A Wheelchair User’s Guide to Merida, Mexico
Did you know that Merida is the capital of the Yucatán? If you thought it was Cancun, you’re forgiven—it’s the city most people think about when they hear the words “Yucatán Peninsula.”
Here’s something else you may not know—according to a study run in 2019, Merida is one of the safest cities in the world. In fact, it’s the second safest city in all of North and South America combined. What’s the number one safest city in the Americas, you wonder?
So, if you encounter hesitations from family and friends about safety in Merida, go ahead and let them know that Mexico ranks before the United States for having the safest city (Salt Lake City, Utah is the first American city on that list, by the way. It ranks at #53 safest in the world.)
Now that you’re equipped with some stats, let’s move on to why you’re here—learning about wheelchair accessibility in Merida.
I spent a month in Merida and kept an eye out for accessibility during that time. I’ll share my thoughts with the hope that it’ll make your trip planning easier.
Note: The information here is based on my observation as a non-wheelchair user. If you have firsthand experience as a wheelchair user in Merida, please let me know about your time there and your recommendations in the comments section. I appreciate it and know that our future readers will, too!
General Accessibility in Merida
Merida looks like a small city on a map, but it feels bigger in person because of its city sprawl. For tourism purposes, you’ll want to spend most of your time in the historical center.
However, if you venture outside of the historical center, you’ll encounter excellent accessibility in northern Merida. This is a more modern area, so there’s a good amount of accessible parking, ramps leading to buildings, etc.
That said, you can get around a portion of Merida’s historical center by wheelchair. The sidewalks immediately surrounding Plaza Grande are wide, and most intersections have drop curbs that come down either all the way or close enough to make them manageable.
Merida is a flat city, so manual wheelchair users don’t have to worry about tackling hills.
Generally speaking, the further you venture away from Plaza Grande, the narrower the sidewalks become and the greater chance you’ll encounter objects obstructing the path. Nevertheless, there are a couple of notable exceptions, which I’ll share with you in the “Accessible Things to Do” section.
I recommend renting a car so you have maximum flexibility for getting around Merida.
That said, accessible parking is difficult to come by in downtown. Therefore, a wonderful option is to take the “Circuito Enlace” van which is free for wheelchair users.
Below is a sign showing the route this van takes:
The van operates on the following schedule:
Monday – Friday: 8:00 am – 8:00 pm
Saturday: 8:00 am – 2:00 pm
Sunday: Doesn’t operate
As mentioned earlier, there’s no cost to use this accessible public transportation—just wait at the designated spots as shown on the map and flag down a yellow van marked with a wheelchair logo on its window when it approaches.
That said, since there’s limited space in the vehicle, the effectiveness of this transportation depends on how many people are using it.
Accessible Restaurants in Merida
I’d estimate that at least 80% of buildings in the historical center of Merida have some kind of step to get into. Some of those steps are manageable for many wheelchair users, as shown in the photo above. Other steps, though, are higher and steeper.
Nevertheless, you can find many accessible restaurants around Plaza Grande and Parque de Santa Lucía. Many of these restaurants offer indoor and outdoor seating, although because of the old style of the buildings, you’ll usually have more room if you choose outdoor seating.
Accessible parking is extremely difficult in the historical center of Merida. In fact, it’s so difficult that I recommend having someone drop you off and pick you up in Plaza Grande, where the driver can pull off on a wide shoulder.
However, if you drive outside of the historical center, you’ll have access to far more accessible parking spots—nearly all formal parking lots in Merida have accessible parking spaces.
Accessible Restrooms in Merida
Restrooms are unfortunately another challenge to being a wheelchair user in downtown Merida. I didn’t come across any accessible public restrooms during my stay in the historical center (although that doesn’t mean there aren’t any—please let me know in the comments section if you find one).
If you visit the northern part of Merida, you’ll encounter accessible restrooms in places like Gran Plaza and Galerias Merida.
The good news is that you’ll have your picking of accessible hotels in Merida with ADA complying restrooms. The following are some hotel chains you have to choose from:
- Hilton Garden Inn
- Hampton Inn by Hilton
- Holiday Inn Express
- Residence Inn by Marriott
Wheelchair Accessible Things to do in Merida
Now let’s move on to the fun part—the accessible things you can do in Merida! Although Merida is an old city, it offers enough accessible points of interest to fill a day or two of exploration.
1. Plaza Grande
If there’s only one place you see in Merida, make it Plaza Grande.
This plaza sits in the heart of the historical center. It takes up the space of an entire block, and vendors line its perimeter selling souvenirs and Mexican street food snacks.
I won’t beat around the bush here—this is nothing like the plaza in Mexico City, if you’ve already been there (if not, make sure to check out our Mexico City Accessibility Guide). However, it is beautiful in its own right, especially if this is one of your first visits to a Mexican plaza.
There are multiple accessible entrances around Plaza Grande’s perimeter, and the paths that criss-cross this plaza are wide and flat. At night, it’s common to encounter cultural shows.
2. Parque de Santa Lucía
Most destinations have a colorful sign boasting their name as the must-have tourist photo. But in Merida, the gigantic chairs are the place where these photo ops happen.
So, make sure to head to Parque de Santa Lucía, which is only a few blocks from Plaza Grande. Personally, I enjoyed Parque de Santa Lucía more than Plaza Grande, not just because of its ginormous chairs but because it has a quieter, quaint feel to it.
While you’re in Parque de Santa Lucía, consider grabbing a meal at one of the restaurants surrounding its perimeter. These restaurants are on the pricey side for Merida, but they’re accessible, the food is delicious, and the views are beautiful.
3. Paseo de Montejo
There’s perhaps no better wheelchair accessible part of Merida than Paseo de Montejo, and it just so happens that this walkway is one of Merida’s biggest tourist attractions.
At over 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) long, there are a lot of exploring options to be had there.
A beautiful, wide sidewalk will take you by mansion after mansion. And, if you get hungry along the way, you can head into the restaurants and cafes scattered along the boulevard.
The designers built Paseo de Montejo with wheelchair users in mind, as each intersection has a well-marked drop curb.
This pathway connects the historical center with the northern part of Merida. So, the farther north you wander, the better accessibility you can expect the shops and restaurants to have.
4. Santa Ana Park
Santa Ana Park sits at the base of where Paseo de Montejo begins in the historical center.
Therefore, if you plan on beginning your Paseo de Montejo journey from downtown, I recommend taking a little side visit to Santa Ana Park.
The park itself is small, but there are ramps throughout leading to its different levels, making it easy for wheelchair users to explore the sculptures, trees, and views.
Unfortunately, the church that sits beside Santa Ana Park isn’t accessible, but you can view a portion of it from the outside (as seen in the photo above).
5. Hidalgo Park
Hidalgo Park is located in the heart of downtown, just over a block away from Plaza Grande.
It’s surrounded by arguably the most beautiful buildings in Merida, and the monument in its center makes for some nice photos.
A couple of restaurants with accessible outdoor seating sit towards the back of this plaza, and there’s a Starbucks there if you need a coffee fix.
6. Explore Calle 59
You won’t hear many people preaching to take a trip down Calle 59, but I think that’s a shame. I was lucky enough to discover this street because it was the street I walked to get to and from downtown and my apartment.
What makes Calle 59 so special is that it’s packed with colorful buildings, beautiful balconies, and drool-worthy architecture—without the crowds.
The sidewalks on Calle 59 are among the widest I encountered in Merida, so you can take your time admiring the scenery without people congregating behind you.
As if it couldn’t get any better, there’s not a ton of traffic on Calle 59, especially as you get closer to the Parque Zoológico del Centenario.
Speaking of which, the zoo offers good accessibility if you happen to wander that far.
7. Eulogio Rosado Park
Once you head away from Plaza Grande, you’ll be met with a chaotic, open market-like experience. Vendors swarm the streets trying to get people in their stores, loud music pierces the air, and you’ll get whiffs of (delicious smelling) street food.
Needless to say, between the crowds and narrower sidewalks, it makes it more challenging for wheelchair users to access this area.
However, Eulogio Rosado Park offers a respite from all of that. This wide pedestrian walkway jutting off from a small park offers you the chance to observe market-like activities without having to be in the heart of it.
If you’re visiting Eulogio Rosado Park during the day, I recommend having someone drop you off there. Otherwise, you can wander over there in the morning from Plaza Grande before the biggest crowds arrive—anytime before 10:00 am should be good.
8. Museum of Contemporary Art (MACAY)
MACAY is a free museum that offers rotating displays of artwork. It’s located right across the street from Plaza Grande, beside the cathedral.
The museum serves as a kind of internal pedestrian boulevard, connecting Plaza Grande with the more chaotic streets that I talked about above.
You’ll have plenty of room to get up close to the artwork and enjoy its design. During the few times I passed through there, I never encountered many people, so it’s a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
9. El Jesús Church
The El Jesús Church (also called the Rectory Jesus, Third Order), sits near Hidalgo Park.
Unfortunately, the church itself isn’t accessible due to its stair entrance. However, it has a large plaza in front of it, offering the chance to enjoy its architecture from the outside. You’ll also have a great view of the colorful buildings across the street from El Jesús.
10. Day Trips
Thanks to its location in the center of the Yucatan Peninsula, Merida is an excellent place to base yourself for day trips.
Some popular accessible day trips from Merida include:
I’ve put together detailed accessibility posts on all of these destinations, which you can read by clicking on the links above.
Wheeling Around the Yucatan?
If so, good news!
We’ve put together several other accessible blog posts on destinations around Mexico’s Caribbean peninsula. Check them out below:
Ready to Visit Merida?
Merida isn’t the easiest city to explore by wheelchair, but with a little preparation by mapping out its accessible areas, it’s doable. As a final note, I recommend taking some time to drive around the side streets in the historical center—you’ll come across many old, but beautiful, buildings like the pink one in this photo.
If you end up visiting Merida, it would mean so much if you returned to this page to share your experience with us. Any tips and advice you have about wheelchair accessibility in Merida will help our future readers. Thank you in advance!
Laura’s love for traveling started with a trip to Jamaica. Since then, she’s spent over five years living in Latin America and four years wandering the globe. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.