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The Flamingo Coast and Progreso Mexico Beaches: 9 Places to Stay

The Flamingo Coast, also known as the Yucatan Gulf Coast, is located on the northern shore of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, known for its pristine white sand beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters, and abundant wildlife, including flamingos, which give the coast its name. Only a trickle of foreign tourists and expats seem to know about this region so the Progreso Mexico beaches stretching to the east and west only get anywhere close to crowded if it’s a Mexican holiday weekend.

Yucatan flamingo coast progreso beaches

Unlike the more famous Caribbean beaches in Quintana Roo state, these in the state of Yucatan are on the Gulf of Mexico. They are far less developed and therefore less expensive, but they are also very different than the Riviera Maya ones.

On the plus side, these beaches lined with palm trees don’t get any nasty sargassum seaweed washing up and stinking up the place, plus the emerald waters are shallower and there are seldom real waves, making them good for families. The water is more green than blue, but it’s still a beautiful color and is quite calm in the mornings before the wind picks up.

The cons are that these beautiful beaches on the Gulf of Mexico get hit by storms a lot and the sand can move up and down the coast in a haphazard way when that happens. When we first started going to Chuburna Puerto, where we owned a beach house for a while, the beach was about 25 meters wide. When we came back after a bad storm, it was about 10 meters wide. Houses built too close to the shore, especially in the town of Chelem, have had to be abandoned because they got swallowed by the sea.

I mentioned this area on my article about where to find cheap beach houses in Mexico and while prices are creeping up like they are anywhere near the water, this is still one of the best values in North America if you’re looking at real estate near the ocean. Especially if you want a beach house in a place where the water is warm all year. That water can get a little chilly in the winter by Mexican standards, but the lowest water temps here in February are on par with the highest in California or the northeast USA.

Progreso Mexico Beaches and a Cruise Ship Stop

Progreso Mexico beaches

Puerto Progreso is a port city, the closest to the city of Merida, located on the northern coast of the peninsula. As a major port, Puerto Progreso is an important hub for shipping and commerce in the region, as well as tourism for cruise ship passengers. It’s also the most developed beach in the region, so many of the ones nearby are referred to as “Progreso beaches” even though they’re separated. 

The town is named after the Spanish word progreso, which means “progress,” and in recent years, Puerto Progreso has seen significant development and growth, with new hotels, restaurants, and shops opening up to cater to the growing number of tourists who visit the area. Many of those tourists just wander around for a few hours and leave, however, going back onto their floating hotel. 

Naturally, one of the main attractions of this spot is its beach, which stretches along the coast for long enough to get a good walk in, and is a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. The town meanwhile has several traditional markets where you can sample local foods and buy some so-so crafts and souvenirs (pottery is the best bet). Take a stroll along the malecon, or boardwalk, and find your perfect spot for a cold beer. 

Chicxulub Puerto – the Ritzy Beach House Zone

Chicxulub Puerto is a small coastal town located on the northern coast, situated just north of the city of Progreso. The town is named after the nearby Chicxulub Crater, which was formed by an asteroid impact millions of years ago and is thought to have contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs. In 2022, Sendero Jurásico, or “Jurassic Trail” opened, a quaint “Jurassic Park” inspired walkable dinosaur attraction in honor of the crater’s legacy.

The Chicxulub Puerto beach is the favored location for Merida’s elite, with the region’s biggest and splashiest houses. On my first trip to the area, we pulled up to one in our rental car thinking it was a hotel; we were going to pop in for a drink. No, the caretaker told us, it’s a family’s private home. Please move along. 

The nearby nature reserve of El Corchito is home to mangrove forests, lagoons, and a variety of bird species, and the town has a viewing tower facing it where you can climb up and often spot flamingos. (Binoculars or a camera with a zoom will help.) If you’re interested in history, you can visit the nearby ancient Mayan ruins of Dzibilchaltun about a half hour away from here, on the way to Merida.

Chuburna and Sisal

Chuburna Beach near Progreso

My family spent a lot of vacations in Chuburna because we had a little two-bedroom casita one house back from the beach. This is when we lived in landlocked Nashville and we used it as a beach getaway when the winters got dull and gray at home. It’s the kind of place you come to when you want a do-nothing vacation though because this is not a town that’s bursting with action.

It’s a place where Merida locals come hang out on the beach, drink beer, and eat at fish restaurants. It’s kind of a day drinking place too because if you order beers or cocktails in the afternoon, they bring you botanas: snacks like chips and guacamole to accompany your drinks. There’s not much open at night unless there’s some kind of local festival going on or the carnival is in town, so it’s best to stock up on plenty of groceries in Progreso.

Further west between here and Celestun is Sisal, another sleepy town where fishermen outnumber travelers. I never made it down to there since it sounded very similar to where we were already hanging out, but it’s another spot for a true getaway and maybe a bargain beach house buy if you’ve got time to look around or to build. 

Celestun – the Flamingo Viewing Destination

Celustun flamingo tour

Celestun is a small fishing village located on the west coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. It is known for its natural beauty and abundant wildlife, including the famous pink flamingos that flock to the area.

Aside from the beach, the main attraction of Celestun is its natural reserve, which is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, including the flamingos. Visitors can take a boat tour through the mangrove swamps and lagoons to see the birds up close, as well as crocodiles, and sea turtles.

The town is famous for its seafood, especially shrimp, and the town has several seafood restaurants where you can enjoy the fresh catch of the day or other local dishes. There are hotels in Celustun where you can spend the night, including a couple of eco-lodges, or you can visit on a day tour from Merida.

San Crisanto – Coconut Groves and Mangroves

San Crisanto, a small coastal town that is home to mangrove swamps and a huge coconut grove is a popular tourist attraction on the north coast.

The San Crisanto Coconut Grove is a vast area of coconut palms and is considered one of the largest and oldest coconut plantations in the region, with miles of winding paths among the towering palms. You can stroll through the palms and learn about the traditional methods of coconut farming used in the region. There’s a story of rebirth and resiliance too since a blight wiped out most of the trees at one point and the region had to import a different species from abroad in order to replant and recover.

Here also resides the Cenote Negro, or Black Cenote, which is located in the heart of the grove; a natural sinkhole filled with clear, fresh water and is a popular spot for swimming and snorkeling.

The mangrove swamps are a spot where visitors can take a boat tour to see the wildlife, learn about the importance of the mangroves to the local ecosystem.

The beach is a popular spot for coconut treats courtesy of the groves, and of course it’s easy to find local seafood from the fishing village.

Telchac Puerto – Mayan Ruins, Golf, and a Resort

Telchac Puerto, a tranquil beach town, is a quiet and secluded spot that can make for a nice base for exploring the region. The downtown area has several historic buildings, including a beautiful old church and a town square where locals gather to socialize and relax when it cools off in the evenings.

Telchac Pier is a popular attraction in the town, a great spot for fishing, sightseeing, and enjoying the ocean views, as well as watching the local fishermen bring in their daily catch.

If you’re interested in exploring Mayan ruins, Telchac is close to an archaeological site that’s way off the radar of most tourists. You might just have Xcambo all to yourself.

Telchac can also be a base for experiencing Las Coloradas, located about an hour’s drive from the town. See more on that below.

If you’re a golfer, Telchac also has a great golf course at The Yucatan Country Club, offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape and challenging play for golf enthusiasts. Last, this town is home to the only all-inclusive resort on this whole Yucatan Gulf Coast. See the touring section at the end for more on that.

El Cuyo – Secluded Beach and Windsurfing

El Cuyo, a small fishing village on the border of Quintana Roo and the Caribbean Sea, has a quiet and secluded beach, surrounded by miles of unspoiled wilderness. Heading east, this is basically the last town you can stay in before you get to Holbox Island.

A popular activity in El Cuyo is kiteboarding. The town is located in a windy area, making it a great spot for this exciting and adrenaline-fueled sport. There are several kiteboarding and windsurfing schools in the area where you can take lessons or rent equipment. If you’ve met anyone who has been here, that’s probably why they visited, though it’s a great spot to visit for beaches with no crowds.

Rio Lagartos – Wildlife Tours and Las Coloradas

Las Coloradas empty beach and water

The main attraction of Río Lagartos is the Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, a protected area that is home to an abundance of local animals living in an area where nobody can cut or uproot the plants. Boat tours and animal encounters are available, and the reserve is also a great spot for bird watching, with over 380 species of birds found in the area.

Oddly enough, the main area to tour is a sea salt factory, with pink lagoons people can pose in front of, but it’s also a great spot to see flamingos and explore hidden beaches with no development. You can see how easy it is to walk out in calm water too in that photo above. I took my camera out into the water knowing there wasn’t any risk of getting hit by a wave.

In theory, all beaches in Mexico are public beaches, though in some cases it’s not practical to get to them unless you have a boat. Here there are places where you can park and get to these secluded beaches and you can walk for miles since there are no houses (or the remains of houses) blocking the way. No beach bars here though: it’s all nature.

Rio Lagartos is located on a lagoon that attracts fishing enthusiasts from other countries. Here they go after snook, tarpon, and sea trout. There are several fishing charters in the area that offer guided tours and equipment rental.

I just published a whole article about this area over at Perceptive Travel, so get the full story there: Touring Las Coloradas and Rio Lagartos.

Flamingo Coast Itineraries and Gulf of Mexico Hotels

If you were to drive from Cuyo to Celestun, that could take you the better part of a day, so most people pick a hotel base or vacation home base in this area and then branch out from there on day trips. By doing that, however, it’s easy to hit several interesting places in one day if you play it right.

You do need a rental car, however, as there’s not much public transportation along the coast. You can get to Progesso from some of the other towns on a local bus that makes a lot of stops, but the only real commercial bus route is between Progreso and Merida. Check car rental rates in Merida here.

As I mentioned earlier, I used to own a little beach house in a sleepy town called Chuburna Puerto, where fisherman and a few expats co-existed. From there we took trips to Celestun, flamingo-spotting areas, Progresso, and Telchac Puerto, returning to our own place at night. You can get to most of these areas in a day from Merida, but it’s a long day trip to Las Coloradas. For that it would be better to visit from Valladolid.

Rates in this region are still quite reasonable if you check Airbnb or Vrbo because the houses are sitting empty most of the time outside of Mexican holidays, especially in the winter when Merida residents don’t go to the beach. They think the water is too cold for swimming. The towns get busier in the summer.

Due to development restrictions on this coast that can get hit by hurricanes and tropical storms, you won’t find any high-rise megahotels. There is one all-inclusive option though: Reef Yucatan in Telchac, pictured in that section above. It has a nice pool complex, typical food from the region, and free-flowing drinks. Prices are far lower than what you’d spend in Cancun.

There are also some nice eco-hotels in the Celestun area and one small all-inclusive boutique hotel. Follow this link to check rates. Otherwise, you’ll find small hotels up and down the coast, with the largest number of them being in Progreso. See the options here.

There are also plenty of choices in Rio Lagartos, the jumping off point to Las Coloradas and a wonderful place to hop on a boat and go see some wildlife. In just an hour at sunset we saw flamingos, a dolphin swimming next to us, storks, herons, cormorants, and a crocodile. The best hotel in town there is Yuum Ha, with a nice swimming pool complex. It only has six rooms though, so book ahead, and stay long enough to eat at their great restaurant.

From Rio Lagartos you could easily get to Cuyo or just spend a few hours at one of the deserted beaches nearby. There are no facilities, not even bathrooms, as it’s a protected nature area. So bring in what you need and carry out all your trash.

Some unusual highlights to consider in the region if you have the time are the ruins of Xcambo near Telchac, the mangrove boat rides offered by the community at Manglar, and the Las Coloradas sea salt operation and wildlife tours. Then get away from the beach to swim in cenotes and see the Ek Balam ruins near Valladolid.

I’ve written a lot about this area on Perceptive Travel, where I’m editor, so check out more articles on Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula at that link.



Friday 17th of November 2023

It's like I could feel the sand between my toes and hear the waves crashing. Your knack for uncovering those hidden gems, like the local seafood joints and the relaxed beachfront vibe, is spot on.