Exploring the local pleasures of Riviera Maya: Puerto Morelos, Mexico attractions and activities
An old man shuffles across the village square with a golden puppy nipping his heels. His whole face smiles as he looks at you and you find yourself compelled to say something.
"You like?" His eyes sparkle.
You nod your head wishing you could carry on a conversation with this delightful character. It isnít likely since he obviously doesnít speak much English and you certainly donít speak Spanish.
The old man stops and looks squarely at you.
"How much you give me?"
Baffled, you stammer. No one has ever offered to sell you their beloved pet before.
The young man squats and the puppy leaves off the nipping of wrinkled heels and runs full into the boyís long brown arms. You look back at the old man who is grinning at you, unashamed of his partially-toothed grin, and it dawns on youÖ the puppy isnít even his. You relax and in that moment you move from observer to participator.
You are no longer on the outside looking in. You share a laugh with these people who do not share your language and you feel like you belong.
This is Puerto Morelos, Mexico.
Hidden on the shores of the Yucatan Peninsula, between bustling Cancun and exploding Playa Del Carmen, Puerto Morelos is a humble fishing village that still offers an authentic Mexican experience.
The town square nestles up to the beach and is surrounded on three sides by small establishments including a few delightful restaurants, a bakery, a church, a supermarcado, a bookstore and a bright orange building with Internet and Tacos painted boldly on its side.
On the ocean side of the square a wooden pier stretches out into the sea-glass blue water. Take time to stroll along it and you will find young boys fishing with small hooks tied to bits of line and wrapped around soda cans. Rays and squid are easily visible in the clear water where they compete for the bait.
LodgingPuerto Morelos is full of great little places to rent. You can stay in town and still be on the beach. There are several charming hotels including Ojo de Agua and Carmen Hacienda, and a block from the beach and just off the town square Posada El Moro offers suites and provides their guests with rain water showers.
If you are looking for something a little more extravagant, why not rent a privately owned condo complete with a myriad of amenities? Better yet, rent a vacation home and have the whole house to yourself. If you are traveling with friends, rent a three bedroom place and split the cost. Youíll have all the comforts of home at a fraction of the price of the big all-inclusive resorts springing up along the coast. Check out vivapuertomorelos.com, vacationrentals.com or homeaway.com for a great selection of rentals. Everything from beach homes to condos is available.
Eco-tourism: Fishing, diving, and cenotesWhile Puerto Morelos is a fishing village at heart, it has also been relying on eco-tourism since long before the phrase was coined. If you stay in town, you can walk down to the pier early in the morning and stop at Diving Dog Tours . There you will find Eduardo, Federico and Gordo who love the sea and know the waters like a well worn map. They can lead you on a personalized fishing excursion where you may even land that blue marlin youíve been dreaming about. If snorkeling and scuba diving are more your thing, explore The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest reef in the world, with William and Crescent at Aquanauts Dive Adventures.
The Mesoamerican Reef, 600 miles long, stretches along the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. The people of Puerto Morelos,concerned about the impact of tourism on the section of the reef just off shore from their little town, petitioned the Mexican government to establish a protected area. In 1998, 21 km of the Mesoamerican Reef, the area just off shore from Puerto Morelos, was set aside as a Protected Natural Area and named Parque Nacional Arrecife De Puerto Morelos, or Puerto Morelos Reef National Park. Just off shore, its coral and caves are home to everything from manta rays to phosphorescent plankton.
You can dive with schools of brightly colored fish, witness the hatching of baby turtles or snorkel with whale sharks, the gentle giants of the sea. With decades of experience, William and his crew will guide you through a pristine underwater wonderland and teach you how to protect and preserve the delicate eco-system for generations to come.
But the adventure isnít limited to the coast, a few miles inland where wild parrots, iguana and coatimundi live, sacred cenotes hide in the jungle. Talk to Ana (via email: firstname.lastname@example.org). An expatriate with a love for the heart of Puerto Morelos, Ana will help you discover these natural jungle pools where the visibility can exceed 200 feet and the view includes stalactites and stalagmites more ancient than the Mayans.
You can experience the exhilarating rush of an eco-tour or relax on the beach with a margarita from Los Pelicanos, a grass-roofed beach restaurant with a full bar and savory Mexican dishes. (After all, Puerto Morelos was the inspiration for Jimmy Buffetís Margaritaville.)
Either way, this is the authentic Mexican vacation youíve been looking for. More than just a fancy hotel room, itís a slice of life on the Riviera Maya.
While you are there, donít forget to stop at the open air market on Wednesday morning. Itís on the west side of the square next to the church. You can fill your sack with pineapple, avocadoes, limes, fresh cheese and chilies. Youíll need them to cook your fish.
Stop by the boutiques brimming with indigenous Mexican pottery, silver jewelry, and hand-made linens and clothing too. If you go local in Puerto Morelos, you will come away with more than souvenirs from your Yucatan vacation; youíll come away with friends.
Laura LaBrie fell in love with exploring new places at the age of six when her father took her to Dunk Island off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Since then, she has nurtured an insatiable curiosity to see what's just around the bend. A member of ITWPA and editor of Det Life, a magazine for military families, Laura writes with a passion to share her experience with others. She has three grown children and two grandchildren and lives with her husband on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.
Photos by Darryl LaBrie