Things to Do in Merida Mexico — What to see, Do & Eat in the Yucatan

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Visit Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and you’ll find so many things to do in Merida with kids…or without them. We travel with children, but Merida Mexico has something for everyone. In fact, the travel in the Yucatan Peninsula is great for any and all types of traveler: from grubby solo backpackers to adventurous families to retirees on a luxury holiday.

Looking for fun things to do in Merida Mexico? The Yucatan Peninsula is great for all travelers. See what to do, where to stay & what to eat in Merida. When most people think of the Yucatan Peninsula, they think the beaches of Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel & Playa Carmen. But for a richer cultural experience, visit Merida in the west. merida mexico architecture | merida mexico haciendas | merida mexico photography | yucatan peninsula map | yucatan peninsula travel | yucatan peninsula itinerary

Things to Do in Merida Mexico

When most people think about visiting the Yucatan Peninsula, their first thoughts are usually of the beaches of Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel, and Playa Carmen. These are beautiful places to be sure. However, for a rich cultural experience, we suggest that you visit Merida in the west.

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Why Visit Merida Mexico? Why Visit Merida with Kids?

Looking for fun things to do in Merida Mexico? We travel with children, but the Yucatan Peninsula is great for any and all types of traveler: from grubby solo backpackers to retirees on a luxury holiday. We tell you what to do, where to stay and what to eat in Merida. When most people think about the Yucatan Peninsula, their first thought are usually the beaches of Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel and Playa Carmen. However, for a richer cultural experience, we suggest that you visit Merida in the west.

Looking for fun things to do in Merida Mexico? We travel with children, but the Yucatan Peninsula is great for any and all types of traveler: from grubby solo backpackers to retirees on a luxury holiday. We tell you what to do, where to stay and what to eat in Merida. When most people think about the Yucatan Peninsula, their first thought are usually the beaches of Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel and Playa Carmen. However, for a richer cultural experience, we suggest that you visit Merida in the west.

There are many reasons to visit Merida Mexico. For one, it’s one of the safest cities in Mexico…and one of the safest cities in the world, actually. Another reason to visit Merida Mexico is for the food, music, and other cultural opportunities.

Merida isn’t a beach town. The coast isn’t far away, but the city is set inland. As a result, Merida compensates for the lack of salt and sand with cultural opportunities. There are so many things to do in Merida Mexico with kids or on your own. The city has many museums, free weekly cultural events and unique opportunities to interact with nature.

Find the Best Hotels in Merida, Mexico

Merida & Yucatecan Culture

Like many countries, Mexico is not one homogenous culture. In fact, Mexico is a fascinating mix of indigenous people and languages, and the Yucatan Peninsula is no different. In fact, for most people in the Yucatan, Spanish is their second language.

What’s their first language? Mayan.

That’s right:  the language and people of the Mayan empire are still alive and well in Merida and the greater Peninsula. In fact, the reason why some place names in the Yucatan don’t sound Spanish is that they aren’t. They’re Mayan.

Merida Mexico Weather – Best Time to Visit Merida Mexico

Looking for fun things to do in Merida Mexico? We travel with children, but the Yucatan Peninsula is great for any and all types of traveler: from grubby solo backpackers to retirees on a luxury holiday. We tell you what to do, where to stay and what to eat in Merida. When most people think about the Yucatan Peninsula, their first thought are usually the beaches of Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel and Playa Carmen. However, for a richer cultural experience, we suggest that you visit Merida in the west.

Is Merida safe? Yes. And the city is welcoming to families year-round, but there are a few times to visit Merida Mexico that are better than others.

Avoid Peak Heat if Possible

Merida is at its hottest from April to June and it’s brutal: 100ºF/40ºC with up to 95% humidity. It’s like walking through soup. What’s more, unlike some places we’ve lived with similar climates (such as Malaysia), there are fewer opportunities to cool off in air conditioning.

It’s still pretty damn hot from July to mid-October. Yet keep in mind Merida’s rainy seasons runs from October to January and April to July. Even then, the rain doesn’t last long. Sometimes a drizzle, but often a torrent. It comes and goes within a few hours.

We think the best time to visit Merida Mexico is between September and February. By late October the weather cools in the evenings/morning as low as 65ºF/19ºC. There is less rain, and you have some fun events worth considering.

Getting To/From Merida Mexico

There are a number of ways to reach Merida Mexico. The most common is by plane. Merida has its own international airport, and direct flights to Merida Mexico arrive from many destinations in the Americas.

Merida Mexico Map: Where is Merida Mexico?

Located near the northwestern corner of the Yucatan Peninsula, Merida Mexico is nestled inland from the coast on two sides. Drive an hour north and you arrive at the beach town of Progresso. Drive 90 minutes west and you reach Celestun and one of the largest biospheres in Mexico.

Cancun, Playa del Carmen and the rest of the Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo (the Yucatan’s eastern state) are about a 4-hour drive east by car or bus. Read more about these places in the day trips section.

Direct Flights to Merida Mexico

Here are a few cities with direct flights to Merida Mexico

Find The Cheapest Flight to Merida on Kiwi.com Flight Search

Getting to Merida Mexico Overland

You can also reach Merida within Mexico by bus, by car and by collectivo, which is somewhere between a bus and a shared taxi. One of the most common ways to reach Merida is to take an ADO bus from other places in the Yucatan. For example, there is a direct bus service from:

Some people arrive in the Yucatan Peninsula by boat/cruise ship from the beach town of Progresso. From here you can hire a driver, a taxi or take a collectivo. From Merida, you can catch buses to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and dozens of other more far-flung destinations.

Need Luggage?

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Getting Around Merida

Looking for fun things to do in Merida Mexico? We travel with children, but the Yucatan Peninsula is great for any and all types of traveler: from grubby solo backpackers to retirees on a luxury holiday. We tell you what to do, where to stay and what to eat in Merida. When most people think about the Yucatan Peninsula, their first thought are usually the beaches of Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel and Playa Carmen. However, for a richer cultural experience, we suggest that you visit Merida in the west.

First off, let’s get you acquainted with Merida Mexico. Downtown is often where the action is and it’s often referred to as Centro or the Zocalo. At the center of Centro is a square with park benches, electrical outlets and free wifi (weak but it works). Radiating out from here are museums and other things to do in Merida Mexico.

Six or seven blocks north of the Zocalo is the Paseo Montejo, a major boulevard with lots of museums, events and colonial architecture.

On Foot

It’s easy to explore Merida Mexico on foot. Sidewalks are common and the traffic moves very slowly. In general, people follow the traffic lights and stop at stop signs. The city is full of speed bumps, as well, and these keep people from going too fast.

The sidewalks along the Paseo de Montejo are wide enough for two or three people to walk side-by-side. Yet in most parts of town, you’ll have to occasionally walk single file because sidewalks are narrower there.

Buses and Collectivos: Public Transportation

Public transportation and collectivos in Merida are cheap (7 pesos a person), but a little hard to figure out at first. If you plan to use public transportation in Merida, then I recommend getting the Moovit App. You can use this to sort out the nearest bus stops and collectivo loading points. It’s not always 100% accurate but works surprisingly well for the chaotic system it’s covering.

A collectivo may look like a bus or a minivan with an open side door. Its destinations are usually written on the windshield. They have designated pickup/drop off points, but will frequently stop for anyone who waves them down at an easy enough place to stop.

Taxis, Uber & Cabify

For short distances, it may be preferable to take a taxi or use a ride-sharing service. For example, a 15-minute ride from our house rental to downtown cost about 60 Mexican pesos (approx USD $3).

It’s easy and safe to hail a ride in Merida with kids. There are taxis all over the place, and locals and expats alike use apps like Uber and Cabify to get around.

Rides between 10-20 minutes range from 30-60 pesos and are fairly reliable. I say “fairly” because we’ve had a few experiences where the ride fell through. One time I reserved a taxi to the airport at 6 am. The app told me the driver had a problem and canceled the ride at 5:50 am. This was easily remedied by then booking another ride, who was there at 6 am sharp.

It should be noted that Uber is technically illegal in Merida, but lots of people use it, including us. Because of its dubious legal status, we’ve had some drivers ask one of us to sit up front. That way we look like friends instead of a fare (Uber drivers are breaking the law, you see). They also may not accept a fare from the airport or a place with lots of police or proper taxis.

Driving in Merida Mexico

If you want to hit a lot of Yucatan points of interest, then it’s worth driving yourself around Merida — especially if you’re in Merida with kids. The roads are in pretty good shape and people follow the traffic laws relatively well. I say “relatively” because we’ve driven cars in Malaysia and Taiwan, and we’ve ridden motorcycles in Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. We’ve seen true chaotic driving, and driving in the Yucatan is extremely tame and civil by comparison.

With this in mind, however, I would warn you this: try to avoid driving at night. This is not because of crime but because the roads are not well-lit. There are some potholes and odd turns in Merida. There are also lots and lots of unmarked speed bumps. Big ones. This keeps traffic slow in the city, but they’re hard to see in the dark. You don’t want to hit one of these going too fast.

The roads to and from Merida are often straight and empty. Sleep-inducing empty. You won’t see very much on the road between Merida and, say, Valladolid. What’s more, there are also very few gas stations between cities, so make sure you have at least a half tank before you head off. We learned this the hard way.

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Recommended Events in Merida Mexico

Visit Merida Mexico in the last three months of the year, and not only will you have milder weather but you’ll also have two great events that we highly recommend.

Looking for fun things to do in Merida Mexico? We travel with children, but the Yucatan Peninsula is great for any and all types of traveler: from grubby solo backpackers to retirees on a luxury holiday. We tell you what to do, where to stay and what to eat in Merida. When most people think about the Yucatan Peninsula, their first thought are usually the beaches of Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel and Playa Carmen. However, for a richer cultural experience, we suggest that you visit Merida in the west.

Paseo de las Animas/Dia de Los Muertos in Merida Mexico

Instead of Halloween in your hometown, consider this the best time to visit Merida Mexico. There are great Dia de Los Muertos traditions all across Mexico and beyond, and the Yucatan has its own as well.

One of our favorite things to do in Merida with kids was to experience the Paseo de las Animas. It’s a parade in the Dia de Los Muertos tradition, where locals dress in traditional Yucatecan clothing and make up their faces like those of the dead.

The road from the chapel to the graveyard becomes a place for celebrations and memories. There are face-painters set up at many corners of the main thoroughfare where you can get your own Catrina/skull-face done for a few dollars.

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Noche Blanca in Merida

Looking for fun things to do in Merida Mexico? We travel with children, but the Yucatan Peninsula is great for any and all types of traveler: from grubby solo backpackers to retirees on a luxury holiday. We tell you what to do, where to stay and what to eat in Merida. When most people think about the Yucatan Peninsula, their first thought are usually the beaches of Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel and Playa Carmen. However, for a richer cultural experience, we suggest that you visit Merida in the west.

Twice a year near on the eve of a full moon, the city blocks off a large portion of downtown and throws a party. There are concerts and performances in the streets. Galleries and theaters stay open past midnight. Thousands of people walk the streets going from place to place.

Lots of kids, too. Entire families stay out until the wee hours listening to bands and snacking on marquesitas and other sweets.

Our Favorite Things to Do in Merida Mexico

Looking for fun things to do in Merida Mexico? We travel with children, but the Yucatan Peninsula is great for any and all types of traveler: from grubby solo backpackers to retirees on a luxury holiday. We tell you what to do, where to stay and what to eat in Merida. When most people think about the Yucatan Peninsula, their first thought are usually the beaches of Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel and Playa Carmen. However, for a richer cultural experience, we suggest that you visit Merida in the west.

You can visit Merida Mexico for weeks and not do the same things twice. We were always looking for things to do in Merida with kids, but almost everything we recommend here would be what I’d recommend to backpackers and luxury travelers, as well.

Culture & Heritage Events in Merida

There are lots of free things to do in Merida. In fact, there are many regular events that happen just about every week. Of course, sometimes weather or other big holidays may change the schedule. That said, you can depend on many of these events when looking for things to do in Merida. The weekly schedule is as follows:

Mon: Free Things to Do in Merida on Monday

Vaqueria: The Ballet Folklorico dances for free in front of the Palacio Municipal in West side of the downtown square (Centro).

Tue: Free Things to Do in Merida on Tuesday

Remembranzas Musicales (Musical Remembrances) is a weekly dance night at Parque de Santiago. Here you’ll find mostly retirees dancing to the oldies.

Trova: Most Tuesdays you can visit the Centro Cultural de Mérida Olimpo on the Centro square for musical or theater performances. These are not always free, but worth checking the calendar.

Wed: Free Things to Do in Merida on Wednesday

Recorrido Histórico en el Cementer: Most Wednesdays at 8 pm, you can get a walking tour of Merida’s largest cemetery. Judge for yourself is this is your kind of thing to do in Merida. It might be even more interesting if you visit near the Dia de Los Muertos celebrations.

De Noche de las Culturas: In the Centro area around 8:30 pm you’ll find a variety of performances. It often has a very local “talent show” feel, but can be a fun thing to do if you’re in the area.

Thu: Free Things to Do in Merida on Thursday

Serenata en Santa Lucía: Like the Noche de las Culturas on Wednesday, this event in the Santa Lucia square has a homey local feel. There is usually dancing, vocalists and often storytellers, as well (in Spanish). Get here early if you want a seat.

Fri: Free Things to Do in Merida on Friday

Looking for fun things to do in Merida Mexico? We travel with children, but the Yucatan Peninsula is great for any and all types of traveler: from grubby solo backpackers to retirees on a luxury holiday. We tell you what to do, where to stay and what to eat in Merida. When most people think about the Yucatan Peninsula, their first thought are usually the beaches of Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel and Playa Carmen. However, for a richer cultural experience, we suggest that you visit Merida in the west.

Pok ta Pok: In the Mayan empire, Pok-ta-Pok was the sport of kings. Visit ancient Mayan ruins in places like Chichen Itza and Uxmal and you’ll see remnants of Pok-ta-Pok courts.

On Friday nights in Merida, two teams play an approximation of the game to a crowd of spectators. Tourists and travelers like us are wowed, but there are a lot of locals watching as well.

Read More: Pok ta Pok – The Mayan Ball Game Lives on in the Yucatan

Sat: Free Things to Do in Merida on Saturday

Noche Mexicana: Here you’ll find more music and dance performances in the “talent show” mold. Along with the performances a small market with food stalls and artisanal crafts such as clothing, ceramics, and hammocks.

Sun: Free Things to Do in Merida on Sunday

The entire central square is lined with market stalls. The streets around the square are filled with food stalls and folding tables/chairs. Morning and afternoon only.

The Paseo Montejo is a major street leading into the heart of the city. On Sunday mornings, it is also closed to traffic for bicycles. The Bici-Ruta is held every Sunday, but there are other versions of the Bici-Ruta on different days and times.

Downtown Things to Do in Merida Mexico

Looking for fun things to do in Merida Mexico? We travel with children, but the Yucatan Peninsula is great for any and all types of traveler: from grubby solo backpackers to retirees on a luxury holiday. We tell you what to do, where to stay and what to eat in Merida. When most people think about the Yucatan Peninsula, their first thought are usually the beaches of Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel and Playa Carmen. However, for a richer cultural experience, we suggest that you visit Merida in the west.

The Governor’s Palace

This stunning green building is open to the public. Walk in and check out the massive paintings depicting the history of Merida and the greater Merida area. Signs are in English, Spanish, and Mayan.

The Zocalo 

Merida’s downtown square is a great place to start exploring the city. Here’s you’ll find locals hanging out day and night, and benches with plug outlets and wifi hotspots.

Try a Street Food Tour

Discover all of the sweet, savory, and spicy delights that Merida has to offer. Most Merida street food tours last around three hours and leave you reasonably knowledgable about Yucatecan cuisine. Oh, and stuffed. They definitely leave you stuffed. One of the best things to do in Merida Mexico for culinary travelers.

Book Now: Merida Street Food Walking Tour

Market Lucas de Galvez

Boutique by the Museo Cooking Class Review - Yucatan Food & Travel

Located a few blocks southeast of the Zocalo, this is the main fresh market in Merida Mexico. Come here for fresh fruit, vegetables, honey, and spices. Stay and eat a few tacos or a torta at one of the food stalls. Arrive early when all the colorful fruit is at most beautiful and impeccably arranged.

Take a Cooking Class

One of our favorite things to do in a new city/country is taking a cooking class. Food is easily one of the most accessible windows into a culture. That’s why if you’re in Merida with kids, then consider booking a cooking lesson with Boutique by the Museo.

My girl and I took a cooking class and had a great time. Start at the market buying ingredients, then head back to the kitchen to cook them up.

Read More: Our Yucatecan Cooking Class Experience with Boutique by the Museo

There are lots of other cooking classes in Merida as well. Find the one you like. It’s a great thing to do in Merida with kids or without. Most cooking classes also include a market tour and several dishes.

Merida Market Tour and Cooking Class

Private Yucatecan Cooking Lesson in a Local Merida Home

Taste of the Yucatan: Merida Cooking Class and Market Visit

Olimpo Culture Center

This is right on the northwest corner of Centro. Here you’ll find several art galleries and a planetarium. They also play movies here regularly. For example, during the three months we lived in town, they had multiple film festivals, playing everything from Toy Story to Blade Runner to the Godfather. Prices vary.

Museo Casa Montejo

This restored mansion gives you a taste of what life was like for the upper class in Mexico’s past. It’s free and air-conditioned, so consider a stop if you like history or need to cool off during the hottest Merida weather.

Art Galleries in Merida Mexico

If you think art is an important component of life (as we do), then you might find a gallery walk one of the best things to do in Merida Mexico. Some of our favorites are near the Parque de Santa Ana. If you’re in the area for the local market or for an event in the park, then walk over to Nahualli Casa de Los Artistas for some interesting paintings and bronze sculptures. If you have more time, then visit La Sala Art&Design Gallery and Galeria Tataya as well.

Related Read: Kid-Friendly Art Museums and Galleries in Tokyo

More Things to Do in Merida Mexico

If you’re planning to stay in the Yucatan with children longer than a few weeks, then here are a few more places to go and things to do in Merida Mexico.

Merida English Library

More than a depository of books, the Merida English Library is a place to meet others and find out what’s happening around town. Their Facebook page has a calendar of events, including wine tastings, book readings, and other social events. There is a monthly teen night, as well as book readings for younger kids, among other activities.

Xtreme Jumping Trampoline Park

Located in the Gran Plaza Shopping Mall, this is a fun spot to visit in Merida with kids who need some exercise but can’t take the heat. We’ve been to trampoline parks like this before in Malaysia, and I know that some local kids groups have meetups here on occasion.

Movie Theaters

If you just want to relax indoors for an afternoon and see the latest Hollywood flicks, then Merida gives you lots of choices. Any Cinemex theater complex will be playing the latest films, and often in English with Spanish subtitles. That said, animated films are often dubbed into Spanish. These theaters are just as nice and advanced as those in the US, for half the price.

Cenotes: Our Favorite Thing to Do in Merida Mexico

Out of all the things to do Merida Mexico, this is by far our family’s favorite: cenotes. There’s a massive underground system of caves and rivers in the Yucatan. Cenotes are the pools, caves, and sinkholes where this clear, fresh water is accessible from the surface.

If you like wild swimming, then you’ll love cenotes. It feels very Indiana Jones, and the water feels great in Merida’s hot, muggy weather. We’ve been to dozens of cenotes already, and we’d love to go to dozens more. And we could, actually. There are literally thousands of cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, and they continue to find more of them.

Read More: Best Cenotes in Mexico – Swimming in the Yucatan Peninsula

Homun / Cuzama

These small towns east of Merida have some of the Peninsula’s best cenotes. You can book a tour online or in downtown Merida, or just drive into town in a rental car. There you’ll find people waving signs and offering tours as you roll into town.

Book Tours for Cenote Swimming

Private Adventure Los 7 Cenotes Lunch & Bike Ride

Cuzama Adventure Tour with Underground Cenotes from Merida

Homun Adventure Cenotes Day Trip

Mérida Full-Day Subterranean Snorkel Adventure

Exploring Mayan History in Merida Mexico

Looking for fun things to do in Merida Mexico? We travel with children, but the Yucatan Peninsula is great for any and all types of traveler: from grubby solo backpackers to retirees on a luxury holiday. We tell you what to do, where to stay and what to eat in Merida. When most people think about the Yucatan Peninsula, their first thought are usually the beaches of Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel and Playa Carmen. However, for a richer cultural experience, we suggest that you visit Merida in the west.

Before we arrived in Merida with kids, I thought that the Mayan Empire was ancient history. This is only partially true. The Mayan people are still alive and well. They may not live in or around the stone pyramids we visit, but they kept much of the language and traditions alive.

One of the most rewarding things to do in Merida Mexico is to learn about the Mayans and their civilization. And Merida gives you lots of opportunities.

Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida (Mayan World Museum of Mérida)

This is one of the largest repositories of Mayan history and culture in the world. Unlike many museums, the Mayan World Museum of Mérida starts in present day and works backward in time.

A stunning building in its own right, it may merit multiple visits. There are a number of other exhibition halls with a rotating schedule of events.

Explore Mayan Ruins – Uxmal

Looking for fun things to do in Merida Mexico? We travel with children, but the Yucatan Peninsula is great for any and all types of traveler: from grubby solo backpackers to retirees on a luxury holiday. We tell you what to do, where to stay and what to eat in Merida. When most people think about the Yucatan Peninsula, their first thought are usually the beaches of Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel and Playa Carmen. However, for a richer cultural experience, we suggest that you visit Merida in the west.

This is our second-favorite thing to do in the Yucatan: explore the Mayan Ruins that dot the peninsula. If you visit Mayan ruins, then I highly suggest getting there when they open. Maybe even a little earlier. That way you’re the first ones in, which means fewer people in your pictures. And it’s much cooler and quiet in the mornings.

If you can only visit one Mayan Ruin with kids, I might suggest Uxmal. No, it’s not the biggest or most well-known, but the pre-hispanic Town of Uxmal is listed as UNESCO heritage site and we enjoyed this one more than any other we saw.

It’s a little over an hour south of Merida and an easy drive. Once you’re finished at Uxmal, there’s a fun chocolate museum right across the street from the entrance. We spend a few hours here, too.

Read More: How to Visit Uxmal, the Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico

Book Tours for Uxmal Visit

Uxmal and Kabah Day Trip from Merida

Chichen Itza

This is one of the biggest and best-known Mayan ruins in Mexico. No surprise why Chichen Itza is listed as UNESCO World Heritage site. If you’re in Merida with kids, I would consider this to be one of the must-see things to do in Mexico.

My best piece of advice about visiting Chichen Itza with kids (or without them) is this: get there early. Walk in as they open. The weather is cooler, there are fewer people, and the touts and souvenir shops haven’t set up yet.

Book Tours for Chichen Itza Visit

Privileged Early Sunrise Access To Chichen Itzá from Merida

Chichen Itza Day Trip from Merida

3-in-1 Ultimate Maya Experience Tour: Chichen Itza, Uxmal, and Kabah

Dzibilchaltun – Mayan Ruins

If you’re in Merida with kids and want somewhere close, then these are the Mayan ruins you should see. They’re just 30 minutes north of the city, and there’s an open-air cenote (Cenote Xlacah) as well, so you can cool off.

Day Trips Near Merida Mexico

Looking for fun things to do in Merida Mexico? We travel with children, but the Yucatan Peninsula is great for any and all types of traveler: from grubby solo backpackers to retirees on a luxury holiday. We tell you what to do, where to stay and what to eat in Merida. When most people think about the Yucatan Peninsula, their first thought are usually the beaches of Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel and Playa Carmen. However, for a richer cultural experience, we suggest that you visit Merida in the west.

Don’t restrict yourself to downtown Merida for fun things to do. Rent a car, hire a driver, jump on a bus or take a tour and get out of the city. Some of our favorite things to do in Merida happen beyond its borders.

Progresso

Drive an hour directly north of Merida with kids and you’ll arrive in this sleepy little beach town. There are a number of buses and collectivos that go to/from Merida every day. Or you can book a tour and have everything taken care of for you.

Celestun

This town on the Yucatan’s far west coast is surrounded by Mexico’s third-largest biosphere. We drove here, but there are a number of tours you can book to see the wild flamingoes, crocodiles and other residents of the jungle and wetlands.

Book Tours for Celestun Visit

Day Trip to Celestun: Flamingos, Mangrove Boat Ride, and Beach Break

From Merida: Ria Celestun Biosphere Reserve Tour

Valladolid

Things to Do in Merida with Kids (or Without Them) Valladolid church door yellow wall

Sleepy and charming, this small Spanish colonial town is located between Merida and Cancun. There are some great cenotes near Valladolid, including one cenote that’s downtown.

Valladolid is also the largest town near Chichen Itza. As a result, this is where many tours and independent travelers head to the most famous Mayan ruins from.

Book Tours for Celestun Visit

Chichen Itza, Ik Kil Cenote and Valladolid with Lunch

Rio Logartos

The pictures that come out of these salt-harvesting lakes are stunning. Imagine a sea of pink (yes pink) water with reflections of an endless sky. For many instagrammers, shooting pics here is one of the best things to do near Merida Mexico.

I know many people have gone here for images like these, and many feel that it is worth the drive. Having said that, we never made it there. We planned to visit as one stop on a multi-destination road trip. That road trip never came to be, so we missed it.

Izamal (the “Yellow City”)

Most of the buildings in this sleepy Yucatecan town are painted a bold yellow, making this one of the most photogenic places in the Yucatan. The ruins in town remind you of its Mayan past, while places like the Convento de Izamal bring the city’s Catholic present to the fore.

Book Tours for Celestun Visit

Merida: Izamal City Tour with Carriage Ride

Haciendas

In the 18th century, much of the world’s rope was made here using fiber (henequin) from a local cactus. This made some locals here very rich, and the plantations they set up for cactus cultivation and henequin production were called Haciendas.

Most of these went bust over the coming decades, but many were made into beautiful resorts, restaurants, and hotels. This is one of the best things to do in Merida Mexico for anyone interested in history, architecture, and design.

Related Read: Best Travel Gear to Buy

After Merida: Where to Visit Next?

Looking for fun things to do in Merida Mexico? We travel with children, but the Yucatan Peninsula is great for any and all types of traveler: from grubby solo backpackers to retirees on a luxury holiday. We tell you what to do, where to stay and what to eat in Merida. When most people think about the Yucatan Peninsula, their first thought are usually the beaches of Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel and Playa Carmen. However, for a richer cultural experience, we suggest that you visit Merida in the west.

Once you’ve finished all of the things to do in Merida Mexico, there’s still much in store for you across the Yucatan Peninsula. Here are a few suggestions for what to do before or after you visit Merida.

Cancun

Yes, it’s touristy. Yes, it’s crowded, but there is much more to visiting Cancun with kids than flashy resorts and a Hard Rock Café. There are great snorkeling, scuba diving and fishing opportunities in Cancun with kids. Cancun is a great launching point for places like Holbox and Isla Mujeres, too.

Read More: Our Cancun Experience with Total Snorkel

Isla Mujeres

This tiny island off the NE coast of the Yucatan Peninsula is a great day trip from Cancun. But the real reason to come here is to snorkel with whale sharks. The season usually runs between mid-May to mid-September, but you may need to be flexible.

Our boy had just earned his PADI Junior license near the island of Lombok a few months before our visit and so he wanted anything to do with the ocean — scuba, snorkel or otherwise. Naturally, this was his #1 thing to do in the Yucatan (he even made a whale shark sculpture in anticipation!). Alas, it will have to wait until another season.

Holbox

Like Isla Mujeres mentioned above, Holbox is a great place for spotting whale sharks and dolphins during the seasons that they’re around. When they’re not there’s still lots of fishing, snorkeling, kayaking, and other water-based fun.

Playa del Carmen

Great restaurants, beautiful beaches and lots of events. Playa del Carmen has a lot going on beyond what the cruise ship day-trippers discover. There are loads of activities for children, as well as thriving expat family & homeschooling communities.

Read More:

Best Things to Do in Playa del Carmen Mexico

Best Hotels in Playa del Carmen – Best All Inclusive Resorts in Playa del Carmen

Tulum

If you’re looking for some of the whitest sand and most beautiful beaches in Mexico, then put Tulum on your list. It has been developing its bohemian atmosphere for a while now (it actually reminded us of Gili Trawangan an island in Indonesia), but there’s something for everyone here. We loved the bicycle-friendly nature of the town, as well.

Read More:

Best Things to Do in Tulum with Kids (or Without)

Best Hotels in Tulum for Families — Guide to Best Hotels & Resorts in Tulum

Valladolid

This small Spanish colonial town is located halfway between Merida and the Riviera Maya to the east. Many people visit Valladolid on their way to or from the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, but we think the town is worth a visit on its own.

Valladolid is small and charming, has a great restaurant, and some of the best cenotes in the Yucatan.

What to Eat in Merida Mexico

The Yucatan Peninsula is a place all its own. Sure, it is steeped in Mexican culture, but so much of the place is unique — including its food. One of the best things to do in Merida Mexico is try all the great food of the Yucatan. You’ll find plenty to satisfy your appetite.

Things to Do in Merida Mexico with Kids (or Without Them) Panuchos and Salbutes

Yucatecan Food

Like language and other aspects of culture, the Yucatan has its own food styles, as well. You’ll find plenty of traditional Mexican tacos, tortas, and gorditas in Merida, but don’t come here looking for burritos. I’ve seen them on menus, but they are not a staple. Instead, look for these dishes from the Yucatan.

Salbutes & Panuchos

One of the most common snacks and meals in the Yucatan are salbutes and panuchos (see above). They’re similar to tacos and tostadas but on flat cornmeal disks that are deep-fried and topped with meat, veggies, and sauces. They are semi-hard but pliable (thus the taco/tostada comparison). The salbute is straight-up masa (cornmeal) that’s deep-fried. In contrast, the panucho is cooked on a skillet until it puffs up, then stuffed with refried beans and then deep-fried.

The usual toppings are Conchinita Pibil or Relleno Negro, which you’ll read more about below. Garnishes include lettuce, tomato, pickled onions and Yucatecan avocado. Larger and more yellowish inside, this avocado is different than the ones you usually eat in North America.

Conchinita Pibil

This slow-cooked pork is bright red, but don’t worry: it’s not spicy. The color comes from the achiote seed. The Mayans used this seed’s scarlet hue for generations as a food coloring and ingredient is traditional makeup.

Relleno Negro

This is usually turkey or chicken that’s stewed with vegetables in a paste of blackened spices. It’s not pretty, but it’s delicious.

Sikil Pa’ak

This simple Mayan dish is a paste made of ground pumpkin seeds, cilantro , and blackened tomato and onion. It’s basically a dip, but I could eat an entire bowl of it.

Kibis

Originating in the Middle East, this dish arrived in the Yucatan in the 1800s when a wave of immigrants from Lebanon and Syria arrived. Wheat dough is stuffed with meat and deep-fried for a crunchy exterior. To me, they look like an American Football-shaped falafel ball, and the texture is similar.

Sopa de Lima

If you like Mexican tortilla soup, then try this staple of the Yucatecan diet. It’s basically a chicken soup with a kick of citrus.

Queso Relleno

The story goes that a Dutch cargo ship sunk off the coast here, and heaps of cheese floated ashore. The result: lots of dishes using cheese, including this one, where a wheel of cheese is hollowed out and stuffed with olives, raisins, meat, and spices.

Pok Chuk

Think of this as the Mayan Pork chop, using a marinade that includes garlic, onion, oregano and sour orange.

Marquesitas

Things to Do in Merida Mexico with Kids (or Without Them) Marquesita and fresh fruit

This is the Yucatan’s answer to the crepe (see above). A thin layer of batter is cooked until crispy. Then toppings such as Nutella, cheese and cajeta (goat’s milk caramel) are rolled up inside.

Fresh Fruit

Tropical places like Merida are great for fresh and juicy fruit and produce. We had fantastic grapes,  melons, and mangoes, as well as all variety of citrus. Oranges and limes are everywhere, and the peeled flesh of ruby red grapefruit could be bought in cups on the street (see above).

Crema de Coco

Coconut lovers rejoice: you will find fresh coconuts and treats made from them all over Merida and the Yucatan. Traditional crema de coco (coconut cream) is a simple mix of coconut milk, sugar, and cornstarch. You’ll find it in high-end restaurants and roadside stalls.

Xtabentún

And now for an adult beverage. People have been harvesting bees and beeswax in the Yucatan for hundreds of years. This liquor mixes fermented honey with anise for a unique flavor. I drank it on the rocks, but it can be mixed into a variety of cocktails.

Read More: Other Food-Related Posts 

Best Restaurants in Merida Mexico

Looking for fun things to do in Merida Mexico? We travel with children, but the Yucatan Peninsula is great for any and all types of traveler: from grubby solo backpackers to retirees on a luxury holiday. We tell you what to do, where to stay and what to eat in Merida. When most people think about the Yucatan Peninsula, their first thought are usually the beaches of Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel and Playa Carmen. However, for a richer cultural experience, we suggest that you visit Merida in the west.

If you’re looking for where to eat in Merida, then we have a few suggestions. Our house rental was a little removed from downtown, so most of our regular spots aren’t even on the map, but if you’re looking for where to eat in Merida and you’re downtown, then here are a few suggestions.

La Chaya Maya

This is a standard-bearer for Yucatecan food in Merida. Come here for Mayan specialties and the best of Yucatecan-style Mexican food. I chose this place for my birthday dinner and was not disappointed.

Apaola

Located in San Lucia square, this restaurant wins with exceptional food and service. Strong Yucatecan staples, as well great steaks, salads, and seafood with a Yucatecan twist. All this and an excellent Mezcal menu as well. Come here early on Thursday night and you might be able to have a seat while the Serenata performances commence.

Mercado 60

This sleek new space has multiple stalls and vendors with an open area of tables for all. Tacos, sushi, burgers and more. Live music many nights a week.

Where to Eat in Merida (Budget)

You can check off many of the best things to do in Merida Mexico without breaking the bank. Same goes for eating in Merida. Here are some cheap eats we recommend.

Gorditas Doña Gorda

Fancy food it ain’t, but an order of a few gorditas and a drink is only a few bucks and will keep you filled for hours. Avoid the salsa verde if you don’t like spicy food.

Sunday Market

Visit downtown Merida on a Sunday morning and you’ll find lots of food stalls set up with Yucatecan standards like sopa de lima and salbutes. In our experience, quality varies, but we found it enjoyable.

Lucas de Galvez Market

The city’s main fresh market has a few food stalls near the entrance that are worth your while. Tortas and tacos only.

Where to Drink in Merida

After a long day in the heat, one of my favorite things to do in Merida Mexico is cool down with a cold beer or margarita. Here are a few places to find them.

la negrita 1 Things to Do in Merida Mexico with Kids (or Without Them)

La Negrita 

I loved the environment here: shabby-chic interior with a large walled-in backyard where bands play in the afternoons and evenings. Good food, too, and plenty of free botanas (snacks with your drink) to wash down with a mojito or frozen margarita.

Eladio’s

Casual Mexican dining with some of the best botanas (free snacks) in town. In addition, bands play in the afternoons. Family friendly, but fun for all.

Conclusion: Things to Do in Merida Mexico

As you can probably tell, we really enjoyed exploring all the fun things to do in Merida. The combination of culture, nature, and safety make it one of the best places to visit in Mexico for families, as well as anyone new to travel. That said, I would also recommend Merida for seasoned travelers interested in discovering a culture all its own. The Yucatan is Mexico, but it is also its own place in and of itself.

Have you been to Merida? Are there any recommended things to do in Merida that aren’t listed here? Tell us about them in the comments!

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Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. That means that if you buy something or book a hotel in Merida using one of my links, we might get a small commission. You pay nothing extra, so don’t worry. Also, everything you see here is just my personal opinion. I only recommend places, activities, and gear that I believe will genuinely help my readers. We loved exploring things to do in Merida Mexico, and I think there are lots of fun things to do in Merida Mexico for families, for couples, and for solo travelers. If you know of more fun things to do in Merida Mexico, let me know!

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this guide! We arrived in Merida this afternoon and were looking for things to do. So far, we’ve only taken a walk around the city and been to the governor’s palace, but I’m hoping to explore more tomorrow.

    Our plan is to start by going to Uxmal. We’ll take an early bus which will hopefully leave us with enough time to explore the Mayan ruins. Afterwards, I would love to visit that air-conditioned museum at the main square that you mentioned, or maybe go dor a walk around the market. And I definitely want to try some typical food from this area. Thanks for the list! I saw some of those items on the menu today but had no idea what they were.

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