Progreso Yucatan is a quintessential Mexican seaside town on the northern coast of the Yucatan state. It is located just 43km away from Merida and is one of the most popular and convenient places to take a beach day trip from the Yucatan capital.
During the week, the town is very peaceful and quiet, and you will often find that you have entire stretches of coastline completely to yourself. On Sundays when everyone is off work, you will find that Progreso really comes to life.
At this time, dozens of Mexican families drive from Merida to Progreso to enjoy picnics and swimming on the beach.
The coastal Yucatan is often massively overshadowed by the translucent blue waters and picturesque beaches of the Mexican Caribbean (Mahahual, Tulum, etc). However, the beaches here are often just as beautiful.
Better still, they are usually devoid of international tourists and offer a more local vibe.
This article has been written by a British Travel Writer who is based in the nearby city of Merida and often spends weekends in Progreso. Rest assured, you are in good hands here and I will help you make the most of your trip 😉
Visiting Progreso Yucatan in 2024
Progreso Yucatan borders the clear, aquamarine waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Miles upon miles of soft, powdery white sand extends as far as the eye can see.
Here, beachgoers relax beneath thatched umbrellas and vendors walk up and down the shore selling chicharron and ice-cold coconuts. Progreso provides a welcome respite from the intense Mexican heat and the chaos of the inland towns and cities.
There is everything that you need here for a day at the beach during your Merida itinerary. The seafront is lined with restaurants that serve up cuisines from all corners of the world.
There are affordable hotels situated right by the waterfront, places to shop for swimming apparel, and an abundance of places to rent sunbeds or water sports equipment. The Faro de Puerto Progreso, built in 1893, is an active lighthouse.
In the late afternoon or evening, it is pleasant to stroll along the Malecon. You could come here on a day trip from Merida by bus, or spend a relaxed few days here if you wish.
You could also use Progreso as an alternative base in the Yucatan. From here, you can easily take trips out to Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, Uxmal, Mayapan, and other Mayan ruins and notable sites in the Yucatan peninsula.
Things to do in Progreso, Yucatan
There are plenty of things to do in Progreso Yucatan and you will certainly not be bored if you decide to spend a day or two here. The below list of suggestions will help you to make the most of your time.
Rent sunbeds and relax on the beach
Playa Puerto Progreso is the main stretch of coastline in Progreso that starts at the port area. There are a lot of restaurants and bars here that allow you to rent a sunbed for a full day if you buy a drink or a snack at their establishment.
Usually, this is just a couple of dollars and then you can enjoy the sunbed and the facilities for the day under the shelter of a tiki umbrella. Alternatively, you may prefer to simply take your own beach towel and lay it down on a secluded part of the beach.
The water in Progreso is very clean, clear, and perfect for swimming in. It is usually very calm too, making a day trip here perfect for families with kids.
The area immediately to the right of the port’s boardwalk is usually the busiest. If you are looking for a quieter stretch of coastline to relax on, head to the left of the boardwalk, past Marymar Beach Club and the small fairground and this area is usually much quieter.
Similarly, on the far right-hand side of the Malecon, there is a quieter, shaded area where you can sit beneath a small coconut grove.
Hang out at exclusive Progreso beach clubs
There are a couple of excellent Progreso beach clubs that have opened up in the area in recent years and offer the perfect spot to relax by the sea. Marymar beach club, to the left of the Progreso Pier, is a personal favorite.
It oozes elegance and sophistication without any air of pretension. It’s free to hang out at the beach club as long as you order a drink or two.
If you don’t fancy swimming in the sea, you can use the pool here, or laze in the hammocks and sunbeds. The beach bar serves a blend of alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails prepared with distinctly Mexican and Yucatecan ingredients (mezcal, chaya, sapote, etc) as well as a wide range of snacks and light bites.
On the opposite end of Progreso Malecon, you can also find the exclusive Silcer Beach Club. An all-inclusive day pass here costs $59 and the property only accepts a limited amount of guests so the area is never over-crowded.
Admission includes an open bar, access to a private stretch of the coastline, use of a swimming pool, lounge chairs, showers, and umbrellas, and free kayak, paddleboat, and paddleboard rentals.
Buy fresh coconuts at the beach
As you sink your toes into the sand at Playa Progreso, you will notice a lot of local street vendors that wander up and down the beach selling fresh coconuts, candies (meringue), and chicharron.
For around 40 pesos (ok it’s a little pricy), you can buy a fresh coconut. The vendor will chop the top off and give you a straw (¨popote¨).
When you’re done slurping out all of the delicious coconut water inside, the vendor will take your coconut away, hack it with a machete, and prepare it so that you can eat the rest of the delicious fruit. You can choose to have different toppings and sauces sprinkled on the coco.
Chamoy (a tangy Mexican fermented fruit salsa) and chili powder make great additions.
Visit the Progreso Museum of Geology
A lot of development work has taken place in Progreso over the course of the last 12 months, in the interest of promoting the beach town as an up-and-coming Mexican coastal destination. In the Summer of 2022, the Progreso Museum of Geology opened on the Progreso Malecon.
The museum is housed inside a gorgeous contemporary building that was designed by the Mexican architecture firm Estudio MMX. The building itself is as impressive as some of the exhibits within it.
Its unique design is supposed to represent the blend of architectural styles in the region. It uses materials and shapes that were used by the Ancient Mayans, along with some Spanish colonial touches.
The Museum design is so impressive, that it has been nominated for several Mexican architecture awards already and it hasn’t even been open for a year! One of the annexes houses the meteorite museum which tells the story of the Chicxulub meteor that smashed into the area some 66 million years ago.
The exhibitions are spread across 8 rooms. Some contain specimens, samples, and rocks recovered from the area.
Others provide information on the various dinosaur species that once walked the earth. Outside the museum, you will find several larger-than-life dinosaur statues which are fun to pose for photos with, particularly if you are traveling with kids.
Visit pig beach in Yucalpeten
If you have access to your own vehicle, or you don’t mind Uber-ing back and forth, you can venture onwards to some of the other beaches in the Progreso area. One nice, alternative place to visit is pig beach in Yucalpeten.
This place, reminiscent of the Bahamas, sits between Progreso and Yucalpeten. The beach got its name on account of the seven sweet little mini piggies that call it home.
In late 2021, eight mini pigs – the piglets and their mother, were found abandoned on the beach. Local animal charities were called in to help and now, the pigs continue to live and are cared for at the beach.
Sadly, their mother passed away but the piglets live happy lives by the sea and have adapted to the climate conditions here. The beach is free to enter but there is a small shack on the sand selling souvenir t-shirts, hats, and other memorabilia.
The funds from anything you purchase go directly towards supporting the pigs. The pigs live in a little dedicated pen but are free to get out and swim and walk as they like.
If you happen to stop by the beach between 12.00 and 13.00 between Thursday and Sunday, you have the opportunity to swim with them. Local children love them!
Get Your Guide now offers a guided tour of Progreso with a visit to Pig Beach also included. They pick you up and drop you off in your hotel in Merida or Progreso so this can take a lot of stress out of managing the logistics of your trip yourself if you are not renting a car in Mexico and you don’t want to mess around with Uber.
Stroll up and down the Malecon
The Malecon is the name of the main promenade that runs along the seafront in Progreso Yucatan. Walking here is particularly pleasant at the golden hour or at sunset when the sky is illuminated in shades of pink and orange.
You will find that when the tourists and the daytrippers leave, Progreso is an altogether more serene and peaceful place. There are some interesting things to see along the walk – outdoor light installations, street art, thought-provoking graffiti, and contemporary art pieces.
Look out for the sculptures that sit on the bench by the sea looking at their phones. It is a reminder to detach from the online world and social media and enjoy what is in front of us.
There is an excellent hot dog truck (The Hot Dog Beach), shaped like a hot dog, by the pier at C. 27 205, Juan Montalvo, 97320 Progreso. It’s a great place to stop for a chili dog and some fries on a romantic evening walk by the sea.
The Yucatan has really been promoting the new dinosaur-related attractions in the area recently and giant sculptures of different dinosaurs can now be found at various points along the malecon. There is also a skate park, an outdoor gym (the Mexican answer to LA Muscle beach?), and a fairground that is great for families.
Have breakfast in an old colonial building
Going out for breakfast (desuyanos) in Mexico is a wonderful way to start the day. In Progreso, there are several places by the sea and in the compact town center where you can stop for breakfast.
That is, whether you want to eat Yucatan food or international breakfast favorites. El Cordobes (C. 80 38, Centro, 97320 Progreso) is a nice place to stop for breakfast in a gorgeous historic, pastel-yellow building that almost feels like something out of a movie set.
It’s a little rustic, but that’s all part of the charm. Order up a serving of huevos con longaniza (scrambled eggs served with chorizo from Valladolid), or huevos Motuleños (eggs on tortillas with black beans and cheese).
Wash it down with a strong cup of Mexican coffee from Chiapas state.
Visit lesser-known beaches nearby
If you want to escape the crowds at Progreso, you absolutely can find your slice of peace and seclusion on the Yucatan beaches along the state’s Emerald Coast. The only problem is that public transport options that run along the coastline range from limited to non-existent.
So, as with visiting Pig Beach, you need to either have access to a car or take taxis. Chicxulub is a worthwhile town to visit. It was here where the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs hit the earth some 66 million years ago.
You can’t see the impact site, it’s underwater. But this is certainly an interesting town to stop by and there are plenty of places to eat, drink and have ice cream along the seafront.
Continuing along the coast, you can head to the secluded Playa Uaymitun and the upscale beach towns of San Bruno, Telchac Puerto, and San Crisanto. Most of these areas are surrounded by nothing but coconut groves and sprawling luxury beach villas.
Driving west along the coast, you can reach the popular expat haven of Chelem and the gorgeous, lesser-known beach of Playa Las Dunas in Chuburna.
Visit the Reserva Ecológica El Corchito
Arguably Celestun and the Ria biosphere reserve are among the most famous nature reserves in the Mexican Yucatan. They are great places to visit but they are a bit of a trek from Merida and some of the main tourist destinations in the Central Yucatan.
However, if you are interested in visiting mangroves and wetlands that are in the direct vicinity of Progreso, you can visit the Reserva Ecológica El Corchito.
This ecological nature reserve is run by a cooperative of 23 fishermen who want to protect the natural habitat of animals that are native to the Yucatan, Coatis, turtles, and crocodiles live within the natural pools and mangrove swamps.
The reserve sits on a little uninhabited islet so you need to take a small boat to access it and cross through the mangroves. Keep your eyes peeled for sightings of crocodiles and other animals that call this reserve their home.
You will disembark the boat in a small scenic area where you can enjoy an alfresco picnic with your friends and travel companions, hang out, and rest in the hammocks and wooden chairs. Trails lead you from this point to the various springs and cenotes of the reserve.
Be sure to pack your swimsuit! The coatis here are mischievous and definitely not shy so you wont struggle to have sightings of them!
Take an ATV tour to a haunted ghost town
If you are looking for something alternative and off-the-beaten-path to do during your time in Progreso, you might want to consider visiting the nearby pueblo fantasma (ghost town) of Misnebalam.
Misnebalam was once a thriving industrial town home to 170 people that worked in the henequen industry. After the local hacienda owner was murdered and his killers were never caught, people living in the area started reporting ghostly sightings and paranormal activity.
Slowly but surely, the residents started moving away. The last two inhabitants left in 2005 and the town has been abandoned ever since.
If you visit Misnebalam today, you will see the sunbleached remnants of a once grandioise hacienda, eerie roads to nowhere, an overgrown cemetery and a roofless church. Accoding to legend, the area is also haunted by the ghost of a young boy called Juliancito and a headless monk.
Its pretty easy to drive to the town independently as it sits about halfway between Merida and Progreso, just off the Carretera Merida/Progreso Mexico 261. If you dont have a vehicle of your own, you can also do an adrenaline-boosting ATV tour of Misnebalam that starts and ends in Progreso.
Check out the street art
There are some beautiful murals and street art paintings scattered around Progreso. Even as someone who lives nearby and visits the town several times a month, it feels like new paintings pop up every time I visit!
Some of the best paintings can be found by Callejón del Amor (Lover’s Alley) and Calle La Mugre. Many depict scenes of Mexican culture and local life in the Yucatan.
Watch the sunset from Progreso pier
The Progreso pier (Puerto de Altura) is actually the longest pier in Mexico and one of the largest in the world in general! It is 6.5 kilometres (4 miles) in length and it would take you over an hour and a half to walk from one end of it to the other!
The long pier starts to become quite industrial towards the end and there is really no reason to walk its entirety unless you are boarding a ship from the end of it. However, it is pleasant to walk part way along the pier and watch the sunset from here as you dangle your legs in the water – ideally while enjoying a marquesita or a michelada cocktail. 🙂
Where to Eat in Progreso
There is an abundance of excellent restaurants in Progreso that serve up both local and international dishes. Those that sit right on the seafront are often (as is to be expected) a little more expensive.
They are generally catered to tourists, yet without compromising on the quality.
Crabster Progreso (C. 19 148a, Boulevard Turístico Malecón) is an upscale seafood restaurant situated right on the Malecón. The chic eatery boasts contemporary furnishings, artsy lighting, and unparalleled service.
The menu is a little on the pricier side as far as Mexico goes. Main dishes tend to be in the range of 200-300 pesos per person. However, they are certainly worth the price tag.
You will find a lot of exquisite dishes here that place a quintessential Yucatecan twist on classic ingredients. For instance, the brioche crabster is not to be missed.
The dish features brioche bread stuffed with shrimp sautéed with chili poblano and green pepper au gratin with cheddar cheese, refried beans, tartar dressing, and french fries.
Eladio’s is a Yucatan institution with several branches operating around Merida and Progreso. The Progreso location is right on the beachfront. It’s a great place to people-watch and the eatery is always bursting with life.
Some say that the botanas (free meze-style samplers that come to your table before the main course) are a highlight of coming here. We will let you be the judge of that.
Maya Ka Seafood
Maya Ka seafood is a wonderful Mayan restaurant on the Progreso seafront that serves up Mexican and Yucatecan food. Outdoor and indoor seating is available and you can find all of the best regional dishes here.
(For instance, cochinita pibil tacos, papadzules and hot nachos.)
The restaurant is best known for its seafood dishes, and fresh fish and shrimp that are sourced from nearby waters earlier the same day. But if you don’t eat meat or seafood, you will be pleased to know that there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options here too.
The best thing about Maya Ka though is the ambiance. The restaurant has been designed like a Mayan temple with imposing stone sculptures of Mayan deities scattered throughout the gardens while patrons dine beneath palapa huts.
If you want a change from Mexican food during your time in Progreso, you can check out the Italian restaurant Scappata on the touristic malecon. Normally, I would say that Mediterranean food in Mexico is no bueno but the dishes here are pretty good and they are prepared with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
Start with the bruschetta – lightly toasted bread flavored with garlic and covered with sweet cherry tomatoes, olive oil, and herbs. The main menu offers some excellent homemade pasta and ravioli dishes, as well as wood-fire oven pizzas.
Getting to Progreso Yucatán from Merida
It is very easy to get to Progreso from Merida. The beach town is just 43km (26 miles) away from the Yucatan capital and the journey takes just over an hour by bus, taxi or driving.
Even the AutoProgreso bus is very simple and convenient to use as it runs direct to Progreso and doesn’t make a ton of stops en route. (It stops only at Merida Centro and Merida Norte).
Take a cab to Progreso Yucatan
Taking a cab to Progreso can be a very comfortable choice. The journey takes approximately 40 minutes and if there are a few of you heading to the beach for the day, this can be very affordable.
Hailing cabs on the street is less common in Mexico and most people rely on Uber or the local alternative Didi. The Didi app is the lower-cost option of the two and is well worth downloading while you are traveling in Mexico.
You just need to change your phone location (and your Apple ID location, if applicable) to Mexico. A cab to Progreso should cost around 300 pesos or $14.
If you are using the Uber app, sometimes prices are higher at certain peak times due to increased demand. So, if you happen to see an ultra-inflated price, you might want to open Didi and check the prices there or wait for a little for the costs to go down.
It is easy to take a cab back from Progreso to Merida too. There are always plenty of drivers around the main port in Progreso.
Taking the Autoprogreso bus from Merida to Progreso
Buses between Merida and Progreso depart every 20 minutes with the exception of Sundays when buses are hourly. Beloved First Class Mexican bus provider ADO does NOT service the route between Merida and Progreso.
Instead, you need to take the Autoprogreso bus. The Autoprogreso bus station in Merida is located at Calle 62, #524, Mérida Centro.
It is located in the section of Calle 62 between Calle 65 and 67. It is just a short walk away from the city’s Centro Storico and is sandwiched between a couple of ramshackle stores.
You can purchase your ticket from the ticket office inside labeled “TAQUILLAS.” A one-way ticket is 21 pesos, and a return ticket is 42.
The Autoprogreso buses may not be as luxurious as the ADO buses but they are still relatively modern, clean, and comfortable. Buses are air-conditioned, with reclining seats and curtained windows.
Returning from Progreso to Merida by bus is relatively straightforward too. The bus station is just two blocks away from the Port of Progreso.
The journey takes approximately 50 minutes each way by bus. The bus does make a couple of stops just outside of Merida, and upon arrival on the outskirts of Progreso, to pick up and drop off various passengers.
Drive to Progreso
If you are renting a car in Merida, you can easily drive from Merida to Progreso and the other beach towns along the Yucatan emerald coast. The roads in the Yucatan are generally excellent and honestly, apart from some people’s erratic driving here and there, you might not notice too much difference from driving in the United States or Canada.
From Merida, it is about an hour drive down one straight road to Progreso once you leave the Periferico. (You drive directly along the Carretera Merida/Progreso Mexico 261.)
There is plenty of street parking in Progreso but the town gets very busy at weekends so you might find that you need to park a few blocks away from the beach. There is also a parking lot right by the beach on the left side of the pier.
(You can type Skate Park Progreso or Waikiki Beach Progreso into Google Maps for directions as these places are right by the parking lot). It’s worth noting that at weekends, there are sometimes police checkpoints leaving Progreso where local police ask people to do a breathalyzer test.
There are also random security checkpoints on the approach to Merida but vehicles are rarely stopped. (These are just for everyone’s safety – there’s a reason that Merida is the safest city in Mexico!)
Where to stay in Progreso, Yucatan
Until recently,there weren’t an awful lot of interesting/boutique hotels in Progreso. However, things have changed quite a bit here over the past 12 months, perhaps as more international expats move to Merida and more visitors to Mexico venture further into the Yucatan peninsula rather than just staying in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, etc.
Still, for the time being, there are just a handful of hotels and guesthouses here, and you typically need to reserve your stay a couple of weeks in advance as the best ones get booked up fast. Aside from that, there are plenty of properties for rent on Airbnb.
A selection of reputable options is detailed below. Alternatively, you may want to consider searching for a hotel or guesthouse in Merida.
Scappata Hotel is a brand new luxury boutique property that opened in Progreso in 2023 above the Italian restaurant of the same name. If you are looking for a stylish place to stay with spacious rooms, Tulum-style bohemian decor, and all the amenities, this hotel will be right up your street.
Since the number of stylish hotel options in Progreso is limited, Scappata’s rooms always seem to sell out so it’s a good idea to book your stay in advance. The three-star property boasts a private pool and terrace for guests, and rooms are fitted with a flat-screen TV, air-conditioning, coffee-making facilities, and complimentary toiletries.
Click here to check the latest room rates and availability.
Hotel Marias Nicte Ha
The hotel Marias Nicte Ha is a charming property situated right on the Progreso beachfront. It offers you an affordable budget stay without compromising on comfort.
The rooms are all clean and cozy and boast air conditioning, a flat-screen TV, a private en-suite bathroom, and a balcony or pool view. The outdoor swimming pool is a great place to relax after a long day out exploring, and there is a small shared kitchen should you want to prepare your own food.
Rooms here start from just $27 a night. You can check the latest rates and availability here.
The Mayan Gypsy
If you are the type of traveler that loves something a little different from your average cookie-cutter hotel rooms, you will love The Mayan Gypsy. This Progreso hotel is set inside an old colonial mansion that has been converted into a guest house and art space.
The property is owned by two artists that have adorned the walls and ceilings of each and every room with their unique artwork. Each room boasts a slightly different design, with quirky furnishings, high ceilings, and double doors.
The Mayan Gypsy is for adults only (15+) and provides a wonderful getaway for writers, creatives, and anyone looking for something a little out of the ordinary. Rooms start from $70 USD a night, with some containing their own private kitchenettes.
When is the best time to visit Progreso Mexico?
It is a much better experience to visit Yucatan Progreso on a weekday rather than a weekend. The beaches are far more peaceful at this time as the beach can get very crowded on Sundays when all of the local Yucatecans are off work, especially if you are travelling during a Mexican public holiday.
Second, you should try and schedule your visit so that you avoid cruise ship crowds. During the high season (December – March), cruises do stop here and as they do, thousands of camera-wielding tourists disembark at once, causing your drinks to shake and rattle like when the T Rex approaches Jurassic Park.
You can check the schedule for when cruise ships will be arriving in Progreso Yucatan here. Do yourself a favor and plan your trip around that if you can.
Final thoughts on visiting Progreso Yucatan
It is important to note that Progreso Yucatan is absolutely not a quiet, tranquil, off-the-beaten-path seaside town. This is one of the most popular beach towns in the Yucatan and it has a population of circa 37,369, including both locals and ex-pats.
Regardless it is one of the best places in the Yucatan for some sun, sea, and much-needed R&R.
At weekends, the beaches and restaurants here can be teeming with crowds as everyone flocks to enjoy the sun, sand, and sea on their days off. But that is not to say that Progreso doesn’t have its charm.
When you just want a day at the beach, it serves its purpose. And a day or two here can actually be very enjoyable.
Do you have any additional queries about visiting Progreso Yucatan or about planning a trip to Mexico in general? If you are visiting Yucatan for the first time, you might also enjoy reading this suggested Yucatan road trip itinerary, or this post on the best time to visit the Yucatan.
I live in Merida and I will do my best to get back to you as soon as I can. Safe travels!
Hasta Luego! Melissa xo