Progreso Progresses

In the year since we last visited Progreso on the Gulf Coast of Mexico a lot has changed. The Malecon improvements are finished and looking great (it was a dusty mess last year) – the roads are clean, paved and landscaped (young palm trees establishing themselves) and there are plenty of funky new restaurants that also appear to be thriving. Vitally, COVID restrictions have disappeared so the place feels a lot more prosperous and certainly a lot busier that last year, when many of the restaurants and beach clubs were closed and Progreso felt rather sorry for itself. It’s a whole different story in 2023. 

The long stretch of white sand beach is spotlessly clean and sargassum-free (today), unlike the Caribbean coastline of La Riviera Maya which has been plagued with mega-tons of this stuff. According to regional Marine Science reports, there’s a truly massive raft of sargassum stretching some 5000 miles (!) that’s been circulating the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and the Caribbean and is about to choke the beaches of the region (Florida included) with tons and tons of this pungent smelling spongy goop, in some areas up to five or six feet deep! There’s nothing that can really be done other than bulldoze the stuff away, but this time it’s on an industrial scale. 

Progreso is around 43 kilometres from Mérida. You could actually hail a cab in Centro and be whisked to the beach in half an hour for around A$30 but most prefer to take the AutoProgreso bus which costs the princely sum of A$1.80 each way and takes around an hour, running every 15 minutes, picking up passengers along the way. It’s an air-conditioned bus that’s tightly packed with locals, workers and beach-goers, and, once leaving the northern barrios of Mérida, bombs down the highway through the flat Yucatan scrub past new residential developments. We passed one sign that read ‘Por Paraiso toma el carril derecho’ – For Paradise take the right lane. So tempting. 

Once you arrive at the AutoProgreso terminal, it’s a short hot walk through the bustling streets of cafes and shops selling straw hats, plaited wristlets and shell sculptures, past the gleaming white lighthouse, and on to the Malecon – the world’s longest pier. For six kilometres this shoots out into the shallow warm waters of the Gulf, making Progreso the most important port in the Yucatan for export and visiting cruise liners. It’s quite incredible really and so long that you can’t see the end of it  – a narrow road bridge that’s busy with trucks which appear as tiny moving objects on the shimmering horizon – like something from a Jeffrey Smart painting. 

Progreso and the surrounding villages of Chelem, Telchac, Celestun and especially Chicxulub are now capitalising on the region’s real claim to fame – and it’s not the endless white beaches and clear warm Gulf waters. This very spot was witness to a cataclysmic left-turn in Earth’s history when sixty-six million years ago a meteor thought to be tens of miles wide crashed into it, wiping out almost three-quarters of plant and animals species, including of course the dinosaurs. It left a crater that spans some 180 kilometres and 20 kilometres deep and is the very reason why the Yucatan is pock-marked with so many deep holes, or cenotes – the magical deep clear water holes located all around Mérida. On our walk along the Malecon we stumbled upon a new museum that has sprung up since we were last here. The Museo Del Meteorito El Origen De La Nueva Vida – we would have gone in for nothing more than curiosity – I mean, what can you possibly put in a museum exploring something that happened 66 million years ago, which has left little tangible evidence beyond a deep underwater impact site? But at MX$350 each and cheesy fibreglass models not promising much, we decided we weren’t that curious.

On our trip to Progreso last year we came across a number of beach clubs but at the time all of them were closed due to COVID restrictions. This year however, they’re all open. So we made a bee-line for the very cool looking El Haguay Beach Club. It’s MX$100 (A$8) entry that gives you a shaded lounge amongst palm trees, a table and chairs or a sun bed , all with a beach bar, a pool, changing rooms and all-day dining. The food was excellent – I had one of the best bowls of the freshest ceviche ever, whilst Ants had a really good take on paella, Mexican style. It’s set right on the beach, so no effort needed to flop into the warm green waters of the Gulf of Mexico – and yes, sargassum free (for once)! And if you’re wondering where everyone is. It’s like many places we’ve been to in Mexico on this trip – there are hardly any tourists, certainly not in the throngs you’d expect in the US, Europe, Asia and Australia. Where are they? Scared off by the constant negative bad press that Mexico gets perhaps? Case in point – the US has just issued a ‘DO NOT TRAVEL TO MEXICO’ to its citizens over the Spring break. Fine by us, we have the space and the time to enjoy these places all to ourselves.

BTW, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Yucatan is one of Mexico’s safest states, with Mérida right up there as the safest city in the country. 

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Bevanlee says:

    How gorgeous it all sounds. I am distraught that you did not photograph the no doubt kitsch exhibits of the Museum of the Meteor. From the sounds of impending sargassum arrival, perhaps one day there will be a Museum of the Wicked Weed. You have not mentioned your former driver, was it Jose Luis. Has he fallen from favour or just not available? Enjoy your continuing adventures and relaxations, and of course continue your pic and prose blog of same. Each post is eagerly devoured 😍


    1. Thank you! We’re seeing José Luis on Wednesday as he’s taking us to the Mayan pyramid complex of Mayapan and on to a trio of Cenotes! Stay tuned.


  2. Thank you! We’re seeing José Luis on Wednesday as he’s taking us to the Mayan pyramid complex of Mayapan and on to a trio of Cenotes! Stay tuned.


  3. Ann says:

    What a gorgeous piece of paradise. That’s where I would be every day 😊


    1. Come on over the water is lovely! Our house and garden are pretty special too, especially on these 37 degree days. The shady pool is heaven. X


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s