All signs point to Celestún

Iconic Celestún pink flamingos.
Iconic pink flamingos in Celestún.
Iconic pink flamingos in Celestún.

Taking a car from Mérida to the beaches of Celestún will take just 45 minutes by 2017.

The highway project reported in today’s newspapers brings the shops, hospitals and restaurants of the capital city about 20 minutes closer to the remote and quiet fishing village known for its pink feathery flamingos and other inhabitants of the biosphere reserve.

Officials predict that the highway will trigger development of the western part of the state, most notably Celestún and its surroundings.

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Drivers will be allowed to bypass local roads that meander through Tetiz and Kinchil, villages that are lovely, but nonetheless add 20-25 minutes to the ride.

 { Slideshow: Sights of Celestún }

The beaches in Celestún attract visitors from all over the country, and beyond.
The beaches in Celestún attract visitors from all over the country, and beyond.

For investors, snowbirds and expats interested in beachfront living, the new road also makes Celestún an increasingly viable alternative to the communities that connect to the peninsula’s largest city via the Mérida-Progreso highway.

We took a tour of Celestún last month, met with developers and a city official, and found a getaway paradise on the verge of becoming a more tourist- and expat-friendly town. This is good, as an increasing number of residents depend on tourist dollars as the fishing industry continues to decline. And for now, hoteliers and merchants wish visitors would settle in, stay longer and spend more.

Celestún map
Yucatán Expat Life graphic

This beachy tourist town’s historic center hasn’t looked so good in years. Fresh paint and new construction are reinforcing this peaceful town’s colonial heritage.

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North of the cluster of restaurants and shops that mark Celestún’s quaint downtown, a tasteful, modern condo-hotel is in the works, further evidence that things are happening in this charming fishing village on Yucatán’s Flamingo Route.

Tourists from all over North America and Europe have been coming here for decades for Celestún’s remarkable beaches, waterways, mangrove forests — and its huge flocks of flamboyantly pink flamingos. Opportunities for middle-income consumers to live or invest here have remained relatively scarce, however.

That is changing.

celestun yucatan
This side of the Yucatán Peninsula faces west, making this sunset view possible.

Sunset views

Drive a few mile north of Celestún’s colorful hotels, shops and restaurants, and several connecting beach lots on a pristine shoreline are being prepared for a project called The Reserve at Celestún Residences, which will bring luxury housing and spa amenities to an often overlooked stretch of Costa Yucatán.

Setting Celestún apart from other beachfront communities along the Gulf of Mexico is its position on the peninsula, where the coastline faces sunset views and avoids the stormy “el nortes” that north-facing beaches are vulnerable to.

The lagoon side of Celestún captures the sunrise, and its resident pink flamingos are your natural alarm clock.

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Investors expressed confidence in the current municipal administration, which has been improving infrastructure and responding to the needs of the local business community.

 { Slideshow: Reserve at Celestún Residences }

In fact, the Reserve at Celestún Residences is rising just as federal and local governments have been paying increased attention to tourist attractions such as Celestún — and paying for improvements to roads, buildings and electrical lines, as well as publicity to bring in more tourist dollars.

All while understanding what makes Celestún so special to begin with, as to not spoil its charms, and its priceless and delicate ecosystem. That much is critical.

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Celestún's colorful downtown area has charming restaurants, artisans and galleries.
Although renown for its beaches and nature, Celestún has a colorful downtown area that has charming restaurants, artisans and galleries.

We drove in from Mérida on impeccable roads, much of it new highway built to encourage interaction between the city and its coastal cousin.

One of our guides, who lives and works on the coast, told us he and his family spend each Monday in Mérida for errands such as grocery shopping at the big box stores that don’t exist on the coast. The ride there and back is practically effortless.

Heading back to the city after an overnight stay, we were amazed to be transported so efficiently from our oasis of calm back to the bustling city. The fact that the big city and tiny village will be connected with a 45-minute drive is proof that things are changing fast on the Flamingo Route.

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