Progreso – Living the Boomer Expat LIfe in Mexico
On the west side of the Yucatan Peninsula on the “Flamingo Coast” or as it is becoming known the “Yucatan Riviera” is a string of small fishing communities. Beginning at Chuburna and running east on Highway (Carreterra) 27 for about 50 kilometers to Santa Clara, these small villages do vary considerably in size and available services such as or banking or shopping. These are fantastic places to retire to or live as an ex-pat in Mexico in an affordable location.
Progreso is pretty much a straight drive to Merida on the newer highway, and it takes around 20 to 30 minutes to get there. In 2012, 476 foreigners obtained their permanent residence cards in the Yucatan. In the early part of 2013, that number increased by 30%. The city of Merida on the Yucatan Peninsula increased its population of ex-pats quite dramatically. Guesstimates state that there is probably over 3000 plus expats living in Merida, Progreso and the coastal areas, some live here year round others come in as “snowbirds” and stay for 5-7 months.
Progreso is the largest of the beach towns and has a population of a little over 50,000 and is the state’s main port. It hosts cruise ships twice a week at the “longest pier in the world” and has a growing community of ex-pats with a guess at around 800 split between snowbirds spending up to 7 months a year and those who live there full-time. The Malecon which runs along the coast is becoming better and better each year with restaurants and shops opening up and growing along the area. Not a particularly pretty town, yet, Progreso does have the advantages of a taxis and collectivos that make it easy to get around without the need for a car. With a yearly average high temperature of 83 F and average low of 73 F and if you live near the beaches permanent breezes Progreso can be very pleasant.
Many ex-pats and immigrants have chosen to live in Progreso as it has pretty much all the modern conveniences. Lots of banks and bank branches, ATM’s are abundant and there is shopping from the market and other larger stores. Within the main boundaries of what might be considered downtown Progreso you can buy anything from tourist gifts to pool supplies. There is an ATM or bank on virtually every street. The main medical centre is in Progreso and there are plenty of specialty stores from Farmacias to Zapaterias.
The Malecon (Calle 19) has been rebuilt and expanded over the years and you will find lots of tourist style knick knacks and t-shirts to buy. Running one way (west) on Calle 19, the Malecon is occasionally closed to traffic when there is a special event or holiday but generally speaking it is open. Sit on the beach under a palapa and you will have waiters serving you cervezas, limonade or the local beer Leon Negra.
Try some Xtabentum a licorice flavoured Maya drink and of course Margaritas at 2 for $5 are a lovely refreshing way to relax under the sun. Keep in mind though Progreso is not a glamorous tourist location like Cancun or Playa del Carmen it is a Mexican beach town but you can get a full-body massage right on the beach for $10 and there are plenty of restaurants to choose from offering everything from authentic Yucatecan food to French cuisine, pizza, beer and hamburguesas. Here you will receive several botanas at no charge (botanas are appetizers) when you drop into a restaurant for a meal or drinks.
If you stroll off the Malecon down Calle 80 you will find a selection of shops, ATM’s, banks and artisans. Further down the Calle is a small Artisans market that is open on cruise ship days, further up the street you will find the farmer’s market, where you can find a good variety of inexpensive seasonal fruits and vegetables. Check out Bolam Bolam which is run by an ex-pat Richard and helps support Mayan children and their educational goals. You will find some wonderful leather goods and textiles in the store and a portion of the profits goes to the Apoyo Program which helps kids with school expenses. Further up the street drop into Barolovento which is a great ex-pats hangout and you can get a nice cold cerveza and check out the for sale signs in Yucatan Real Estate’s window right next door.
If you’re looking for an affordable, real Mexican fishing and beach community, this is it. Progreso is not yet a pretty town and it has put off more than its fair share of cruisers, but it is a real Mexican town. There is poverty, run down buildings sorely in need a a coat of paint (or complete restoration), there is a lot of garbage around and quite a few free range dogs. However, more and more tourist dollars are being invested in the town and over the next 10 years it promises to become an even better place for locals, ex-pats, snowbirds and tourists. Because it is not the Riviera Maya there are plenty of bargains to be had in the property market. Beach lots can go for as low as $10,000 US and there are many houses for sale at under $100,000 if you want to live in the real Mexico. Gated communities are rare here but there are a few high end colonial style homes begging for rehabilitation and lots of houses in the under $150,000 range.
There are a few good restaurants in Progreso: Don’t forget to tip the waiters well since they usually only work for tips. Keep in mind many of the tried and true close for the season which means between May and September they will not be around. One of our favourites for Steak Tacos Mr. Pincanha seems to do this keep an eye on them on Facebook to check when they are open.
Milkbar Av. Malecon Entre 72 y 74, Progreso, Mexico
This is a small American family-run cafe in the middle of the Malecon that serves a variety of Mexican and American dishes, plus a selection of incredible juices and smoothies (even healthy vegetable and fruit combinations). There’s outdoor and indoor seating and a play area for the kids. The pricing is more affordable compared to the other restaurants on the strip and the staff speak both English and Spanish. All in all, a nice comfortable place to relax and enjoy the view of the ocean.
Eladios Av. Malecon S/N | Calle 80, Centro, Progreso 97320 , Mexico
Beautiful view of the ocean, right on the beach. There is a children’s slide and a swimming pool for the patrons. Lots of free botanas and the Mexican beer is cold and refreshing. Prices are pretty standard and the wait staff occasionally speak English or want to practice their English.
The Naked Frog Calle 23entre76 Y 78 Col. Centro,, Progreso 97320, Mexico
Mango margaritas, the best fish and chips in Progreso and other delicious dishes like coconut shrimp make The Naked Frog very popular with both expats and locals. Serving some great local shrimp and ceviches. A few blocks from the Malecón, well worth the walk from the seafront.
Barlovento Calle80 No. 109 x21 y 23, Progreso, Mexico
Great atmosphere, really good food made from scratch, cheap drinks and good service. Favoured by the local expats you can hang out at Barlovento and meet lots of folks with great stories and advice about living in the Yucatan.
Progreso is not for everyone it doesn’t come close to matching the Caribbean side from Cancun down to Tulum for nightlife and luxurious beach resorts. Progreso, however, better reflects the authenticity of the “real” Mexico. Service isn’t always polished. Not everyone speaks English but the folks here are pleased when you try your Spanish and will help you all they can. You’ll see poverty, too. But hospitality here comes with a smile and an eagerness to please. There are small inexpensive hotels and hostels here but no Holiday Inns or all inclusive Marriott Hotels, there are also lots of private home rentals that are available year round.
Stores & Supplies in Progreso:
There are lots of options for groceries and food in this area. You can order home cooked meals, pies and even handmade sausages alongside the usual grocery store goods. However food shopping in the Yucatan can be somewhat tricky to find things or certain ingredients you may have used all the time and home.
There are a few Farmer’s Markets, the Slow Food Market held in Merida Norte every Saturday morning (an now Weds evenings as well) is a fantastic place to pick up all kinds of fresh fruits, vegetables, lettuces and organic eggs and meats from lamb to duck are also available. There are wonderful tamales, fresh baked breads, pies and cookies and much more. Several expats have tables here and sell everything from lasagnas to smoked salmon and pulled pork.
A Farmer’s Market is held in between Chelem and Chuburna on Mondays at Natural Thangs Nursery and hosts a growing assortment of vendors with wonderful fresh arugula and other veggies, breads, pickles, fantastic quiches and incredible kombuchas available from a great selection of vendors.
With everything from fabulous breakfast burritos to gorgeous paintings the Market is a great Chelem get to together. In Chicxulub there is the Muelle Market held every other Thursday from 9-12 noon from January until the end of March. and again has a great selection of arts and crafts plus tamales, breads, cakes, cheeses and much more. Both are well worth dropping by to check out and you will probably meet tons of ex pats shopping and touching base with each other.
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