Hurricane Ernesto gained strength as it churned toward landfall on the Yucatan peninsula packing top sustained winds of 85 miles per hour (130 kmh), the National Hurricane Center said.
The second hurricane of the Atlantic season, Ernesto -- a category one on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale -- lashed the Caribbean coast of Honduras and Belize on its course toward landfall, according to the Miami-based center.
The peninsula, mostly in Mexico's Quintana Roo state, is home to bustling holiday destinations such as the resort city of Cancun and island of Cozumel. Hurricane warnings were in place along the entire coast of Belize and up the east coast of the Yucatan in Mexico as far as Cancun and Cozumel.
At 0001 GMT Wednesday, Ernesto was 65 miles (105 kilometers) east of Chetumal, Mexico. It was moving west at 18 miles per hour, the NHC said.
"The center of Ernesto is forecast to move across the Yucatan peninsula late tonight and early Wednesday and emerge over the bay of Campeche," a NHC statement said.
"Some additional strengthening is possible before Ernesto reaches the Yucatan peninsula later" and hits land late Tuesday, it added.
The storm, which began drenching Caribbean countries last Thursday, was bringing high winds and heavy rain. In mountainous areas of Honduras the rains could add up to 8 inches (20 cm), the NHC warned.
"These rains may produce life threatening flash floods and mudslides over higher terrain," the NHC added.
This is the second hurricane, and the fifth tropical depression, in the Atlantic Ocean since the season began on June 1.
Chris, which strengthened to hurricane force on June 21, stayed far off land, and vanished without causing any damage.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (or NOAA) has forecast a "less active season, compared to recent years."
The agency predicts there could be between nine and 15 tropical storms before the season ends in November, of which around half could become hurricanes.
The forecasters predict just a handful will become more powerful -- and dangerous -- category three or higher storms.