Route from Isla Mujeres to Progreso

Cancun - Isla Mujeres area chart

Route from Isla Mujeres to Progreso

The route from Isla Mujeres to Progreso is generally considered to be an easy and safe passage.  The dominating wins in the northern Peninsula of Yucatan usually blow either from the East, north or south east; in either case they are favorable, and the current can be expected to be at must times at .5 to 1 Knot from east to west.  Waves are usually very low in the northern Peninsula, since the water is very shallow for many miles from shore.  The total distance calculated for this route is 188 miles (NM).


The winds are usually stronger in the winter, with periods of calm in between “Northerners” or Cold Fronts. That means that from October to March, you can expect stronger winds from the north in the 15 to 20 knot range.   (Northerners or "Nortes" as called locally, can hit the coast with very strong and dangerous winds at times, but usually the following days after a Norte enters, gives good weather windows for sailing).

During spring,  Northers die down, and wins shift to the southeast but stay strong, particularly in the eastern coast of the peninsula and a few miles away from the coast when in the north shore.  Southeastern winds vary from 10 to 20 knots. at this time. 

In the summer moths, (June to September) things are calmer, and the usual winds vary from southeast in the morning to northeast in the afternoon  in both cases they are less strong and can be expected from very calm in the morning (2 to 3 knots.) to a stronger breeze in the afternoon from the northeast up to 12 to 15 knots.  The summer months is the rainy season here  therefore, thunderstorms in the afternoon are usual.  Also tropical weather affects the area often at this time of year, and you should stay updated on the current tropical storms that form in the area. (both Isla Mujeres and Progreso are execellent hurricaine holes)

Look in the LINKS section for both weather and tides information.


First Leg:  Isla Mujeres to Isla Contoy

The first leg of the Journey is the 18 mile stretch from El Yunque rock in Isla Mujeres to the northern tip of Contoy.  (This leg is often done by locals via a shallow canal that runs inside the reef, but unless you are doing it on a fast boat and in daytime, I would not recommend to attempt it.  There are also a few very shallow shoals that can get as shallow as 5 ft.)

As you leave El Yunque, you head out towards point B in the chart to stay well away from the reef, and from there, you head strait to point C which is at the  northern tip of Contoy.  The water in this passage is very deep, so you should not worry about that at all. (50 to 100 feet) This is also the part of the journey where you can expect bigger waves, since the water is deeper.

Second Leg: North of Contoy to Rio Lagartos

As you turn from point C to point D, you begin to enter the Gulf of Mexico, and you will begin to see many changes.  The first will be the color of the water and the type of wave that will generally be smaller. The current will be less and now from east to west.   But the biggest change will be the depth which will be going down all the way up to about 18 to 20 feet.

(From this point on, that will be the general rule, as if you stay in a 2 to 4 mile range from the coast, the depth can be from 12 to 20 feet but never lower than that. Don´t be scared by the shallow water!! If you are 2 miles from the coast, you are in good depth at all times)

The Northern coast is very shallow, but for most sailboats and yachts, 12 feet of water is plenty and for the most part of the coast you can find 12 feet at 300 yards from the beach, but there are a few parts where you would have to go further, so just to be safe, 2 miles from the coast is perfectly safe.

Point D to to E is the 60 mile run from Cabo Catoche to Rio Lagartos.  In this part you will be sailing further away from the coast, for the simple reason that there is no point in not making a strait line, but if you where to try and stop at Holbox, or El Cuyo, you could head more or less strait to any of those at any point past point D. Holbox is approximately 18 miles from point D and  El Cuyo 34 miles.  This part is where we would recommend the most staying furthest from the coast as some shoals tend to form closer to the coastline.  From Cabo Catoche to Rio Lagartos is best to head in a strait line and not be tempted to go following the coastline and with that, sailing closer to shore.

(Neither Holbox or El Cuyo are covered in this guide for now; mainly because there is really no infrastructure in terms of enough draft or a good navigation channel on either port to be used by cruisers, but one can always anchor out close to the beach ( a few hundred yards) and go to town on your dingy for all kinds of services from food, water, restaurant, and even fuel.  Both ports have a fuel dock with diesel and gas.  Hopefully soon we will add both ports, since there are works going on, on both ports.  as of Sept. 2013)

As one approaches point E,  ( 21º 41´10.03”N  88º 9´54.51”W ) the first half of the journey to Progreso is almost over.  Point E is a couple miles ofshore from the entrance to Rio Lagartos which is covered in this guide in its respective section.  You can begin your approach to Rio Lagartos from point E.

Third leg, Rio Lagartos to Progreso.

As you Leave Rio Lagartos you can head straight for Telchac which is the only usable port west of Rio Lagartos. (Dzilam and Chabihau are very shallow and could only be used by boats with outboard engines or anchor out and use your dingy)  in the above chart point F is marked in front of Telchac and is at:

21º 24´53.47”N

Once you pass point F you are heading strait for Progreso.  Telchac is a port you may stop at and has a small sailboat marina at the entrance of the harbor as well as two larger marinas that are in construction as of Aug. 2015, hopefully they will be finished soon.  Look up Telchac in the respective section of this guide for more info.

If you are not stopping at any of the ports, just remember that shallow water is the rule for the entire passage, so if you stay 2 miles of the coast, you will be in safe depth at al times even if you see readings as low as 10 feet in your sounder.

The approach to Progreso is well explained in the Progreso section of this Guide.  Progreso has a large commercial pier which reaches 4 miles out from shore.  Once you pass that pier from the north, you can sail straight down to the entrance of Yucalpeten Harbor.

Approximate Distances in this Route:

Total from Isla Mujeres to Yucalpeten Harbor in Progreso: 188 nautical Miles

Isla to Contoy: 18 Miles

Contoy to Rio Lagartos: 80 Miles

Rio Lagartos to Telchac: 67 Miles

Telchac to Yucalpeten: 25 Miles


Intermediate Ports Mentioned Above, coordinates to their general location:


El Cuyo

San Felipe

Yalkubul Light House

Dzilam de Bravo

89° 7'3.47"W