Sisal Yucatan Travel Guide: Secrets of the Yucatecan Gem

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Sisal Yucatan Travel Guide: Secrets of the Yucatecan Gem

After a full day exploring cenotes, I decided to complement the trip to the Magical Town of Sisal Yucatan, a small coastal pueblo less than 90 minutes from Merida.

Everywhere you look, Yucatán is an earthly paradise of turquoise waters, amazing natural landscapes, biodiversity, archaeological sites, and food that stays in your memory (and your heart).

In 1810 the port of Sisal in Yucatan was opened, initially called Santa María del Sisal, where the first exports from Yucatán to Havana were made.

This is how Sisal gradually became a small fishing village, which today offers visitors ecotourism and relaxation.

Sisal is located right where the two oceans meet: The Caribbean and the Mexican gulf

There are no clubs, shopping malls, big restaurants, or hotels.

Still, it is a destination for resting, camping, bird watching, and other regional species, biking, swimming in natural springs, eating delicious food, and fishing.

Sisal is part of the municipality of Hunucmá, located only forty minutes from Mérida, Yucatan.

It can only be accessed by road to keep development at bay and maintain its ecosystems of abundant jungle vegetation and springs.

The entire journey to this town will help you clear your mind and fill your lungs with clean air. Now, I’ll share with you the best things to do here. Enjoy!

How to get to Sisal Yucatan

As in any tourist destination, you can get to Sisal any way you like; you can arrive by public transportation or car.

If you are arriving by public transportation from downtown Merida, you must take a colectivo to Hunucma at the “Merida-Hunucma” terminal; the building is old with a reddish color.

Tickets cost around 20 pesos. Once you arrive in Hunucmá, you will take another colectivo to Sisal, this one will drop you off in the center, and the fare is about 16 pesos (less than a dollar).

Now, if you travel by car, you will drive from Merida to Jacinto Canek Ave in the direction of Caucel.

Follow the signs to Hunucma and then to Sisal. You will travel approximately 1 hour and a half.

5 Best things to do in Sisal, Yucatan

1. Enjoy the beach

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Sisal’s beach is quite accessible; however, there are few options to protect you from the sun.

If you don’t bring your umbrella, your only option is to rent a palapa.

Some restaurants offer palapas for their customers, but I recommend renting a palapa at “La Ruta de Los Piratas” next to the pier if you bring your food and drinks.

You may want to read: 10 Best Yucatan Beaches in 2023: Unwind in Paradise

They offer a palapa and chairs for 250 pesos per day.

You can also make reservations by WhatsApp at +52 1 999 222 4208, which I highly recommend, especially if you go on a weekend.

2. Stroll the Ex-Customs House and the Sisal Pier

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Old customs house with white arches

Again, Sisal has been an important commercial port since the times of the Mayan empire.

Trade was made with other territories in the Gulf of Mexico and other Spanish colonies in the Caribbean, such as Cuba.

The importance of this port was maintained even after Mexico’s independence.

So much so that the scientific name of henequen, a plant whose fiber was the basis of the state’s wealth since the 18th century, is Agave sisalana, in honor of the city it marketed to the world.

The Ex Aduana remains as a testimony of that period of apogee.

The Ex Aduana (customs) served as a warehouse, tax collection office, and reception from the Muelle de Sisal, now renovated.

It is said that Empress Carlota passed through here when she visited Mexico and that her arrival was announced from here by the first telegraph in Yucatán.

3. Take pictures of Empress Carlota’s house

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The House

Mexico’s history is highly complex and full of historical dramas.

One of those episodes was when Mexico had European emperors: Maximilian of Habsburg and his wife, Carlota, for a very brief moment after its independence.

In 1865, Carlota traveled by ship to this Mexican peninsula in a diplomatic effort to link these lands.

There are several versions of what happened when she arrived, but in Sisal Yucatan, they have a good one.

Legend has it that as Carlota approached land, there was a debate between Sisal and Merida, the capital of Yucatan, as to whether she should be received at the port.

Remember that at that time, Sisal was the state’s main port.

The government of Mérida supposedly objected, but the people of Sisal received Carlota anyway.

As punishment for this action, Sisal was “demoted” to a secondary port and replaced by Puerto Progreso, which is still the state’s main port today.

4. Visit the Fort of Santiago

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Due to the importance of Sisal’s port during colonial times, the town was constantly exposed to pirate attacks. The Spanish crown built this fort to defend it.

It is said that the current two-color lighthouse is a sign of the port’s degradation into a second one.

The original lighthouse was moved to Progreso for its inauguration in 1871 and is painted in only one color to mark that it is the main port.

5. Tour the Laguna Cocodrilos and Reserva El Palmar

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In addition to its beautiful beach, Sisal has access to the Cocodrilos Lagoon and El Palmar Reserve, a mangrove ecosystem that can be visited on foot, bike, or kayaking with one of the local tour operators.

PRO-TIP: Rent a bike to do the entire tour on your own or hire a guide with one of the agencies in the center.

With the bike, you can also appreciate the murals around the city (just like in El Cuyo, Yucatan) or see the ones on the main avenue, the one that takes you to the pier.

If you visit Sisal, don’t forget to bring enough cash because there are no banks or ATMs, and the few places that accept card payments charge a commission.

If you don’t bring something to eat, don’t worry, several restaurants offer fresh seafood every day.

Just arrive prepared with a good vibe: you’ll be surprised by its laid-back beach atmosphere and important historical town.

Where to stay in Sisal?

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Small and cozy Casa Kinich

In Sisal, there is a well-known lodging place called Casa Kinich. It is very well equipped and inexpensive; one night costs approximately 1200 pesos.

But there are also other alternatives such as renting an Airbnb that range from 700 to 1500 pesos.

If you are more of a free spirit, you can camp on the beach; as long as you respect the area and pick up your garbage, don’t litter!

Places to eat

Many restaurants offer fresh seafood and wild-caught fish at a super price that fits your wallet. Some of the restaurants you can visit are:

  • La palapa de Soco
  • El Faro Restaurant
  • The Doors of Sisal

Sisal Yucatan: Final thoughts

In conclusion, Sisal stands as a hidden gem within the Yucatan Peninsula, offering travelers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.

From its pristine beaches and charming streets to its rich Mayan heritage and tantalizing cuisine, Sisal has much to offer those seeking an authentic Mexican experience off the beaten path.

Whether you’re drawn to its tranquil shores, intrigued by its historical significance, or simply seeking a break from the crowds, Sisal invites you to uncover its secrets and create unforgettable memories in this captivating corner of the Yucatan.

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