Parque Zoológico del Centenario | Merida Zoo
It has been a LONG time since we've been to the zoo. Not because we don't enjoy them, because we certainly do, but because they're just SO stinkin' expensive for a family of 7. So when we found out that the zoo in Merida was FREE, we decided it was going to be on our family bucket list of things to do while in the Yucatan. (The link to the zoo is all in Spanish, but still neat even if you can't read it.)
In total, our expenses for the trip were right at $30 USD or about $390 MXN pesos. This included bus fare on 3 buses, 2 taxis (we don't fit in one taxi), 2 rental strollers, a lunch/snack of empanadas, two .5 L of water bottles, a .5 liter bottle of Coke, ice cream, train ride and sky way ride. Not too shabby.
We left early to beat the heat. We arrived around 9am and there were very few people there. The collection of animals rivals most zoos we've been to. We saw tigers (lots of tigers), hippos, birds, zebras, flamingos (which are famous around here), monkeys and lots of four legged deer type animals. Oh, and turtles, alligators and horrible, disgusting snakes. I hate snakes.
The zoo was clean and there always seemed to be someone around cleaning up random litter, but there wasn't much to clean up. As we walked around, we saw only ONE other white person…a missionary living here. As we stood in line for the 1 peso per person train ride, the Pilot was struck with how much we stood out in a sea of beautiful olive skin and shiny dark haired people.
The children here are just beautiful. So many of the girls look like Dora the Explorer and I don't mean anything negative by saying that. If I wouldn't have minded being seen as a freak, I would have taken hundred of photos of these children.
It was our first real outing in the daytime to see these people and you can really see the Mayan race in some people. They have distinctive characteristics that are perfectly captured in the Mayan carvings. We found it amazing to see the differences in the local people. Tall. Super short. Very dark complexions. Very light olive skin tones. All with dark hair and eyes.
But back to the zoo…if you're planning on going, we would advise skipping the sky tram. At $5 MXN pesos per person, it paled in comparison to the train ride. Riding the train will likely involve a decent wait, but the breeze was blowing, so it was tolerable around 12:30pm.
Some fun spots we just didn't have the energy to check out include a kids bounce house type area where $20 MXN pesos can get your child about 25 minutes of exhausting jump time. There were also pony rides, pedal boats, a playground (but it didn't have much shade at all), other kiddie style rides and likely some other things we didn't see.
We spent a total of about 2.5-3 hours there, which was plenty of time, especially given the heat. The animals seemed well taken care of with the exception of a few birds that were missing a substantial amount of feathers…a cockatoo and an ostrich stand out in my memory.
I would definitely make a point to check it out if you're in Merida with children. It's fun and affordable…even with a large family.