The UNESCO-listed city of Campeche is probably the most underrated destination in all of Mexico. Not many travelers make it to this colorful and historically rich city. That’s too bad because it has a lot to offer visitors. It’s got pirates, ancient Maya ruins, jade masks, old fortresses, buildings the color of Easter eggs, killer sunsets, and the best tacos in Mexico.
Plus! It’s not very crowded.
What more could you ask for in a destination?
In this blog post, I’m going to share with you 15 of the best things to do in Campeche. The list is ideal for those who love history, culture, food, beautiful architecture, and a bit of adventure.
You’ll also find loads of practical tips on getting around Campeche
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Table of Contents
- how to get to Campeche
- what to do in Campeche
- where to stay
- when to visit
- Is Campeche safe for solo travelers
- where to find ATMs
How to get to Campeche
From Merida to Campeche
To get to Campeche from Merida, you can take an ADO first-class bus for around MXN$250 (US$12). The trip takes 2.5 hours. I felt perfectly safe on the bus.
Another option is to take a second-class bus that is much slower.
The ADO Bus Station in Campeche is located outside of the walled city, so you need to take a taxi to get from there to the old city. The taxi cost me MXN$40 (from hotel to station) and MXN$50 (from station to hotel).
From Palenque to Campeche
Another common route people take is the one between Campeche and Palenque.
Before I took the bus, someone told me that this bus route wasn’t safe. I even read on the TripAdvisor forum about a robbery on a night bus between Palenque and Campeche.
I took the bus to Palenque from Campeche during the daytime.
It took only 5 hours, and the ride was pretty comfortable. I also felt completely safe.
For a bus schedule, check the ADO website.
PRO TIP: No one likes to think about insurance, but accidents do happen. I highly recommend getting travel insurance. During my travels over the past 2 years, I’ve been using SafetyWing for my insurance. They’re very affordable for all ages, and digital nomads can use their insurance long-term.
15 Things to do in Campeche
Now let’s take a look at all the things to do in Campeche. There are loads of things to do both inside the city walls as well as outside. You’ll also find loads of day trips to take to places outside the city.
1. Wander around the historic center
I’m a sucker for taking pics of colorful buildings and beautiful architecture, so in my opinion, the number one thing to do in Campeche is to get your camera out and wander around the historic center snapping photos of its many blue doors, yellow churches, and pink houses.
The best time to get that awesome photo is at dusk when the light has softened or in the middle of the day when the shadows are not hiding the pinks, blues, and greens of the city’s buildings.
My favorite street to wander down is Calle 59, a pedestrian-only street. It’s lined with lots of good places to eat.
However, just about every street in the historic center will delight photographers and architecture lovers.
For those who love architecture, make sure to visit the building that housed the former Hotel Cuauhtémoc on Calle 57. You can just walk in and wander the halls of this old gem of a building. There’s a unique view of the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception from the second floor that should not be missed.
Campeche also has some gorgeous bright yellow churches that you’ll want to discover. You’ll want to check out the church on the corner of Calle 59 and Calle 12 called El Claustro (photo above).
Check out the Ex Templo de San Jose, a former Jesuit monastery that’s been turned into an artisanal market.
2. Visit the Gates and Walls of Campeche
- OPEN: 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM
- COST: MXN$15 to visit the Puerta de Tierra and Baluarte de San Francisco; free to visit other gates and walls
- LOCATION: Google Maps
Campeche used to have a pirate problem back in the 1600s and 1700s. To remedy it, the city built fortifications around itself (1680-1710). Lucky for us travelers, the walls and forts still stand. One of the best things to do in Campeche is to walk along the ramparts for some great views of the old city below.
There are two gates to the historic center: Puerta de Tierra (Gate of the Land) and Puerta de Mar (Gate of the Sea). Both gates are located at opposite ends of Calle 59, the main pedestrian street.
Start by visiting the Puerta de Tierra (Gate of the Land), which is the gate facing the land side of Campeche. You’ll pay MXN$15 to see a canon from colonial times, visit a room with a lame exhibition on pirates (all in Spanish), and most importantly, go up on the city walls and walk along the ramparts of the Baluarte de San Francisco (The Fort of San Francisco).
You get to walk pretty far along the ramparts and get some nice views over the historic center and over the Mercado.
When you want to get down from the wall, you need to ring a bell for someone to open the door to let you out.
Later in the day when you’re on the opposite end of Calle 59, you can visit the Gate of the Sea (Puerta de Mar), which is the gate facing the ocean. Originally, the beach a few feet outside this gate, but through land reclamation projects, the shore was pushed back a few blocks.
It doesn’t cost anything to go through the Gate of the Sea. Basically, it’s just the way to exit and enter the city on your way to the promenade (Malecon)—the path along the ocean.
There is a wall along the ocean side of the historic center. You can access the top of the wall from the Museo de Arquitectura Maya. It’s free, maybe because you can’t really walk very far along the wall like you can at the Baluarte de San Francisco. But there are some nice views of the historic center (above photo).
There are other pieces of the wall around the city like Baluarte de Santa Rosa and Baluarte de San Carlos, but they were closed when I was there. Well, Santa Rosa was closed but someone had left the door open, and I snuck in and they let me go to the top for a short visit. It’s nice but not worth going out of your way to see.
How to get to the Gates and Walls:
If you’re staying within the old city walls, just use your two feet to get to them. They’re at both ends of Calle 59.
Tourist Information Center – Campeche is one of the few cities I’ve visited in Mexico with a tourist information center. The people who work there were friendly and helpful and spoke pretty good English. Pick up a free and very nice city map. They’re located next to the Puerta del Mar (Gate of the Sea). Their hours are a bit funky. Sometimes they’re closed at times when you would think they’d be open.
3. Learn about the Maya at the Museo de Arquitectura Maya
- OPEN: 9:00 AM – 2:30 PM (Tu – Su)
- COST: MXN$40 (US$2)
- LOCATION: Google Maps
The Museo de Arquitectura Maya is a pure gem! Located right inside the wall near Independence Plaza (Baluarte de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad), the museum houses an amazing collection of Maya artifacts from the Campeche ruins of Edzna, Becan, Xcalumkan, Santa Rosa Xtampak, and the mighty kingdom of Calakmul. The highlight of the museum is a stunning jade funerary mask from Structure VII at Calakmul.
Along with the mask are three rooms full of stelae and other artifacts. Luckily, for English speakers, there are detailed explanations in English of what is carved on the stela. They’ll point out things that non-archaeologists would first miss on the stela like the prisoners bound for sacrifice, snakes, human skulls, and many other symbols of Maya culture.
In my opinion, this museum is way better than the Maya section at the famous anthropology museum in Mexico City. This one in Campeche has English explanations for every artifact, while the one in Mexico City does not translate the description of the artifacts, so if you don’t speak English, you don’t know what you’re looking at. I learned way more about the Maya here than anywhere else in Mexico.
How to Get to the Museo de Arquitectura Maya
It’s easy! The museum is stuffed inside the city walls (Baluarte de a Soledad). It’s kitty-corner to the main square and if you’re facing the ocean, it’s to the right of the Puerta de Mar. You can easily walk to it.
4. Visit Plaza de La Independencia and Catedral de la Immaculada Concepcion
- OPEN: 24 hours
- COST: free
- LOCATION: Google Maps
Campeche, like all Mexican cities, has a central plaza lined with colonial buildings and a grand cathedral. Campeche’s main square is called Plaza de la Independencia or Parque Principal.
The park has got a gazebo in the center that’s been turned into a restaurant. You can find benches around the park where you can sit and have your lunch or just take a rest. There are a few vendors selling street food as well. This is also where you can catch the trolley for the city tour and where you can watch the sound-and-light show on Sundays at 8:00 pm.
Along the plaza are beautiful buildings from the colonial era. There are a few places that have been turned into museums: Centro Cultural Casa No 6 and Museo el Palacio. You’ll also find the Catedral de la Immaculada Concepcion here as well. Come in the evening to see the cathedral all lit up.
5. Watch the sound-and-light show in the Central Plaza
- START: 8:00 PM (Su)
- COST: free
- LOCATION: Google Maps
Every Sunday at 8:00 in the evening, people gather in Plaza de la Independencia (Parque Principal) to watch a colorful sound-and-light show projected on the façade of Museo de Palacio telling the history of Campeche.
Although the spectacle is only in Spanish, it’s still fun to watch the exterior of the buildings transform themselves into a dazzling display of colors and images of the Maya and their ancient pyramids, Spanish conquistadors, and their ships and forts, and Catholic friars and their churches and convents. And it’s free!
5. Visit Centro Cultural Casa No 6
- OPEN: 9:00 – 4:00 PM
- COST: MXN$20 (US$1)
- LOCATION: Google Maps
Centro Cultural Casa No 6 was the former home of some wealthy Campechan merchants. It is now a living museum that attempts to show you how people lived long ago. There’s a pretty courtyard along with three rooms that have been stuffed with some old furniture: a bedroom, living room, and kitchen.
The rooms and furniture didn’t quite gel with me. It didn’t feel like this was the original setup of the home. It’s like three rooms were chosen and some old furniture was arranged in the rooms but it didn’t seem like this was how the home would have been organized long ago. If you’ve been to the Quinta Montes Molina Mansion in Merida, Centro Cultural Casa No 6 pales in comparison.
6. Museo El Palacio (City Museum of Campeche)
- Open: 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
- Cost: free
- Location: Google Maps
Another place to only visit if you’ve got a lot of time to kill and if you really need to go somewhere with air conditioning is Museo El Palacio, a fancy name for the City Museum of Campeche. Here you can learn a bit about the history of Campeche.
Basically, the museum is filled with cardboard cutouts of the conquistadors who first settled in Campeche with explanations in Spanish and little miniature replicas of the city and forts of Campeche. There are not many explanations in English on the history of the city. The only actual artifact that you can see is a display of some old weapons. I love to learn about a city’s history, but this museum was rather disappointing. I recommend taking the trolley tour for a better introduction to the city’s history.
7. Xmuch’haltun Botanical Gardens
- OPEN: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
- COST: 15 pesos
- LOCATION: Google Maps
Surrounded by the old city walls is a tiny botanical garden called Xmuch’haltun Botanical Gardens. I think I spent a total of 5 minutes here. There are a couple of interesting trees, but the place is very small and there must have been around 1,000 mosquitoes per capita in the tiny space. If you absolutely love gardens and horticulture and have nothing and I mean nothing to do, then go for it. If not, I’d skip it.
How to get to the Botanical Garden:
How to Get to the Botanical Gardens:
It’s within the city walls about two and a half blocks from the Parque Principal. You can easily get to it by foot.
8. Try some of Campeche’s best restaurants
Probably one of the top three things to do in Campeche is to eat. Campeche’s cuisine is similar to the Yucatan’s. You’ll find cochinita pibil and panuchos on a lot of menus. But there are a few special dishes from Campeche that you should try such as pan de cazon made of shark, beans, and tortillas covered in a tomato sauce.
I recommend Choco Ha (Google Maps) for its spinach quiche and chocolate drinks (you can order hot or cold). Across from Chocol-Ha is Luan (Google Maps), a great place to go for breakfast/brunch, but with limited hours and poor service. Their chilaquiles are fantastic along with an Instagram-worthy dish of huevos con serrano.
For a late breakfast and early lunch (they close at 2:00 PM), Taqueria Arcoiris (Google Maps) is a budget-friendly and stomach-satisfying place to go for the best tacos in all of Mexico (photo above). Try the cochinita pibil and negro rellenos tacos. They put some of that pink onion in it to give it this really nice bite of acid.
For dinner, stroll down the pedestrian-only Calle 59 and grab a table outside on the street at one of the many restaurants.
La Parroquia (Google Maps) is another popular restaurant where you can try pan de cazon. I had one good meal and one bad one here.
9. Visit Fuerte del San Miguel and Museo Arqueológico de Campeche
- OPEN: 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM (Tu – Su)
- COST: MXN$60 (US$3)
- LOCATION: Google Maps
If you look at where Fuerte del San Miguel is on a map, you might think that it’s too much of a hassle getting there and wonder if it’s really worth it. Not to worry. It’s not that difficult and it’s absolutely worth your time. The museum is just as good as the Museo de Arquitectura Maya.
You get two destinations for the price of one at Fuerte del San Miguel.
First of all, it’s a fort with views of the ocean and a really cool windy entrance.
Second, you get an informative and fascinating archaeological museum with an extensive collection of Maya artifacts.
The fort was smaller than I expected. Of the hour and forty-five minutes I spent at the structure, I spent 20 minutes walking around the fort (only because I took tons of photos) and the rest at the museum. You could probably do it in ten minutes.
The museum, on the other hand, has a lot to see! There are eight rooms filled with artifacts from the different Maya ruins around Campeche including five jade masks from Calakmul and grave artifacts from one of the greatest snake kings of Calakmul, Yuknoon Yich’aak K’ahk (Fire Claw).
The other thing that I loved about this museum is the detailed and fascinating explanations of Maya culture and civilization in English. You can find out what the Mayas wore, how they transformed their bodies to become beautiful, how they were buried, and how their society was structured.
How to get to Fuerte Del San Miguel and Museo Arqueológico de Campeche:
Getting to Fuerte Del San Miguel by public transportation is REALLY easy and safe! I took a colectivo (white and red van) heading to “Lerma” (look for the words on the front of the white van) from the bus stop across the street from the Campeche Mercado (Google Maps). It cost me MXN$7 (less than 50 cents). The driver had me sit in the front seat so he could easily tell me where to get off. It took ten minutes to get to where the van dropped me off (Google Maps). Then I crossed a not very busy street.
After that, I walked for seven minutes on a sidewalk up a hill to the fort. Very safe!
How to get back to Historic Centre from Fuerte Del San Miguel:
To get back, I walked back down the hill to a bus stop that’s at the end of the sidewalk and on the same side of the street. After waiting for less than five minutes, I got on a bus going to “Centro” and “Mercado” for another MXN$7. I got off the bus when I saw the old city walls on Avenue Cto Baluartes.
You can also get on a colectivo (a white and red van) going back to Centro or Mercado.
10. Take a trolley tour of Campeche
- OPEN: day and evening tours
- COST: MXN$100 (US$5)
- LOCATION: Google Maps
You might think taking a trolley tour is kind of a cheesy thing to do. Actually, it turned out to be one of the best things I did in Campeche and should not be skipped. It’s your chance to get outside the walled city—to the colorful and historic neighborhoods that most guidebooks skip. Plus! Since the tour is in both Spanish AND English, you’ll get to learn about the colonial history of the city.
After making a circuit of the square, the trolley leaves the historic center walls and travels to the colorful Barrio de Guadalupe, the former neighborhood of Campeche’s artisans and wealthy citizens. You’ll next visit the oldest neighborhood of the city, Barrio San Francisco followed by a drive along the Malecon (promenade). One side is lined with big box stores from the United States and the other the ocean. Finally, the trolley takes you to the former working-class neighborhood of Campeche’s sailors, San Ramon.
How to find the trolley tour:
You can pay for and board the trolley on Calle 10 at the Parque Principal. Because I was one person, the person selling me the ticket had to ask the driver if it was ok for a solo traveler to take the tour. Weird, don’t you think? But since the tour was only half full, it was fine. There seemed to be no set schedule. I did see trolleys leaving and making their way around the city until late into the evening.
11. Watch the sunset over the ocean at Malecon
- OPEN: depends on the season
- COST: free
- LOCATION: Google Maps
One of the best things to do in Campeche in the evening is to hop on down to Malecon (promenade) right before the sun sets and join the locals to watch as the sun dips below the horizon. But don’t walk away right after the sun disappears because the post-sunset was the highlight for me every time I was there (photo below).
The ideal place to see the sun set is at the thin and tall sculpture topped with an angel (Maya angel) and the letters that spell out Campeche (photo above).
The Malecon is very safe even after dark. It’s filled with families, joggers, and police officers.
How to get to the Malecon:
From the historic center, walk out the Puerta de Mar gate and keep on walking toward the thin and tall statue topped with an angel. You’ll have to cross a busy two-lane street, but not to worry, cars stop for pedestrians in Campeche. It should take you 10 minutes.
12. Watch the Poetry of the Sea Sound and Water Show
- START: 8:00 PM (M, W, Th, F, Sa, and Su)
- COSt: free
- LOCATION: Google Maps
After you’re done watching the sun set over the ocean, grab a chocolate or Nutella marquesita from one of the many mobile vendors that ply the Malecon and head to the sound and water show that is also along the boardwalk. It’s at a place called Fuentes Marinas Poesia del Mar (The Poetry of the Sea Sound and Water Show).
The water show reminds me of the one at the Belagio Hotel in Las Vegas. You get to watch the colored fountains as they dancs to the rhythm of English pop songs. It’s free and it’s something to do while you eat your pre-dinner snack of marquesitas. The show lasts around 30 minutes.
I felt safe walking along the Malecon at night. You’ll see lots of locals out having fun as well as police patrolling the boardwalk.
How to get to the Sea Sound and Light Show:
It’s less than a five-minute walk from the Maya Angel Statue along the Malecon and within walking distance from the Puerta de Mar (Sea Gate).
13. Visit the Ruins of Edzna
- OPEN: 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
- COST: $65 pesos (June 2021)
- LOCATION: Google Maps
Just an hour’s colectivo ride (white and red van) from Campeche, the ruins of Edzna make for an excellent half-day excursion. However, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to wear long pants and bring enough insect repellant to smother yourself ten times over. I’ve never experienced so many mosquitoes before in my life. And I’m from Minnesota!
Edzna may not be as famous as Chichen Itza or Palenque, but it’s got some beautifully designed structures and stelae. Also, you’ll probably be only one of a handful of tourists in the whole park during your visit. Look at that above photo! That’s from my trip to Edzna. No one else around!
The highlight of Edzna is the uniquely-designed Temple of the Five Storeys, a 22-room temple sitting on top of an Acropolis overlooking a huge plaza. Don’t miss the Temple of Masks with its two reliefs of the Sun God. There’s also an interesting small museum before you enter the grounds with some detailed stela of Maya kings.
Go in the morning because the ruins close early and the last colectivo back to Campeche is at 2:00ish.
How to get to Edzna from Campeche:
I took a colectivo (white and red van) from Calle Nicaragua (Google Maps) at 8:00 AM. The cross street is Calle Chihuahua. It’s behind Campeche Mercado. It’s less than a five-minute walk from the Puerta de Tierra Gate (An eight-minute walk from my hotel). Look for the colectivos that say “Valle de Edzna” and “Bonfil Campeche” on them. The vans are white and red. Calle Nicaragua is the starting and ending points for the colectivo. The colectivo left with only four passengers (usually they don’t leave until full). It cost MXN$45 (US$2.25) and took one hour to get to Edzna. The van dropped me off at the entrance to the ruins.
When do you pay the driver? – Sometimes you pay when you get on, but other times you pay when you get off.
Another option is to go out to the ruins with a tour group like Kankabi’Ok Tours in Campeche. They do the visit to Edzna with a visit to a beach that’s a bit hard to get to without your own wheels.
How to get back to Campeche from Edzna:
I didn’t need to walk back out to the road to catch the colectivo. It drove right up to the entrance to the ruins. However, I’m not sure if all colectivo drivers will do that. The last colectivo comes at around 2:00 PM. Double check with the driver on times.
14. Visit the Ancient Ruins of Calakmul
- COST OF TOUR: MXN$1,650 (US$83) for transportation + MXN$230 (US$11.50) entrance fees OR MXN$2,750 (US$138) for transportation, guided tour, and entrance fees.
- LOCATION OF THE KANKABI’OK TOUR COMPANY: Google Maps
- CONTACT INFO: Kankabi’Ok Website
- LOCATION OF CALAKMUL: Google Maps
Probably the best thing I did in Campeche was to travel all the way to the border of Guatemala and visit the ancient ruins of the Snake Kingdom of Calakmul—one of the most powerful Maya kingdoms. If the Maya world had a superpower, Calakmul would probably be it (the other one being Tikal).
These ruins are amazing. They’re located smack dab in the middle of a rarely-visited jungle that is filled with howler monkeys, spider monkeys, jaguars, pumas, snakes, and wild turkeys. Do not leave Mexico without hearing the sounds of howler monkeys! Supposedly, the creators of Jurassic Park used the sounds of these monkeys for the sounds of the dinosaurs in the movie.
Along with monkeys and jaguars, Calakmul has the tallest pyramid in Mesoamerica. You can actually climb to the top of it as well, which makes for stunning views of the jungle.
How to get to Calakmul from Campeche:
Visiting these ruins is not easy. They’re not accessible by public transportation. To get to them, you have three choices:
- Rent a car,
- Travel to Xpujil (there are no direct buses from Campeche or Merida to Xpujil, so it will take several hours) and join a tour or hire a taxi in Xpujil
- Join a tour leaving from Campeche
I tried to do the second option, but it didn’t work out, so I ended up visiting Calakmul by joining a tour through Kankabi’Ok in Campeche, right across the street from Parque Principal. I highly recommend them! The staff speaks English and they are very professional.
They picked me up at my hotel at 4:30 AM and we returned to Campeche at 8:51 PM. My only complaint is that we did not get to see all of the ruins because time was limited. I suppose if you’re coming from Xpujil, then you’ll get more time to spend at the ruins.
15. Enjoy the sun, sand, and surf at Playa Bonita or Bahia de Tortugas
If you’re looking for a beach in Campeche, the closest one is Playa Bonita (Google Maps). Located about 15 kilometers from the historic center, Playa Bonita supposedly has nice, clean, calm waters with some white sandy beaches. You need to pay to access the beach. It was closed due to the pandemic when I was in Campeche so I can’t confirm the information. You can read reviews and see photos on Google Maps.
Another option is to travel a bit further away to Bahia de Tortugas (Google Maps). I didn’t get to this place, but I met two guys from Mexico City on my Calakmul tour who did visit Bahia de Tortugas on a tour with Kankabi’Ok and they raved about how clean and calm the ocean was (“like your bathtub,” they said).
You can see photos and reviews on Google Maps. I couldn’t find any information online on how to get to Bahia de Tortugas via public transportation, but you can visit it through a tour combined with a trip to the ruins of Edzna with Kankabi’Ok. They’re located on the plaza right next to Centro Cultural Casa No. 6.
Where to stay in Campeche?
I stayed at Balamku Hotel (Booking.com | Agoda) on Calle 57 in the historic center. This was one of my top 3 favorite hotels in Mexico. Very nicely priced, comfortable and clean rooms (cleaned daily), reliable and fast WiFi, and a friendly and helpful staff. I had no problems teaching my Zoom classes on the hotel’s internet.
When to visit Campeche
I was in Campeche in June and it was uncomfortably hot and humid. It was in the high 90s every day.
The chart below says that there are 11 days of rain in June. But during my ten days in Campeche, it ONLY rained in the evening or at night. It NEVER rained during the day.
Is Campeche safe for solo female travelers?
I can only tell you my experience, but overall, I felt incredibly safe in Campeche walking around alone during the day and at night within the walled city and along the promenade. Sometimes I found myself walking alone from a restaurant to my hotel (a few blocks away) at around 9:00 PM and I felt fine.
I felt safe taking public transportation by myself outside the city walls to different parts of the city and to the ruins outside Campeche.
The only place I felt I needed to be more careful was around the Central Mercado as it was busy and crowded.
Where can I find ATMs in Campeche
I used the ATM at the HSBC bank on Calle 10 in the historic center.
Four days if you’re doing Calakmul, which I highly recommend. It’ll be an unforgettable experience!
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Looking for more travel info on Mexico?
- You can find lots of fun things to do in Merida in my list of 23 things to do in Merida
- Looking for things to do in the Yucatan? Here is a list of 15 day trips that you can take from Merida! Includes detailed instructions on how to get to each place by public transportation–tried and tested!
- Here’s a detailed guide on how to visit some of the best cenotes in the Yucatan.