Kikil Yucatan and Cenote Kikil: Off-the-Beaten-Path Yucatan

The charming little village of Kikil Yucatan is a place that most travellers have never even heard of. It isn’t a tourist destination per se, but the little settlement is a very worthy stopping point if you find yourself driving through the eastern part of the Yucatan state, perhaps on your way to Las Coloradas or El Cuyo. 

Kikil is said to take its name from the Mayan word “kik” which means “rubber plant”. Kikil then means “place of the rubber” – a nod to some of the vegetation found in the area. Despite its tiny size, there is enough to see and do in Kikil to keep you occupied for a full afternoon. 

Here you will find the sunbleached remnants of an old abandoned convent, a gorgeous cenote encompassed by the jungle, and several ramshackle eateries that specialise in both comida Yucateca and birria – a type of meat stew that is most commonly enjoyed by rancheros and cowboys in Jalisco and Northern Mexico. 

I live in the Yucatan (in the city of Merida) and have visited Kikil several times. In this post, I will share tips and advice that help you make the most of your time in this little off-the-beaten-path spot.

Me in front of the San Francisco church, Kikil Yucatan
Me in front of the San Francisco church, Kikil Yucatan

Visiting Kikil Yucatan 

Kikil Yucatan is home to a population of just 200 people. It is a nice place to stop by on a wider Yucatan road trip as it provides an authentic glimpse into what life is like in the Mexican Yucatan and it is not somewhere that has been polished up for or gentrified by tourists. 

The main reason that anyone ever stops here is to swim in the crystal-clear waters of the gorgeous cenote Kikil. (Not to be confused with cenote Ik Kil – one of the most popular cenotes in the Yucatan that is located close to Chichen Itza). 

The centre of town is flanked by the old Ex-Convento Franciscano de Kikil and many little tiendas (stores), street food vendors and restaurants have opened up shop around the old convent. Obscurely, there is almost always a local man standing in the centre of the square beside a docile bull that he has saddled up.

For a couple of pesos, he allows people to take photos beside the bull or to climb aboard the saddle and have selfies at the top. The safety and ethics of this are debatable but Mexican children seem to love it and at weekends, you will see queues of people waiting in line for a turn on the bull! 

Ex Convento Franciscano de Kikil
Ex Convento Franciscano de Kikil

Highlights of Kikil Yucatan

The abandoned Ex-Convento Franciscano de Kikil is the main focal point in the centre of town. It possesses a sort of eerie beauty, despite falling into disrepair, although it also hides a dark past which many people are not aware of.

Despite the convents current state, it is not difficult to envisage what this grand building looked like in its heyday when it was occupied by hundreds of nuns of the Franciscan order.

The convent was initially founded in 1576, and, quite controversially, it was built using stones and other building materials taken from the destruction of Mayan cities and temples. (Although that was quite common practice by the Spanish conquistadors at that time, and most churches across the region were built in the same way.)

A huge church dedicated to San Roman followed shortly thereafter in 1586. The two religious buildings thrived for centuries, until the Yucatan caste war (1847-1901) saw Maya “rebels” destroy them in their fight against the Spanish colonisers.

The convent was in a hazardous and overgrown state for many years until a recent clean-up initiative. Today, you can explore the site.

Admission is 20 pesos per person. There is a very limited amount of information about the convent online and no information inside. A small museum inside contains large stone bells and a number of religious objects recovered from the area. 

Adjacent to the convent, you will see a gorgeous colourful little blue and yellow catholic church dedicated to San Francisco. Its doors are usually locked, but in the past, locals have hosted religious ceremonies and processions here. 

Eating at the tented restaurant of Domingo Chochinita in Kikil, Yucatan
Eating at the tented restaurant of Domingo Chochinita in Kikil, Yucatan

Dining in Kikil Yucatan

There are only four restaurant options in Kikil but the food choices they serve are tasty and affordable. The restaurant in front of Cenote Kikil serves traditional Yucatecan fare and can be a convenient choice if you are visiting the cenote.

Desayunos Y Comida Ana Karla En Kikil sits close to the former hacienda and serves Mexican breakfast dishes from 6 a.m. until 4 p.m. daily. Think chilaquiles, huevos motulenos (eggs on tortillas with black beans, peas, ham, and cheese), etc.

Arguably the very best place to eat here is the tented restaurant of Ana Carla Kikil Barbacoa, right opposite the abandoned convent. This eatery specialises in birria – a slow-cooked Mexican soup dish that originates from Guadalajara and the state of Jalisco.

Birria is usually prepared using sheep or goat meat but here, they make the dish with beef. It is not common to find birria in the Yucatan.

You mostly find it in the northern part of Mexico but many people from Kikil and the surrounding areas are ranchers so this is a great opportunity to try something that you might not have a lot of chance to try again in this region.

Tucking into birria
Tucking into birria

To create the dish, the meat is marinated with guajillo, ancho, and chipotle peppers, as well as a blend of spices including garlic, cumin, cloves, thyme, oregano, and marjoram. It is then slow-cooked until tender and juicy.

When served, you will be given a portion of onions and cilantro to sprinkle on the dish, as well as a range of hot sauces and limes for squeezing. Wash it all down with an ice-cold horchata.

Exploring the old Franciscan convent in Kikil
Exploring the old Franciscan convent in Kikil

Visiting Cenote Kikil 

Cenote Kikil is a gorgeous open cenote with clear, turquoise waters that are framed by lush, tropical foliage.

There are more than 7,000 cenotes in the Yucatan. These are sinkholes that were created when the Chicxulub meteor crashed into the earth some 65 million years ago.

(Yes, that same meteor that wiped out the dinosarus). Cenote Kikil is arguably one of the best cenotes in the state. It could certainly give some of the better-known Homun cenotes a run for their money and it sees a fraction of the crowds of “Instagrammable” spots like Cenote Suytan and the Gran Cenote in Tulum.

The village’s remote location and the fact that few people are aware of the off-the-beaten-path settlement of Kikil means that the cenote is never crowded. As long as you avoid Sundays, when locals have the day off work and come for a refreshing swim, you will probably find that you have it all to yourself.

That is, bar the occasional iguana or motmot that lives in the nearby trees. 

Entrance to the cenote is 40 pesos ($2) for Mexican nationals and 100 pesos ($5) for foreign visitors. Life jackets are mandatory in the water and can be rented for free. 

Final thoughts on visiting Kikil Yucatan

Have you stopped by Kikil Yucatan during your time in Southern Mexico? Are you planning to? Kikil’s location just 5 kilometers north of Tizimin and makes it 

This is one of the best places to visit in the Yucatan, particularly if you are already headed to El Cuyo or Rio Lagartos. It makes a very worthy addition to any Yucatan road trip.

If you are visiting the Yucatan peninsula for the first time, you may also enjoy reading this article on the best time to visit the Yucatan or this post on safety in the Yucatan.

As I mentioned, I live here and have been in Merida for the last couple of years so if you have any further questions or queries, you are more than welcome to reach out to me. Have a wonderful time exploring Mexico!

Buen Viaje! Melissa Xo

Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer based in Merida, Mexico and the Editor-in-Chief of Mexico Travel Secrets. She has over seven years worth of experience in working in travel media and has travelled to 57 countries, mostly solo. Throughout her career, Melissa has produced written content for several high-profile publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, the Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and Matador Network.

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