Things to do in Puerto Morelos MexicoMexico . Travel . Worldwide Travel
4 Perfect Days in Mexico’s Riviera Maya and the Yucatán Peninsula (Things to do in Puerto Morelos Mexico)
You are viewing part of Day 1 from our 4-Day Itinerary for the Riviera Maya, “Things to do in Puerto Morelos Mexico.” Click on any of the days in the list below to view the post for other days. You can also click here to view our full, printable 4-Day itinerary with highlights from each day to help you plan your own adventure along the Riviera Maya.
Things to do in Puerto Morelos Mexico – THIS POST
- Stop by the town of Puerto Morelos for great local food and shops
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I first visited Cancún and took a bus to Tulum in the fall of 2000, when Playa del Carmen was more of a sleepy town with just a few beach-front restaurants. In the almost 20 years since then, Playa and the entire stretch of coastline from Tulum to Cancún has been developed and built up with mega resorts and outdoor adventure parks and other tourist attractions. Driving South from the airport in Cancún feels very different from other sections of highway in Mexico, even here in the Yucatán Peninsula. The highway is wide and broad and less frantic than the carreteras of Mexico City and other major cities.
If you rent a car online before you get here, be wary of deals that are too good to be true. Even though you may come across a rental car for less than US$100 for a full week, you’ll be required to buy in-country insurance that will easily top $500 – $1,000 for the week, depending on coverage. Stick with larger brands or plan to use public transit or shuttles to get where you’re going. For our adventure tour, though, we’d recommend a rental, because of the distances covered and limited transportation options in the rural interior of the peninsula.
Whenever we first touch down in Mexico, we like to stop somewhere close by for a bite to eat, a walk around, and a quick stop for a few supplies and snacks at a local grocery store. Downtown Cancún is busy and fun if you’re staying in or near the Zona Hotelera, the long strip of hotels and restaurants on the beachfront property separated from Cancún proper by a large marshland. If you’re headed further South, stop by Puerto Morelos, about 20-25 minutes from the Cancún International Airport.
Throughout Mexico, the central plaza is called a “zócalo”, a Nahuatl word for gathering place. Puerto Morelos’ zócalo is broad and open, with a small playground on one side and cobblestones leading to a unique fountain with a miniature replica of Kukulcán, the principal Mayan pyramid at Chichén Itzá, in the center. Across the street you’ll find restaurants and shops with reasonable prices and a variety of both touristy items and more practical supplies. Puerto Morelos is also a great place to stop on the way back to the airport to buy those last-minute gifts for friends and family. You can usually get a better deal here than in many of the bigger areas like Cancún and Playa del Carmen.
Puerto Morelos is small and unhurried by all the massive, rapid development elsewhere along the coast. Somewhere along the way, developers coined the term “Riviera Maya” to describe the coastline South from Cancún, a nod to the French Riviera and an indication of the region’s bustling tourism. Maya culture and history goes way further back than recent tourism development, and vestiges of both the ancient and more recent past can be seen throughout the peninsula. It was only in the 1930s that the Mexican government opened up roads to the Yucatán peninsula, and the mega resorts lining the coast are an even more recent phenomenon. The area struggles to balance rapid growth, sustainable development, and economic opportunities for local communities and citizens, but there’s no doubt that tourism drives the economy and provides the most jobs in construction, tourism, and the service industry.
Even small towns like Puerto Morelos have benefited from tourism dollars and pesos; the broad, paved waterfront walkway, the wooden piers, and the zócalo in the center of town have all been recently updated, and even the more established restaurants and shops that pre-date the current growth cycle have fresh thatched roofs and other improvements. We stopped by Pelicanos, a restaurant with a view. The restaurant serves regional favorites and some of ours, like chilaquiles (red- or green-sauce covered chips with cotija cheese and shredded chicken) and huevos rancheros, a tasty combination of homemade tortillas, beans, eggs, cheese, and chile sauce.
Throughout the peninsula, it’s not uncommon to have hot, humid mornings that build to an epic rainstorm in the afternoon. (We’ve been caught more than once driving across the peninsula in these torrential rains when we couldn’t see the road in front of us). The downpour is a welcome relief from the hot, tropical climate, and it cools the air for the rest of the afternoon and evening.