This summer, the state of Yucatan offers its best beaches for a special getaway
Escape to a Quiet Vacation in Yucatan’s Best Beaches
Yucatan, Mexico — Mexico’s State of Yucatan is one of raw and natural beauty. Its reputation for the world’s most impressive ancient archeological sites, Spanish-style architecture, and underground cenotes is legendary. But this state along the Yucatan peninsula is also known for its splendid white-sand beaches that are bordered by the shimmering turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Mexico’s Caribbean-style beaches are among its most idyllic and photo-worthy attributes. While Yucatan’s neighbor to the east has taken up much of the beach spotlight, Yucatan’s beaches have been flying under the radar waiting to be discovered. The beaches of the Yucatan peninsula are full of magic and great beauty, inhabited by warm and welcoming people who are ready to bring their slices of paradise into the spotlight. Whether visitors are looking for a bustling fishing village with local shops and hotels, or the far-reaches of virgin, palm-fringed coastline, Yucatan has 235 miles of coastline to discover.
Progreso is one of the most popular beach towns in the state of Yucatan. Located just 22 miles from the capital city, Merida, the town was founded in 1871 and has grown to become the main port of the Yucatan coast. Today it is a tourist hub and a border point open to commercial exchange with the states and countries on the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
Due to its commercial activity, Progreso is the most-visited port in the state and a popular cruise destination for visitors from all over the world. Along the boardwalk, visitors will find both international and local restaurants, as well as shops and boutiques. The market of Progreso is a destination in its own right, selling local food, crafts, and more. The beaches are the real star of Progreso, with white sand, turquoise water, and endless activities from kitesurfing and windsurfing to water skiing and fishing.
Just off the coast of Progreso is the Alacranes Reef National Park, a naturally protected area brimming with flora and fauna. The group of islands is the largest coral structure in the Gulf of Mexico and the archipelago is made up of five islets, named Isla Blanca, Isla Muertos, Isla Pajaros, Isla Desterrada, and Isla Perez. In fact, it’s possible to camp on Isla Perez and experience its sugary sand and warm, shallow, turquoise water.
To the west of Progreso is the fishing port of Chuburná. This small, picturesque town is known for its handful of vibrant, lively restaurants that specialize in local seafood. At the port pier, visitors can appreciate the gradient of shades of blue that dance across the sea. The beaches are calm and clean and perfect for walking. If you head to the west, you’ll find a small lighthouse and a semi-virgin beach, as well as a channel where fishing boats sputter back and forth out to sea.
San Cristano is another fishing village about an hour from Merida. This sleepy slice of the world has a population of roughly 600 people and is known for its pristine ecotourism. San Cristiano boasts nearly two miles of beach and water that is a Caribbean-style shade of blue. Its rich watering holes are abundant with more than 130 species of birds, fish, and other types of flora and fauna. You’ll also find many cenotes here, the best known of which is Dzonot-Tzik, or Cenote Bravo, known for its crystal clear waters and sense of calm.
You’ll find no better spot for eco-tourism in Yucatan than in the beach town of Celestún. In fact, the biosphere reserve of Celestún has declared a wildlife refuge in 1979. Located about 68 miles from Merida and 76 miles from Progreso, Celestún has several springs that make it ideal for swimming, diving, and viewing wildlife. Feast your eyes on the thousands of pink flamingos that call the sanctuary of Celestún home. On guided boat tours, you can learn more about their history and see them as closely as possible without interrupting their habitat. Celestún is also home to many other types of fauna, like ocelots, jaguars, tigrillos, and spider monkeys.
Another important ecological reserve in Yucatan is El Palmar, a natural protected area and state reserve as of 1990. It is about 50 miles from Merida and known for its semi-virgin beach, as well as its modest cabin services and local restaurants. Here visitors can take boat rides for wildlife viewing or participate in activities like kayaking, paddle boarding, windsurfing, and kiteboarding. Drink in the views from Yucatan’s tallest lighthouse, as well.
Finally, Cancunito is one of the Yucatan’s most pristine and virgin beaches — the perfect place to disconnect from the city and reconnect with the sea. Shrouded by mangroves and not far from the famous pink-hued Las Coloradas salt mines, the waters here are calm and clear, free of shops, hotels, and restaurants, and simply blessed with the raw splendor of nature.