About thirty minutes north of Playa del Carmen is the small yet lively town of Puerto Morelos. It has some great restaurants and stores (including the only English-language bookstore in the region, ‘Alma Libre’) yet retains a laid-back fishing village vibe.
If catching a colectivo van, you will need to take a taxi from the highway to the town, as it is a long walk past a crocodile infested lagoon (really!).
The beaches of Puerto Morelos are beautiful and see fewer crowds than Playa del Carmen.
There is an excellent snorkeling spot just off at the beach in front of the hotel ‘Ojo de Agua’, a few blocks north of the main square. To the right of the white marker buoys is a small reef and an under-water cenote. I had never heard about it till some friends took us out there one day (thank you Taz and Simon!). Since there isn’t much snorkeling right off the beach in the Riviera Maya, I think it’s well worth a look if you find yourself in Puerto Morelos.
The same friends introduced me to La Pepita seafood restaurant, one street back from the beach. They do a great whole fried fish which you can choose for yourself from the day’s catch.
On my last visit to Puerto Morelos I came across this wonderful house which serves as an art gallery and studio. The building itself is a work of art, and is well worth a walk through to admire its quirky design, as well as the various artwork on display. It is located three streets back from the beach.
There are also a few dive centers and plenty of snorkeling tours available to the outlying reef, as well as some good cenotes on the jungle side of the highway.
If traveling from Playa del Carmen in the south, do a U-turn at the Puerto Morelos intersection and travel back the way you came until you reach this entrance to the ‘Ruta de Cenotes’:
There are several cenotes and adventure parks along this lovely quiet road.
We visited the Siete Bocas Cenote (seven mouths). As the name suggests, there are seven openings to the underground cenote, some with ladders leading down and one with a jump you can do.
My friend Shelly and I did the jump into this one. Scarey but fun.
It was good, but they were asking for 200 Pesos entry fee, which is excessive for a cenote. We bargained them down to 150 Pesos ($12) but it’s still quite a lot. The caves had a lot of cool stalactites and it was nice to snorkel through, but if it is your first cenote experience, I would probably recommend the ones South of Playa which you can find more about here.