Explore Progreso’s La Ría, one of Yucatán’s most underrated attractions

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

About half a mile to the left from the roundabout leading into Progreso is La Ría, one of the coastal community’s most underrated attractions. 

The entrance to La Ría Progreso is well marked but easy to miss as it is on the opposite side of the road when approaching from Mérida and traffic moves quickly. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

La Ría Progreso is run by a small community cooperative that offers a variety of recreational and educational activities at very reasonable prices.

Kayak rentals at La Ría Progreso cost 100 pesos per hour, while paddleboards cost 250. Fishing tours are considerably more expensive but can accommodate several people at a time.

Not to be confused with a río, or river in Spanish, a ría is a type of submerged coastal inlet formed by fresh water that remains at least partially open to the sea. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Though rustic, the facilities are nice and feature a three-story lookout that offers a fantastic view of the area.

View from the lookout or “mirador” at La Ría Progreso. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

La Ría Progreso has bathrooms that patrons can use for free, as well as a small refreshment stand kiosk to purchase water, soft drinks, snacks, and sometimes coconuts fresh off the trees. 

The taste of fresh coconut water freshly picked from a palm tree sure is hard to beat. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht 

Entrance to the facilities is free and the cooperative offers fishing trips, birdwatching boat tours, as well as paddleboarding, and of course, kayak rentals.

The staff at la Ría Progreso is very friendly and will help you get on your way safely. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Unless you are going full steam ahead, kayaking is extremely relaxing and not particularly strenuous. It is a great opportunity to get out into nature, enjoy the quiet and take in the Peninsula’s natural beauty. 

A fisherman makes his way through the Ría armed with his fishing nets shortly after sunrise. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Aside from single-person kayaks, La Ría Progreso also rents out double-sized versions for two passengers.

Upon my most recent visit with my fiancée Yesica, we saw only one other group of people arrive as we were making our way to the shore. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The kayaks are very stable, and even if you are completely new to the activity you are unlikely to have any trouble. That being said, if you bring along a phone or camera it’s a good idea to bring a plastic bag to help protect them from inevitable splashing.

For the most part, the water in the area is quite shallow and currents do not tend to be all that strong, though on occasion winds may pick up, making rowing a little challenging. 

Kayaking through Progreso’s Ría is fairly easy. Just make sure to get a properly sized paddle, as not doing so will make traversing the water much more difficult than it need be.

One of the nicest things about La Ría Progreso is just how close it is to Mérida, as well as the fact that there is no need to haul out your own kayak. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht 

When holding the paddle, both hands should be placed at the same distance on either side. If you don’t do this you will be going in circles. 

The best way to find the right fit is to ask to try out two or three different paddles and see which one works best for you. 

As there are several square miles of ría to explore, make sure to keep your wits about yourself to avoid getting disorientated and lost.

The traffic from the nearby highway and telecommunication towers in Progreso make for good markers to help you navigate back. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Depending on the tide, small sandy beaches sometimes emerge from the Ría’s small islands dominated by mangroves. These make for great spots to stop for a little breakfast and just sit and take in the beauty of the Ría and its wildlife. 

It is possible to disembark on these tiny islands, but remember to be mindful of the ecosystem and not leave any garbage. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht 

As the ría is full of birds, quietly kayaking around is a great way to get up nice and close for photos that would not be possible on a motorized vessel.

Dozens of birds species are part of the ría’s ecosystem, but one of the most plentiful is the Yucatecan Cormorant. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The area is full of mangroves, which are extremely important to Yucatán’s ecosystem as they are the first line of defense against erosion and incoming storms and hurricanes. 

Mangroves are only able to prosper under very specific conditions where the surrounding water meets the correct pH balance. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

I have been visiting La Ría Progreso for about 10 years now, and not once have I ever seen it crowded, which only adds to its charm.

La Ría Progreso is extremely enjoyable any time of year, but if you plan to go during the hottest months of the year, I would recommend getting there as soon as they open at 8 a.m. 

For more information contact La Ría Progreso on Facebook, where they tend to reply fairly quickly. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Regardless of what time you go, it’s always a good idea to wear a hat, sunglasses as well as sunblock.

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