Merida residents flock to the port city of Progreso to stroll along the malecón (waterfront promenade) and take a dip in the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Progreso’s lovely waterfront promenade is always bustling with food and craft vendors, local residents and beach-goers, and the waters just off the coast are calm, clean and good for swimming.
Progreso is also a popular cruise ship destination, and the city is famous for its pier which extends an impressive four miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Cruise ship passengers arriving in Progreso are often bused the length of the pier before embarking on Progreso excursions, many heading inland to visit the city of Merida or tour the Mayan ruins at Uxmal and Chichén Itza.
Grab a seat at one of the many palapas (thatched-roof restaurants) that extend the length of the beachfront. Progreso is an excellent spot to sample some of Yucatan’s distinct regional cuisine. Seafood dishes are popular and include sopa de mariscos (seafood soup), pescado tikin-xic (grouper seasoned with achiote and baked in banana leaves)
and chivitas (river snail ceviche).
En route to Progreso, stop off at Dzibilchaltun, an ancient Maya administrative and ceremonial center. Dzibilchaltun is located just north of Merida and gets its name, meaning “place of the stone writing,” from the numerous stelae discovered at the site.
The on-site museum has an interesting exhibit on Mayan culture and displays artifacts discovered at Dzibilchaltun including dolls discovered during the excavation of the Templo de las Siete Muñecas (Temple of the Seven Dolls) and artifacts discovered at the bottom of the 40m deep Cenote Xlacah, many of which are believed to have important ritual significance.
You can also enjoy Progreso excursions to neighboring coastal towns and villages to spot flamingos and visit small archaeological sites.