12 Top Rated Merida Tours in 2023 [Locals’ Picks]
Ready to book your Merida Tours?
Considered the Cultural Capital of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and one of the most beautiful colonial cities in the country, there’s no shortage of amazing Merida tours you can take on your trip.
From the more “on” the beaten path places like Chichen Itza, to visiting off the beaten path Yucatan cenotes — and even a tour to have a traditional meal cooked by a chef seen on Netflix, Merida has some unforgettable and unmissable experiences waiting for you!
🤔 How do I know all this? I live in Merida, Mexico! That’s right, you have the most coveted of travel advice right at your fingertips — Tips from a local.
I hand-selected all the tours below for their uniqueness, great ratings and value for the price. There’s a mix of Merida cenotes, Mayan ruins near Merida, and even the chance to get blessed by a Mayan shaman!
If you’re ready, let’s dive in and explore some Merida excursions, starting with the best tour on the list: A visit to Chichen Itza and a meal cooked by Chef Rosalia Chay in her home.
This Mayan chef was featured on the Netflix show, Chef’s Table: BBQ (Volume 1, Episode 4), cooking her cochinita pibil.
Top 3 Picks: Top Rated Merida Tours
#1 TOP PICK
Mayan Food Experience & Chichén Itzá Tour
✔️ Traditional Mexica lunch
✔️ Local tour guide
Best Merida Tours
Editor’s Pick: Best Merida Tour
1. [Netflix Chef!] Mayan Food Experience & Chichén Itzá Tour
A true once in a lifetime experience! For visitors who can only take one tour — this is the one — especially for those who were already planning to go to Chichen Itza from Merida.
The Mayan Food Experience & Tour of Chichén Itza tour checks a lot of Mexico bucket list boxes off with a visit to Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and an authentic Mexican meal cooked by Chef Rosalia Chay Chuc — as seen on the Netflix show, Chef’s Table: BBQ.
On the Mayan Food Experience & Tour of Chichén Itza, you will:
- Learn ancient Mayan cooking techniques from Chef Rosalía Chay,
- Enjoy a traditional lunch with Chef Rosalia and her family in their small pueblo of Yaxuna, Mexico, and
- Explore the Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins with a certified, local tour guide.
You’ll be picked up from your Merida accommodation, and driven to Chef Rosalia’s home in the small town of Yaxuna, located in the Yucatan jungle.
Take a seat at her family’s table for a lunch of traditional Yucatecan foods, including cochinita pibil, relleno negro and more.
Chef Rosalia will show you how she prepares food the old fashioned way, by hand and in an underground oven called a pib. Using recipes passed down through generations in her family, learn how to make tortillas using an ancient method of cooking technique.
From there, head with your guide to Chichen Itza, the best Mayan Ruins in Mexico. It is both a Wonder of the World and UNESCO World Heritage Site, with so much to see.
Marvel at the Temple of Kukulkan (AKA El Castillo, or The Castle), Temple of the Warriors, Sacred Cenote and more.
Best Merida Tours
Merida Cenotes Tours
Swimming in the Yucatan cenotes is a unique experience you can only have in Mexico! If you’re wondering, What is a cenote? — Cenotes are swimmable, freshwater sinkholes located in the Yucatan jungle, so they are quite picturesque. For more cenote Merida Mexico FAQs, see below.
- Cost: Cenotes have entry fees, though they are minimal. The more popular ones that provide amenities like restrooms, on-site restaurants, etc., should still cost no more than $300 pesos ($15USD) to enter. Most are closer in price to about $50-100 pesos ($2.50-5USD).
- Remote Locations: As cenotes are located in remote places in the Yucatan Peninsula, you do need a rental car to access them unless you’re taking a cenote tour.
- Cash Only: Bring cash to cover both your entry and food. Most cenotes are in rural areas, and won’t have WiFi or the ability to take credit cards.
- Accessibility: Different cenotes have different levels of accessibility. Many will have well-maintained stairs with handrails, especially the more popular ones. Some have make-shift stairs, and some have ladders.
- Water shoes: Water shoes really help! As cenotes are natural pools, most have slippery rocks, muddy ground, etc. Water shoes also help you not slip in general, especially when walking down any staircase entryways. (I see this a lot!)
- Waterproof Phone Holder: If you want to take photos in the cenotes, and don’t have a GoPro, you’ll want to bring your waterproof phone holder.
- Life Jackets: I have never been to a cenote that didn’t provide or rent life jackets; but if you can’t swim, you might want to do additional research on the cenote(s) you’re visiting.
- Sunscreens and lotions: Don’t apply sunscreen, lotion, insect repellent — anything — before getting in a cenote. Many require you to rinse off before entering, so even putting anything on will be a waste.
- Photos: Want those people-less Instagrammable cenote photos? Go on a weekday, and arrive early! You also might want to bring one of those waterproof phone holders that go around your neck.
Flowing under the entire Yucatan Peninsula, there’s a freshwater river; the same water found in every cenote.
As this was the ancient Mayan peoples’ largest source of freshwater, they consider cenotes sacred, and some were used to make offerings, like the Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza.
There are about 6,000 cenotes in Yucatan, the largest concentration anywhere on Earth! Some are fully above ground, known as swimming pool cenotes, some are partially exposed with a large hole in the top, and some are fully underground in caves.
2. Magic Cenotes + Hacienda Tour
This tour is led by Miguel Ángel, a Yucatan Merida Mexico native. On the tour, he’ll show you two off the beaten path cenotes Merida Mexico has to offer, as well as one historic hacienda. With these lesser-visited cenotes, you (often) have them all to yourself for a truly magical experience.
best MERIDA tours
Tours From Merida to Chichen Itza
As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza may not need an introduction. Visiting is at the top of most people’s Mexico bucket list, and given that the city of Merida is located only about 1.5 hours away, it’s a must do for most travelers.
While some Yucatan Mayan Ruins sites may not require a guide, you’ll want one at Chichen Itza.
This site is so large and so historically significant that it’s almost a shame not to soak up as much hands-on knowledge of the ancient Mayan culture as possible when you visit.
Also, you’re essentially just looking at piles of rock unless you get the insider info from a knowledgeable guide 😂 Each of the tours featured below have just that, and some even have extras like swimming in a cenote and a meal included.
- Netflix Chef Lunch: Mayan Food Experience & Tour of Chichén Itza
- Mexico Pink Lakes: Chichen Itza & the Pink Pools
- Cenote & Cooking Class: Chichen Itza, Yokdzonot Cenote, and Cooking Class
- Pueblos Magicos (Magical Towns): Chichen Itza, Cenotes & Magical Cities Tour
3. Chichen Itza, Cenotes & Magical Cities Tour
Chichen Itza is located not far from Valladolid, Mexico, one of the country’s 135 (or so) pueblos magicos, or magic towns.
Valladolid is one of the most popular day trips from Merida, but for those who don’t have a full day to spare, you can at least check out this charming, colorful Colonial city — as well as Chichen Itza and two cenotes — on the Chichen Itza, Cenotes & Magical Cities Tour.
best MERIDA tours
Merida Hacienda Tours
Haciendas are tied to a huge part of the history in the Yucatan Peninsula. Back in the 1600-1800s, Yucatan farmers harvested the area’s most profitable cash crop, sisal, nicknamed “green gold.”
This was once used to make rope twine, thanks to the henequen plant’s sturdy string-like fibers.
After the need for sisal died out, many hacienda owners abandoned these sprawling estates when they became too expensive to maintain.
For years, the majority sat in ruin, but in the last 50 years or so, some have been restored to be used as event spaces, wedding venues and even boutique hotels.
4. Cenotes Hacienda Mucuyche Tour
Step back in time as you explore Hacienda Mucuyche, a historic 18th Century hacienda.
There are two cenotes onsite, Cenote Carlota and Cenote Azul Maya, perfect for a refreshing swim after your guided tour of the grounds. (Note: You can only access Cenotes Hacienda Mucuyche on a tour).
5. Hacienda Yaxcopoil & Cenotes Tour
Hacienda Yaxcopoil (pronounced yash-coh-poe-eel) was built in about 1650. It has been fully restored, and is known as one of the best haciendas in Merida.
As with most Merida haciendas, this one is mostly rented out for private parties and events. When not rented out, you can visit and tour the grounds. For this reason, it’s best to go with a tour — so you don’t show up to find the hacienda closed for a private event.
Stay in a Merida Hacienda Hotel
For a truly unique experience, book one of the Merida haciendas listed below. Hotel Hacienda Merida VIP is located right in downtown Merida, and the others are within 25 minutes by rental car or Uber.
best MERIDA tours
Merida tours to Las Coloradas Pink Lakes
Las Coloradas (literally meaning The Blush) are the famous Mexico pink lakes in Yucatan.
These naturally-occurring pink lakes gained popularity after a viral Instagram photo a few years back, but because of their remote location, remain an off the beaten path Yucatan destination.
In fact, if you’re not driving your rental car, Las Coloradas isn’t easily accessible by public transport — and will take two buses and a taxi to get to from Merida.
For this reason, the best way to visit is by booking a tour of Las Coloradas, with two options listed below.
6. Chichen Itza & the Pink Pools Tour
Beat the crowds with an early morning Chichen Itza visit, before heading to the Mexico pink lakes of Las Coloradas.
On the way, stop for an authentic Yucatan food lunch in the pueblo (small town) of Temozon. When you reach the pink lakes, you’ll be able to take amazing pictures and may even see some of the flamingos that inhabit the area.
7. Live the Pink Sea and exotic beaches Tour
An exciting full-day tour that starts with breakfast in the pueblo (small town) of Motul — home to the famous huevos motuleños. Next, head to the pink lakes of Las Coloradas to see and photograph their beauty.
Since this is not a place you can swim, you’ll then head to the virgin beaches of Cancunito. The tour ends with a Rio Lagartos boat ride, a peaceful cruise through the mangroves to see alligators and maybe flamingos.
las coloradas faq
Why is the water pink at Las Coloradas?
Las Coloradas has pink water because of the red algae, plankton and brine shrimp that live in this salty water. The salt content in this water is so high, this area has been used as a natural salt mine by the Mayans for centuries.
In fact, the flock of wild Yucatan flamingos that live in this part of Mexico drinks this water, which in turn keeps their feathers pink!
What is the best time to see the pink lakes in Mexico?
The pink color of the lakes shows brightest on very sunny days. Keep this in mind if you plan to make the trip from Merida. On overcast, non-sunny days, the water will not be vibrant pink.
For photography, the lakes show brightest during (approx.) 11am-1pm, when the sun is directly overhead. The lakes are pink year-round, so the real factor is the sun… meaning definitely check the weather report before heading there.
Can I swim in Las Coloradas?
A few years back, the Mexican government stopped allowing swimming. The reason for this is that the salt content can actually be toxic on the skin.
While there’s no one around monitoring if you go in or not, there’s also not a hospital too close to Las Coloradas, so don’t risk your health and safety for a photo.
best MERIDA tours
Merida Tours to Uxmal Ruins
Though often overshadowed in name recognition by Chichen Itza — Uxmal (pronounced yoosh-mall) is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s equally as impressive. It also feels must less touristy and less crowded, seeing only about 10% the amount of annual visitors as Chichen Itza.
If you’re wondering Should I visit Chichen Itza or Uxmal?, there is one good reason that might convince you to take an Uxmal tour from Merida over one to Chichen Itza. It is that you’re actually allowed to climb the structures and pyramids at Uxmal (with the exception of one pyramid).
8. Two Cenotes, Uxmal & Chocolate Museum Tour
The city of Uxmal, Mexico, is mostly off the beaten path, though a fun area of the Yucatan to visit.
Besides the ruins themselves, the ChocoStory Chocolate Museum is right across the street; which is more of an interactive Mayan culture park than a museum (and yes, there is chocolate!). End the day with a refreshing swim in two cenotes nearby.
Puuc Route Tours
Besides Uxmal, the most famous of the bunch, there are four other sites along what’s known as the Ruta Puuc (Puuc Route). This is a 36-mile (58km) drive, which you can visit on The Puuc Exploration Tour or Loltun Cave and Puuc Route Full-Day Tour, if you don’t have a rental car.
Along the route, there’s Labna, Kabah, Sayil and Xlapak Mayan Ruins, which all feature the same stone carvings and Puuc-style design elements as Uxmal. As lesser-known, off the beaten path Mayan ruins in Mexico, there’s a good chance you’ll have these sites all to yourself.
best MERIDA tours
Merida Food Tours & Drink Tours
In 2010, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared traditional Mexican food an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Mankind.” In plain English, this means Mexican food is a cultural treasure worth preserving. #TRUTH 🤤
While most think of tacos and burritos when they picture Mexican food — these don’t play a role in Yucatecan cuisine.
Yucatan food is different because the Yucatan Peninsula has a tropical climate, so many plants, fruits and veggies that grow near Merida aren’t found in other parts of Mexico.
When in Merida, you’ll be enjoying local Yucatecan foods.
These include, cochinita pibil (suckling pig slow roasted underground), sopa de lima (chicken and lime soup made with local limes), papadzules (egg enchiladas with pepita sauce) and marquesitas (chocolate and cheese crepes).
9. Merida Cooking Class and Market Tour
Visit a small but special market, where many Merida restaurant chefs shop, to learn about local ingredients — like zapote, mamey, achiote and chaya. Then, head back to the kitchen at a renovated Colonial hacienda to cook a three-course meal you’ll eat afterwards in the courtyard!
Note: Tour can accommodate vegan, gluten-free and other dietary needs.
10. This is not just a Mezcal Tasting!
The name says it all! During this Mexico drinks tasting, you’ll sample small-production Mexican mezcal and lesser-known adult beverages — most of which you won’t find outside of Mexico. These include pox, pulque, sotol and raicilla. Enjoy small bite local Yucatan foods paired with your drinks.
Additional Merida cooking class, Food & Drink Tours
- Mayan Food Experience & Tour of Chichén Itza — With a Netflix Chef!
- Merida Street Food Walking Tour
- Merida Cantinas Walking Tour
- Stingless Bee Honey Tasting
best MERIDA tours
Merida Walking Tours
Merida is a centuries-old city, which holds a lot of history. It is known as the Cultural Capital of the Yucatan Peninsula, with buildings dating back to the 1500s. The best way to see and learn about it is on a walking tour of Merida with a local guide, like this one ⤵
11. Merida Tour: Explore, eat and learn
Join host, Jessica Alejandra, for a walking tour around Merida to get a sense of the town, learn some history and get insider information from a local. On the tour, you’ll visit bustling mercados (markets), historic monuments, and even some off the beaten path places to eat and drink.
Additional Merida Tours
- Photoshoot in Mérida
- City Tour in a Gua Gua Bus
- History Walking Tour in Mérida
- Discover Merida’s Old Neighborhoods
FREE Merida Walking Tour
Looking for what to do in Merida Mexico that won’t cost you any money?! You’ve found it in the Free Merida Walking Tour, which is a great way to get to know this historic Mexican colonial city.
Join a guide from the Merida Tourism Office on a FREE, one-hour, walking tour with an English-speaking guide. Tours depart daily at 9:30am; try to arrive by 9:15am. Meet your guide on the first floor of Palacio Municipal (seen in the photo above⤴), the big pink building in Plaza Grande.
Merida Travel Tip: It is customary to tip at the end of your tour. As a suggested amount, consider tipping your guide $100-200 pesos ($5-10USD) per person, or more to show appreciation for a job well done!
best MERIDA tours
Unique Merida Tours: Mayan Cultural Experiences
Located in the center of the Yucatan Peninsula, Merida is surrounded on all sides by Mayan culture. It has been called the Cultural Capital of Yucatan, and provides visitors a very different experience compared to well-known tourism hubs of Tulum and Cancun, located a few hours away.
For many who visit Merida, it’s for exactly this reason — to be immersed in Mexican and Mayan culture. There are many ancestral ceremonies and spiritual practices still used by the Maya today, some of which are open to visitors to experience.
12. Mayan Shaman Blessing: A real magic ancestral experience
Step into a traditional Mayan spa in Downtown Merida, for a full sensory journey. There are several Mayan baths and pools, all with infused waters at varying temperatures to promote wellness and healing. You’ll also have a miner-rich mud bath and a blessing from a local Mayan shaman.
Additional HOLISTIC Mayan Experiences
- Cacao Ceremony & Sound Revitalization
- Kukulkán Invocations: Mayan Voice & Sound Meditation
- Art Oracles & Cacao Ceremony
best MERIDA tours
Merida Travel FAQ
Is Merida, Mexico Safe?
Merida has been ranked as not only the safest city in Mexico, but one of the safest on the entire Americas Continent by CEOWorld magazine. In 2019, Conde Nast Traveler magazine named it the best small city in the world.
Though Merida is considered safe, you’ll still want to follow the 10 General Travel Safety Tips below to err on the side of caution. These safety measures — like taking Uber home at night — are the same ones you’d follow when traveling anywhere, and they should suffice in Merida.
Mexico Travel Insurance
Want an added level of security and peace of mind during these strange travel times? Smart choice!
Just as you insure your car, home and body, you can also insure your luggage, belongings and health while traveling.
If Mexico and Merida travel safety are on your mind, World Nomads is a great option for more adventurous travelers, and Safety Wing provides affordable, basic travel policies.
10 General Travel Safety Tips
- Always listen to your intuition — because your intuition is always right.
- If you get a sketchy or uneasy feeling about a person or place, get away from that person or place asap. Don’t worry about making a kind, nice or politically correct exit from a creepy person or bad situation — Just get away fast.
- Don’t walk home alone at night.
- Don’t keep your phone, keys, wallet, passport, or anything valuable in your back pocket.
- Learn some basic Spanish. If you can’t learn it, save this infographic as an image on your phone so you have something to use even if you’re off-WiFi.
- Take all of your belongings into the bathroom with you, rather than asking a cafe/bar neighbor to watch your things. This is annoying, for sure, but it works to not get your stuff stolen.
- Speaking of bar neighbors… don’t take drinks from strangers and/or leave your drink unattended.
- Don’t wear flashy clothes, expensive jewelry, designer sunglasses, etc.
- Keep some cash in your pocket so you don’t have to pull your whole wallet out every time you need to pay.
- When in doubt: Get Travel Insurance!
Register for the STEP Program
Make sure you enroll in the free STEP Program before your trip. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, allows U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico to document your trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
After you’ve registered, the U.S. Consulate in Merida can contact you in the event of an emergency, including natural disasters, civil unrest, etc. STEP can also put you in touch with your family and friends back home in the event of an emergency while abroad.
best MERIDA tours
Where is Merida, Mexico?
Merida is the capital of Yucatan state, one of three states that make up the Yucatan Peninsula — along with Quintana Roo and Campeche states.
Merida is located in southeastern Mexico, about 160 miles west of Tulum, 190 miles west of Cancun, and 180 miles west of Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya.
It is also not far from other top Yucatan Peninsula destinations, including Bacalar Lagoon, AKA “Maldives of Mexico,” and the pueblo magicos (magic towns) of Valladolid, and the “Yellow City” of Izamal.
Flights to Merida, Mexico
Wondering what’s the best way to get to Merida? There’s actually an airport about 20 minutes from downtown — Merida International Airport (code: MID).
There are direct flights to Merida from only a few U.S. cities, like Miami, Houston and sometimes Oakland. If you can’t get a direct flight from the U.S., you can also fly into Mexico City or Guadalajara International Airport. From either of those, you can take a short, connecting flight into MID.
From the airport, you can take a rental car, Uber, taxi, or private transport service (see options below) to your accommodation. Depending on where you’re staying and traffic, the drive is usually no more than 30 minutes.
Merida Airport transfer service
Where to Stay in Merida Mexico
From Merida hotels and boutique hotels to VRBO and Airbnb Merida Mexico home rentals, to great Merida hostels, like Nomadas — there’s options at all budgets.
For a list of the best Merida rentals, like CasaBlanca seen below, visit 12 Stunning Airbnbs in Merida Mexico [Picked by a Local].
More of a hotel traveler? Keep scrolling to discover the best hotels in Merida ⤵
Best Merida Hotels
There are only four rooms in the Rosas & Xocolate Merida Boutique Hotel & Spa — so don’t hesitate on booking!
Located right on Paseo Montejo, in the heart of Merida, this hotel provides a tranquil oasis in a modern boho jungle, complete with luxury spa, restaurant, bar and boutique shop.
Hotel Casa Azul (Blue House Hotel), a National Historic Monument, is gorgeous both inside and out. Its blue exterior makes for a beautiful photo backdrop, but it’s also one of the most historic and best hotels in Merida, with near perfect ratings and an amazing location just off Paseo de Montejo.
Additional hotels in Merida, Mexico
- ($$$) Hotel Hacienda Merida VIP
- ($$) NH Collection Merida Paseo Montejo
- ($) Casa Garza Boutique Hotel & Hostel
Getting a rental car in Merida?
If you’re renting a car in Merida, check the parking policy with your accommodation before booking. For those planning to stay in Centro Historico (Downtown Merida), know that many home and apartment rentals only offer street parking, and many hotels charge a daily parking fee.
RELATED ARTICLE 🚗💨 Merida Car Rental: Everything You Need to Know + 10 Driving Tips
BEST TOURS MERIDA
Final Thoughts: Best Merida Tours in Yucatan
There’s no shortage of amazing things to do in Merida!
If by chance you do find yourself at a loss for what to do in Merida itself, there’s also many amazing days trips from Merida located within 30 minutes to two hours of town, and amazing beaches in Merida Mexico, just outside of the city.
To get the best experiences on your trip, a Merida trip is definitely the way to go. All tours featured in this article have great ratings, good pricing, and you’ll have a local as a guide.
As they say: A local is a travel game changer, so don’t pass up the opportunity to see Merida with the experts.
Merida Travel Planning Guide
Should I buy Mexico travel insurance?
100% YES! — With basic coverage averaging just $5-10 USD per day, enjoy peace of mind with a plan from Travel Insurance Master, one of the biggest names in travel insurance. (Read more)
Can you drink the water in Merida?
No — You’ll want to buy a Water-To-Go Bottle, which filters your drinking water so you don’t get sick from drinking water in Mexico, and helps keep you hydrated while traveling Mexico. (Read more)
Is it safe to rent a car in Merida?
Yes — Renting a car in Mexico is one of the best ways to see the country! I always rent with Discover Cars, which checks both international companies and local Mexican companies, so you get the best rates. (Read more)
Will my phone work in Merida?
Maybe — It depends on your company, so check with your provider. If you don’t have free Mexico service, buy a Telcel SIM Card. As Mexico’s largest carrier, Telcel has the best coverage of any Mexico SIM Cards. (Read more)
What’s the best way to book my Merida accommodation?
For Mexico hotels and hostels, Booking.com is the best site. If you’re considering a Mexico Airbnb, don’t forget to also check VRBO, which is often cheaper than Airbnb! (Read more)
What’s the best site to buy Mexico flights?
For finding cheap Mexico flights, I always recommend Skyscanner.
Do I need a visa for Mexico?
Likely Not — U.S., Canadian and most European Passport holders don’t need a visa for Mexico; but check here to see if you do need a Mexico travel visa. The majority of travelers will receive a 180-Day FMM Tourist Visa upon arrival.