Campeche Beach & Attractions You Can’t Miss!

April 10, 2023


Referred to as “the rainbow city,” gorgeous Campeche enjoys status as both a “pueblos magicos” (magical city) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Campeche beach and attractions are not to be missed!

Located off-the-beaten-path in the Yucatan Peninsula, Campeche offers a diversity of attractions including a well-preserved fortified old town, stunning pastel-colored baroque colonial architecture, fascinating Mayan ruins, and beaches.

One thing is missing from Campeche that is found in many other Yucatan destinations, though…hordes of tourists. The long driving distance from the Caribbean coast keeps Campeche off many tourist itineraries as a destination or day trip.

If you like fairytales with pirates, forts, walls, and towers to keep pirates out and guard would-be princesses, beautiful colonial mansions, candy-colored streets, and rich Mayan culture, you will love Campeche as much as we did.

Click here for my guide for what to wear in Mexico.

Campeche at a Glance

campeche beach

While Campeche is the name of both the city and the whole surrounding state, in this post Campeche will represent just the city. The city’s technical name is San Francisco de Campeche, though most people just refer to it as Campeche when referring to the city.

  • Population: 260,000
  • Climate: tropical savanna
  • Elevation: 33’
  • Currency: peso

Brief History

Campeche is a city with a tumultuous Mayan and buccaneer history. The city was founded in 1540 by Spanish conquistadores as San Francisco de Campeche atop the pre-existing Maya city of Ah Kim Pech. The Pre-Columbian city is said to have encompassed 3,000 houses and monuments, though little remains today.

The first Spanish colonizers arrived in 1517 and established Campeche as the main port in the region. The city retains many of the old colonial Spanish city walls and fortifications which were built to protected the city from pirates and buccaneers who arrived in the late 16th century.

Campeche earned the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 due to the preservation and quality of its architecture.

Is Campeche Worth Visiting?

Travelers who love venturing off the beaten path will love Campeche as did we. Compared to many of the other tourist hot spots in the Yucatan peninsula which have become over-touristic, Campeche offers a more authentic Mexican cultural experience.

Campeche is located on the Gulf of Mexico, close to the Belize and Guatemalan borders. The entire state is one of the safest in Mexico, as well as the least populated. Mainly visited by domestic tourists, international travelers have yet to discover this hidden gem. Because of this, prices remain low and the vibe is local and relaxed.

Related: Mexico’s Caribbean Coast – Crazy Fun Adventures

How to Get to Campeche

Driving Distances:

  • Merida: 2 hours 10 minutes, 114 miles
  • Tulum: 5 hours, 275 miles
  • Cancun: 5.5 hours, 300 miles
  • Valladolid: 4 hours, 211 miles
  • Izamal: 2 hours 50 minutes, 150 miles

Related: Guide to Merida

Related: Guide to Valladolid

Related: Guide to Izamal

How to Get Around Campeche

We highly recommend renting a car to drive around the whole Yucatan area, including Campeche.

Click here to read my guide to road-tripping the Yucatan.

INSIDER TIP: Ready to try a road trip abroad? It’s easy! This International Driver’s License covers 150 countries! Get it in 8 minutes!

Here are our ten favorite Campeche beach and attractions.

10 Street Art

campeche beach

While most travelers come to Campeche to experience the history and culture, the city also has an impressive array of street art. And the art will surprise you, due to the creative juxtaposition of graffiti and urban art alongside colonial architecture.

One of our favorites was a beautiful modern mural just outside the city gate.

9 Shop for Souvenirs

campeche beach

One thing I enjoyed doing in Campeche was strolling through the old town, darting into charming boutique shops. Many little stores were selling local handicrafts from clothing, jewelry, hammocks, and other typical souvenirs.

8 Champoton


Champotón is a picturesque fishing town less than an hour’s drive from Campeche that combines the peaceful atmosphere of a small village with natural attractions and tourist services. Like Campeche, it was a Maya city for hundreds of years before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors in the 1500s. It is the third largest city in the state, after Campeche and Ciudad del Carmen, at about 30,000 people.

There is a beautiful hacienda, Hacienda San Luis Carpizo, that is worth a visit. The lovingly restored building belonged to Don José María Carpizo, an agricultural producer, and was later used by the Mexican Navy to house the Marine infantry school.

7 Puerto de Tierra

puerto de tierra

Puerta de Tierra is one of the four gateways to Campeche’s old city. Translating to “the Land Gate,” Puerta de Tierra was built in 1732 as an entry into the 16th-century walled city.

In the 17th century, the Old City Wall protected Campeche’s townspeople from pillaging buccaneers. Today they provide a great vantage point for panoramic views of Campeche’s old town.

6 Puerto de Mar & Baluarte de San Francisco

campeche beach

You’ll notice that the colorful old city of Campeche is bordered by fortress walls that served as were originally built by the Spaniards during Colonial rule to protect the city from invading pirates. As one of the largest trading ports in the New World, Campeche was constantly under pirate attack. The Spanish colonizers built the fortification walls and eight bastions which warded off most attacks. The worst attack was the Sacking of Campeche in 1663 by over 20 ships which has been called the largest pirate attack in history.

One of Campeche City’s original baluartes (bastions, or bulwarks). The Baluarte de San Francisco is the largest bastion in Campeche’s once-formidable defensive wall. Seven of Campeche’s original eight baluartes) are still standing and now house small museums.

5 Playa Bonita

playa bonita

Even though Campeche is a coastal town, the city doesn’t have any proper beaches. To enjoy warm water and swaying palms you’ll have to drive about 15 minutes from downtown to get to this Campeche beach.

Playa Bonita (“Pretty Beach”) is the closest and lives up to its name. Turquoise water, soft sand, palapas, and beach bars offer a relaxing refuge from the city – however, don’t expect to have this Campeche beach completely to yourself, as its proximity to the downtown area means it is a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike.

4 Malécon

campeche malecon

The Malécon is a two-mile seaside promenade that runs parallel to the Gulf of Mexico and is lined with interesting sculptures.

Sunsets are magical here, and visitors can enjoy the views by strolling, jogging, biking, or just sitting on one of the benches.

campeche letters

Of course, there are the ubiquitous Campeche letters spelling out the town’s name. These signs have become commonplace in cities throughout Mexico. The Campeche letters are particularly attractive at sunset, with the sea in the background; however, this is the most popular time, even for locals, and it gets really crowded. There was a group of teenagers who were part of a sports team or club of some sort while we were there. They did not relinquish their spot on the letters, so we opted to come back in the early morning when no one was around.

3 Edzna


The closest Mayan Ruins to Campeche, Edzna Archaeological Zone is considered to be one of the most important Mayan archaeological sites in Mexico. These ruins, surrounded by lush green jungle, are some of the most impressive in the Yucatan. This complex can easily be visited on a day trip from Campeche as it is only an hour’s drive from the city center.

Edzna is a window to the past as it is believed to have been inhabited as early as 400 BC and features different architectural styles that span 1500 years. Dating back to as early as 600 BC to the time of the “House of the Itzás” has led archaeologists to hypothesize that the Edzna ruins were influenced by the Itza family even before they built the more famous Chichen Itza.

The main attraction of the destination is a well-preserved main temple surrounded by a complex system of canals that were once used to capture, store, and distribute water around the area. In the center is the Temple of Five Buildings, with five levels and towers 131 feet tall. While you can’t climb this pyramid, you can climb other Edzna structures, like the Great Acropolis, the Temple of the Masks, the Palace, and the Small Acropolis.


Unlike other Mayan ruins whose demise came when the Spaniards invaded the Yucatan, Edzna was mysteriously abandoned in 1500 and remains a mystery today.

This amazing site is one of the hidden gems of Mexico. While lacking the notoriety of Chichen Itza or even Tikal in Guatemala, Edzna has the advantage of being still somewhat wild, authentic, and practically free of tourists. Indeed, we had the entire place nearly to ourselves and were able to get the most incredible unencumbered photos.

2 Calle 59

calle 59 campeche

Calle 59  is a stunning candy-colored cobblestone boulevard that links de Puerta de la Tierra (Earth Door) to the Puerta del Mar (Sea Door).

The entire avenue scans several blocks, is closed to traffic, and lined with restaurants and outdoor tables. The festive, friendly atmosphere makes it one of the best places to take a break or have a bite while at Campeche.

1 Zócalo

campeche zocalo

The preservation of gorgeous rainbow-colored Colonial architecture is what earned Campeche the status of a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The beating heart is the zócalo (Plaza Principal Independencia), dominated by the impressive baroque façade of Catedral De Nuestra Senora De La Purisma Concepcion (Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral). This beautiful limestone structure stands sentry over the old town and has been the center of religious and cultural life in the city since its founding over 300 years ago.

The Campeche Cathedral, one of the most important and historic buildings in Campeche’s old town, was built when the city was conquered by San Francisco de Campeche in the 1500s. The basilica took almost two centuries to complete and features a Baroque edifice with two bell towers that rise high above the cobbled colonial streets.

In front of the cathedral is another set of city letters (the other set is on the malécon), lending it an attractive Instagram opportunity.

The zocaló truly comes alive in the evening, when street performers, food hawkers, vendors, and musicians take to the gardens.

Across the plaza from the Campeche Cathedral, the maroon façade of Centro Cultural Casa No 6 is easy to spot. The typical 18th-century upper-class house was one of the most prestigious addresses at the time and is now a museum.

Also next to the zócalo, colonial Casa Vieja del Río with its multi-colored walls and antique décor is a great place to stop for a margarita.

Outside Old Town

We chose to spend most of our time within the old walled city. However, there are two yellow forts outside of the city, Fuerte de San Miguel and Fuerte de San Jose Alto, that are well worth exploring.

Day Trips

If you have several days in Campeche, I would also recommend these full-day trips below.



UNESCO World Heritage site Calakmul (pronounced cah-lack-mool) was an important Mayan city during the Classic Period. Together with Palenque to the west, and Tikal just south in Guatemala, they three ruled the highlands and maintained an intense rivalry. Known as the Kingdom of the Snake, Calakmul had a population of 50,000 during its height in the 7th century.

For history buffs, this off-the-beaten-path site is not easy to get to, but perfect if you want to combine a visit to the archaeological site with an exploration of the nature reserve. Remote Calakmul Biosphere Reserve is deep in the jungle and can be difficult to find. The drive from Campeche to Xpujil is about four hours alone, and the ruins are another hour into the jungle on slow-moving dirt roads. While technically it can be done as a very long day trip, we chose to make it a stop on our journey east from Campeche on the Gulf Coast to Chetumal on the Atlantic Coast.

Calakmul was the largest Mayan city in Mexico with multiple structures, including two large pyramids, one of which still allows visitors to climb. The largest one, Structure 2, is about 150 feet tall and has been named the tallest Mayan pyramid ever discovered.

Structure 1 is the pyramid you can climb. It’s slightly smaller than Structure 2 but offers incredible views of the surrounding jungle from the top (see photo above). From the top, you’ll have a sweeping 360-degree view of the Yucatan jungle canopy.

Calakmul is one of Mexico’s hidden gems and definitely worth exploring.



Merida is a great place for a day trip if you are spending several days in Campeche. Paseo Montejo offers a glimpse of colonial influence on all the architecture and stately mansions. The colorful city center is filled with beautiful old churches and picturesque side streets.

We visited Merida before heading to Campeche. Along the way on the two-hour drive, we stopped for breakfast at an adorable tiny family-owned restaurant in off-the-beaten-path Pomuch called Restaurant Xkanlol.

Click here to read my full guide to Merida.

What to Eat in Campeche

  • Sierra Frita – whole fried fish
  • Pan de cazón – fish and tortilla casserole with a tomato-based habanero sauce.
  • Cazón empanadas –fish filled pastry tortilla
  • Camarones al coco – coconut shrimp
  • Pampano en Verde – pompano/jackfish in green salsa
  • Brazo de la Reina – tamale with egg and veggies

Click here to read my guide to food in the Yucatan.


campeche beach

The UNESCO Listed Old Town of Campeche is one of Mexico’s secret gems. The Rainbow City with its narrow cobblestone streets and rich history remain largely anonymous to international tourists who continue to flock to over-touristy Cancun and Riviera Maya.

Make sure to put lovely Campeche on your Yucatan itinerary – you will love it!

Most photos by Kary Kern

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About the Author

Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and the southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials” and she was named one of the “Top 35 Travel Blogs” in the world.

She is also the star of the upcoming TV series “Destination Takeover” which is scheduled to premiere in the new few months.

Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled extensively through six continents looking for fabulous destinations, exotic beaches, and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer tribe.

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