Although it is located just 30 minutes south of Cancun,Puerto Morelos might as well be part of a different world; both are resort towns and both offer a wide array of activities for all ages to enjoy along Mexico’s only Caribbean Coast,but Cancun is bustling with activity 24/7,while Puerto Morelos still feels more like a sleepy fishing village than a major tourist destination.
Visitors and expats come to Puerto Morelos for the excellent Caribbean views,authentic Mexican fare,historic town square and laid-back historic atmosphere,as well as the easy access the town provides to the Great Mesoamerican Reef (also known as the Great Maya Reef),which is the second largest barrier reef in the world and lies just offshore.
Not surprisingly,the Caribbean Sea surrounding Puerto Morelos is excellent for snorkeling and diving,thanks to the reef and also because of the shipwreck that lies near the white sandy beaches. Like a lost piece of history,the mine sweeper C-56 Cadete Juan Escutia lies 90 feet from the surface in its permanent resting place just a few minutes’ boat ride from shore. The 150-foot naval ship was once used by the United States and was purchased by the Mexican government in 1996 to serve as an artificial reef. Today,the wreckage serves as a popular dive site and hosts a wide variety of sea life,including eagle rays,stingrays,Moray eels and barracudas.
If land roving is more your thing,Puerto Morelos is the ideal town for biking around,offering a number of sites to explore and breathtaking views of the Mexican Caribbean at every turn. Popular stops include the now infamous leaning lighthouse,which has become something of an icon in Puerto Morelos,as well as a number of enormous and incredibly detailed harbor-side sand sculptures by local artist Jose Gonzalez,that depict such recognizable scenes as the Last Supper,Michaelangelo’s Pieta and Moses receiving the Ten Commandments. Of course,sand castles are also a favorite subject for Gonzalez,along with such diverse images as a baseball glove and ball,giant feet and Day of the Dead symbolic imagery.
Wrap up your bike tour with a quick stop at the pier to check out the pelicans busy gobbling up the leftovers from the day’s catch,then stop to grab a snack and enjoy the breeze before heading to the town square. Here you will find plenty of local shops selling souvenirs and clothing – all while giving out free shots of tequila! Before calling it a day,be sure to check out the Alma Libre Bookstore,a charming independent shop that offers local guides and an eclectic selection of books. They also publish a popular online newsletter that features inside information about what’s happening in and around Puerto Morelos.
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After all that biking,snorkeling and/or diving,you are sure to have worked up a pretty healthy appetite. Fortunately,Puerto Morelos is also a fantastic place to get your eat and drink on after a hard day of play. Despite its small town,sleepy demeanor,there are still plenty of fun places to grab dinner and a cocktail – here are a few to sample!
The aptly named Heaven Beach Bar & Restaurant at Grand Residences Riviera Cancun is right on the water and super casual,but still boasts an impressive drink menu with more than 25 tequilas,15 whiskeys,a fantastic cucumber martini and bellinis made with Moet & Chandon,to name only a few. Of course,there are plenty of beers to choose from as well,and from 2 to 3 p.m. daily the bar offers a two-for-one special. Happily,the food is also pretty good and far exceeds normal bar fare.
Head back to the pier and grab dinner and a drink at Pelicanos,a local staple that offers fresh (and strong!) margaritas that come with a complimentary order of chips,salsa and guacamole. The menu also offers a variety of traditional Mexican items that are fresh and delicious,featuring local seafood,fruit and vegetables.
If upscale dining is more like what you’re after,look no farther than the El Faro Grill,which is also located in Grand Residences Riviera Cancun and boasts an expansive terrace with breathtaking ocean views,along with some of the area’s finest cuisine served up by Chef Yann Cozic,who was named Hotel Chef of the Year by Caribbean Journal.