The warm turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico are just steps from “our” nine-room boutique hotel on the outskirts of Celestún on the Yucatán peninsula, where we’re currently housesitting. Most mornings my husband, Michael, and I have the beautiful white-sand beach and some of the clearest waters in the Yucatán all to ourselves.
Despite being only 56 miles west of Mérida, Celestún is not your typical Mexican beachside resort. There are no high-rise hotels with rows of sun loungers marching along the beach. It’s a sleepy little fishing village with a handful of restaurants and even fewer hotels.
During a weekday stroll along the beach into town, the only people we see are youngsters playing in the gentle waves and fishermen overhauling their beached boats or reminiscing on the “ones that got away” while they mend their nets. On weekends, it’s a little busier, thanks to the Mérida residents who keep vacation homes here and the day trippers.
Even with such a beautiful beach, Celestún is better known for the 146,000-acre biosphere reserve that’s located at the mouth of the Ria Celestún than as a resort. The reserve is a combination of coastal scrub, estuary, low jungle, grassland, and mangrove—providing habitat for over 300 species of birds, two species of crocodiles, and four species of turtles.
Flamingoes are the stars of the show here. Large flocks gather to feed in the high salinity shallow flats, which are home to the tiny shrimp responsible for the flamingo’s cotton candy pink plumage.
It’s the flamingoes that attract the day trippers from Mérida, many of whom hire a local boat and guide from the dock near the entrance to town. Others are content with spotting a few scattered individual birds on the drive into town, then heading to the beach for a swim and lunch before heading back to the big city.
We don’t have to head back to the heat of the city though; we have a whole hotel to ourselves. Once the few tourists have left and the beach is once again deserted, we get to enjoy this stretch of beach privately. On calm evenings, we take the kayak out for a paddle on the placid waters, before heading home for a cold drink and the best view in town.
Our hotel’s roof top bar is the perfect place to discuss our day, enjoy an early dinner, chat with friends, or simply relax as the sun dips into the ocean. On cloudless evenings, we pay particular attention to the sun’s demise and our patience is rewarded with yet another “green flash” as the last of the sun’s rays are swallowed by the horizon.
These few weeks here in Celestún are so different from our prior Mexico experiences. Yes, I confess, we have paid for “all inclusive” vacations in nearby Cancún in the past. Never again though, we have had enough of the high-rise jungles of busy seaside resorts and having to squeeze our travels into just a few weeks a year.
These days we travel in an altogether different fashion. We can and do, live for weeks in a boutique hotel on the beach like this and we don’t pay a cent. In fact, we rarely pay for accommodation these days at all. We already have an invitation to return, perhaps next time we will be here in turtle nesting season?
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