national park in Mexico
North America > Mexico > Yucatán and the South > Yucatán > Arrecifes de Alacranes National Park

Arrecife de Alacranes (Scorpion Reef) is a reef located 125 km north of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The reef is a designated national park that, because of its remote location, is visited only by serious scuba divers and very enthusiastic birdwatchers. The reef has five main islands, but only one is inhabited (Isla Perez). The park is recognized as an "Important Bird Area" because of its large nesting population of frigatebirds.

Dock on Isla Perez, Arrecife de Alacranes
Satellite image of Arrecife Alacranes (Scorpion Reef)

Understand edit

The reef system is 17 miles long by 13 miles wide. It sits in an area of open ocean in all directions which accounts for its reputation as a treacherous area for seagoing vessels. Many ships met their demise on the reefs, leading Lloyds of London to construct the lighthouse on Isla Perez in the mid 19th century. The light has subsequently been rebuilt and upgraded, though the lightkeepers house is the original structure built by Lloyds. The Mexican navy maintains a permanent garrison on the island.

Arrecifes de Alacranes National Park has been designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and as a Ramsar wetland.

Landscape edit

The islands are white coral sand and subject to changing geography due to seasonal storms and tidal variation. Many small islands are unvegetated sandy strips. There are five primary islands that do have vegetation, the largest of which is Isla Perez. The other four vegetated islands are Isla Desertora, Isla Pajaros, Isla Chica, and Isla Exterrado. The islands are primarily sand dunes and mangrove wetlands.

Flora and fauna edit

These landscapes are important nesting places for various bird species, including the endangered sharo-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus), the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and the piping plover (Charadrius melodus).

Thirty-four coral species make up the reefs. Four species of sea turtle nest on the beaches.

Climate edit

The climate is hot and dry.

Get in edit

The only way to get to Arrecife de Alacranes is by boat. The nearest port is Progreso, Yucatán.

Fees and permits edit

A special permit is required to dive the reefs and stay on Isla Perez. The permit is issued by CONAMP. Stop by their office in Merida in person and be prepared to pay fees in cash. The office is at Av. Perez Ponce 120, phone: +52 999 938 0708.

Get around edit

You need a boat. Boats might be chartered in Progreso, though it's a long, difficult trip best done with an experienced captain familiar with the dangers of the reef system.

See edit

Dive sites include:

  • Wreck of HMS Forth - Royal mail ship sank January 14, 1849 while en route to Bermuda
  • Wreck of HMS Tweed - Royal mail ship sank 1847 while sailing from Havana to Veracruz

Do edit

  • Scuba diving
  • Bird watching
  • Fishing - the reef offers good fishing for black grouper, barracuda, tuna, wahoo, and king mackrel. On the northwest side of the atoll, the water quickly gets deeper and this area is good for sailfish, dorado and tuna.

Buy edit

Nothing to buy here.

Eat edit

Bring your own food.

Drink edit

Bring your own drinks.

Sleep edit

There are no hotels or rooms for rent on the island.

Camping edit

Overnight camping is permitted.

Stay safe edit

  • Educate yourself about precautions for sailing around reefs
  • Avoid sunblocks with reef-damaging chemicals

Go next edit

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