Free or Cheap Things to Do in Progreso, Mexico on a Cruise

Not long ago, Progreso was a sleepy port town with one claim to fame — one of the longest piers in the world. Its famous pier juts miles out into the Gulf of Mexico.

Today, Progreso still has a lot of that sleepy charm, but it has another claim to fame. It’s quickly becoming a popular port of call for cruise lines. Not only is there plenty for cruise passengers to do — including things that are free or cheap to do — but the city it also has something else going for it: location.

Progreso sits on the northern edge of the Yucatan Peninsula. That location makes it one of the closest ports of call for places like Galveston, New Orleans, and Mobile. Instead of a cruise line sailing a day, visiting Cozumel, and then sailing back home, Progreso adds another port that passengers can visit.

Looking for things to do in Progreso, Mexico on a cruise, including free or cheap activities? Here’s what to know about visiting.

Today you’ll find that Carnival and Royal Caribbean make stops in the port, with Carnival having the most calls.

If your cruise has a stop in Progreso, you might be wondering what exactly there is for you to do on your cruise, especially things that are within a budget. Below we cover all the things you can do, whether you’re looking for something inexpensive, close to the cruise pier, or simply the biggest adventure possible.

First, let’s cover a little background about the port you should know.

Progreso Location and General Information

As we mentioned, Progreso sits on the Yucatan Peninsula. All told, it’s about 200 miles as the crow flies from Cozumel, so many cruises have these ports back-to-back.

Progreso sits on the northern side of the Yucatan Peninsula, just outside of Merida and about 200 miles from Cozumel. Map data: Google, INEGI

The most distinguishing feature of the city is the long pier. When you dock, you are still miles from the shore. There is a small port complex that features a number of shops and spots to grab a drink or snack.

Want to head into town? After you walk through the port complex there is a stop with buses that run continually from the cruise pier into Progreso. It’s free to ride. The bus heads to the station that’s a few blocks from the beach. When you’re ready to head back, just head back to the station and catch the next bus to the cruise ship.

Overall Progreso is relatively relaxed compared to the hustle and bustle you’ll find in Cozumel. With fewer cruise ships visiting — and not being a major cruise port for a long time — the build-up of the area isn’t as pronounced as you’ll find in Cozumel.

That said, expect it to feel like there are a lot of people in port when you visit if you stick to the tourist areas like the beach and boardwalk. However, just a couple of blocks off the main hot spots and you can see that it’s a fairly quiet town.

For more information about visiting Progreso, see our port guide here.

Free or Cheap Things to Do in Progreso on a Cruise

Want to save some cash and have an inexpensive day in port? There are quite a few things to do that won’t cost a lot. They also generally will be near the foot of the cruise pier. You don’t have to go far to have a good time.

Progreso beach
The beach in Progreso is free to enjoy and you’ll see locals and tourists alike having fun. Water color and clarity can change with the weather conditions, so be aware.

Progreso Beach
With any cruise port in the Caribbean, you’d expect to have a beach nearby to allow you to get some sun, swim, and generally just hang out. Progreso doesn’t disappoint.

As you head down the cruise pier, the main beach that most cruise passengers head to on is on your left. It’s’ white, sandy, clean, and during our visits the water has been gorgeous. That said, the water is known for changing with tides/currents and isn’t always beautiful.

Right alongside the beach is a nice walkway — a malencon in Spanish-speaking countries — that lets you walk the beach and head into the sand where you want.

Feel free to find an open area and spread out your things. One thing you’ll notice is that there are lots of restaurants in this area and many have areas set up in the sand where you can get food and drink service while on the beach.

You’ll also notice a number of chairs and umbrellas set nicely in the sand. Just know that these are either for rent, or for the use of restaurants. If you sit here, you’re expected to order for the restaurant while you enjoy the chair and shade.

If you want to shop for souvenirs, then the area right near the cruise pier is ideal. Don’t think you’re going to find all the high-end diamond shops like you’ll see in places like Cozumel. Vendors here are smaller; often it’s just someone with a table and a tent.

You’ll find a wide variety of items, everything from clothing to bags, to jewelry, and anything you can imagine with “Mexico” written across it.

Our advice is to bring lots of small bills as you’ll need them. Having correct change is ideal. As well, haggling is perfectly ok. If you can’t find a price you like, don’t be afraid to ask for a lower one or walk away.

Hit the Watering Holes in Progreso
The walk between the bus stop and the beach and then down the malencon has a number of small bars and restaurants, many offering lots of drink specials. Want a beer? Expect it to cost a couple of bucks at some of the smaller spots.

One thing to keep in mind is that drinking in port is vastly cheaper than drinking on the cruise ships. If you have a drink package, then by all means get your fill on the ship. For those without, you can save considerable money. A beer on the ship may be $6-8 and a cocktail can be $10-14. That’s several times what you’ll pay in Progreso if you decide to make a stop at the bar.

Tableside guacamole in Progreso
It doesn’t get much better than fresh-made guac and a cold beer. There are numerous spots on the beach that you can stop to get a bite to eat.

Grab a Meal at a Restaurant
Near the port are tons of restaurants offering everything from cheap eats to high-end dining. What’s nice about eating in port is that it can offer a welcome break from the fare on the cruise ship. Even if you love eating on the ship, having the same things day after day can get tiresome.

As for the food near the Progreso pier, you’ll find lots of Mexican fare, often with a focus on seafood. So if you want guacamole or fish tacos, you’ll find several places offering these items.

Keep in mind that restaurants near the cruise pier are going to cater to American passengers, so you might find higher prices than you would elsewhere.

Here are a couple spots near the port with good reviews:

Eladios – A popular beach bar that’s right on the corner of the beach and the cruise pier. Serves a ton of Mexican and seafood dishes.

Lena & Mar – For those wanting a little finer dining, this spot is near the beach but is a step above a beach bar in atmosphere. It serves everything from pizza to ceviche, so anyone can find something they like.

In general, however, you can just stroll along until you find a spot that looks tasty.

Malecon in Progreso, Mexico
The main walkway in town — the malecon — follows the beach from the pier. On one side is the beach, on the other are a number of shops and restaurants.

Walk the Malecon
We’ve mentioned the malecon already, but it deserves a standalone mention as something to do near the cruise port that’s free. The concrete paved walkway runs right down alongside the beach. On the other side is a street, with restaurants and shops.

What’s neat about the area is that there is so much going on. You can watch people playing volleyball on the beach, check out vendor’s tables alongside the walkway, duck into a restaurant for a beer or snack, or just take in the sights and sounds of Mexico.

One thing to keep in mind is that it can get warm and humid, and the sun can be strong. Be sure to stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and don’t forget a hat when you’re walking.

Grab a Drink or Souvenir at the Port
While the pier in Progreso is long, you don’t have to go far for something to do. Right at the foot of the ships is a port area with a number of shops. This includes many selling souvenirs but also spots selling ice cold beer, sodas, and water. 

If you want to stay close to the ship, you can do some window shopping, grab something cold, and just sit and people-watch while you stretch your legs off the ship. 

Take a Souvenir Photo in Front of the Progreso Sign
Most Caribbean ports have some sort of colorful sign that’s designed to be a perfect spot to grab a souvenir photo. Progreso is no different. At the port you’ll see the sign right before you walk into the main drag that’s lined with souvenir shops. You can stop and grab a photo when you first get off the ship, but it’s likely to be more calm and with smaller crowds if you wait until the afternoon

Visit the Museum of the Meteorite
If you’re a history buff (we’re talking ancient history) or have kids, then visit the Museum of the Meteorite. As you may know, this area is thought to have been near the impact point of a meteor that killed the dinosaurs and changed life on Earth.

Today, Progreso offers this museum you can visit complete with dinosaur sculptures, fossil exhibits, and more, all enclosed in some really neat architecture. Did we mention it’s also an indoor spot where you can cool off? The museum is located about half a mile to the east of the foot of the pier, right along the beach.

There is an admission fee of about $20 for adults and $6 for kids.

Enjoy Quiet Time on the Ship
While it’s technically not Progreso, one of the cheap things you can do is spend your day on the ship. While there aren’t as many activities led by the crew like there are on days at sea, things like the pool, spa, fitness center, and more are all available to you. There are also a number of places to eat onboard, depending on your ship.

Many people like to stay on the ship in ports of call as it gives them an opportunity to enjoy the ship without the same crowds that are around when everyone is back on board.

Progreso Excursions

Looking for something to do in Porgreso and don’t mind spending a little bit of money to enjoy yourself? There are some neat excursions and experiences that can take you inland where there are a number of unforgettable experiences.

One popular excursion is to head to cenotes near Progreso. It offers an opportunity to do something you just can’t experience back home.

Visiting Cenotes
The Yucatan is made of porous rock that in some spots has been eroded away. Some of these spots become freshwater pools known as cenotes.

Cenotes are one of the most unique geological features in the Caribbean. The water has been filtered through rock, making it amazingly clear. And because it’s been underground for so long, it’s always cool.

There are a number of excursions offered through the cruise line that will offer trips to nearby cenotes from Progreso. The trips will include transportation and usually have lunch as well.

It offers a chance to swim in these amazing natural features in crystal clear water. It’s something you simply can’t do anywhere else.

Trips to Merida
Merida is the capital of Yucatan, and just about 45 minutes inland of Progreso. With a population of nearly 1 million people, it’s a major city. So why visit during a cruise?

For those interested in Mexican history and architecture, Merida has a lot to offer. The city was founded in 1542 — about 235 years before the United States. With so much history, it practically oozes from the buildings. See churches built hundreds of years ago, museums, and art galleries.

The Gran Museo del Mundo Maya (The Museum of the Mayan World) is a can’t miss if you are interested in the history of the indigenous people.

Excursions to the area are available through the cruise line or you can arrange private tours yourself.

Experience Mayan Ruins
The Yucatan was a hot spot for Mayan civilization, and ruins continue to be discovered even today. For those interested, there are a number of sites within a day trip from Progreso, and the cruise lines offer excursions. Major sites like Uxmal and Chichen Itza are within a few hours’ drive, giving you a chance to see some of the most historical sights on the planet. There’s really nothing like it short of visiting pyramids in Egypt.

Best of all, these trips take care of transportation, tour guide, and admittance into the sites. You only need to worry about bringing your camera. Expect to pay a decent amount (more than $100 per person) for the opportunity, but it’s something you won’t forget.

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