Few destinations offer as much to travelers as the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico! It’s a region packed full to the brim with stunning weather, impressive historical sights and awe-inspiring natural beauty.
We know that to truly experience a country and its culture you need to be more than a tourist, and that there is more to an awesome volunteer travel experience than simply volunteering. As a volunteer in Mexico you get to experience it all. You’ll see all the sights, tick off the hidden spots and get to know the ins and outs of Merida, all while being supported by a knowledgeable local team and becoming part of the community as you give back on meaningful projects. So here’s 10 of the best activities and sights in Merida, Mexico!
What is there to do in Mexico during your weekends?
1) Soak up the beautiful beaches
Mexico’s Caribbean coast holds immense pulling power, with white sand beaches and clear blue waters, but if you dive under you’ll find the real magic! Learning to dive opens up a whole new world to you and you’re sure to meet some incredible, like-minded adventure seekers on the journey! So wetsuit up and dive in.
Cozumel is a great spot that a number of volunteers head to. Even if diving is not your thing, you can snorkel with turtles or just head out and explore the vast swathes of sand. Try Tulum, Playa Del Carmen or Isla Mujeres.
2) Explore the Ruins
There is no shortage of incredible ruins to keep you busy on your weekends! You can make a real day of it and head out to Chichen Itza and then explore the nearby Ik Kil cenote. The complex at Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage site - it’s vast and and the history of the Mayan people will leave you in awe. A trip to Uxmal and its sweeping views also can’t be missed! You can even climb to the top of one of the ruins - it’s literally breathtaking!
3) Be a flamingo in a flock of pigeons
At the wildlife sanctuary at Celestun these gorgeous pink birds are the star attraction and are framed by white sand beaches and lush green mangroves!
4) Enjoy a chilled Sunday
If you are chasing a chilled Sunday activity then head into the center of Merida, hire a bike and casually ride down the main boulevard, which they close off for cars and open up to cyclists. Sunday is a big day for Mexican families and will have you feeling like a real local! Not to mention the traditional markets, food stalls and impromptu dancing that really adds to the atmosphere!
5) Swim with whale sharks
The rather odd looking and yet majestic Whale Shark is the biggest fish in the sea! Swimming with them will be one of those ‘is this a dream’ kind of moments in your life. You can do this when you visit Isla Holbox, an authentic and tranquil Caribbean island, with crystal blue waters and swaying palm trees. The best time to see Whale Sharks (which is not actually a whale at all) is between June and September!
6) Freshen up at Lake Bacalar
It may be another expanse of water but this freshwater lake is like nothing else in Mexico! The water is so clear that the bottom of this 60km long lagoon never seems further than arm’s length away. And the water appears to be so many different shades of blue that you’ll run out of colours to describe them all! There is not much more to do in Bacalar than laze around, kayak and swim - but in a setting as stunning and tranquil as this you could do that for a lifetime and be content.
What can you do in Merida in your afternoons?
Typically, as a volunteer traveller you will spend your weekday mornings giving back on your chosen project. Projects include Teaching English, Childcare, Special Needs Care, Animal Care and Sustainable Agriculture. All projects except Sustainable Agriculture are based in Merida and you will be accommodated at the volunteer house, which has a swimming pool so you can even cool off and have some fun all within a few paces of where you rest your head at night! Below you can find some exceptional ways to spend your free afternoons…
If you do choose the Sustainable Agriculture project you will be approximately 40 minutes from Merida by car, but don’t worry - this project is an adventure of its own! It’ll change how you live, think and act. If your life is in need of a recalibration - this is it. This unique volunteer opportunity will have you rolling up your sleeves and working on sustainable farming with a focus on traditional Mayan methodology.
1) Cool off at Progreso Beach
Progreso makes for the perfect afternoon seaside escape. It’s a casual beach town that boasts the longest pier in Mexico and, subsequently, a number of cruise ships. If you are in Merida during the hottest months then you will quickly fall in love with Progreso’s cool sea breeze, just don’t let your hat blow away! Being so close to Merida - about 40 minutes by car - it’s the perfect afternoon trip. So pull up, grab a Marquesita off a street vendor, stroll down the esplanade and watch the sunset.
2) Dive into the dreamy cenotes
Word on the street is that the cenotes (crystal blue swimming holes) in Homun are some of the best in the region! There are four to five different cenotes within the same area, so pack your bathers and GoPro - but be warned no camera can capture the beauty of these natural pools. You can try your Tarzan impersonation on the rope swings or just jump straight in - either way these will leave you in awe!
3) Experience color on a city level
Even if you’re not a fan of yellow, Izamal is a sight not to be missed. The entire town is painted yellow!
4) Put your dancing shoes on
Enjoy a Wednesday night out at La Mezcaleria and make the most of the free salsa classes. Mercado 60 is also an awesome place to experience a Mexican evening of live music paired with a variety of mouthwatering foods and good vibes.
So what are you waiting for?
Pack your bags and pair these incredible sights with volunteering for a truly meaningful travel experience! Read more about volunteering in Mexico here, and don’t forget, we’re here to help you every step of the way on your volunteer journey!