Mérida, Mexico, has so much to offer visitors. We’ve been regularly traveling to Yucatan’s lovely capital city for the past five years and continue to discover so many awesome things to do in Merida each visit. It’s become one of our favorite travel destinations in Mexico. Hence, we’re always happy to share with fellow travelers this list of ideas of what to do in Merida.
If planning a trip to the Yucatan, we hope this detailed travel guide provides inspiration for some fun things to do in Merida!
A Brief Intro to Travel in Merida, Mexico
Merida truly is a beautiful travel destination, inside and out. Nicknamed the ciudad blanca (white city), you certainly do see some white structures while roaming around the grid-like streets of this charming colonial city. Yet we find that the white buildings are actually outnumbered by colorful pastel dwellings, adding much vibrancy to Merida’s colonial architecture.
But it’s Merida’s culture that shines through even brighter. Perhaps that helps to explain why Merida is the only city that has been twice selected to serve as the American Capital of Culture (2000, 2017). You can find culture oozing all throughout Merida, whether admiring ancient Mayan artwork at a museum or simply soaking in the local culture that’s abundant within the swinging doors of Merida’s cantinas. The many cultural things to do in Merida and even the daily cultural events are a big appeal to Yucatan’s largest city.
Adding to the cultural appeal, the people living in Mérida, many of Mayan descent, are such a friendly and welcoming bunch. Another the part of this culture appeal is the unique Yucatan cuisine in Merida. The food throughout Merida is delicious and distinctive to the region. After dinner, you’ll find that Merida’s nightlife is fun and active, particularly so on weekends. In fact, if planning a trip to Mérida, we recommend trying to stay over a weekend. That’s when the entire city tends to come out to play.
As this website often has a focus on travel value around the world, we’d be remiss not to mention that Mérida offers fantastic value. Your pesos go far here, particularly so in comparison to popular travel destinations along the neighboring Riviera Maya to the east (Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum). In Merida, prices in restaurants, tour excursions, and hotels are a fraction of what is found on the other side of the Yucatan peninsula.
So while roaming around Merida, don’t hold back on eating your weight in delicious 10-peso (~$0.50) tacos. Additionally, most of the top things to do in Mérida are actually free, from free walking tours to Merida’s many free museums. When it’s time for bed, there are some great inexpensive places to stay, and even a handful of fantastic 3-star hotels for US$30-per-night. (We’ll show you where towards the end of this post).
Additionally, with daily car rental prices in Mérida usually hovering under US$15 and bus tickets for just a few pesos, travelers can afford to use Merida as a base for further explorations all throughout the Yucatan. It’s all this incredible value Merida delivers on, which helps to make it a fantastic travel destination for all budgets.
Best Things to Do In Merida Mexico
There are so many great things to do in the city of Merida itself. Yet it can become a bit perplexing to figure out exactly where everything is and how best to plan out a day in Merida. The map below should help to navigate your way around the city. It pinpoints each of Mérida’s attractions suggested throughout this article.
After figuring out what things you may want to do in Merida, come back to this map to help plan out your itinerary. You can even access it on your phone and use it on the ground once on the ground in Merida.
15) Best Intro to Merida: Take the Free Walking Tour
Every morning there is a free walking tour of Merida that departs from the centrally located Plaza Grande. A friendly guide offers a great lesson in the Merida’s history while also providing you bearings to know your way around town.
The free walking tour of Merida is a perfect introduction to many of the sites and attractions all around Merida centro. It’s a great way to learn a lot about the city itself. Merida’s walking tour is full of interesting facts that you likely have not read up on before you arrived in town.
If staying in the city for a few days, we recommend starting off your visit with this free walking tour as the very first thing to do in Merida. It provides such a nice overview of Merida to help get acquainted and oriented with the city.
This free walking tour of Merida is put on by Merida’s Tourism Office, for which they ask participants to register there.
14) Discover the Mayan World at the Gran Museo de Mundo Maya Merida
If you want to learn more about the Mayan people, culture, and history, the Mayan World Museum is most definitely the place to do it. We don’t know of anywhere else in the world with more Mayan artifacts under the same roof. There are over 1,000 different pieces here!
This expansive museum will leave visitors with a deep understanding of the Mayan civilization. The Mayan World museum takes guests on a journey that begins with natural history from the beginning of time. The exhibits slowly progress to the life of the modern Maya today.
It’s all a great primer before visiting the many ancient Mayan sites throughout the Yucatan. Most of those ruins lack information at the actual sites. So visiting the Maya Museum can be a good idea to do in Merida to gain some knowledge about the Maya before venturing out to ruin sites. Those who are fascinated with history can likely spend several hours perusing the exhibits of the Mayan World Museum.
Just be aware that visiting this museum is the only thing to do in Merida listed within this guide that is well outside Merida Centro. But don’t let that hinder you from heading out to Merida’s northern outskirts. This impressive museum is worth the trip to deeply explore the local Mayan culture and history. Plus it’s cheap and easy to take an Uber to the museum. The 20-minute ride from Centro should cost around between $80-$100 pesos (taxis, a bit more).
13) Get Lost Amongst Chaos in the Lucas de Galvez Market Merida
Merida’s main market is a site not be seen. The Lucas de Galvez market is something that should be experienced! You can find everything from fresh vegetables, to homemade crafts, local clothing, and lots more in between.
Merida’s bustling market dates back to the late 1800s when it was just a small shed. It sure has grown since then. Today Merida main market is a sprawling and delightfully chaotic place that’s now packed with local life. That’s all part of the fun. Weave your way through the hectic maze-like atmosphere and browse away at all the local goods!
You can even eat lunch at the Lucas de Galvez market. So you may want to plan to grab a bite from one of the many vendors hawking freshly made plates of food. Personally, we’ve had good luck with both tacos and pork here, but we shy away from the grilled fish that has a very fishy smell. Agua frescas and horchatas near the entrance are also a good bet if you fancy something cool to sip on while strolling through the warm mercado.
If near Merida’s city center in the daytime, a visit to Lucas de Galvez market Merida is a must to get a taste of local life in Merida. Note: We recommend to stay clear of the pet section towards the center of the market due to poor conditions observed during our last visit.
12) Attend One of Merida’s Annual Festivals
Merida has some interesting and popular annual events to consider if your visit happens to coincide with the right time of year. There are so many things to do in Merida all year long!
January brings Merida Fest, which spans the course of several weeks of nightly fiestas. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Merida in early January, be sure not to miss the opening night trova stroll to Plaza Grande that precedes an awesome fireworks display to ring in Merida Fest. Typically Merida Fest begins on a Sunday in early January. So if it were able to go on in 2021, Jan 3 – 23 could be likely dates for the multi-weeklong celebration.
But mark your calendars way in the future for Merida Fest 2022, which should prove to be a particularly large celebration. That’s because 2022 is Merida’s 500th birthday! (We’re already planning to be there.)
February (or March) in Merida (pending the Easter/Lent calendar each year) brings Carnaval of Merida. Events are held throughout the city, with several big parades now held at the X’matkuil Fairgrounds (rather than its former location along the Paseo de Montejo).
Free shuttle buses provide transportation from the center of town. Merida Carnaval brings upon a really fun party during this Latin American tradition. So if your visit to Merida coincides with this annual event, be sure to head out to the fairgrounds to watch all the lively floats go by while sipping on a michelada! Festivities for Merida Carnaval 2021 would likely occur Feb 9-16, if it’s able to carry on.
Just as in the rest of Mexico, here in Merida you can expect to experience the culture of Semana Santa processions surrounding Easter. In 2021, this runs March 28 – April 3.
Meanwhile November 1st ushers in traditional Day of the Dead displays and festivities that you can find throughout Centro. Día de Muertos in Merida is known locally here as Hanal Pixán. That’s what the Mayans call Day of the Dead and it is full of festivities. In Merida, the holiday is punctuated by Paseo de las Animas event in which a spirited stroll occurs from San Juan to the General Cemetery.
Finally, Christmas in Merida brings out decorations, a festive atmosphere, and other holiday traditions. It’s a fun time of year to spend in Merida, for a warm-weather holiday season.
And that’s just a smattering of happenings, as there are many annual events in Merida popping up in between. You can find sporting events, concerts, ballads, operas, races, and so much more. The suggestions above just scratch the surface with the top highlights of the year.
11) Have a Night at the Theatre in Merida
Even if you’re not actually going to have a night out at the theatre, it’s worth popping into the Teatro Jose Peon Contreras during the day. It’s a worthwhile thing to do in Merida to simply have a look around the elegant century-old theatre. While popping in, don’t hesitate to visit the small, free, air-conditioned art museum. This little museum can simultaneously be used as a great excuse to cool-off while viewing the funky exhibits.
After taking in the art, walk by the impressive marble staircase towards the box-office to see if there may be any events during your visit. Typically there are symphonies on most (not all) Fridays at 9:00 pm and Sundays at Noon. Getting tickets for a theatre night could prove to be a classy way to spend a Friday evening, or to escape the mid-day heat on a Sunday.
The Peon Theatre itself is stunning, which provides an air of elegance, and is free to visit. Yet spending a few pesos on a night at the theatre in Merida remains a surprisingly budget-friendly pursuit.
9) Roam the Famed Paseo de Montejo, Merida
You can’t come to Merida without seeing the grand Paseo de Montejo. This wide avenue built in Merida’s heyday conjectures images of Paris’s Champs-Élysées. Historic mansions line the grand avenue, as do many quaint cafes.
There's even an inviting Starbucks along the Paseo that blends right into the white cityscape. But with many great local cafes, we suggest stopping into one of those instead. To break up your stroll this broad boulevard, go have a coffee at Sukra or Pistache. You'll pass both along the way on the east side of the road. Or go to Posheria, where they'll add a shot of pox (local Mayan liquor) into your iced latte, upon request.
You can also find two notable museums while strolling the west side of the Paseo. The Casa Museo Montes Molina provides 45-minute guided tours of the period furnishings around this mansion that served generations of Montejos, descendants of Merida's founder.
Info: English tours are Monday-Friday, 9 am, 10 am, 11 am, & 3 pm; Saturdays at 9 am & 11 am.
The Palacio Canton showcases Mayan archaeology across two levels of a big Neoclassical mansion, pictured below. If you don't have a chance to make it to the big Mayan World museum (suggested earlier in this article), then this is a closer albeit smaller alternative to consider visiting to view Mayan artifacts.
Info: It's $60 pesos to get in and opens every day except Mondays, 8:00-5:00.
How you experience the Paseo de Montejo is entirely up to you.
You can easily walk it. The sidewalks along the Paseo de Montejo are the widest and most pedestrian-friendly in all of Merida. Frequent trees offer up shade to help protect you from Merida's often-intense sun. We suggest strolling in the morning, when it's not as warm.
The most scenic stretch of Paseo de Montejo is from the Montejo Monument near Plaza Santa Ana to the ornate Monumento a la Patria that's encircled by a busy roundabout. This 1.6-kilometer section can take about 30 minutes to walk, each way, if taking a leisurely stroll. To beat the heat, consider returning to Centro using one of the frequent public buses that travel up and down Paseo de Montejo.
Yet you could easily spend a half-day along the Paseo if breaking apart your walk at museums, cafes, mansions, monuments, stop for ice cream, and other points of interest you may stumble across along the way.
While a slow stroll is recommended to really absorb this grand avenue, you may also consider experiencing the Paseo de Montejo by car, horse & carriage, or bicycle. More information on the latter two options can be found in the subsequent sections. But however you tour this famous boulevard, just make sure that it's on your list of things to do in Merida, Mexico!
8) Explore Merida by Horse & Carriage
Skip Merida's double-decker hop-on-hop-off tour bus and instead see Merida by horse & carriage. A friendly guide will lead you through the city center and up the historic Paseo de Montejo on a private tour of Merida and for a reasonable price.
Clopping through the historical city can be a magical experience that may make you feel like you’ve gone back in time to a by-gone era. For a more romantic spin around town, consider an evening tour as the city lights up and the streets cool off. To add a touch of romance to your night in Merida, you can even arrange for the carriage to drop you off at dinner after a brief tour around town.
The standard ride through Merida Centro and up the Paseo takes about 45 minutes, although you can negotiate with the horse & carriage handlers for a ride that's as short or long as you desire. Are you hot to trot?
7) Relax & Connect Among Mexico's Most Pleasant Plazas
If you're searching for what to do in Merida, don't overlook just taking a break in the center of town to absorb all the beautiful ambiance. The Plaza Grande is the perfect place for that.
It's a great central spot to simply unwind. Plaza Grande is where many Meridians and travelers alike congregate during the day, into the evening, and particularly on the weekends. Surrounded by architectural marvels, like the Cathedral and Government Palace, this central city square provides a beautiful 360-degree backdrop.
Find a bench shaded by a tree to get out of the heat and let the cool breeze drift by. Visit one of the many food vendors who set up along the edge of the plaza, particularly on Sundays, to indulge in a mid-afternoon snack. Watch children feeding the pigeons and buying balloons.
Enjoy the company you’re with or practice your Spanish by making some new friends. Merida's Plaza Grande is the place to do so. The Yucatan's signature dual chairs make it easy to chat with one another.
Alternatively, catch up on a few emails or post to your Instagram to show your friends back home how beautiful Merida is. The Plaza Grande is connected! Complimentary Wi-Fi and numerous charging stations are found all throughout this pleasant plaza right in the heart of Merida.
Free wifi is a feature that is found in many of Merida's relaxing squares throughout town. Plaza Grande may be the most central and well-known of Merida's plazas. Yet there are several more that you should check out while ambling about town. Here are a few other interesting plazas to stop at, relax, and enjoy local life:
- Parque Santa Lucia: Merida's second most popular plaza is lined with great restaurants, has the large novelty-sized "you-and-me" chair for fun photos (see below), and free concerts on Thursday nights.
- Parque Santa Ana: Sunny open plaza on the northern part of centro.
- Parque Santiago: Square with adjacent market, food vendors with turkey specialties, and Tuesday night orchestra with dancing that attracts an older, local crowd.
6) Drink Your Way Across Merida
There are lots of great cantinas and lively bars to enjoy all throughout Merida. Happy hour runs late here, so you can often find great drink deals into the 8:00 hour and even beyond.
Whether you're after cervezas, margaritas, palomas, or micheladas, there's no shortage of libations to be had in Merida. There are even some local craft beers made in Merida that you can find throughout centro. Move over Corona!
If you enjoy drinking, you must visit some of Merida's cantinas.
La Negrita is a traveler favorite that's a comfortable introduction to cantinas in Merida, given its friendly service, live music, complimentary botanas (snacks), and local cerveza artisanal (craft beer).
Speaking of craft beer, there are a few good breweries that have popped up in Merida during the past couple of years. You don't have to venture all the way out to the Northern fringes of Merida where Cerveza Patito brews their local beer. Instead, this brewery has two taprooms more conveniently located in Merida Centro, both offering their full line (currently 8) beers on draft: Hermana República and Bela Chela. Pints are $70 pesos. Our favorites are the Vanilla Porter and the APA.
More recently a smaller brew operation, La Linda, has come about in Merida, where we enjoy their Cazadora (a refreshing wheat beer) and their Gitana (extra pale ale), starting at $60 pesos per pint.
For something stronger, check out La Fundacion Mezcaleria if you want to dabble into the mezcal, the famous agave liquor produced in Oaxaca, Mexico. The mezcal is served with sour orange slices and a salty powder made from ground up worms. Try it if you dare. The sal de gusano (worm salt), as it's called, tastes much better than it sounds!
If you're a bit intimidated, or not sure where to begin your bar crawl of Merida, then try this Merida Cantina Walking Tour. The fun-filled tour will usher you to three of Merida's best cantinas. During the cantina crawl, a guide explains all about Merida's cantina culture and tells entertaining stories along the way. The price includes drinks and hearty local snacks at all three of the cantinas you visit. Check availability and latest reviews here.
5) Explore the Free Public Buildings Surrounding Plaza Grande
Within this one recommendation, we're really giving you an extra 5 things to do in Merida! There is so much to see and experience all around the Plaza Grande's perimeter. So once you're done relaxing in the plaza, check out each of these Plaza Grande attractions.
Perhaps best of all, each of the following museums and buildings lining the Plaza Grande are entirely free to enter. And many of them are air-conditioned too, providing some much-needed relief from the heat if roaming around town in the hot afternoon. Thank you, Mérida!
Some of these buildings are nondescript, with no signage. Security guards are stationed in front of the government buildings, leading visitors to believe they are off-limits. But these buildings are actually totally open to the public. Those of you who are now in-the-know can walk right past the security guards to enjoy fantastic balconies that are hidden in plain sight.
5.1 For Art - Museo Fernando García Ponce-Macay, Merida
View the artwork found throughout the free Museo Fernando García Ponce-Macay. You’ll walk through the museum’s open courtyard and along the interior balcony as curators periodically escort you into private rooms through old large doors. In these rooms, you’ll find beautiful and eccentric artwork, on both permanent and temporary display, and both from the Yucatan and further afield.
5.2 For a Glimpse into Merida's Wealthy Past - Casa de Montejo, Merida
Want to know what wealthy Victorian Mexican life was like back in the hacienda days? Then wander on into the free Casa de Montejo on the Plaza’s south side to take a peek at the rooms, furniture, and fine china of this former Meridian mansion.
5.3 For Merida's Grand Cathedral - Catedral de San Ildefonso
Marvel at the architecture of the Catedral de San Ildefonso, built in the late 1500s. Have a peek inside to see the huge crucifix behind the altar, while Meridians come in to pray periodically. There is an English tour of the Cathedral de San Ildefonso on Saturdays at 10:00 am and English-speaking church services occur on Sundays at 9:00 am. If entering this functioning church, be sure to dress respectfully. There is no strict dress code, but as a sign of respect shoulders and knees should be covered.
5.4 For Views & Architecture - Palacio Municipal, Merida
On the west side of the plaza head upstairs onto the long shaded balcony of the municipal building to capture a nice panoramic view of Merida's Plaza Grande. Meanwhile, a convenient tourism office is on the ground floor.
5.5 For Open-Air Strolls and Magnificent Murals - Palacio de Gobierno, Merida
Yet our personal favorite building in this area to roam around is the roomy halls and courtyard of the Palacio de Gobierno. Built in the late 1800s, the lovely "government palace" now houses some large and impressive murals depicting the history between the Mayans and Spaniards, by artist Fernando Castro Pacheco.
It's one of the few buildings surrounding Plaza Grande that is open fairly late (9:30 pm). As a result, the open-air building makes for an enchanting evening stroll through its corridors as the Cathedral lights up at night.
4) Dance in the Streets of Merida During Its Weekly Fiestas!
There’s always something going on every night of the week in Merida. You simply have to know when and where to look.
So here is what to do in Merida for every night of the week, which often involves dancing the night away:
- Monday’s in Merida: Vaqueria Night on Calle 62 at Plaza Grande begins at 9:00-10:00 pm. Folkloric Ballet of Merida accompanied by the Jaranera Orchestra.
- Tuesday in Merida: Musical Memories in Parque Santiago begins at 8:30-10:00. It attracts an older local crowd who come out to dance to Big Band sounds played by the live orchestra.
- Wednesdays in Merida: Take a break from the dancing and see the video mapping of the Casa de Montejo at 8:30 in summers and 8:00 in winter months (narration in Spanish only).
- Thursdays in Merida: Yucatecan Serenade in Parque Santa Lucia at 9:00 pm is one of the longest standing weekly events in the city, having been going on for over 40 years. This is a must for things to do in Merida on a Thursday night.
- Fridays in Merida: Video mapping of the Cathedral is at 8:30, but for something more lively, stroll along Calle 60 which often becomes closed to vehicles on Friday in favor of fiestas instead.
- Saturdays in Merida: Noche Mexicana boasts Mexican culture from across the country through traditional song and dance performances that occur on stage at Remate Paseo Montejo from 8:00pm-midnight.
- Sundays in Merida: Merida en Domingo is all day event (8:00 am - 9:00 pm) taking place in Plaza Grande. Food stalls and pop-up restaurants congregate in the plaza with more marquesita stands than you can count. As night approaches, bands begin to play and people start to dance. It's a beautiful Sunday tradition in Merida.
On weekend nights a few of the main streets in the city are closed to traffic and the city becomes abuzz. Sidewalk cafes begin setting up in the streets. Street performers come out to play. Street food vendors don't hesitate to get into the mix as well, providing plenty of opportunities for a midnight snack. The bars and cantinas get busy, the music becomes blaring and it all lasts well into the night. ¡Fiesta!
During these weekend nights in Merida, certainly stroll through the Plaza Grande. Yet, perhaps more importantly, walk up Calle 60 which is usually closed to vehicular traffic by 8:00 pm. Shops on Calle 60 also stay open late as sidewalk cafes set up tables to expand their presence into the closed-off street.
3) Go for a Bike Ride on Sunday Morning: Bici-Ruta Merida
We sure do love a good bike-friendly city. Unfortunately, Mérida is not one. There are no bike lanes nor paths throughout Merida centro. Instead, you'll find hectic narrow streets and even skinnier sidewalks which are for pedestrians only.
But this all changes each Sunday morning when some of the Merida's most beautiful and popular streets are shut down for La Bici Ruta (Bike Route) to allow cyclists a chance to ride around town. Much of the city comes out on Sunday morning to partake in a bike ride.
You don't have to look far to find a bike rental. Just walk up the Paseo and you'll see stands that are renting bikes. Check near the Flag Monument, or closer to Centro there's a bike rental place here.
There's no need to worry about traffic or cars at all on Sunday mornings. It's only then that vehicles are blocked from the biciruta route that cuts right through the heart of Merida.
Cruise on up the beautiful wide streets of Paseo de Montejo which were modeled to be like the Champs-Élysées. Pedal on past the lovely town squares. Have a friendly race with a child. If you’re here on a Sunday morning, the Bici-Ruta is THE thing to do in Mérida. Don't miss it.
There is now a night Biciruta in Merida that takes place only on the first Saturday of every month, beginning at 6:00 pm. So if you happen to be passing through Merida on a first Saturday, take to two wheels for a spin around town before the weekly Noche Mexicana event.
2) Discover Local Yucatan Cuisine in Merida
Merida is home to some of the best cuisine in Mexico. Sure, you can find Mexican favorites such as great tacos and elote (corn) in Merida. But the Yucatan holds its own regional specialties. Any visitor to Merida absolutely must try this local Yucatecan cuisine, which is unique, distinctive, and quite different from elsewhere in Mexico.
Many of these regional Yucatan dishes have roots from traditional Mayan cooking yet with heavy influences from Europe, the Caribbean, and other Mexican regions. This culmination of cooking cultures makes for some interesting local cuisine to try in Merida. That's what makes eating one of the best things to do in Merida!
Here are some notable Yucatan meals to try in Merida:
- Cochinita pibil: Perhaps the most notable Yucatecan dish (and our favorite), this tender slow-cooked pork is marinated in sour-orange, achiote, and other spices. There's also a tasty chicken version, pollo pibil. Both make a great taco filling.
- Sopa de lima: A hearty soup loaded with shredded turkey in a deliciously tangy broth thanks to the namesake lime juice.
- Poc-chuc: Thinly sliced pork that has been marinated in sour orange juice and grilled to perfection.
- Queso relleno: A hollowed out ball of Edam cheese is stuffed with ground pork and cooked until it becomes gooey before being smothered with gravy.
- Pavo relleno negro: Turkey covered in a rich dark chili sauce.
- Papadzules: A great vegetarian dish of hard boil eggs, wrapped in tortillas and topped with a pumpkin seed sauce.
- Huevos Motuleños: A Yucatan breakfast dish, named from the nearby town of Motul. It's composed of tortillas with eggs, beans, and cheese that's covered in a salsa and topped with chopped ham and peas.
Also, be sure to try Heather's absolute favorite Yucatan snack, marquesitas. (You can thank us later, after biting into this unique sweet and savory treat.) Marquesita stands are easily found everywhere throughout Merida.
What is a marquesita? See our video demonstration below:
So where do you find all this yummy Yucatan food in Merida? We wrote a separate post that details what we suggest are some of the best restaurants in Merida for local cuisine!
Yet to really get to know the food scene in Merida, we recommend this highly-rated Street Food walking tour (Monday-Saturday). Some even rate this 3-hour tour as the best thing they did while visiting Merida. It's a perfect introduction to Yucatan cuisine throughout Merida, allowing visitors to sample all of the Yucatan's best cuisine with a local guide that knows all the best spots. Check availability and recent reviews.
For any home cooks visiting Merida, consider learning how to make Merida's most famous dishes. What better idea than taking a cooking class. In doing so, a local Merida resident will take you shopping at the market before venturing back to their kitchen. It's there in this intimate setting that they'll impart endless Yucatan culinary knowledge onto you so that you can recreate these delicious meals once you return home. Check availability and prices for this 5-star-reviewed market tour & cooking class.
The #1 Thing to Do in Merida, Mexico: Day Trips!
Mérida itself is a fantastic place to explore for a few days. Yet perhaps one of the best things about Merida is its central location within the Yucatan. This allows for so many amazing day trips for endless adventure around the peninsula.
Merida is surrounded by a countless number of ancient Mayan ruins, beautiful blue cenotes (natural underground pools), fascinating haciendas, quiet strands of Gulf beaches, and intriguing Mayan villages dotting the land in between. This is all why day trips top our list of things to do in Merida. There is always a new Yucatan adventure to embark on from Merida.
Merida is such a perfect hub city as it connects so many of these sites within a short hour or two jaunt from the city center. We love using Merida as a charming base to explore the Yucatan to the fullest during the day, then retreat back to Merida for more comfort, food, and fun in the evening.
- Visit nearby cenotes such as our favorite: the three cenotes of Cuzuma, visited by horse cart,
- Tour an old hacienda outside of town,
- Go see wild flamingos in Celestun,
- Have an extreme caving adventure in Grutas Calcehtok or Grutas Tzabnah,
- Take this highly reviewed Chichen Itza Day Trip from Merida,
- Journey to the nearby yellow Mayan town of Izamal,
- Explore the lesser-visited Mayapan Ruins or the nearby Dzibilchaltún ruins,
- Take a road-trip down the Ruta Puuc,
- Simply have a relaxing day at a beach near Merida, or
- Try this 5-star rated tour of Uxmal, to see the Yucatan's other famous ruins and our favorite (see video below).
The possibilities of exploring the Yucatan from Merida are virtually endless. Take a second-class bus out of the city for the day, rent a car to explore entirely on your own, or join one of the many tours in Merida you can find on offer. Search Viator for a good selection of well-priced day tours.
Mérida is the perfect home base to go out and explore the Yucatan during the day. Have some amazing adventures, then return to Merida in the evening for the excellent restaurants, the culture, and the festive nightlife. For us, that is truly what Mérida's appeal is all about! And that is what continues to draw us back to this magical city, again and again, as we keep discovering so many awesome adventures all throughout the Yucatan.
We have published an accompanying article with all of our recommendations for the: Best Day Trips from Merida. This additional Merida travel guide details all of the best excursions from Merida, reviews the best ruins to visit, best beaches go to, the best nearby cenotes to explore, and best cultural towns that are all within a two-hour drive, bus, or tour from Merida.
Where to Stay in Merida Mexico
If you're trying to determine where to stay in Merida, you're in luck because there seems to be an abundance of great Merida hotels at bargain prices. Book early though, as some of the best accommodation and prices do tend to get reserved in advance.
There are two main districts in Merida where most visitors stay:
- the Centro around Plaza Grande, or
- Plaza Fiesta Americana near the intersection of Colon and Paseo Montejo.
Of the two, we recommend staying close to Centro Merida within an easy walking distance of Plaza Grande. That way you'll be close by most of Merida's main attractions, many restaurants & bars, and where the fiestas take place. But if you do opt to stay around Plaza Americana instead, you're really not too far from all the action either. It's just a 30-minute walk or a very quick Uber/taxi/bus ride to Centro and Plaza Grande.
We've listed some of our Merida hotel and accommodation recommendations below. For ease of searching and to obtain pricing for your exact dates, we've included affiliate links to HotelsCombined.com, which then scours through all the main booking sites (Expedia, Orbitz, Agoda, Travelocity, Booking, etc.) to determine which site gives you the very best rate.
Hostels in Merida Are Best for Solo Travelers
If you're a solo traveler in Merida, hostels are a great choice. But if you're traveling as a couple or a group, you'll find much better value at the city's very reasonably priced hotels instead. Hostel beds in shared dorms start around $10 USD per night in Merida. Meanwhile, private rooms at hostels start closer to $30 USD, making hotels a better option for those who want a private room, since 3-star rooms can be had for about the same price.
The consistently top rated and recommended hostel in Merida is:
- Nomadas is centrally located, has a big pool, and free breakfast. But book early, as Nomadas regularly sells out, particularly so during high season (winter months). Check availability for Nomadas on HostelWorld now.
Great Midrange Hotels in Merida for Only $30 per Night!
There are some great 3-star+ properties right in the heart of Merida Centro for $30-40, making for excellent value! We've stayed at many of them ourselves, including each of these three steals below.
- Hotel Dolores Alba Merida is difficult to beat in terms of value. The centrally located 3-star hotel has an outdoor pool and nice clean rooms. But their rack rate is nearly $100 USD (totally not worth it). However, they regularly runs online deals for about $30 USD, which even includes a decent hot breakfast buffet for two! That's an absolute bargain in Merida that we couldn't refuse. We now wholeheartedly recommend it, based on that price. Just check current rates.
- Casa Continental is clean, comfy, cheap, cheerful, centrally located, good wifi, and provides a simple breakfast. Really, what more do you need? Well, maybe a pool. There's not one here, but it does have a nice breakfast patio.
- Hotel Maria Jose has large-sized rooms, a nice pool, and the strongest wifi of any hotel we've stayed at in Merida.
And for just a bit more, also consider one of the best in Merida:
- Luz en Yucatan: There's a reason why this 15-room boutique hotel has been consistently listed as a #1 accommodation in Merida by popular travel guidebooks and Tripadvisor alike. Perhaps it's the excellent location right next to Parque Santa Lucia. Maybe it's the well-appointed rooms that are all different from one another. Perhaps it's the relaxed atmosphere, the inviting pool, communal kitchen and dining area. Nah, we think it's because Luz is owned by travelers who have hence mastered what travelers are looking for in a place to stay. Oh, and the freebies go well beyond coffee at Luz. You'll find complimentary cervezas in the mini-fridges and there's a mythical hospitality bar if you fancy a shot of tequila! (I know where we're staying next visit!) Note: Luz tends to book up solid during high season, so reserve early. Check availability now.
Use Airbnb for Full Casas in Merida at Great Prices
We often use Airbnb in Merida, as they have some fantastic apartments and entire homes listed right in centro. We particularly recommend Airbnb for larger groups to share a big place and also for longer stays. Many Airbnb hosts offer steep discounts when you stay for 28 days or longer, so that often works well. It's great to have a kitchen, to feel more at home, and to live more like a local. If you’ve never used Airbnb before you can use our referral code to save up to $40 on your first booking.
Here's the place we scored during our last Airbnb in Merida, which included this beautiful enclosed pool!
For Those Who Want Luxury in Merida
If you're looking for a little more luxury, consider staying about a kilometer North of the center of Merida. Near the intersection of Colon and Paseo Montejo is where you'll find reliable upscale hotel chains in Merida that still offer some pretty generous rates. Here you find Intercontinental Presidente Merida, the Hyatt Regency Merida, and the Fiesta Americana Merida.
Yet for a truly decadent and unique experience, consider staying outside of Merida at one of the famous luxury haciendas. Even if you can't afford the $200-per-night price tag, just take a look at some of these absolutely incredible properties to swoon and dream over:
Merida Travel Tips: Plan Before Your Trip
Here are a few travel tips to keep in a mind as you plan to roam around the streets of Merida:
⌛ How many days to spend during a trip to Merida?
Most of the Merida city highlights mentioned in this travel guide can be experienced within about two days or so. Yet we'd suggest spending at least 5-7 days in Merida in order to pursue the abundance of awesome day trips that surround city.
Having a week in Merida will further allow time to get out to Merida's nearby ruins, centoes, and beaches. A one-week stay in Merida will also allow you to experience each of the nightly cultural events that the city puts on and give an opportunity to try many of the great restaurants in town.
✈️ Getting to Merida Mexico
Merida has its own airport with regular domestic flights all throughout Mexico, in addition to international flights to Miami, Houston, Havana, and Toronto (seasonal).
Ways to save traveling to Merida: If flying to Merida from outside Mexico, it can often prove economical to fly into Mexico City first, then book a subsequent flight to Merida. Another money-saving tactic to get to Merida is flying into Cancun. There are regularly departing ADO buses direct from the Cancun airport to Merida, which takes about four hours.
💵 Money matters in Merida
This is Mexico, so Mexican pesos are the currency. Rarely, if ever, is USD or other currencies accepted. ATMs abound throughout Merida, accept foreign cards, and provide good rates. (Just check with your bank before departing to inquire about international fees your bank may charge.) Credit cards are also accepted around Merida. But smaller businesses will likely only take pesos in cash. Currency exchange places can be easily found in Merida centro and at the Merida airport. Rates vary.
🚕 Getting around Merida
Centro Merida is easily walkable.
But to go further afield or even short distance during a particularly hot afternoon, consider taking an Uber. It's a safe way to get around Merida, they're frequent, and it can be particularly handy if your Spanish isn't good enough to explain directions since you input the destination in the app. You can use the same Uber app in Merida that works for you at home. Just ensure you have a local or international data plan on your phone. Most rides around Centro come out to $40 pesos or less (under $2 USD).
Taxis are also available in Merida.
☔ Rainy Season in Merida
June-October is when rain chances become higher in Merida. Note, that it doesn't rain all day, every day in Merida during those months. So don't let Merida's rainy season be a reason to halt travel plans. But there is a likely chance of rain at some point during a summer visit. Just be prepared for occasional showers during this time of year. Pack a good rain jacket or a compact travel umbrella like this.
☀️ Beware of Merida's afternoon heat
Merida can be very hot, year-round. The most pleasant temperatures tend to come between November and February, but visitors may still find very warm afternoons during that time. April-August ushers in the intense heat. But it's the month of May tends to be the hottest month, when it's not unusual for temps to exceed 100° F (38° C).
Mid-afternoon brings upon the hottest temps. So at any time of year, consider reserving outdoor activities for the mornings, unless it's for a water-bound activity And make sure you come to Merida armed with sunglasses, a hat, and sunblock. Check Merida's monthly weather averages here to have an idea of the weather to expect during your trip.
💦 Stay hydrated
You'll likely sweat a lot more in Merida than you're accustomed to back home. Make it a point to stay hydrated and drink lots of water. Bottled water can be easily found all over the city.
🚰 Don’t drink Merida's tap water
The tap water in Merida is generally not safe to drink. Use bottled water only. Also, consider traveling with this compact LifeStraw. We have one and it's come in handy a few times during our travels when water wasn't drinkable and stores were closed.
💬 Learn Some Basic Spanish
There is some limited English spoken throughout Merida in places where tourists and expats tend to go. But most people throughout Merida speak Spanish, in addition to Mayan dialects. It can be a great idea to learn up on some basics before a trip to Merida. If you don't speak any Spanish at all, it's still possible to get by, albeit with some difficulties. Yet knowing even a tiny amount of Spanish and some simple pleasantries can really go along way to enhance a visit to Merida.
We like to use Babbel as an easy, fun, and inexpensive way to learn Spanish. With each lesson just 10-15 minutes, it's something we can always work into the day and the associated app even lets us learn Spanish on-the-go. It's a great way to brush up before visiting Merida. Right now you can use this discount link to save 25% off a subscription.
☠️ Stay Safe in Merida
Mexico's Yucatan state is regularly touted as being the safest state in all of Mexico. Yucatan's capital, Merida, is a shining example of this accolade. Data aggregator Numbeo reports Merida's crime rate as: low. For perspective, Numbeo's crime index for Merida is even lower than many US and European cities of the same size.
Personally, we never feel any sense of danger in this welcoming city. We feel completely comfortable walking around day and night. That said, it can always be a wise idea to take modest precautions to stay safe in Merida, as you would in any city around the world. Look before crossing Merida's busy streets. Keep belongings close in crowded places. Don't get drunk and look for trouble. Simply put, just use common sense.
⚠️ Have You Purchased Travel Insurance Yet?
While Merida is largely a safe city, you never know what may happen during a trip to Mexico. Possibilities include getting sick, a flight gets canceled, hurricanes (June-Nov), car accidents, lost baggage, your phone falls in the water, camera gets lost or stolen, rental car damage, etc.
Travel insurance will have you covered so that you don't incur the high cost of these unfortunate possibilities. We never roam around Mexico without travel insurance. We use and have been happy with World Nomads, with what we've found to have the best price and coverage combination. Enter the dates for your trip to get a quick estimate.
What to Pack for Merida
Before you depart on your trip to Merida, Mexico, here are a few final preparations to consider:
What to Pack for Your Trip To Merida? We recommend packing for Merida just as you would for any warm weather climate. You already know the essentials you require like clothes, toiletries, and a camera. So here are some items specifically for Merida, you may want to consider adding to your luggage:
- Light, dry-wicking clothing is an absolute must! It gets hot in Merida - pack breathable clothing!
- Biodegradable sunscreen is very important to bring if you plan to go into the area's cenotes. Regular sunscreen can cause damage to the cenotes, kill the fish, and add chemicals to the fresh water. So please use biodegradable sunscreen, which can be difficult to find in Merida. This Alba Botanica Hawaiian Sunscreen SPF 45 is a great choice on Amazon, has consistently great reviews, and is inexpensive too.
- Mosquito repellent. Pesky mosquitos can be found in and around Merida. So if you're susceptible to mosquito bites (like I am), bring some spray or wipes. You can go for the heavy-duty stuff with DEET. But we find this natural Repel Lemon-Eucalyptus repellent works well, isn't as harsh on your skin, and better for the environment (particularly if you're going in the water).
- Mask & snorkel - You may not think to pack this for landlocked Merida, but if you're visiting any of the area's cenotes, be sure to bring a mask & snorkel so you can see those fascinating underwater worlds that lie below the surface. This US Divers Mask is an excellent quality mask for its inexpensive price.
- Don't forget a wide-brimmed hat & sunglasses. Keep that sun off your face and out of your eyes.
- Quick-dry, odor-preventing underwear - This special breathable underwear is an absolute must! Things can get pretty hot and sticky in Merida and this is the only underwear we've worn down there that have been able to hold up to the heat while walking around town. These ExOfficio Boxers are dry-wicking, super comfy, and after a day of use, they somehow don't smell! We call them our miracle underwear! But don't just take my word for it, check out the thousands of positive reviews on Amazon.
- A Travel Guide Book: For more background information about Mexico and further travel advice, you may want to grab a guidebook. We like the Lonely Planet Mexico Travel Guide.
- To ensure you haven't forgotten anything important, you can check out all of our specific suggestions in this post: Ultimate Packing Checklist, which is full of packing tips and recommendations.
More Free Online Travel Guides to Merida Mexico
Here you can find additional detailed travel guides for the Merida area and beyond:
- Best Day Trips From Merida to plan out your Yucatan adventures to the area's best ruins, beaches, cenotes and more.
- Best Restaurants in Merida provides local dining recommendations and shows where to find the cheap eats in town!
- How To Visit the Ruta Puuc from Merida details how to pursue the Yucatan's ultimate road trip across the ancient Mayan World.
- Where to Next? Consider heading south to cool off in the mountains of Cristobal de las Casas. Or head over to the Palenque ruins along the way. Both are accessible by bus from Merida.
Enjoy Your Visit and All the Things to Do in Merida Mexico!
Enjoy the food, the culture, the people, the fiestas, and all the fun things to do in Merida that make it such a great place in Mexico to visit!
We hope this Merida travel guide is helpful to your planning and it has given you a few ideas for fun things to do in Merida. Let us know in the comments section below. Or feel free to ask any questions.
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Publishing note: this travel guide about Things to Do in Merida Mexico was originally written in January 2014 and is regularly updated after subsequent return visits. Most recently updated January 2020.