Ask anyone if they’ve ever been to Puerto Morelos and you’ll probably get one of two responses: “I’ve never heard of it” or “I love it!” Though it’s located right between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, the small town has the quaint feel you can’t get from the party atmosphere of its Riviera Maya neighbors.
But what makes Puerto Morelos so magical? Though it’s relaxing, that doesn’t mean it’s a boring destination with nothing more to do than lounge on the beach of your all inclusive resort while sipping watered down mojitos. Puerto Morelos is the definition of small but mighty. The downtown area has no shortage of chic cafes and restaurants serving the freshest seafood and authentic Mexican fare. Also, for the adventure seekers, the diving and snorkeling here is world class and home to the world’s second largest barrier reef.
It’s far from the party vibe most people associate Cancun
with but still sure to satisfy any chill girl’s trip or couple’s getaway.
And if you only have a few days of travel (hey, not everyone’s blessed with major PTO!) or want a respite after a party-heavy vacation, just a few days in Puerto Morelos is enough to do the trick. Here’s where to go, stay and what to do if you choose to visit this town that’s low on a touristy footprint and high on culture and Instagrammable moments.
Day 1: Unwind and Luxuriate
Whether you had a short flight or what felt like an endless journey, you’ll most likely want to spend the day getting settled in. Just a short ride from the Cancun Airport, is Grand Residences. The 5-star resort feels like something out of a tropical dream. The junior suite is great if you’re traveling alone but the master suite, which sleeps up to five people, is perfect for a couple’s or girl’s trip. As soon as you check in, your most challenging struggle will most likely be choosing what to do first: soak in the jacuzzi on your private balcony or head to the beach. The beach is always a good idea. After you find your chair in the sand, it won’t be long before a resort employee sets you up properly with a towel, umbrella and a tray that includes bottled water and Evian facial spray. Order a drink and enjoy the sun.
Photo credit: Patrice J. Williams
Dine at Punto Corcho
After endless hours of sun and sand you'll most likely be ready for a delectable bite. Head over to Punta Corcho, which is known for cooking the catch of the day in their wood oven. The octopus is a winner as well as the hot lobster ceviche served in a banana leaf, but if you have a friend (or two!) to split a dish with, the wood fired whole fish is just as beautiful as it is delicious.
Photo by: Punta Corcho
Day 2: Snorkel in the World’s Second Largest Barrier Reef
While the first day was heavy on the R&R, now you’re ready to see the magic of Puerto Morelos. Grab some breakfast (the room service green juice is amazing) and pack your swimsuit and sunscreen.
Less than a ten-minute ride from the hotel is downtown Puerto Morelos and that’s where you can find Tulaka Diving. Take a three-hour tour that includes two dives in an area that was declared a national marine park in 1998. The water is crystal blue and you’ll be amazed at how close you come to the marine life, including barracudas. You can have the pleasure of saying you snorkeled in the world’s second largest barrier reef. And beyond that, you can truly feel the dive instructors and the people of Puerto Morelos want to maintain the marvel of their home. Diving instructors are always careful not to disturb the coral reef and all divers are required to wear a National Park bracelet at all times.
Photo by: Patrice J. Williams
Tequila O' Clock
Head back to the hotel to change into dry clothes and maybe get a quick bite to eat from the beach bar. The ceviche and homemade guacamole is more than enough to keep you satisfied until dinner.
While Grand Residences feels like straight paradise, don’t be afraid to venture out again into the downtown area. Yes, you were just there this morning for snorkeling, but the 10 minute ride makes it easy to get back and forth via cab.
La Sirena doesn’t just have a killer Mediterranean inspired menu, but the rooftop view of the Caribbean Sea is something you’ll want to take in on a nice night. The extensive cocktail menu includes faves like margaritas, mojitos and Micheladas, but try the Sexxy Mexxy (Mezcal, pineapple, lime and Tajin) for a refreshing drink. And if you’re there on a Thursday, call head to sign up for the Tequila University. You’ll learn all about the spirit (hint: you've probably been drinking it wrong!) as well as sample it with courses that highlight each tequila's true flavors. Puerto Morelos isn't known for its nightlife, but La Sirena stays open until midnight and if you’re lucky you can catch a live performance.
Photo by: Patrice J. Williams
Dine at El Merkadito
Dining at El Merkadito is a must. The restaurant is popular with tourists and locals for the fresh seafood, especially the sea bass and octopus. The seaside views don’t hurt either.
Closer to the town square, local vendors occasionally set up shop selling their handmade goods, everything from jewelry to hammocks. Some may accept U.S. dollars but you’ll get a better deal if you pay in pesos. There’s no shortage of places to take a seat and talk to locals or even a few American expats who can tell you all about Puerto Morelos.
Photo by: El Merkadito
After indulging in fine Mexican fair, chatting with natives, sipping the best Mezcal and Tequila and enjoy Puerto Morelos's impressive shores, it will be hard to not return to this quaint beach town. But next time make sure it's longer than just 72 hours.