PROGRESO — For $33 pesos (slightly more than USD $2), you can travel round-trip by modern air-conditioned bus to Progreso from Mérida’s center.
The 36 kilometer (23 mile) bus trip to the port town on the Gulf of Mexico takes only about an hour but transports you from Merida’s hustle and bustle to a more laid-back beach resort. Here you can swim in the usually tranquil Gulf waters, stroll the malecón and eat delicious seafood while sipping a cold beer or lemonade under a palapa right on the beach.
While Progreso becomes crowded during the height of Mexico’s August vacation season, for most of the rest of the year you don’t have to compete with hordes of tourists for seats in restaurants and bars.
Giant cruise ships do disgorge about 3,000 passengers several days a week at Progreso’s impressive pier, which juts 6.5 kilometers (about 4 miles) into the Gulf. But most of these passengers opt for tours to other sites in Yucatán, leaving Progreso mostly free of the tourist congestion that characterizes better-known beach destinations like Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
Besides the beach and the breezy 1 kilometer-long malecón lined with small hotels, bars, restaurants and shops, Progreso’s attractions include a small but well-organized market where you can buy artisan crafts, a 36 meter (118 feet)-high lighthouse that dates from 1893, and a tree-shaded central park where locals gather in the evening.
On days when the cruise liners are In port, you’ll find a few shaded massage tables set up right on the beach, where you can enjoy a relaxing massage while being caressed by comforting sea breezes.
If it’s not convenient for you to catch a bus from the Autoprogreso terminal in Mérida’s center on Calle 62 between Calles 65 and 67, you can also opt to travel by a smaller “combi” (van) from the Chuburna area in Mérida’s northern section. Taxis also can be hired for the day.
The Autoprogreso buses depart about every 15 minutes throughout the day from both Mérida and Progreso. The buses are sleek and modern, but they can become crowded as they make several stops on their way into and out of Merida. The earlier in the day you start your trip, the better.
Before making the trip to Progreso, take some time to familiarize yourself with the port city’s fascinating history. The town, whose population now is about 50,000, grew to prominence in the 19th century as the main port for Yucatán’s internationally famous hemp exports.
Progreso has had its ups and downs since then. But it is now the main container shipping port for southeastern Mexico, an important center for commercial fishing, and it also numbers several cruise liners that make regularly scheduled calls each week.
Make plans to visit this interesting Yucatecan city soon!
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