Progreso, Mexico may be a tiny little port town located on the tip of the Yucatan peninsula, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find something to do during your visit, provided you know what to look for.
Many cruise passengers who’ve come to Progreso frequently have claimed that it’s becoming a “home away from home” for them whenever they’re on vacation.
With various restaurants, duty-free shopping, ancient Mayan ruins, underground caves, and the beach, there’s truly something in Progreso for everyone to enjoy. While other Mexican ports tend to Americanize things for the tourists, at Progreso you’ll be able to get the full Mexican experience.
Food & Drink
Experiencing the cuisine and foods of other cultures is one of the best parts about going on a Caribbean cruise, and Progreso is not going to leave you hungry for very long.
The main street along the beach, called Progreso’s Malecon, features many restaurants that give you a fantastic view of the beach, and many even allow you to sit on the beach with your meal, either under the palapas (a traditional Mexican shelter using palm leaves or branches) or rent some lounge chairs.
It’s important to note that none of the restaurants in Progreso allow smoking, and on Sundays no alcohol is served before 12:30pm.
With that in mind, let’s dig in and look at some of the fabulous dining options you can find in Progreso, either on the Malecon, or in downtown.
Restaurants on the Malecon
This open-air bar and restaurant is located right on the main boulevard with access to the beach. They serve sea-food of all types, but the favorite of most customers is the lobster. Prices can be a little high, but if you pay with pesos rather than American dollars, it’ll be cheaper.
On top of great food, they also have awesome service. Many travelers have reported how attentive their servers were each time they went to the restaurant.
Vina Del Mar is one of the best upscale restaurants on the Malecon, often hosting receptions, birthdays, or anniversaries. It’s not just travelers and tourists who love dining here, it gets plenty busy with locals as well. They offer both seafood and some Italian options on their menu, but everything is delicious, and the service is amazing.
Milk Bar may sell seafood, but they’re most known for their burgers and sandwiches, which can be a nice change for someone who doesn’t like seafood or is allergic. They also have plenty of vegan and vegetarian options on their menu. They are the #3 rated restaurant on TripAdvisor, and customers love their friendly staff and versatile menu options.
If you’re a fan of The Simpsons, you’ll love Moe’s Bar. It’s not only modeled after the popular show, but it features artwork and statues of the characters as well.
This is one of the few places in Progreso that’s open late, so if you enjoy a little bit of nightlife experience, this is the place to go.
Maya Ka is probably one of the most unique restaurants you’ll find on the Malecon. Fresh seafood, tasty drinks, and a pool right in the middle of the outdoor seating area, so guests can cool off with a brief swim while waiting for their meal.
Also, the seating area is sheltered in the shadows of a Mayan temple replica, adding to the restaurant’s atmosphere. Many travelers cited Maya Ka as their favorite restaurant whenever they visit.
With a full seafood menu and the best margaritas on the Malecon (according to other travelers), Restaurante Shark also provide the largest outdoor seating area under a huge palapa. Service is attentive and friendly, and you get a great view of the ocean while you eat.
Le Saint Bonnet services delicious breakfast foods, as well as lunch and dinner. Located right on the beach their service is top notch. Slightly higher scale than some of the other restaurants around, but without the stuffy attitude. You can also stop in here later in the evening for a round of margaritas on the beach.
Known most by the crazy looking octopus statue out front, which is where this restaurant gets its name, this is a great place to stop for lunch. They offer indoor two level seating, but you can also get a seat on the beach and order your food there. With a friendly, laid back staff, you can just hang out and relax there.
If you really want an upscale dining experience while visiting Progreso, then Crabster will be just right for you. Waiters wear white shirts, use cloth napkins, and the restaurant just has a beautiful atmosphere overall.
Choose from a full seafood menu, as well as some delicious dessert options (their Pecan Pie is to die for!). While dining and enjoying their great service, you get a nice view of the Gulf and the cruise ship you just came in on.
The décor inside this restaurant makes you feel like you’re sailing the high seas as a pirate looking for treasure. Meanwhile, their outdoor seating on the beach offers plenty of palapas with ample shade. The owners here are extremely friendly, and the food is good. Definitely try the fried octopus if you stop here for lunch.
This lovely restaurant is the Malecon’s newest addition. They have a large wine selection, delicious margaritas, and a delicious menu. Great service, and the second floor offers a great view of the beach.
Another tasty breakfast spot, La Chaya Maya offers unique flavors that you won’t get anywhere else for breakfast.
Attractions & Excursions
Getting a true Mexican experience is not just all about food. You have to learn about the history and explore the geography that makes Mexico so unique. The best way to do that is to tour the island and visit various historical sites and ruins, or anything that let’s you experience what the island has to offer.
Even if you don’t stop anywhere to eat, walking up and down the Malecon is great if you just need to stretch your legs. There’s also a lot of shops to stop at now and then so you can bring home some authentic Mexican souvenirs.
Progreso Craft Market
When you step off your boat and head towards the shuttle that will take you into the city, you’ll walk right through the Progreso Craft Market. Hundreds of vendors selling various wares will be there.
Most popular here are the hammocks, made from cactus fiber, as well as high quality jewelry.
It will also be very crowded as other passengers will be disembarking, so keep that in mind while you’re browsing. If crowds aren’t your thing, we suggest moving on to something else and then coming back to the market when there isn’t as much foot traffic.
What is a port city in Mexico without beaches? Well, Progreso really only has one beach, but there is plenty of things to do on the beach, whatever your preferences are.
You can rent jet skis, kayaks, go kiteboarding, deep sea fishing, diving, and so much more. There are also a number of tents scattered along the beach, especially on cruise ship days, offering travelers massages at various rates.
Chichen Itza is not only the largest Mayan ruins to visit in the Yucatan, it’s the most popular and is listed as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World by archaeologists. It’s located a good 2 hours away from Progreso, so you’ll need to secure some sort of transportation to get there or book a tour.
They feature the 100-foot tall Kukulcan pyramid. The 365 steps leading to the top represents the 365 days of the Mayan Calendar.
You can also visit the largest ball court in Mesoamerica which used to hold very cutthroat ball games. And when we say “cutthroat”, we mean that losers were often sacrificed to the Mayan gods, right on the ball field.
Given the distance from Progreso, plan to be at Chichen Itza all day, so you’ll want to plan accordingly by bringing plenty of snacks. There’s also a night show at night that you can’t miss.
As the most popular ruins to visit, it can get crowded so try to get there as early as possible, if you can. Also bring plenty of sunblock, wear hats, and bring lots of water.
Uxmal Mayan Ruins
As with Chichen Itza, Uxmal is one of the closest ruins to Progreso. In fact, with an hour and a half bus ride, it’s a lot closer than Itza. Not as many people visit Uxmal, so it won’t be as crowded as some of the other ruins in the area.
Uxmal features some of the most beautiful architecture, so you can take your time to ogle at the facades, terraces, plazas, and pyramids, some of which go all the way back to 200 and 900 AD.
Dzibilchaltun Mayan Ruins
Book an excursion to the Dzibilchaltun ruin, a ceremonial site where the Mayan astronomical and architectural advances are on display. This ruin is the closest one to the port, so if you don’t have a full day to spend it’s a great spot to visit and enjoy and learn some of the Mayan culture.
Visit the temple of the seven dolls and go for a swim in the Xcalah Cenote, right in the center of the ruins (more on Cenotes below).
Any of the ruins near Progreso can be visited by booking a tour excursion through your cruise line.
If you’d rather not go swimming in the ocean which is full of seawater, sand, the hot sun, and various sea creatures, instead visit any one of the natural swimming pools found all over Mexico. These are called Cenotes (pronounced see-no-tay). They’re massive limestone sinkholes that get filled with cool, clear water from the underground river.
There are well over 6,000 cenotes in the Yucatan, and the Mayans considered them as entrances to the underworld.
If you want to beat the heat of Mexico, this is the best way to do so. The water is rich with minerals and visiting at least once during your stay is a must. Some of the Mayan ruin tours include cenotes as tour stops, or you can take your own tour around to various cenotes and spend the day swimming I the coolest, clearest water you’ve ever seen.
Merida is the capital of the Yucatan Peninsula, and it neighbors Progreso. In fact, Merida is just a short 20-minute bus ride away and is also filled with various attractions and Mayan ruins to visit.
In Merida, known as The White City because of its white, limestone buildings, you’ll experience a unique mix of Mayan culture and colonial history. Festivals are held every year, so if you want to experience music, literature, and art like you never have before, be sure to join in.
Go on a kayaking tour around the island where you get a close up view of the local flora and fauna, including sightings of some of the tropical birds that live in Mexico. The entrance to the mangroves is located in Ria, and the tour takes about three and a half hours.
This is a memorable experience you simply can’t miss while you’re in Progreso. Since it’s a short tour, you’ll have plenty of time to stop over at a restaurant for lunch afterwards, and then find something else to do.
While Merida is known as the “White City” because of its limestone buildings, Izmal Town, just 40 miles east of Merida, is called The Yellow City. Houses here are all painted yellow and are located amongst many hills that many believe to be covering undiscovered Mayan temples.
This is great town to do some extra sightseeing in after visiting Merida. Anyone with a passion for archaeology and architecture will love visiting here. Tour guides on your excursion will inform you about Izmal’s history and culture.
As with many excursions with big tour companies, this one will cost a pretty penny (roughly $100 per person), but some of the taxi drivers in the area might have better deals.
About an hour and a half south of Merida is Celestun which is a small, quiet and beautiful town in Yucatan. This is also the location of the flamingo and bird sanctuary.
The best way to get here is by taxi and be sure to bring a guide with you. The guide will not only fill you in on the history of Celestun but can tell you all the best places to visit in the town.
Take a boat ride to the lagoon filled with flamingos, swim in more freshwater cenotes, or visit the large pink salt Salinas. You can also take home large salt particles as a souvenir.
Perhaps sightseeing and architecture aren’t your thing. If that’s so, go check out the El Jaguar golf course over at the Yucatan Country Club. If you happen to be a golf enthusiast, or just want a relaxing but challenging way to stretch your legs, play a game or two on the 18-hole, Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course.
This is great for all skill levels of golfers. When Jack Nicklaus designed the course, he took into account the landscape full of natural cenotes, archaeological remnants, and built a course that factored those in without disrupting them. While you play your game, you’ll still be able to enjoy the full cultural experience.
Beginners and pros alike will enjoy playing here during their stay in Progreso.
Progreso, Mexico is a lovely port of call and a great place to really immerse yourself in the Mexican culture. It’s also known for various Mayan ruins where you can witness some of the amazing Mayan architecture, while also learning about their culture, ceremonies, and rituals commonly held.
Be sure to bring your appetite with you to Progreso, because there are plenty of restaurants to visit. So many, you’re going to have a hard time deciding where to eat.
Shopaholics will also love it here, as there is plenty of shopping available just as you get of the ship, and in the town of Progreso itself. All shops are duty free, but it is recommended that you shop (and dine) using pesos rather than American dollars, because everything will be much cheaper that way.
Or, if you just want to relax during your shore excursion, talk a walk along the beach, rent a beach chair, or go swimming in one of the many cenotes all around the island.
Whatever you decide to do, you won’t forget your visit to Progreso, and you may find yourself coming back more and more.