Located 20 mi/32 km north of Merida, Progreso has been the Yucatan Peninsula's main port of entry since the 1870s, when its sisal crops were its major economic force. That industry since has died down, and Progreso is now a major stop for cruise ships.
It might seem disappointing to some because there are no wide expanses of white-sand beaches, ruins or colonial architecture, and most of its hotels are small, nondescript cement-block affairs. Many families from Merida maintain weekend beach homes there, and the small town fills up with locals during Easter week and the Christmas holidays. Many Canadians like to spend the winter there (and in villages to the east and west) in small rentals to escape the harsh weather farther north.
Still, this friendly port does have a spate of decent open-air seafood restaurants along its four-block-long waterfront, where you'll find the liveliest action and the main beach. Near a few reefs offshore, divers can visit a sunken ship. Progreso is also close to Merida and surrounding Mayan ruins such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal, which make good day trips for cruise passengers. When ships are in port, a handicrafts market comes to life in a municipal plaza on the main shopping street.
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