Sisal Yucatan is one of four Pueblos Magicos in the Yucatan state of Mexico. It is a charming fishing village and port town located in the northwestern part of the peninsula.
Despite being frequently overlooked in favor of more popular Mexican coastal destinations, Sisal Yucatan is a pleasant place to spend a day or two at the beach. The town’s location makes it the perfect spot for enjoying some of the best sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico.
There are four towns in the Yucatan that have been designated as Pueblos Magicos. Mexican Pueblos Magicos are towns that have been recognized by the secretary of tourism for having particularly spectacular natural beauty, history, culture, or gastronomy.
Sisal was the newest of the Yucatan Pueblos Magicos to receive this recognition. It was awarded this title relatively recently in December 2020.
Not all locals are thrilled about this. This accolade has brought more tourists to the region and a once secluded beach is often bustling with tourists.
However, the word was bound to get out eventually. Sisal is one of the best places to visit in the Yucatan and it boasts one of the most gorgeous Yucatecan beaches.
At the very least, Sisal’s Pueblo Magico status is likely to bring an increase in tourist dollars to the region, and offer a boost to the local economy. Beauty aside, there is a lot of history behind this part of the region too.
A Brief History of Sisal
Sisal was designated as a port on February 13, 1810, by the Spanish government. It quickly developed into the main port for the Yucatan capital of Merida, just 32 miles away.
During the days of the henequen boom and the thriving Yucatan haciendas, Sisal became a very important port for sea trade. Many Europeans and Americans docked their boats here and were welcomed into the region to tour fascinating Mayan ruins and historical sites.
Today, Progreso has replaced Sisal as Merida’s main port. Tourism aside, a lot of locals in the Sisal area still work within the fishing industries.
Best Things to do in Sisal
Make a Stop in Hunucmá
When traveling to Sisal Yucatan, whether you are traveling in from Merida, from Celestun, or from elsewhere, you are likely to pass through the town of Hunucmá. The name Hunucmá is of Ancient Mayan origin and it means ¨only answered¨.
Although Hunucma is not a tourist destination in itself, you may be surprised just how charming this town is. Indeed the zocalo (town square) here is one of the most beautiful in the Yucatan.
It is always teeming with life and provides a great opportunity for people-watching. Here, you will see young couples strolling through the park, friends eating street food on the ¨you and me¨ chairs, and local street vendors selling everything from elotes to churros and marquesitas.
Don’t hesitate to meander down the side streets that veer off from the zocalo. Hunucmá is a very safe place and there is an abundance of charming stores scattered throughout its back streets.
Many sell beach floaties, buckets and spades, and other equipment that will come in handy for a beach day in Sisal Yucatan. One place in particular to look out for is Moises Poot (Calle 26 152 Esquina con Calle 21, Centro).
Moises Poot has become something of a symbol of the Yucatan in recent years. After years of struggling to find work to support his family, he decided to open his own shoe store.
Poot produces stylish shoes for all ages and genders made using the henequen thread that the Yucatan became best known for in the 18th and 19th centuries. The gorgeous artisanal products handmade at his workshop are unlike anything you will find elsewhere.
Dining in Hunucma
There is an abundance of restaurants centered around Hunucma square. They mostly specialize in Yucatecan delicacies and barbequed meats.
It is actually better to eat here rather than at the select handful of eateries in Sisal Yucatan which are mostly tourist traps. Cocina Dña. Guinelia, Los Sopes, and Restaurant El Nuevo Hunucma all come highly recommended.
Look Out for Flamingos
It is not uncommon to see flocks of gorgeous, bright pink American flamingos flying overhead in Sisal Yucatan. This is particularly true if you happen to be passing by during the peak season (November to April).
Approximately 35,000 flamingos reside in Celestun during this time and it is possible to take a boat tour out to see them at the Ría Celestún biosphere reserve. However, the flamingos also love to stretch their wings and fly over the nearby beach towns – including Sisal Yucatan.
From April, they start migrating East towards Rio Lagartos and Las Coloradas. Fun fact: did you know that flamingos are born white and they eventually turn pink as a result of all of the red brine shrimp that they eat?
Enjoy a Day at the Beach
The long stretch of pristine coastline at Sisal is the raison d’être to visit this little town and one of the main reasons that the area was awarded a Pueblo Magico status. In Sisal Yucatan, you will quickly learn that you don’t have to venture out to the Caribbean to find paradisical beaches.
The beach here boasts calm, translucent azure waters perfect for swimming in as well as soft, powdery-white sand that extends for miles as far as the eye can see. You can rent palapas for the day for just a couple of pesos so that you have some shade and protection from the sun.
Similarly, many of the bars and restaurants along the Malecon let you rent a sunbed and an umbrella for the day provided that you spend a certain small amount at their establishment. Alternatively, just bring your own towel/beach tent and relax anywhere you like upon the golden sand.
Since Sisal became a Pueblo Magico, more and more travelers to the Yucatan are becoming aware of its existence and making the journey there. Fortunately, unlike Progreso, cruise ships do not dock at Sisal Yucatan so the area is never massively overcrowded.
However, the beach does get pretty crowded at weekends. So, if you can, try and plan your Yucatan itinerary so that you can visit Sisal Yucatan on a weekday. That way, you will avoid the crowds and may even be able to get a stretch of the coastline to yourself.
Stop for Lunch in Sisal
There are just a small handful of restaurants in Sisal. In all honesty, most of the seafront restaurants here cater predominantly to tourists.
They are far from the best places to try traditional Yucatecan food. However, if you are hungry and prefer not to wait until you get back to Hunucma or some of the restaurants in Merida to eat, you will still be able to find something you like.
Restaurante Muelle de Sisal and La Juanita and K´Luum serve popular dishes like arrachera tacos and chicken fajitas. You will also find that their menus offer a lot of seafood dishes prepared with fresh fish caught earlier that same day.
If you want to try a unique dish from this region, order a serving of Tikin Xic (pronounced teekeen sheek). This is a fish dish that is prepared in MesoAmerican style.
The fish is prepared whole and then marinated with adobo de achiote and sour oranges. You will note that this marinade is used to prepare a lot of local favorite foods, including the beloved pollo pibil and cochinita pibil. The fish is then wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked in an earth oven beneath a wood fire.
Sample Yucatecan Street Food
If you don’t find yourself blown away by the dining options in Sisal, you can always grab a light snack to tide you over. On Calle 15, just a short distance from the Malecon, you will always find a selection of tented stalls.
It is mostly Yucatecans that eat here, making for a real local experience. Most of the dishes are seafood-based.
You can order up some pescado frito, blato botanero, enpanisado de pescado or some homemade ceviche. Wash it all down with some creamy homemade horchata.
If you are not a seafood fan, you can stick to the stalls along the Malecon. Esquites and elotes are found in abundance here: corn on the cob grilled to perfection and then slathered in mayo, chili powder, and a spritz of fresh lemon juice.
Sweet tooths will love all of the stalls selling churros dipped in chocolate sauce and marquesitas. Marquesitas are a Yucatecan snack.
To make them, crepes are made on a hot griddle, stuffed with a filling of your choice, and then rolled up like a taco. Nutella, chocolate sauce and queso de bola (Edam cheese) are all popular fillings.
Search for Street Art
Since Sisal was recognized as a Pueblo Magico in December 2020, a few new murals and beautification initiatives popped up around the town. You cannot leave without getting a photo in front of the giant, colorful ¨SISAL¨ letters that exist in virtually every tourist town and city in Mexico.
Some of the photo opportunities here are a little cringe and have been created specifically for Instagram. For instance, a giant photo frame with ¨SISAL¨ at the top, and a Sisal swing right on the sand.
However, there are some interesting murals to be found on the streets that veer off from the Malecon. Keep your eyes peeled for them.
You will find several gorgeous murals of indigenous peoples and ancient Mayans. Look out for a gorgeous piece of a woman and a flamingo on the side of Casa Balam Hostel as created by female Mexican Muralist Iris Broca.
Take a Tour of the Mangroves
Sisal is surrounded by lush, dense jungles and a spectacular mangrove forest. It is perhaps only a matter of time until the town develops into a booming ecotourism destination.
At present, there are a few small local companies that offer tours from Sisal beach to the mangroves. Be sure to pack your camera.
Your tour will take you out to the protected “Reserva Estatal de Sisal.¨ You will sail out across the water on a “chalana” – a handcrafted, non-motorized boat powered by hand.
An abundance of sea birds, flora, and fauna can be found here. You may even have the opportunity to see some of the resident crocodiles that live in the lagoons.
Many of the birds that can be seen here are native to this part of Mexico. Mangrove tours enable you to see the various species that live in this region while maintaining a respectful distance from their habitats.
Have you traveled to Sisal Yucatan? What did you think?
How would you say it compares to other coastal towns in the area such as El Cuyo or Celestun? Have a wonderful time in Mexico!
Hasta Luego! Xo