Yucatan's Best Beach Escapes
While not as popular as locations in Quintana Roo, the state of Yucatan borders the Gulf of Mexico, offering up nearly 200km (120 miles) of pristine white beaches. The coasts are also home to numerous mangrove forests and protected habitats for the local fish and shorebirds, including flamingos. The quantity of beach towns available to visit is countless. In this section, I will be discussing three of the more popular towns, Celestun found on the western edge of the state where the border of Campeche is, Progreso, the primary port city, located closer to Merida and El Cuyo on the eastern border with Quintana Roo, near the famous Las Coloradas.
As mentioned, Celestun is located on the western edge of Yucatan, adjacent to the border with the state of Campeche. Reaching this small community is very easy with a bus directly from Merida taking about two and a half hours each way. There are several hotels available as well as some beautiful Airbnb's. Celestun in itself is a beautiful small town with a warm and welcoming community. The western facing beach offers some of the most gorgeous sunsets I have ever witnessed. The true treasure here is the mangroves. There are several companies offering motorboat, canoe or kayak tours through the breathtaking nature reserve where you will encounter many species of birds such as Cormorants, Frigatebird and the most famous of all, the Flamingos.
El Cuyo is a very quiet beach community located on the far eastern edge of the state, along the border with Quintana Roo. The community is well know as a stopover for trips to Rio Lagartos and Las Coloradas, locations famous for Flamingos as well as vivid pink lagoons. El Cuyo is not as heavily visited or built-up which makes for a very peaceful getaway. Wifi and cellular service are almost nonexistent on the island, which for some might be a welcome escape. Being not as popular means there is a high probability that you will be sharing the beach with very few other people, most likely only a handful of locals. The beach here extends very far, offering an opportunity to enjoy a beautiful walk to soak up the sun. I enjoyed the Airbnb we stayed in as it was a traditional palapa construction with the thatched roof, which allowed the fresh sea breeze to flow through the house.
Of the locations discussed here, Progreso is by far the most accessible and built-up. The town is popular among both locals and snow birds coming down from Canada primarily. Progreso is located 30 minutes driving time from Merida or about 45 minutes by direct bus. There are ample accommodations and dining options available, most along the beachfront. The beach here can become very crowded during holidays as locals from Merida and the surrounding towns will flock to the beach, particularly during the hotter months. Progreso is also home to the world's longest pier as the town serves as the main port for the region. There is also a cruise terminal located here. If you are spending time in Merida and looking for a beach day, Progreso will be your easiest option, and a great choice for an escape which includes the sand and sun. I recommend an overnight stay in town in order to reserve time to visit with the raccoons and coati which inhabit El Corchito, the local eco-park located here.
While visiting any of the beaches along the Gulf Coast of Yucatan, you will not be disappointed. Progreso offers easy access to the surf and plenty of dining options which contrasts with the wonderful escape from the outside world found in El Cuyo. However, if your time is limited and can only visit one of these great places, my recommendation is Celestun. This town offered the happy medium of both accessibility and tranquility, as well as the unique opportunity to tour the mangroves. The sunsets on display each night were beyond words.