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Yucatan Top Five: Beaches

In an effort to highlight the beauty of the Yucatan from a local perspective we have asked Diana Gonzalez, Yucatan Compass Consulting’s Project Manager, to share the top five beach towns that she thinks you should explore.  Diana is a life-long Yucatan resident with a background in international travel, languages, economics and finance.  We are sharing this as a part of our “Yucatan Top Five” series.  If you have a favorite beach that is not on this list that you would like to share please feel free to contact us or comment below.  If you would like to reach out to Diana directly you can email her at diana@yucatancompass.com.

Miles and miles of beaches await your exploration in Yucatan, Mexico

The Beaches of Yucatan

The Mexican state of Yucatan has over 300 km (485 miles) of beautiful shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico.  Far from the crowded beaches of Rivera Maya- Yucatan hosts some of the most beautiful and tranquil tropical beaches in Mexico.  From Celestun in the west to El Cuyo in the east there are beaches to suit almost every taste.  When I decided to put this article together I had a hard time choosing just five beaches because there is so much diversity in the geography of our coastline as well as the attractions that surround it.

Here is a list of the top five beaches I like to visit in Yucatan based on my years of living here.  I think you will love every one of them for their beautiful calm seas that range in color from crystal clear to green, blue and every hue in between.  Enjoy a relaxing day by yourself or with family and friends.  Don’t forget to stick around for a little while or you will miss our famous Yucatan beachside sunsets.

It is well worth sticking around for a beautiful Yucatan beach sunset

Celestun

Celestun is small village on the west side of the state is located 90 kilometers from Merida.  The sea there is calm and crystal clear. Coconut palms line the shores along with fishing boats as Celestun is a working town with many fishermen.  As you enjoy your visit you can watch these men prepare for a day on the open water and return with their bounty- a nice, picturesque image of Yucatan life.

The reason I recommend Celestun is not only because of its beach but the amazing biodiversity surrounding it.  I’m Yucatecan and as a child I went to Celestun once or twice and I didn’t think I saw anything especially memorable.  It wasn’t until about two years ago that I really discovered the wonder of this village.  Ironically at that time I worked at a travel agency and I went as a tour guide with a group of French students.  This trip was probably more exciting for me than it was for the students as it was the first time I really appreciated what this corner of our state has to offer.

Celestun’s ecosystem is unique because of the combination of fresh water from the Ria Celestun (a small river that runs parallel to the sea) and salt water from the Gulf of Mexico.  River trips can be arranged by guides at the entrance to Celestun.  Each boat takes 4 to 8 people, depending on the tide. Once on the tour you get to see the famous flamingos that have an intense pink color due to the concentration of carotene in the water.

Besides flamingos you get to see many other spectacles of nature: a large variety of bird species such as pelicans, mangroves, cenotes with delicious fresh water traveling to the sea from the peninsula’s underground river system (where you can swim to refresh yourself), crocodiles and an amazing petrified forest.

Celestun is also an extremely popular beach for expatriates to choose as their new home here in the Yucatan.

Sisal

The oldest memory I have of Sisal is going fishing with my uncle, an amateur fisherman, and my cousins.  He used to say that the best sea to go fishing was the “sea of Sisal.”  Besides the great fishing, Sisal has a lot to offer visitors.

First of all it has a lot of history; it used to be the most important port for henequen export back to the 19th Century.  The name of this port is attributed to a particular variety of henequen, agave sisalana, whose fiber is the main export product of the henequen industry in Brazil.  It also has an emblematic fort that was built to protect against the pirate raids.

Sisal has rich flora with mangrove forests, hillocks, swamps and marshes that shelter many animal species including many migratory birds.  Next to Sisal is a very important ecological reserve where hawksbill turtles spawn.

Another activity to do in Sisal, if you enjoy the sport, is duck hunting.  Hunting season goes from December to April.  There are extensive estuaries in the area that support a thriving population of ducks- as many as twenty different species.  Five species of ducks are exclusive to the Yucatan and can’t be found anywhere else.

Discover the Yucatan beaches we have highlighted and every one in between- from our friends at Explorando Mexico

Chelem

Chelem used to be the favorite beach for Meridans to build their beach houses for quick and relaxing getaways- especially in the heat of the summer months.  Younger generations of locals seem to prefer Progreso, Chicxulub and Uaymitun these days so this quiet village next to the sea has become a popular settlement for expatriates who seek a sun drenched, relaxing beach life.  One of the big reasons this area has become so popular for expatriates is the access to quality public services and infrastructure.  What doesn’t hurt is the proximity to Merida via the modern Merida-Progreso highway as well as the village of Yucalpeten where harbors serve as shelter for boats of all shapes and sizes.

Progreso

Progreso is a “must go” beach because it’s the most important port of Yucatan, the entrance to the state from the seas of the world.

It is strategically located 32 kilometers north of Merida- making it the favorite beach for city dwellers who seek a refreshing beach getaway during the hot summer months.  It is common these days for families from Merida to own a home in Progreso.  This phenomenon has lead to increased development in nearby Chicxulub, Uaymitun and San Benito to meet the demands of weekend vacationers.  These local economies have experienced beneficial growth from the demand for more restaurants, nightclubs and other establishments.  Visitors benefit from this growth with an ever-increasing list of entertainment and dining options to enjoy.

I have many fond childhood memories of spending summer days and nights in Progreso with my family.  We would spend our days on the beach and the nights in restaurants and clubs with great food, music and people watching.  You can’t beat the refreshing night breezes.  I know these memories are shared by many Meridians.  When the summer season has faded, many of these homes are rented to foreigners, mostly Canadians, who come to Yucatan looking for warmer weather.

Fishing boats rest in the afternoon sun next to the famous pier in Progreso, Yucatan, Mexico.

Progreso is a first-rate seaport for import and export.  It is hard to miss the pier built out into the area’s shallow waters as it is over 6.5 kilometers (4 miles) long!  It is also a port-of-call for several international cruise lines.  The city is festive but really comes alive on days when cruise ships dock for the day: artists of all types come to showcase their wares to travelers, musicians stroll the beaches and the seaside restaurants are filled with sun seekers.  The area near the pier has a great selection of bars and restaurants- many of whom have excellent seafood (surprising, right?).  Whether you are visiting for the day from land or sea there are several fun options for visitors to enjoy right on shore including banana boat rides, windsurfing, kite surfing and kayaking.

Dzilam de Bravo

This beach town is on Yucatan’s eastern shores and is known for its amazing ecological reserve that is filled with cenotes, eccentric flora and fauna and a beautifully tranquil beach.  If you are looking for a more organic beach experience than the excitement that Progreso can offer this may be the beach for you.  You will encounter nature around every corner in Dzilam- where the noise of the surrounding villages seems to be “switched off” so you can truly enjoy the scenery and the solitude of this beautiful place.

If you have an interest in archaeology this area has a number of great Mayan ruin sites to explore nearby including Xalau, Tamba, Bolmay, Petul, Sotpol, Xuyap, Poxil, Xcoom, Palaban, Xmaos and Xcan.

What are your favorite beaches in Yucatan?  There are so many, right?  Share your favorite beach spot by commenting here or on our Facebook page.  Once we have enough of your ideas we will be happy to share your recommendations with readers in a “Part Two” beach article!

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  1. The Yucabacho » Progreso, Yucatan, Mexico says:

    [...] Read a nice article about Yucatan beaches on another site I work on, Yucatan Compass Magazine here. [...]

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