Though close to Cancun, Puerto Morelos feels far away from the crowds. // © 2015 Irene Middleman Thomas
Feature image (above): Puerto Morelos has a quiet beachtown vibe. // © 2015 Boat: Holbox
Only a 30-minute drive from Cancun International Airport, there is a place that has managed to keep its tranquil, authentic ambiance. Puerto Morelos, a small fishing village just south of Cancun, is still the Puerto Morelos I remember from long ago. Granted, it has a few more residents from up north and across the pond, but it has retained its old-timey quality, with its multitude of iguanas, many Mayans who speak the language and buildings standing only three stories tall.
Cancun still has its impossibly beautiful beaches and exciting nightlife, but if your clients want to slip away from the action-packed Cancun of today, send them on a time-travel day trip to Puerto Morelos.
The Beach and Beyond
Puerto Morelos was previously the ferry embarkation point for the island of Cozumel, but the route was changed, perhaps helping keep the population small and minimize development.
Indeed, all larger hotels are outside the town.
The half-hour walk from our all-inclusive was quite pleasant, and upon arrival at Puerto Morelos’ white-sand beach, we saw numerous brightly colored umbrellas and palapa huts and heard chattering in Spanish, English, French, Italian, German and more. The little harbor holds 20 or so small canopied boats, with crews equipped to take snorkelers and divers out to the barrier reef just offshore for about $25 per person.
Off the pier, on the quaint boardwalk area’s benches, we saw older, foreign residents and tourists during the day, but in the late afternoon when we returned, there were canoodling couples and students socializing after class.
During our town stroll, we were thrilled to discover a preschool having an alfresco marionette show. The teacher noticed us watching and beckoned us inside. Later, we visited the Catholic church in the plaza, perused the fruit and vegetable market in the square and walked past all of the souvenir shops.
While strolling through the town, we stopped for a sweet treat with Lourdes Casanova at her Dulceria Del Puerto, a charming, festooned candy stand strategically placed near the elementary school. Selling a wide variety of artisanal Mexican goodies, pinatas and other knickknacks, the stand is the kind of place you no longer find in more touristy places. Casanova speaks English quite well and loves to practice; she told us she learned the language from listening to The Beatles.
Puerto Morelos offers several attractions, including Crococun Zoo, where a one-hour guided tour takes guests up close to crocodiles, parrots, spider monkeys, snakes, deer and other wild animals. Jardin Botanico (Botanical Garden) is also very well-maintained, with spider monkeys scampering overhead. If your clients have a few hours to spare, suggest The Little Mexican Cooking School on the main avenue. The school has classes during the week with an experienced local (and English-speaking) chef.
But most folks just sit back and savor the peace in Puerto Morelos. Playa Del Carmen and Cancun are just 20 miles away from the small town, but it feels a world away.