About Chelem, Mexico. Travel: By Catherine Martin Hamm

Chelem, Mexico

Courtesy: Casa Tranquila


The easiest way to get to Chelem is to fly into Merida. If you don’t have friends already in the area, you’ll probably want to rent a car. There are three, maybe four car rental agencies in the airport at Merida. Some have the cars onsite and others will shuttle you over to the main office to pick up the car.

Chelem is located on a strip of land in between the Gulf of Mexico and the Chelem Lagoon. Chelem shares this strip of land with the villages of Yucalpeten and Chuburna. We were flying south and this photo [1] looks back to the east. In the photo, Yucalpeten would be toward the top, Chelem in the middle and Chuburna is toward the bottom of the photo.

At the very ‘top’ of the lagoon, further east, is Progreso. Progreso is a cruise ship port with what was cited on a couple of websites as the largest pier in the world. The Progreso pier is 6.5 km (4 miles) long. About two thirds of the way from the bottom of the photo you can see the pier jutting out into the Gulf. Cruise and cargo ships port at the end with the people and cargo then being transported to the mainland in taxis, buses or trucks.

Chelem is approximately a 45-minute drive from the Merida airport. During this drive you will either take a large bridge over the lagoon or several smaller ones on a road with water on either side of you.

You’ll enter Chelem on Calle 19. From Calle 19 north, toward the beach, almost all the streets (calles) are made of packed sand. This photo [2] was taken from outside the door of Casa Tranquila looking toward the beach. The Gulf is much closer than it looks in the photo, less than a three minute walk to have your feet in the water.

In Chelem you’ll find a couple of smaller stores where you can buy essentials. Grocery stores, hardware stores, panaderia (bakery) and small tiendas (shops) will get you by most of the stay. For tourists: to go shopping, you’ll need to head to Progreso.

Chelem does have a good assortment of restaurants, both for Mexican food and gringo food. Some of the Mexican restaurants I would highly recommend, in no order, are: Popular Pich (tacos and tortas for lunch), restaurant de Milagrosa, La Terracite, Ristorante Costa Azul, el Hauchinango, and el Popular Camote. Popular Pich serves lunch and I have heard they serve a later dinner but have never seen it open in the evening. The other restaurants close about the time the sun goes down, so if you want Mexican food you’ll need to either go at lunch or have an early dinner. If you’re the only American or Canadian in the restaurant, don’t worry about it. I’ve never had a problem and have been the only gringo in the place many times. I haven’t seen an English menu in any Mexican restaurant, so a little Spanish will be a good thing. I’ll do another post sometime on Mexican food in this area and teach you the few words you need to order off the menus.

Although I highly recommend the Mexican food, there are gringo restaurants. My favorites include el Bullpen, Slider’s, Lizard Joes, Rico’s Grill and Chill, and Taco Maya. Rico’s and Taco Maya are for breakfast and lunch. Bullpen is American comfort food, Lizard Joe’s is Texas BBQ, and Slider’s has those small hamburgers we all love on the menu. Try them all. If you’re in Chelem very long your stomach may need something from back home. Many of the restaurants listed can be easily located on Google Maps. When in doubt, just walk the streets of Chelem until you find a place that looks interesting and give it a try.

This article was originally published on the Facebook page for Casa Tranquila, a beautiful vacation property available for rent in Chelem, Mexico.



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