Welcome to a sleepy little beach town in and between two of the most visited tourist destinations in Mexico! Sounds like a great plan to get a little away from the tourist trail and off the beaten track in Quintana Roo, right? The coastline down from Cancun all the way South to Mahahual surely has loads of undiscovered places and Puerto Morelos is one of them. On my Yucatan itinerary I reserved two days to get to know this lovely beach town. Read all about my experiences in this Puerto Morelos travel blog, with tips for restaurants and things to do.
My day trips from Playa del Carmen were amazing, with the Tulum and Coba tour being one of my highlights. That said I was ready for a chance! The hustle and bustle of Playa del Carmen is good fun, but just for a couple days, at least for me. I checked out of boutique Hotel Morgana and got into a van s I was about to visit Puerto Morelos.
Puerto Morelos is also a great base to see more of the Yucatan peninsula. What about Isla Holbox? My favorite place to visit in Quintana Roo, or Las Coloradas Pink Lake in Rio Lagartos. Feeling adventurous then hop over to Cozumel for a scooter tour or swim in the cenotes around Valladolid.
Where is Puerto Morelos
From Playa del Carmen to Puerto Morelos is a little over 20 miles (35 kilometers) North and takes about 40 minutes. As soon as we drove into Puerto Morelos you could already see that this was a completely different world. Just 20 miles North of Puerto Morelos you can find Cancun already, but in this little beach village there was nothing that reminded me of mass tourism. No high rise hotels, just a little main square with some souvenir shops, a quiet boulevard and a handful tourists strolling around.
I caught this group performing a traditional dance on the main square. It felt like they were just practicing as we walked by, it is not some kind of touristy thing. At least that is what I felt like. With me there were a handful other tourists looking.
The next two nights I was staying in the charming Hacienda Morelos, a small beach front property. We were super early and could not check-in yet, but we were offered breakfast. The hotel manager explained me some things about his lovely hotel, some travel tips and why you should visit Puerto Morelos. About the life in the beach town there was nothing needed to explain, I could already get the feel about traveling to Puerto Morelos. Life in this tranquil village is slow. There was some piano music playing on the background and while sipping my coffee and looking at the sun slowly rising a couple passed by on the beach. They probably went for an early morning walk on the deserted beach. This was the perfect place to unwind and feel like on a holiday.
On the main square there was just one marquesita food stall and there were about 5-6 people patiently waiting in line. Also I found a local selling bread from the back of his car, the perfect example of how laid-back this village still is.
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Artisan and Craft Market Puerto Morelos
Just a little stroll away from Hacienda Morelos I found a market with loads of souvenir shops lined up after each other. Not just the standard touristy stuff but a real artistic craftsmen market. Here I found handmade products from the region, typically Mayan an Mexican crafts.
There was an old lady showing us how she was sculpting souvenirs from razor sharp lava stones. I tried myself, but miserly failed of course. I was better in waving hammocks the old man next door showed us. If you are looking for cool things to do in Puerto Morelos then wander around here. Im sure you will find something to your likings and the people here are super kind and not pushy to make you buy things at all. This is souvenir shopping with a smile even if you don't buy anything!
Snorkel tour Puerto Morelos with Twinhooks
Unfortunately it wasn’t the best weather and it even started raining at some point. It was one of the few rainy days I had in almost a month traveling in Yucatan. Luckily when we were about to go snorkeling in the afternoon it cleared up a little bit. Puerto Morelos snorkel trips are one of the most popular things to do here, and as an ocean lover I was excited.
The reef protecting Puerto Morelos is part of the second largest reef in the world: The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. It stretches all the way from Cancun to Honduras and is more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) long. The best thing is that the reef lies just a couple hundred meters off shore. Therefore the reef os one of the places you have to see when you visit Puerto Morelos. We got into a boat with Twinhooks Tour company and our snorkel guide was very strict. He made it clear that at no point you were allowed to touch the reef. The way he brought it was pretty straight forward, but he was totally right! Explaining people how fragile coral reefs are is one of the most important things of a snorkel tour. When people touch the coral it is too late already!
In 2008 I went diving in the Belize Barrier Reef, part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. The Deep Blue Hole until today is stil one of the best places in the world for scuba diving.
As I said it wasn’t the best weather and although it wasn’t really cold I would have preferred to wear a wetsuit. After my experience snorkeling in Puerto Morelos in March I can tell you that if I would ever do it again I would demand a wetsuit. I was freezing my ass off! While doing my Divemaster training in Thailand I always used to wear a 5mm short wetsuit and the water temperature there was 29-30 degrees (86 F). During my Puerto Morelos snorkel trip the water temperature was only like 25 degrees (77 F). I wasn’t the only one who was cold and most people returned to the boat earlier.
I did not and that was for the simple reason that I totally LOVED snorkeling in Puerto Morelos. There were hardly any other snorkel boats around and the reef was beautiful. The maximum depth was only like two meter and the reef looked pretty healthy and full of life. Apart from a giant barracuda I didn’t see any big stuff, but there were big schools of fish around the coral and we also found a lobster. When you have the chance go snorkeling, it is one of the best things to do in Puerto Morelos. Oh and listen to my travel tip: ask for a wetsuit!
Wearing a wetsuit also is the best protecting against the sun! Did you know that our standard sunscreen is causing loads of problems? Please use biodegradable sunscreen when you are going into the water. Order reef-safe sunblock here. They are he same price than normal ones!
Twin hooks also organizes fishing trips and the fish you catch can be consumed as ceviche or sashimi in one of the nearby Puerto Morelos restaurants. Fresh from the hook!
Lunch at Merkadito
We were right in time at Merkadito Puerto Morelos, one of the best places to eat in Puerto Morelos for lunch. It was pouring rain outside but we had a dry spot. Merkadito is right on the beach and a low-key restaurant, but with absolutely amazing food.
With my wet snorkel clothes I walked in and had the best ceviche so far on my Yucatan trip. When you go for lunch at Merkadito Puerto Morelos make sure you order the Asia-Me Ceviche! Definitely one of my Puerto Morelos tips.
Dinner at Azul Sensatori Beach Resort
Puerto Morelos is surrounded by massive all inclusive resorts, but in town you won’t notice any of that. The majority of the people prefer to stay inside the big compounds of the all-inclusive resorts. Perfect as Puerto Morelos doesn’t suffer mass tourism. One night though I was invited to have dinner at Azul Sensatori Beach Resort. Walking around one of these massive beach resorts was like stepping into another world compared to the charming Puerto Morelos beach village.
Day trip from Puerto Morelos: Selvatica
From Puerto Morelos to Selvatica is only about 10 minutes by car. When visiting Puerto Morelos Selvatica is a great day trip. This jungle theme park has endless options like: zip-lining, rollercoaster, superman flight, bungee swing and much more. It was a whole day full of activities including lunch. Read all about it in my Selvatica blog.
Dinner at John Gray’s Kitchen
One of the best restaurants in Puerto Morelos for dinner is John Gray’s Kitchen. I met the owner of this place and this lovely lady told me how she moved to Puerto Morelos 20 years ago and started a restaurant. It now is one of the most iconic places to eat in this beach town. The menu is small, but everything they serve is absolutely delicious. I tried the mussels as an appetizer and the portion was big and yummy! Then the grilled shrimps as a main course. John Gray’s Kitchen has seen many celebrities coming for dinner because of its quality food as well as its laid-back vibe. Although Im pretty sure the warm and welcoming feeling the owner gave me made loads of people come back here.
If you are traveling to Quintana Roo but you are not interested in bustling places like Playa del Carmen, Cancun or Tulum then Puerto Morelos is the perfect spot for you. The same ocean, the same reef, the same delicious Mexican cuisine but in a much more relaxed atmosphere.
Where to stay in Puerto Morelos
For two nights I stayed at Hacienda Morelos Beachfront Hotel, a charming colonial style hotel. Nothing really fancy, but something with a more local vibe. The best thing were the breakfast views and with only 30 rooms this is a quiet place where you can wake up slowly, sipping your coffee and enjoying the sunrise from the ocean. The header photo of this article is taken there. Read the full review of Hacienda Morelos in the link.
Thank for keeping up with the adventure of Traveltomtom.