Located 100 km. due north of Progreso at Lat./Long. 22.5 / -89.7 it is always a spectacular surprise to see the group of five atolls known as Alacranes Reef National Park rise up out of the Gulf of Mexico waters. You can snorkel around sunken boats and fish the reef, as well as visit the lighthouse and wander around the five atolls. With a touch of sadness you will note the lighthouse office building which is more than 100 years old is falling down due to the lack of support from those responsible for its upkeep. You’ll want to depart the coast at dawn and head for the anchor area at the reef; the trip takes about 3 – 4 hours by motorboat and about 10 – 12 hours under sail. You must obtain a permit in advance for this trip. Our lead photo was taken from Isla Chica.
In 1994 the United Nations decreed this circular reef to be part of the Reserve of the Biosphere. This is the third such naming in the state of Yucatán. The other two biospheres are in Rio Lagartos and Celestún where large flocks of birds, especially flamingos, inhabit the mangroves and rías. Mexico now has 34 protected areas nationwide.
The lighthouse keeper’s house on Isla Perez dates back to the late 1800s and was constructed from wood by the English. Built on pilings approximately three feet off the ground, nowadays this historical building is falling upon very hard times. Having gone through several hurricanes and received no maintenance, the house is falling apart. One of the images in our Related Gallery is a watercolor of the house, painted by Juan Manuel Mier y Terán; he painted it as part of a project presented to the state government to show how the house will look once it is rescued and possibly turned into a museum before it is too late.
The reef complex is 27 km (17 miles) long and 20 km (13 miles) wide with an area of some 245 square km (153 square miles) and is made up of the five islands named Isla Perez, (the largest and only inhabited island where the lighthouse keeper’s house is located along with a small Navy base), Isla Desertora (also known asIsla Muertos – dead -or Oeste – west), Isla Pájaros (birds or Larga – long), Isla Chica (small or Blanca – white) and Isla Desterrada.
There are no ferries or regular transportation out to the reef.
To visit Alacranes, you must comply with the requirements of the Comisión Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP), in order to enter the park. Permission must be obtained 30 days in advance. There are restricted areas where you cannot visit.
The trip to Alacranes is not for the weak of heart as there are no installations for receiving people so you MUST take your own water, food, tents, etc. And once there, you have to be careful to not get hurt, cut or whatever, as there are no doctors, hospitals, etc. and it takes hours to get back to the coast. Alacranes is the spot for snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing and just plain relaxing.