basically Mexican chocolate milk. Since it is small, we recommend making a reservation, which you can easily do online.
This restaurant has a wonderful outdoor courtyard and we really enjoyed their coffee, chilaquiles, and breakfast sandwich.
Lunch or Dinner
El Apapacho wins for our favorite restaurant (that isn’t tacos) in Mérida! This is part restaurant and part bookstore, with the most gorgeous outdoor courtyard we experienced on our trip, covered in colorful murals and filled with beautiful, lush plants. They even provide some OFF bug spray at every table, which is super thoughtful!
We came here twice and both times started off with one of their mocktails, which were SO good, and then got mole based dishes for our meals, including shrimp and mole (the BEST shrimp we have ever had!) and enmoladas, which are corn tortillas stuffed with your choice of filling then smothered in mole. We tried the mole negro and it was smoky, spicy, creamy, and so flavorful!
The wait staff are super nice and friendly as well!
One of the coolest spots we visited was Mercado 60, which is a large outdoor food hall with a great variety of food options including burgers, burritos, empanadas, Japanese food, a smoothie bar, bbq, and several bars.
We tried the empanadas from Divina Gracia Empanadas and they were phenomenal! The empanadas were so crispy on the outside and the fillings (we tried them all!) were so tasty, with our favorites being the cheese based ones as the cheese was SO gooey and creamy. The sauces are all delicious too!
The food is super good, but the atmosphere and vibe of the space is really fun! It’s a very large space with several different areas to sit and hang out with friends. There are a variety of seating options to choose from including large community tables, bar areas, and relaxing chairs arranged in circles, sort of like around a campfire. The entire space is covered in fun and festive strung lights and other fixtures.
On some nights they have live music as well which would make it an even more fun experience! If you’re coming with a group, this is a place you could easily spend an entire evening at.
Taqueria de la Unión
Taqueria de la Unión is another spot we went to multiple times! Their tacos are all delicious, as is their guacamole and queso fundido. We tried a handful of meats here including al pastor (which is shredded, a unique twist!), castacan, carne ahumada, lechon al horno, cochinita, and campechano.
Our one and only ice cream we tried in Mérida was Pola Gelato and it was so good that we went twice! This cute shop offers several classic gelato flavors, as well as some unique and local flavors, including stracciatella, marquesita, piña con chaya, and several others. We highly recommend the marquesita and their peanut butter flavor. They work so well together!
Note: It’s cash only!
Paleteria las Rellenas de la 60
No trip to Mexico is complete without a paleta or two! Paletas are Mexican popsicles and they can be fruit based or milk based. As their tagline proclaims “it’s what’s inside that counts,” and that is what makes these paletas special…the filling inside of them! We tried the Mexican chocolate flavor, which was delicious, but the real star was the queso de bola with cajeta filling! The cajeta (caramel) inside was SO gooey and the outside had actual cheese in it. It was like a marquesita, in frozen form.
Just like almost all the places we visited in Mérida, the inside shop and indoor and outdoor seating areas were beautifully designed and relaxing!
Some spots we want to check out next time
Chilakilez Morning Food & Treats
Micaela Mar & Leña
Visit a local coffee shop
It’s no secret we love coffee (I am currently drinking my second cup as I write this)! And Mérida has an awesome coffee scene. Before and during our trip we pinned so many coffee shops to checkout and had full intentions of visiting as many as we could, but ended up only visiting a handful because the ones we did go to were so good that we had a hard time pushing ourselves to visit others!
Here are the ones we loved, plus the others we had planned to visit, but will have to check out next time!
Manifesto Casa Tostadora Calabrese
Quite possibly our favorite coffee shop that we visited in Mérida was Manifesto Casa Tostadora Calabrese. The staff inside are extremely friendly and knowledgeable and the inside space has a cool mix of wood and stone, with pops of blue. It is multilevel (although you can’t go to the second story) with the roaster on the second floor that you can see from the lower level. We even bought a couple bags of beans to bring home!
Every drink we tried was great, but we especially LOVED their flat whites. They also serve a variety of food options, most notably toasts, and they are also open until 9 PM most days.
Part cafe, part book library, Sempere is a calm, tranquil, and relaxing cafe that offers exceptional coffee and food items, including toasts and fruit plates. We tried their flat white, Americano, yogurt and fruit bowl, and a pesto, tomato, and cheese avocado toast…all were spectacular!
We especially loved the ambience and concept of this place. Adam could spend all day in a library or bookstore and this coffee shop had a few bookshelves that he couldn’t stop browsing. It’s a concept many coffee shops utilize, but this was the best execution of it, in our opinion.
Baretto | Espresso Bar
Located Calle 47, just a block east of the southern end of Paseo de Montejo is Baretto. They have a beautifully designed interior space and also a walk up to go window. We had several of their flat whites and Americanos during our visit and they were excellent and the pastries they sell inside looked top notch as well!
More coffee shops we want to try:
Latte Quatro Sette
Pan & Køf.feé
Shop at the markets
Mérida is filled with fun and colorful markets throughout the city. You can find a lively market on any day of the week where you can buy craft goods, souvenirs, and try the local Yucatecan cuisine. We are sharing some of the more popular markets below!
Saturday slow food market
If you aren’t familiar, the Slow Food movement is an international food movement that promotes local food production, healthy eating, and preservation of regional culinary conditions. The Slow Food Yucatán market is an official chapter of the Slow Food movement and aims to promote, preserve, and enjoy the culinary heritage and local food production.
You can visit this market every Saturday from 9AM-1PM at Centro Comercial Colon, a few blocks west of the north end of Paseo de Montejo.
Mérida en Domingo Sunday Market
On Sundays in Plaza Grande is the Mérida en Domingo Sunday Market. The market runs from 9 AM-9 PM every Sunday and includes dance and live music performances, food stalls, and merchandise stalls.
Lucas De Galvéz market
The largest and busiest market is the Lucas De Galvéz market which has been in operation here in Merida since 1887! It has been demolished multiple times to make it what it is today and is currently 156,000 square feet with over 2,000 vendors, who sell about everything you could imagine, including clothing, spices, food stalls, produce, flowers, crafts, and so much more!
We had a blast walking through the market! It felt very local and there were tons of things to see!
Mercado de Santiago
Mercado de Santiago is located in the Santiago neighborhood and is a small covered market that has produce and meat areas, flowers, and most notably Taqueria La Lupita!
Visit the many small parks and plazas
One of our favorite things we noticed in Mérida was how all the small parks and plazas were always busy with people enjoying the day with friends and family. Both during the early morning, during the day, and at night, the parks were always places full of life!
While Plaza Grande may be the most popular, these smaller parks and plazas still offer a lot to see, with evening markets and events, restaurants nearby, gorgeous, old churches, and free WiFi. Below are a few we especially liked!
Parque de Santiago
Parque de Santiago is where you can find Mercado de Santiago, but besides that, there are some nice seating areas, a church, a playground for kids, and a fountain. It was always busy at night too!
Parque de Santa Ana
Parque de Santa Ana is home to one of the most picturesque churches in Mérida! It is a spacious area that is surrounded by restaurants, including Manjar Blanco, plus lots of street food vendors pop up here in the evenings
Parque Hidalgo is a great spot to find marquesita stands, especially on the weekend! One Saturday night we counted 5 lined up right next to each other! They also had a market at night, which may be nightly, offering different arts and crafts.
Check out Gran Museo Del Mundo Maya (Great Museum of the Mayan World)
The Gran Museo Del Mundo Maya is a museum focused on the history of the Mayan people and culture. The museum showcases over 1,100 artifacts including textiles, religious items, engravings, books, art, and so much more! It only costs around $8 USD for foreign visitors, making it an affordable activity.
Swim in Cenotes
Not only is there a lot to do in Mérida, but there are also so many fun destinations nearby, including beaches, cenotes, Mayan ruins, and other towns. For the final handful of things to do in Mérida we’re going to focus on these day trip options, starting with cenotes!
There may be no streams or rivers on the surface of the Yucatán, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any water to be found. Underneath the ground is the longest underwater cave system in the world and thousands of other natural sinkholes and caves filled with water, called cenotes.
Being the only source of water for the Mayans, cenotes were extremely important and considered sacred. Mayans believed they were entrances to their “underworld,” where their Gods lived and today they are popular for locals and tourists to swim in. Some are very busy and crowded with tourists, while others are hardly visited at all.
We read and heard different numbers, but there are between 9,000 and 12,000 cenotes on the Yucatán Peninsula, with many near Mérida. Cenotes come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, with some being completely covered, while others are semi-open or fully open. They are all beautiful and unique!
While visiting Mérida we went on a tour we booked through Airbnb experiences to visit two cenotes (Cenote Kankirixche and Cenote Yaal Utzil), plus had lunch at a local’s house who prepared some traditional Yucatecan and Mayan dishes, and checked out a nearby hacienda. It was a blast and you can watch our full experience in this video!
See Mayan Ruins
Another one of the top things to do in Mérida is visit Mayan ruins! The Yucatan Peninsula is the heart of the ancient Mayan civilization and Merida is close to many different Mayan ruins including two of the most popular, Chichén Itzá and Uxmal.
A little over an hour south of Mérida is Uxmal, which is said to be first settled around 500 BC, (although we read so many conflicting dates), but grew in power in the ninth and twelfth centuries AD.
Although the word Uxmal means “thrice built,” the Pyramid of the Magician, one of the most iconic buildings, is actually made up of five temples built in different periods on top of each other. Other notable structures at Uxmal are the Nunnery Quadrangle, Pok Ta Pok Court, and the Governor’s Palace.
Uxmal isn’t a massive site so it would only take you about 2 hours to go through the whole ruins site at a normal pace. To learn more about the ruins and what to expect while there, check out our guide to visiting Uxmal and watch our experience!
There are a handful of ways to get to Uxmal, including hiring a guide, driving yourself, or taking a bus from Mérida, which is what we did. We were apprehensive about taking the bus out to Uxmal from Mérida because we couldn’t find a ton of information about the bus route online and didn’t want to get stuck out there. We did a lot of research and used other blogs to get comfortable with taking the leap and the day couldn’t have gone any better! You can read everything you need to know about taking the bus to Uxmal in this guide!
Another attraction across the street from Uxmal is Choco-Story, which explores the history and importance of cocoa to the Mayan people. It’s a fun experience that leads you through some exhibits about cocoa, gives you the chance to see a Mayan ceremony, and ends with a hot cocoa tasting. There are also some rescued animals, who are unfit to be in the wild, like monkeys and two jaguars,
One of the New 7 Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage site, Chichén Itzá is the most popular Mayan ruin site on the peninsula. Once a main hub of Mayan civilization, today it is an impressive set of preserved ruins.
Because of its impressive distinctions, it is a very popular tourist destination. We’ve read that lots of tour buses drop off tons of tourists throughout the day and the area is packed with vendors that really take away from the experience, so we ultimately decided to visit Uxmal instead.
Chichén Itzá is 120 km (75 miles) from Mérida and you can get there from Mérida by hiring a guide, driving a car, or taking a public bus.
If you want to visit ruins closer to Mérida instead, check out Dzibilchaltún, which is only 30 minutes from the city! It is a smaller set of ruins to visit, but makes for an easy trip if you’re low on time.
Visit a Hacienda
Dotted around Mérida are hundreds of haciendas, which were large production compounds that were originally built as cattle ranches, but later became facilities for the production of henequen, a fiber derived from a type of agave plant that was used to make rope.
This industry boomed in the 19th and 20th centuries and these haciendas were owned and run by Spanish noblemen and the workers, who were pretty much slaves, were local Mayan people and other people recruited from other areas.
The workers experienced harsh working conditions with little food and water and were paid with money that was only accepted at their hacienda. The production of henequen was so popular that hundreds of haciendas popped up and the product was sold all over the world.
With the invention of a synthetic material known as plastic in the early 1900s, the boom of henequen production burst and the haciendas began to be abandoned. These haciendas sat abandoned for decades until some hotel owners began buying them up and renovating them to be luxury resorts and wedding venues.
We visited Hacienda Uayalceh during our cenotes tour and it was really interesting to hear about life here and see the buildings, especially seeing how nature has taken over some of them! Some others you can visit are Hacienda Xcanchakan and Hacienda Sotuta de Peón and you can also stay at some of the renovated haciendas like Hacienda Xcanatun, Hacienda Santa Cruz, and Hacienda San Antonio Hool.
Take a day trip to Progreso
Even though Mérida isn’t on the beach, it’s close to the beach and the most convenient beach to visit is Progreso, about a 40 minute drive north of Mérida. You can get there by taking a collectivo from Mérida, renting a car, or hiring a guide to take you out.
Here you’ll find a gorgeous beach, the town of Progreso, and the world’s longest pier which is 4 miles long! It’s also a hot spot for kitesurfing!
See the flamingos in Celestún
Another nice coastal day trip when visiting Mérida is Celestún! Celestún is about a 1.5 hour drive west of Mérida and is home to both a beach and thousands of pink flamingos!
The town is surrounded by a biosphere reserve, which is where these beautiful pink birds flock to in the winter months, with the best time to see them being between November-April. You’ll want to book a tour to see them, as they are best seen from a boat through the mangroves.
You can get to Celestún by renting a car and driving, taking a public bus from Mérida, or hiring a guide to take you.
See Izamal “The Yellow City”
Izamal is one of the nearby Pueblos Magicos and is known as “the Yellow City” because the entire town is painted in the same shade of yellow. It is one of the few monochromatic towns in the world! Here you’ll find Spanish colonial architecture, Mayan ruins and the Pirámido Kinich Kakmó, and a charming small Mexican town.
We’ve read you can walk the whole 4 square mile town in an afternoon, but to escape the heat and experience the town when it’s the most hoppin’, make sure to stay until the evening, when the town comes alive and you can watch a lightshow in the courtyard in the middle of town.
Izamal is only a little over an hour drive east of Mérida and you can take a bus, drive yourself, or go with a guide. It was one of the most highly recommended things to do in Mérida from our audience, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough free days to make it happen, so it is on our list to visit next time!
Another Pueblo Magico and Spanish colonial town worth visiting is Valladolid. Located about two hours east of Mérida, Valladolid is centrally located on the peninsula and some top things to do here include strolling the Calzada de los Frailes, visiting the Parque Principal, and seeing the San Bernardino Convent with the Valladolid sign.
Admire the pink water of Las Coloradas
If you’ve ever seen those photos online of the bright pink water in Mexico, it is likely the water on the coast of Las Coloradas. This area is actually owned by a salt company and they use a microorganism that helps create a better salt yield from the ponds, which gives it that pink color.
The best time to see the pink water is midday, as that is when it is most vibrant. You can see the water from the road, but if you want a closer look, you’ll have to pay an entrance fee and have a guide.
However, we do hear very mixed things about going. People say the fee is overpriced for what you get, so for us, this wouldn’t be worth a trip on its own, but if you plan to visit the Rio Lagartos, which similar to Celestún has pink flamingos, it may make it more worth it.
3 Day Mérida, Mexico Itinerary
Now that you know of some of the best things to do in Mérida, it’s time to plan out your time in the city! Although we spent two weeks in Mérida, the majority of our time was spent working at our Airbnb, so you could easily spend less time than us and still experience much of what the city and surrounding area has to offer.
So how many days do you need in Mérida? It depends on what you’d like to do! If you just want to visit the city and also do a cenote tour and see some ruins, you can accomplish a lot in 3 days. But if you want to have a more leisurely visit in the city and check out another town or two, in addition to ruins and cenotes, we’d suggest closer to 5 days.
Below is a 3 day itinerary to help get you started, with some suggestions on what to add on for additional days as well!
- Enjoy a breakfast of tacos, salbutes, and panuchos from Taqueria La Lupita. Make sure to go early, as you do have a slight deadline this morning!
- Grab coffee to go from Manifesto and then head to Plaza Grande.
- Spend the next 1.5 hours or so going on a free walking tour! You could either do a free walking tour through the tourism office (9:30 AM) or do one of the other options we listed, which start around 10 AM.
- For lunch, head to Manjar Blanco or La Chaya Maya Casona to try as many Yucatecan dishes as you can!
- Walk along Paseo de Montejo, checking out any museums that may interest you and visiting Monumento a La Patria.
- Check out more of Mérida’s parks and plazas, as well as the shops that surround them.
- For dinner, head to El Apapacho or one of the other restaurants we listed!
- Grab a marquesita from one of the stands around town.
- Enjoy one of the free nightly events (if one is happening that night).
- Go on a day trip to visit cenotes! We highly recommend the tour we booked through Airbnb Experiences!
- After a likely hot day at the cenotes and hacienda, grab a cool, sweet treat from either Pola Gelato or Paleteria las Rellenas de la 60!
- Head out to one of the restaurants we listed for dinner.
- Spend today visiting some Mayan ruins! We suggest Uxmal, but you could also do Chichén Itzá and add on Izamal as well.
- After returning from the ruins, which will likely be in the late afternoon or early evening, grab dinner at one of the spots listed in this guide and a dessert that you have yet to try!
Have more time?
We’d suggest using your additional days in Mérida to add on another day trip to Izamal, or any of the other day trips we listed in the guide, like Progreso, Valladolid, or Celestún. You could also use your additional time in Mérida to explore the city at a slower pace and eat more of its delicious local foods!
When to visit Mérida, Mexico
You can visit Mérida year round and have a great trip, but some months will give you more pleasant temperatures than others. The best time to visit Mérida, Mexico is between November and March, when the temperatures are the coolest. But be warned, even the “cool” months can still be warm. We visited in mid January and it still reached into the 90s several of the days during our two weeks.
We’d recommend not visiting May-September because those are the warmest, humid months, and wettest months. The mosquitos can also be swarming in those summer months!
Besides weather, one other thing to keep in mind is local events. As we mentioned earlier in this guide, we visited during Mérida Fest, which is a celebration of the city’s founding. It was a very festive time to be there, but many regular events, like BiciRuta and Pok Ta Pok games, were canceled, so if you’re really hoping to partake in those, we’d suggest not visiting during this time.
Getting to Mérida, Mexico
Flying to Mérida, Mexico
The Mérida International Airport (MID) is only about 8 km, or a 20-25 minute drive, from the heart of the city. This is a small airport, but is really nice inside, with a handful of food offerings and quite a bit of seating. It offers flights on a handful of airlines, including Aeromexico (what we flew!), Volaris, WestJet, American Airlines, and United, to name a few. If coming from the US, you’ll likely have a connection, with Mexico City being a popular stop along the way.
Transportation from the airport
One important thing to know is that rideshare companies like Uber and DiDi are not allowed to legally pick up people from the airport (they can take you to the airport though). While some will accept your ride request, they may make you walk off of the airport property, so the safest and most legal way to get a ride is to take a taxi.
There are taxi stands in the airport by the baggage claim and you will just go up to the stand, tell them the address you want to go to, and then you’ll pay at the stand. You’ll then be given a receipt and will wait in line for a taxi. Just a warning, you may have to wait a while!
We paid $285 MXN (~$15 USD) for a ride from the airport to Barrio de Santiago, which was a lot more than our DiDi ride back to the airport, but still not too bad overall.
Besides taxis, there is a cheap bus you can take into town. You can find out a bit more about it in this article, but if you’re not staying right in town, it may not be as convenient, as you’d likely have to walk a bit with your luggage.
Visiting from elsewhere on the Yucatán Peninsula?
Mérida makes for a great stop if you’re road tripping on the Yucatán Peninsula! Here is how long you can expect to drive from nearby popular destinations.
Campeche: 170 km (106 miles) | 2-2.5 hours, depending on traffic
Tulum: 277 km (172 miles) | 3.5-4.5 hours, depending on traffic
Playa Del Carmen: 305 km (190 miles) | 3.5-4.5 hours, depending on traffic
Cancun: 320 km (198 miles) | 4-5 hours, depending on traffic
Getting around Mérida, Mexico
Something we loved about Mérida is that it’s a very walkable city! We walked everywhere so easily and many days we chose to walk, even if it meant miles, because we enjoyed walking around so much!
But for the times we had to go a bit further, or carry groceries from Walmart, we used Uber or DiDi, which is a Mexican equivalent to Uber. We hadn’t used DiDi before, but it was usually cheaper and usually more available than Uber. For both services we never paid more than $10 for a ride, even with tip.
There are also taxis, but we personally like using rideshare apps, as we know the price beforehand and can see our driver’s name. And you can also take colectivos, which are small vans that are similar to buses, but we personally did not use these, as DiDi and Uber were affordable and easy.
You can also rent a car, however this isn’t necessary in the city. But if you want to do day trips and not have to rely on public buses or tours, this would be a good idea. Just be aware that driving in Mexico is a bit more chaotic than in the United States, at least in our opinion. As someone with car anxiety, I felt a bit nervous in the car while in the city, but once out of the city, it is a lot calmer.
If you’re a US citizen, your driver’s license will work in Mexico, just make sure to have your passport with you as well.
Where to Stay in Mérida, Mexico
For tourists visiting Mérida, we’d suggest staying in Barrio de Santiago (where we stayed), Paseo de Montejo, or Centro. These areas are all close and walkable to the action and all felt very safe to us. The only place we read to avoid is south Mérida.
One nice thing about Mérida is that coming from the US, the prices are a lot cheaper. You can find many options under $100 a night, with some being under $50 a night. Below are some lodging options to consider, ranging in price!
Higher End Hotels
Rosas y Xocolate Boutique Hotel + SPA
The Diplomat Boutique Hotel
El Palacita Secreto
NH Collection Paseo Montejo
Budget Friendly Hotels
Kuka y Naranjo
Hotel Plaza by Kavia
Hotel La Nacional
If you’re visiting Mérida for an extended stay or just want a more homey experience, a vacation rental is a great choice. And there are tons of options to choose from, many with personal pools!
Casa Mariachi in Barrio de Santiago (1 bedroom, 2 bathrooms)
This is where we stayed during our two weeks in Mérida and it was spectacular! It is a large space with 1 bedroom, 2 full bathrooms, spacious kitchen and dining space, AND the best part…a back patio area with a dipping pool! It is such a beautiful space, with exposed stone, six different tile floor patterns, and lots of character and charm.
Amenities include air conditioning in every room, laundry, a charcoal grill, WiFi, drinking water provided, and tv with streaming services. The hosts are very responsive as well!
Majical Casa Iguana Maya (1 bedroom, 1 bathroom)
Casa Izquierda (1 bedroom, 1.5 bathrooms)
Casita Frida (1 bedroom, 1 bathroom)
Majikal Casa Shiva (1 bedroom, 1 bathroom)
Casa Kaab (2 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms)
Casa Picasso (2 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms)
Things to know before visiting Mérida
Know some Spanish
Although many places you’ll visit in and around Mérida will have people who can speak at least some English, Spanish is the official language of Mexico and it’s always helpful to know a few common phrases to show respect and get your needs across clearly.
Some helpful phrases for ordering and paying include:
- Good morning – Buenos días
- Good afternoon – Buenas tardes
- Thank you – gracias
- Please – por favor
- How are you? – Cómo está?
- Bien – good
- I’m sorry – lo siento
- Busco un… – I’m looking for…
- Where is the bathroom? – ¿Dónde está el baño?
- I would like – Me gustaria un/a taco
- I want a ___- quiero un/a ____
- Sin – without
- Con – with
- The check, please – la cuenta, por favor
- Propina – tip
- Por ciento – percent
- Learning numbers will be helpful for ordering and paying
- Learn more phrases here
We love practicing our Spanish with the Duolingo app. If you spend a couple weeks learning Spanish it will be very helpful for your trip!
Carry cash (+ ATM tips!)
Mexico’s currency is the Mexican Peso and you’ll definitely want to carry some cash in Mexico! Many restaurants and other businesses will only accept cash and you’ll soon find out that you have to pay a small fee (usually $5-10 pesos) to use public bathrooms.
As for using ATMs, depending on your bank, there may be a partner ATM you can go to in order to avoid fees. During our trip we used our Bank of America debit card, which partners with Scotiabank, so anytime we went to a Scotiabank ATM (there are a handful in town), we were able to get cash out without paying an ATM fee, although we did still have a 3% foreign transaction fee. Our card also does give us one free ATM fee per month for non Bank of America or partner banks.
However, we will be taking a different approach moving forward and have signed up for a Charles Schwab checking account, which refunds ATM fees from ANY ATM worldwide! This will give us much more freedom as we travel to use whichever ATM is most convenient.
Some other cash and ATM tips:
- ATMs at actual banks tend to have better conversion rates and are safer, as they have more security. These ATMs are often accessed outside of the bank and are available 24/7.
- Don’t take all of your cash with you in public. We recommend just taking what you need and securing the rest at your accommodation, just in case you experience theft.
- Decline the exchange rate! We learned this tip from Beach Please Mexico and we recommend reading their blog to understand more, but basically, when using an ATM, just before you get the cash it will ask you if you accept the exchange rate, which for us always said 12%.
When we first saw this we panicked and clicked “decline,” figuring it would cancel the whole transaction and we’d just find another ATM. But then the machine spit out our cash and we were so confused. We then found the blog post linked above and learned that this is a LEGAL scam and to always press decline, which will give you the money for the regular exchange rate and not charge an additional percentage. This saved us $15 on our first ATM trip!
International phone data
If traveling from the US, make sure to check your phone provider’s international text, talk, and data policy beforehand. We have Verizon and with our plan we get 2 GB of data (plus regular text and talk usage) in Mexico, for no additional fee.
We highly recommend buying travel insurance for any international trip. For our trip to Mexico we purchased insurance with SafetyWing for the duration of our trip, which was affordable and gave us a ton of peace of mind.
SafetyWing is travel medical insurance that will cover you outside of your home country for however long you need it. We purchased their Nomad Insurance plan, which not only gave us travel medical insurance, but also provided coverage for lost baggage and travel delays! Thankfully we didn’t have to use any of it!
Don’t drink water from the tap
You have probably heard this before, but it is not safe to drink tap water anywhere in Mexico and Mérida is no exception. Make sure to have filtered water handy, which you can buy as bottles or as large jugs (we had 20L jugs in our Airbnb).
As for ice, since locals cannot drink the tap water either, the ice at restaurants will be made from filtered water. We had many iced drinks and felt great!
Similar to water, vegetables can be unsafe to eat in Mexico without getting sick. In order to prevent that from happening, we suggest buying an antibacterial solution to clean vegetables while in Mérida. You can find this near the produce section at the store and will add it to water and soak the vegetables for a specific amount of time. We used it many times and had no issues with the vegetables we ate and we also couldn’t taste the solution either!
If you need to grab groceries while in Mérida, we suggest going to Walmart! It’s located along Paseo de Montejo, so it’s not a far trek from most accommodations and has a pretty good selection. We also had a Súper Aki near our Airbnb, which was fine, but we struggled to find some items we normally like to get here.
One thing we weren’t expecting in Mérida is that you’re not supposed to flush toilet paper. Most restaurants will have signs asking you not to flush toilet paper, as well as a trash can right there to put your toilet paper in. This is because the plumbing system cannot handle it, so please follow this rule.
You likely don’t need a visa to visit Mexico, but make sure to check in advance. As US Citizens, we did not need a visa.
What to bring with you to Mérida, Mexico
To see our top travel gear, plus a packing list, check out this blog post! But beyond those items, there are a few that we especially suggest bringing with you when visiting Mérida!
If traveling from outside of Mexico, make sure to bring your passport with you!
Sunscreen is a MUST in Mérida! Not only is it hot, but it’s also very sunny and if you plan to visit any Mayan ruins, where there can be a lack of shade, you will definitely need to protect yourself from the sun.
While you can buy sunscreen in Mérida, it may be good to bring a small amount so you don’t have to worry about it right away. Keep in mind that you should not wear sunscreen in cenotes, as it can contaminate the water.
Note: Make sure any liquids you bring on a plane are 3.4 oz (100 ml) or less and are in a clear quart sized bag where they can be easily inspected if needed!
Bug spray is another item you’ll want to have handy for Mérida! We didn’t get attacked by bugs, but we did get some bites, and we tried to wear bug spray as much as possible to combat it.
If you plan to visit cenotes and want to capture the experience, we suggest bringing a waterproof camera, like a GoPro! We brought our old GoPro HERO8 Black (we just upgraded to a GoPro HERO11 Black after this trip) and it was so fun to film and get photos underwater.
Reusable water bottle
We brought our Hydroflask water bottles to Mexico so we could fill them up with filtered water and have water with us on the go, instead of constantly buying plastic bottles.
While we hope you don’t need it, it may be a good idea to bring some medicine in case your stomach gets upset. During our previous trip to Mexico City we could’ve really used some, but thankfully we did not need it this time. However, we brought some just in case!
Ready to explore Mérida?
Pin this list of things to do in Mérida, Mexico guide to help plan your trip!