You will be forgiven for not knowing anything about Puerto Morelos. Many people completely overlook it in favor of its larger neighbors – Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. But it is the place to go if you really want to enjoy the Mexican Caribbean.
As one of the few coastal towns on this stretch of the Riviera Maya that’s maintained a measure of authenticity, the town furthermore proudly boasts wide swathes of white sand and gentle waves, essentially becoming a popular beach spot for families. Elsewhere, there are several waterfront clubs with sun loungers and palapas for rent, and the area has some of the finest Mexican cuisine around.
In recent years, however, the town has grown in stature as an adventure capital.
A part of the Mesoamerican Reef finds its home in Puerto Morelos, where the spectacular coral formations and rich marine life come to show off. The marine park is considered one of the most pristine areas of the huge reef system that stretches along the Mexican Caribbean coast south to Belize, and you can even find two marine biology research stations here.
On any given underwater tour of the Puerto Morelos excursions on offer, you’ll see queen angelfish swimming by, shoals of blue tangs, blue-striped grunts, porkfish and lone parrotfish feeding on the coral. Larger fish such as jacks, snappers, hogfish, grouper and barracuda gather above the corals (it’s no wonder Puerto Morelos fishing is so sought after!), and you’d be smart to keep a lookout for sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, nurse sharks and octopus.
However, there’s more to Puerto Morelos than coral reefs and beautiful beaches. Unforgettable adventures await in the jungle too. The Ya’axché-Alfredo Barrera Marin Botanical Garden is the second largest botanical garden in Mexico, and showcases the trees and plants native to the Yucatan Peninsula. The Botanical Garden is located just south of Puerto Morelos on Highway 307, but you’ll soon leave the noise of traffic behind as you walk along the trails through the forest. You’ll hear a variety of bird calls and may spot orange orioles, great kiskadees, green jays, woodpeckers and parrots, among other species. Interestingly enough, the park is home to a troop of approximately 50 spider monkeys who forage for fruit in the treetops!
Elsewhere, to find some of the finest cenotes in Puerto Morelos, you’ll have to hop onto the road west of Highway 307 that goes through the jungle to the small town of Leona Vicario. Along the route you’ll see many wooden signs marking the turn off for cenotes deep in the forest. These natural limestone wells or sinkholes have crystal-clear waters that look turquoise or emerald, depending on the light. Some are open and others are hidden in caves. They include Cenote Las Mojarras, Siete Bocas, Boca de Puma and Verde Lucero and several of them have rustic zip lines and nature trails in the vicinity of the cenote.
Although it’s become a favorite of Canadian and American expat artists, painters, and poets, it’s still essentially a salty Mexican seaside village. Nothing here has been prettied up for visitors, and tourist traps are few and far between. With a wide selection of restaurants, a variety of nearby hotels, and a good road connecting the town with the highway, it makes a great base.