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Puerto Morelos is a town in Quintana Roo on the Yucatán Peninsula, about 20 km south of Cancún. It is a fishing village, and a resort and diving destination. It is roughly halfway between Cancún and Playa del Carmen on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. The pier in the center of town hosts snorkel and sport fishing boats while yachts dock in a man-made harbor just south of town. The village used to be the embarkation point for the car ferry to Cozumel, but that now leaves from Calica, a major port south of Playa del Carmen.

Understand[edit]

The original Lighthouse at Puerto Morelos, Mexico as shown in February 2007. In 1967, the structure was tilted over by the winds of Hurricane Beulah. This leaning lighthouse has since survived Hurricanes Gilbert in 1987 and Wilma in 2005, but has not been knocked down. A new functional light house for the port is visible in the background. The old Leaning Lighthouse (Faro Inclinado) remains as a symbol of the town.

It's the ideal location for those who want a quiet beach vacation away from the glitz, but with ample tourist amenities. The town has just two principal streets and you can walk from one end to the other in about 15 minutes.

You can get by with English, but Spanish is not superfluous. Most places accept US dollars but not credit cards. Almost all prices are quoted in Mexican pesos (M$) and it is generally cheaper to pay in pesos than in US dollars. There is no bank in town, but several bank cash machines for withdrawals. There are a couple of bank branches at the commercial area by La Colonia where Calle Jose Maria Morelos meets Highway 307.

The reef just off shore is part of the Great Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest reef system in the world and the largest in the Western Hemisphere. In 1998 the reef in front of Puerto Morelos became a protected National Marine Park, preserving its rich biodiversity and making this area one of the best preserved of the Great Mesoamerican Reef. Buildings in Puerto Morelos are limited to three stories by local bylaws, to preserve its village character.

Puerto Morelos' reputation as a laid-back Caribbean destination is supported by its scattering of boutique hotels, condominiums, villas, plus various small restaurants and tourist shops. Its appeal is especially strong to travelers who eschew all-inclusives and built up "touristy" attractions. For the most part, the town is a residential community with a mix of Mexicans, Canadians, Americans, and Europeans who live there full or part-time.

Just across the Highway 307, the main north-south route on the peninsula, is Colonia Zetina Gazca, commonly known as "La Colonia." This inland community is mainly single level dwellings for local Mexicans and a few ex-pats, and contains amenities such as small food stores, pharmacies, and several casual restaurants serving simple fare. In general, tourists tend to gravitate to the beaches of Puerto Morelos. The locals tend to live in the less expensive La Colonia.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

The nearest major airport is Cancún International Airport (CUN IATA). It is 20km away from Puerto Morelos and is Mexico's second busiest airport.

By car[edit]

Puerto Morelos is situated at the junction of Route 307 and a paved road to the town of Leona Vicario in the interior of the Yucatán Peninsula. This paved road is the eastern terminus of La Ruta de los Cenotes, a network of minor roads that allows access to many cenotes in the interior. At Puerto Morelos, the beginning of this road network is marked by an archway. The waterfront is about 2 km east from Highway 307 on Calle Jose Maria Morelos. Puerto Morelos is about 30 km south of Cancun, 30 km north of Playa del Carmen, and one hour north of Tulum.

By bus[edit]

Buses from Cancun and Playa del Carmen traverse Highway 307, the coastal highway and the main highway into town:

  • From Cancún International Airport take a private shuttle service to Puerto Morelos. Alternatively, you could take the ADO Aeropuerto bus to the Cancun bus station, and then take a second-class bus toward Playa del Carmen.
  • From downtown Cancun (el centro) take a second-class bus for Playa del Carmen. Buy your ticket at the station. Tell the ticket agent and driver you want to get off at Puerto Morelos. (First-class buses will generally not stop on demand). (Colectivos are a better travel choice).
  • From Playa del Carmen, take a second-class bus for Cancun from the Alterna bus station in Playa. Buy your ticket to Puerto Morelos at the station. Be aware that first-class buses will generally not stop to let you off. (Colectivos are a better travel choice).

Cancún and Playa del Carmen buses arrive and depart from the highway, about 2km from town. Each side of the highway has its own small station.

Frequent local buses travel between the highway (la colonia) and the beach (el puerto) for M$4 per person. Or take a taxi into town M$22 - 25. If you decide to walk instead, ensure adequate insect repellent, as the road leads through a mosquito-infested mangrove swamp - and watch out for inquisitive crocodiles about half way, particularly on the northern side.

By colectivo[edit]

This is the best (most reliable) public transit method to Puerto Morelos. Vans called colectivos (or combis) follow routes between towns on the Riviera Maya. The van labeled "Cancun-Playa" is the one that will stop along the highway in Puerto Morelos (they drop off and pick up on highway 307, other local colectivos or taxis go into the town itself). It is about 2 km from highway 307 to the center of Puerto Morelos. Colectivos from Cancun to Puerto Morelos cost M$30. Southbound, the colectivos stop in front of the Chedrau supermarket. Northbound, they stop near the overpass bridge (ask locals if you can't find the right spot).

By private transfers[edit]

Private transfers by taxi from Cancún International Airport (CUN) to Puerto Morelos are the most comfortable and reliable way to get to town. Transfers start at M$1000 (US$55) each way for 2 people or $90 round trip. There many vendors taxi outside International Terminal 3 but if you can pre-arrange transport through a car service or your local hotel, it may be less expensive.

Get around[edit]

Map
Map of Puerto Morelos

There are many local taxis around, they gather at a taxi stand on the west side of the main square in Puerto Morelos. Bicycling is an excellent way to get around town, and bikes can be rented at a number of places in town. There is also a local car rental agency in the main town on the highway. Always make sure you find out the price of a taxi ride before you get in to avoid disagreements. At the car rental place you can bargain for a cheaper rate.

See[edit]

  • 1 Jardín Botanico Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marín (Botanical Garden), Carretera Federal Chetumal-Cancún KM 320, +52 998 206 9233. M-F 08:00 - 16:00, closed Sa-Su. Walk the trails and learn about the various types of plant life found in the Yucatan Peninsula. Monkeys will watch you from the trees and iguanas are everywhere. Wear mosquito spray and bring a water bottle. M$120.
  • 2 Jardin Principal (Zocalo), Calle Morelos. The town's central plaza is a large city block at the center of town. It's a popular landmark and gathering spot and becomes an impromptu marketplace on Saturday when several vendors set up tables.
  • 3 Faro Inclinado (Leaning Lighthouse), Oceanfront at end of Calle Morelos. The town's old lighthouse was knocked askew by Hurricane Beulah in 1967. It's since been adopted as the town's icon and is a popular place for photographers and wandering tourists.

Do[edit]

Lanchas at Puerto Morelos
  • Scuba diving. Puerto Morelos offers a large variety of marine life on one of the most beautiful reefs in the world. The dives inside the reef can be from shallow up to dives where you can see large coral formations at greater depths. For more advanced divers there a few wrecks and the cenotes to explore. Also has easy access to various dive sites ranging from very easy to very challenging ones. For those who are looking for some relaxed diving there are some beautiful shallow reef formations in water of 40 feet/12 meters depth where you can dive among turtles, schools of colorful fish, eagle rays, and many species of crabs and lobsters only to name a few. For wreck lovers, there are two accessible wrecks near Puerto Moleros. The nearest is the C-56, a navy boat that has beautiful coral and which is home to very large pelagics at 60-90 feet/18-27 meters). For more experienced divers there's the Tulum which is at a depth of about 120 feet/36 meters. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef lies about 500 meters offshore. It is closer to the shore near Puerto Morelos than it is at most other points along the coast of Quintana Roo. Several dive shops and nearby resorts offer diving on the reef. See Diving in Mexico.
  • Swimming. Near the shore, water temperatures average about 27°C (80°F) year round. Freshwater swimming is available inland, at several cenotes. At cenotes that are not exposed to sunlight, temperatures are colder, and a partial wetsuit may be necessary for anything more than a brief dip. For stronger swimmers, take an official park snorkeling tour out to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef further out from the beach.
  • Reef diving. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef lies about 500 meters offshore. It is closer to the shore near Puerto Morelos than at most other points along the coast of Quintana Roo. Several dive shops and nearby resorts offer diving on the reef.
  • Snorkeling. You can snorkel close to the beach (yellow floaters mark the end of the zone), and there is a small underwater cenote called Ojo de Agua just off the beach that's popular and has some fish. The best snorkeling is at the park reef, which is only accessible using guided trips by boat (about M$600/US$30 per person; many operators). Snorkeling out to the reef from shore on your own is not permitted. If you do swim out alone to the reef from the beach, you risk being picked out of the water by park wardens who may just tell you off and take you back to the shore, but are within their rights to fine you. These rules are not clearly signposted anywhere. Unless you are just snorkeling along the beach or going out to the Ojo de Agua, it is best to take an official park tour. To protect the reef against intentional and unintentional damage, you are only allowed onto the reef in the company of an accredited guide, with a park wristband, and wearing a non-inflatable life jacket (PFD). All snorkeling equipment can be provided by your guide but having your own mask and snorkel is recommended for best fit. A light wetsuit is welcome certain times of year. A snorkeling tour starts from the Puerto Morelos public dock with a short trip out to the reef in a panga motor boat. There are typically two guides on the boat who alternate as boat driver and in-the-water guide. The water guide will indicate points of interest on the reef and have a life buoy to hang onto should anyone get tired while in the water. There are usually two 45-minute snorkeling sessions in different areas of the reef. Typically, you will see grouper, barracuda, dorado, wahoo, rays, sea turtles and all the vegetation of a healthy reef. While there is a breakwater about a mile off the beach that protects the reef, there are currents to navigate. Being a good swimmer will add to the enjoyment of this tour. Most will find this snorkeling tour to be a rewarding experience. After the tour, the guide will take you back to the public dock or drop you off on the Puerto Morelos Public Beach near your lodging.
  • Cenotes. Cenotes are sinkholes in the native limestone that are filled with crystal-clear groundwater; some are large and deep, while others are small passages through a cave. Inland from Puerto Morelos, many cenotes are accessible along the road from Puerto Morelos to Central Vallarta, some with really good swimming in clear blue water; To take local transport to the cenotes take colectivo bus "Jacinto Kanek" from Puerto Morelos to the other side of the highway, get off at the Pemex station (Colonia Zetina Gasca), once there go to the main zocalo two blocks west of 7-Eleven and take the bus heading to Leona Vicario, they leave Morelos at 07:00, 08:00, 09:00 and return from Leona at 12:00, 13:00, 16:00,and 17:00 you can get off at Boca del Puma, just past Central Vallarta at Km 16, which has nice trails through the forest and a cool snorkel through a cave passage, the owner Jesus will rent you a bicycle if you want to explore the nearby cenotes on your own. Snorkel in a cenote a few meters out in front of the Ojo de Agua hotel or the Puerto Morelos Reef, about 500-1000 meters from shore. You can rent equipment at the dive shops around town and swim there yourself, or book a boat trip outside the Casita del Mar (north end of town, on the beach) for M$440. Downtown operations offer trips for M$500.
  • Sunbathing on the soft white sandy beaches is a perfect way to spend a relaxing vacation. Vendors will rent you a beach lounge chair with or without a shady umbrella. Palapas along the beach are served by waiters who will serve you cold drinks and snacks.
  • Birdwatching is popular among naturalists. Walk on the boardwalk through the mangroves behind Desire Riviera Maya Pearl Resort (north end of town), and look at birds and and tropical plants. A variety of aquatic shorebirds can be spotted on the beaches and sand dunes. Jungle areas along the Ruta de los Cenotes have a large number of tropical avians.
  • Visit apiaries - Beekeeping is an ancient tradition in Maya communities, including the village of Leona Victoria (which is part of the greater Puerto Morelos municipality). The Maya kept bees in hollow logs, which are still the preferred hive host, particularly for stingless bees such as the Melipona beecheii. Honey from Mayan bees has a unique citric flavor. It is used in traditional Mayan cooking and is the sugar source for traditional fermented beverages similar to meads made in England. The Mayan honey bees are critically endangered, mostly due to modern insecticides and reduced habitat.
  • 1 Marina La Bonita, Bahia Petempich (in Hotel Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita), +52 998 126 2780. Daily 08:00 - 20:00. Offers high end catamaran sailing tours to Puerto Morelos, Punta Maroma, Cozumel, Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy. They also offer private deep sea fishing trips, snorkeling and scuba diving tours and PADI certified scuba diving training.
  • 2 Jungle Spa, Calle de Las Reinas, Joaquin Zeteta Gasca (Zona Urbana), +52 998 2089148, +52 44 998 1805424, . Tu-Sa 10:00 - 16:00, closed Su-M. Make an appointment Tu-Sa. Reservations 10:00. 12:00, 14:00 or 16:00. Limited time Sunday - 13:30 and 15:30 after Jungle Market. Closed Mondays. The spa is operated by non profit organization and directed by Sandra A. Dayton. The spa was created so that the Mayan women could benefit from the tourists coming to the area and provide for their families. They provide an authentic Mayan massage.
  • 3 Aquanauts Dive Adventures, Marina El Cid, Ave. Rafael E. Melgar (in Hotel Carmen Hacienda, one block south of the town center), +52 998-206-9365. Daily 08:00 to 16:00. Offers scuba diving tours, PADI certification classes, snorkeling tours, and fishing.
  • 4 El Rey Polo Country Club (Horseback riding, polo and fourwheelers), Ruta de Cenotes 11.5 km (On highway 307 turn west at Ruta de Cenotes, the club is 11.5 km down the road), +52 998 860 0499. M-Sa 10:00-22:00, Su 12:00-18:00. An attraction in the middle of the jungle. A huge green polo field, club house with restaurant and bar surrounded by pristine tropical forest. Here you can take a trail ride on horse back take riding and polo lessons, hire a four wheeler to visit the cenotes or just relax at the bar. Regular polo matches are on the calendar and visitors are welcome to watch.
  • 6 Wet Set Diving and Snorkeling Adventures Scuba Shop, Javier Rojo Gomez, +52 998 206 9204. Daily 08:00 - 16:00. Hotels and resorts send people here for the guided reef snorkling, but they're a full-service dive shop offering PADI certification courses and a variety of dive trips including cenote diving, dives with sharks, and night dives
  • 7 Scuba Public Diving, Hotel Ojo de Agua, Javier Rojo Gomez, +52 998 107 3121. Daily 08:00 - 20:00. PADI certification courses and dive trips to local reefs and cenotes. Night dives are available.

Buy[edit]

Artisan Market in Puerto Morelos
  • 1 Alma Libre Bookstore, Av Tulum south of square. Daily 10:00 - 17:00. Large selection of used English paperbacks, plus new books of local interest in both English and Spanish. They take trades too. Sign up for their free monthly newsletter, full of updates about the town. Only open during high season (December to June).
  • 2 Mexican Artisan Market (Mercado Artesania), Avenida Rafael Melgar Supermanzana 01 Manzana 6 Lote 01-01 (across Av Tulum from Plaza Principal). Daily 08:00 - 21:30. Best place to buy souvenirs, the marketplace has a large number of vendors selling artesanias and folk art from Yucatan craftsmen as well as pieces from outside the region. Excellent selection of hand-made Yucatan hammocks as well as woven textiles and carved obsidian and jade.
  • 3 Mercadito de los Miercoles (Tianguis), Av. Javier Gomez (across the street from Parque Principal). W 08:00 - 14:00. Puerto Morelos has a small tianguis on Wednesday mornings. A tianguis is a pre-hispanic tradition in Mexico in which informal pop-up markets occur each week on a specific day. That day is Wednesday in Puerto Morelos. A traditional tianguis offers fresh produce and other agricultural products, but in Puerto Morelos the emphasis is on items that travelers may want, such as woven bags and wood carvings.

Eat[edit]

Most places don't take reservations, and there can be a wait for dinner, especially around 19:00 or 20:00 in the evening. Sundays are the most crowded. There are a number of very cheap restaurants not listed here, especially if you cross the highway to la colonia. If you eat at these places, stick to food that is cooked to order, as some dishes may not be fresh.

If you have a kitchen, you can buy groceries at Casa Martin on the town square, a mini-supermarket. You may also be able to buy fresh fish from fishermen at the docks.

Budget[edit]

  • 1 El Tio Polo, Chaca. at the corner of Kitanche, +52 998 381 5372. Tiny place across from the lighthouse; very inexpensive grilled meats, tortas, soup or Mayan food. M$150.
  • 2 Le Café d'Amancia, Javier Rojo Gomez Supermanzana 1 Manzana 6 Lote 9, +52 998 206 9242, . Tu-Su 07:00-21:00, closed M. On the square. Best coffee and healthy full breakfast. Very small with a handful of tables outside. M$150.

Mid-range[edit]

  • 3 Trattoria d'Gulio, Ninos Heroes, +52 998 872 8999 ext 16005. Tu-Su 17:30-21:30, closed M. A little south of town in the El Cid Marina Beach Resort. Overlooks the marina and serves Italian cuisine with an emphasis on seafood. Service is as good as the food and view. The resort also includes a seafood restaurant, a traditional Mexican restaurant, and a Mediterranean restaurant. M$300.

Splurge[edit]

  • 4 John Gray's Kitchen, Avenida Ninos Heroes, +52 998 871 0665. M-Sa 15:00-22:00, closed Su. More upscale and pricey; excellent food by a former Ritz Carlton chef - reservations recommended. The duck breast is a must. Also makes one of the better margaritas along the riviera; not too sweet. Not to be confused with the related, casual beachfront restaurant La Suegra de John Gray (John Gray's mother-in-law) is in Puerto Morelos. M$800.
  • 5 El Pirata, Javier Rojo Gomez, +52 998 251 7948. Th-Tu 16:00 - 22:30, closed W. A popular spot for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a drink from the bar, this open-air restaurant seats you at the center of the action on Puerto Morelos's town square. If you have a hankering for American food, you can get a good hamburger with fries here; there are also great daily specials. The best selections are the seafood entrees. M$400.
  • 6 Los Pelicanos, Rafael E Melgar, +52 998 871 0014. Daily 09:00 - 22:00. Friendly palapa-style beachfront restaurant serving traditional Mexican cuisine with a heavy emphasis on fresh seafood and tacos. Good place to have your first drink and nachos in Puerto Morelos...nothing spectacular about the nachos but the guacamole, like most places here was abundant and quite good. M$300.

Drink[edit]

  • 1 Cantina Habanero, Javier Rojo Gomez. Daily 08:00 - 01:00. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner serving a variety of food, from delicious baby-back ribs and grilled steaks to regional Mexican food. Cold beer, margaritas, mixed drinks. Live music most Friday nights. A gathering spot for locals and tourists. 1/2 block north of the town square. English and Spanish spoken.
  • 2 Unico Beach Club, Javier Rojo Gomez, +52 998 156 3141. Daily 10:00 - 19:00. Palapa beach bar 5 blocks north of the square on the beach. Chairs and umbrellas available, light lunch fare and friendly bartender. English and Spanish spoken.
  • 3 La Petita en la Playita, Rafael Melgar. Daily 12:00 - 20:00. Palapa bar and restaurant on the beach. Cold beer, frozen margaritas, mixed drinks. Super fresh seafood with a delicious ceviche full of fish, shrimp and crab. Live music in the evening.
  • 4 Full 80s Bar, Rafael Melgar 5. W-M 1:30 - 23:00, closed Tu. Fun place to hang out with outdoor and indoor areas. The indoor areas are air conditioned and includes a game room. DJ spins the tunes in the evening. Food menu is mostly American snack foods, chicken wings, etc.
  • 5 El Refugio Bar, Rafael Melgar 2. W-M 1:30 - 23:00, closed Tu. Fun bar with cold beer, some innovative takes on the classic margarita, and a food menu that's a wide range of tacos, from octopus to classics like chicken or fish tacos. Local craft beers available.

Sleep[edit]

Sunset in Puerto Morelos

All types of lodging are available, including modest hotels right on the beach. If you are booking within a few weeks of your travel date, you may have to contact several places to find a vacancy.

Budget[edit]

  • 1 Casitas Kinsol, Avenida Joaquim, Av J. Zetina Gasca Lote 18 (in front of the old market), +52 998-206-9152. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Alternative lodging in rustic cabins and rooms. All rooms have private bath with hot water. Each room has a special touch that comes from the personalized decor from the artist and owner. Pets are welcome. Wifi in most rooms. M$935.

Mid-range[edit]

  • Acamaya Reef Cabanas (cabanas on the beach), Calle de Las Palapas sm 11 mz 5 lt 5 (entrance by Crococun on the highway), +52 998 871 0131. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Its a little hotel on the beach with cabanas, not far from town, 7 minutes by car, or 15 with a bicycle. There are different kinds of rooms and cabanas for different budgets. There is also facilities for camping, RV Park and going Snorkeling.
  • 2 Amar Inn, Lazaro Cardenas, Lote 4, SM2, Mz1, +52 998 871 0026, . Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. ~10 rooms built adjacent to a family house. Operated by a family from Querétaro. Beach-side rooms are nicer (and cost more). Both speak Spanish and English. Headquarters of environmentalists. 5 minute walk north of the zócalo.
  • 3 Villas Playasol (Condo Playasol), Av Rojo Gomez (Two blocks north of the square), +52 998 871 0502. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Delightful, two-bedroom, private condo apartment on the beach just two blocks from the town square. With beautiful tropical gardens and PM's largest blue pool, this appealing Playasol accommodation is ideal for couples or families. Private parking, gated entrance, and a picture-perfect bit of beach. M$20000+.
  • 4 Hotel El Moro, Av. Javier Rojo Gomez (half a block north of the main square), +52 998 109 1291. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 11:00. Small, friendly hotel. Rates include continental breakfast. M$1273.
  • 5 Rancho Sak-Ol, +52-998-871-0181. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Beachfront B&B about 1 km south of the town square. Rates include a complimentary self-service breakfast buffet, wireless internet, bikes and snorkeling equipment. M$1300+.
  • 6 Cuca Macuca Hostel, Av. Niños Héroes Smz 1 Mz 8 Lt 7, +52 998 505 9698. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Small, cozy hostel with a rooftop pool and patio. Kitchen available if you want to cook meals. M$1200.
  • 7 La Quinta Orquidea, Niños Héroes Lot 25 Manzana 5 Supermanzana 2, +52 998 501 0800. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 11:00. Unique property that has a storybook feel of a jungle treehouse with quirks at every corner (except in the round rooms, which have no corners, obviously). Rooms lack air conditioning and beds cry out for mosquito netting. Fun place though, and very affordable. M$950.

Splurge[edit]

  • 8 Hotel Marina El Cid Riviera Maya, Ninos Heroes, Boulevard El Cid Unidad 15, +52 998 872-8999. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. A member of El Cid Resorts, this oceanfront hotel features colonial and modern architecture styles, a free form pool, snorkeling and diving, and several on-site restaurants. M$4000.

Go next[edit]

  • Get on the only direct bus to Chetumal at 06:35 in Puerto Morelos, at the ADO selling point/ farmacia Paris (5 hr). Mayab bus runs rest of the day, bit cheaper, 6 hr.
  • Swim in the cenotes (underground lagoons). The famous Ruta de Cenotes begins in Puerto Morelos and goes west toward Merida.
  • Visit Cancún via highway 307 for shopping and dining. A 30-minute drive.
  • South of Playa del Carmen visit X'caret or Xel-ha, large theme-park style nature parks.
  • Visit A´aktun Jaaleb at Nuevo Durango, a small Mayan community 2 hours inland from Puerto Morelos that participates in fair tourism as an alternative economic model of development. The community is between Puerto Morelos and Valladolid (and Chichen Itza) and sits north of Coba.
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