Located in the northwestern Caribbean Sea, Hurricane Rina is slowly gaining strength as it follows its projected path toward popular beach resorts like Cancun along Mexico's Yucatan peninsula.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) have followed the system since last Thursday when a broad area of low pressure was centered between the eastern tip of Honduras and Jamaica. Rina became a tropical storm on Sunday evening before strengthening to a hurricane on Monday afternoon.

Rina is rapidly strengthening and is expected to become a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale) late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

According to Tuesday's 5:00 p.m. EDT alert from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Hurricane Rina was located 275 miles east-southeast of Chetumal, Mexico or about 275 miles southeast of Cozumel, Mexico. The Category Two storm was slowly strengthening on a westward course at 3 mph.

Rina is expected to make a turn toward the west-northwest Tuesday night, followed by a gradual turn toward the north and a slight increase in forward speed by Thursday. The storm will likely approach the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula Wednesday night and continue to batter the coast through Thursday.

Rina packs maximum sustained winds of 110mph with hurricane-force winds extending just 30 miles from the storm center. Tropical-storm-force winds, however, extend outward up to 140 miles.

The Government of Honduras issued a tropical storm watch for the Bay Islands of Roatan and Guanaja. A tropical storm warning will likely go into effect later on Tuesday.

A tropical storm watch is also in effect for the coast of Belize from Belize City northward.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula from Chetumal to Punta Gruesa.

Meanwhile, a hurricane warning is in effect for the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula from north of Punta Gruesa to Cancun.

Locations within the tropical storm warning area will likely begin to feel the effects of Hurricane Rina by Wednesday afternoon while hurricane-force-winds will not affect land until Thursday.

Rina is predicted to dump upwards of 16 inches of rain over the eastern Yucatan peninsula from Wednesday morning into Friday before it spins back between Cuba and the Florida Keys as a tropical storm.

Rina is the seventeenth named storm and sixth hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane Philippe was the last Atlantic storm. It fizzled out in September over the Atlantic without ever making landfall.

So far, Hurricane Rina has caused at least eight cruise liners to change their course and has forced the evacuation of many hotels in Cancun and along the resort-filled Mayan Riviera, Mexico's most popular tourist destination.