Puerto Morelos is one of the best kept secrets in the Yucatan. Anyone who happens on this quaint Caribbean hideout quickly falls in love. And the town is one of the few coastal beauties on this stretch of the Riviera Maya that’s maintained a measure of authenticity. With a wide selection of great Mexican food hotspots, a variety of nearby hotels, and a good road connecting the town with the highway, it makes a great base for exploring.
Established in 1982, the Jardín Botanico is one of the largest botanical gardens in Mexico and should be first on your list of spots to visit. In this conserved forest, you will find a many endemic Yucatan flora, including cacti, palms and medicinal plants. You can take the 2.5 mile long trail through the garden, where you can visit a traditional Mayan house, archaeological site, and even a zipline.
The superb Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, only 1,800 feet offshore, is an excellent place to explore with a scuba tank or on one of the many snorkeling tours on offer. The coral reef is healthy, meaning you’ll see plenty of marine life; but the surrounding mangrove forests are a protected national park, so you’ll need to visit with a licensed guide and purchase a mandatory conservation bracelet. Home to many species of birds, the park is also a draw for bird-watchers.
But of all the things to do in Puerto Morelos, visitors shouldn’t miss the bizarre cartoon castle at the corner of Niños Heroes and Morelos, a carved, curvy, leaning tree-house fantasy perfect for the everyday architecture-fiend, that has to be seen to be believed.