Last Updated on December 11, 2023

About halfway between the Mexican Caribbean’s iconic Cancún and Playa del Carmen you’ll find the small beachside town of Puerto Morelos, a haven where you can spend your days’ snorkeling, swimming, relaxing oceanside, sailing, or exploring around town. 

It’s a quieter seaside town that nature lovers will adore. For those who prefer digging their toes in the sand while reading a book or enjoying a cocktail, you will enjoy the relaxed beachside Caribbean vibe. But don’t be fooled, there is also a lot of fun for adrenaline junkies who can spend their days in or out of the water scuba diving, ziplining, horseback riding, riding an ATV through the jungle, and much more. 

Here is my list of the best things to do in Puerto Morelos.

1. Hold a Crocodile and Snuggle With a Boa Constrictor

Croco Cun Zoo animal rescue in Puerto Morelos, Mexico.
© Bel Woodhouse

What used to be a crocodile farm, Croco Cun Zoo is now a sanctuary for local rescued animals. Big or small, it doesn’t matter; they have a huge albino Burmese python freed from the Cancún tourism scene and a 13-foot crocodile rescued from the canals of Cancún. 

There’s also weirder animals like hairless dogs (sacred to the Mayans), snorkel nosed soft-shelled turtles, and vibrant green vine snakes so well camouflaged that spider monkeys have mistaken them for branches and thrown them at people…eek!

Spider Monkey at Croco Cun Zoo animal rescue in Puerto Morelos, Mexico.
© Bel Woodhouse

Don’t worry, there are lots of cuter animals too, like adorable baby spider monkeys and endangered parrots full of vibrant color. It’s an interactive tour where you can embrace a boa constrictor, hold a crocodile, feed birds and mammals, and even pat the hairless dogs. 

2. Snorkel with a Marine Biologist

Just offshore of Puerto Morelos is the second largest barrier reef in the world (Australia has the largest). If you like scuba diving or just want to submerge yourself in the Caribbean’s crystal-clear waters this a great option.

Local marine biologist Luz Maria can take you on an educational snorkel around the reef or through cenotes, scuba diving, or to swim with whale sharks (if it’s the season). Having lived in Puerto Morelos for many years she’s known for running a great operation. You can find all the information here: BUCEO XTABAY

3. Cook BBQ with Netflix Chef’s Table Featured Chef

Mexico Lindo Cooking is an extraordinary opportunity to cook with Rosalia Chay, featured in Netflix’s Chef’s Table: BBQ–Rosalia Chay Chuc

Rosalia is a traditional Mayan cook and has been cooking BBQ in the traditional Mayan way (underground) her whole life. Just as her grandmother taught her, and her grandmother before that since the Mayans created the first BBQ in the year 400. 

Learn how the Mayans cook pork (from a species of domesticated wild boar over 1,000 years old) underground in a pib that produces the most succulent, delicious, and tender meat overnight. The meat is used in one of Mexico’s most beloved and famous dishes, cochinita pibil. It’s a true foodie and nature lovers delight as the Maya believe in growing everything themselves, giving back to the earth, and living the traditional life.  

4. Explore the Jungle Canopy on a Suspended Boardwalk Bridge 

Mexico’s most biodiverse botanical gardens, Jardín Botánico Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marín, are in Puerto Morelos. The gardens are a 160-acre living museum where you can hug a 300-year-old tree, enjoy mangrove boardwalks, jungle trekking, waterfalls, and the most fun suspended canopy bridge I’ve ever been on. 

The $25 fee (for two people) was great value for a 4.5-hour tour with Gill, a botanist and fellow tree hugger who runs Gills Bioexperiences. He spoke English and took us to every corner of the gardens (even some that looked less visited).

You’ll learn about Mayan legends, medicinal plants, bubblegum lumberjacks (yes, they’re a thing, they are the men that lived in the jungle collecting sap to make bubblegum), and encounter the king iguanas of ancient ruins. Oh, and stingless bees.

He shared legends of local tree spirits stealing drunk men from the towns until they sobered up. It was the highlight of our trip. Not something you normally say about botanical gardens.

5. Sail a Yacht to Isla Mujeres

Sailing the Caribbean is one of those things that even non-sailing folk love. Just kicking back and relaxing it’s easy to lose yourself in Neptune’s palette of vibrant blues, from the turquoise and aquamarines of the shallower water to the azure, sapphire, and cobalt depths. There’s no better way to spend time.

If you’d like some adventure thrown in, you can sail to nearby Isla Mujeres and swim with whale sharks (if it’s the season) or explore one of Mexico’s most treasured islands. 

6. Swim, Snorkel, or Dive a Cenote

Puerto Morelos cenote
© Bel Woodhouse

The Yucatán peninsula is one of the most unique environments on earth. With over 6,000 cenotes spread throughout the Yucatán, submerging yourself in their cool waters is something you will want to experience. For those who have never heard of a cenote, it’s a natural sinkhole that is filled with the clearest calcium-rich fresh water you’ve ever seen. They have been sacred to the Mayans since Aztec times. 

You’ll see calcified skulls and animal bones in some, and most are connected by a vast network of underground rivers. Depending on your comfort level underground, you can snorkel, scuba dive, or just paddle around in them. 

Don’t worry, if you’re in a cavern the bats are super tiny and friendly, not the giant blood-sucking vampiric kind of nightmares. They’re actually cute. But if you’d prefer a bat-free experience, there are many fully-open cenotes where you can swim in the sunshine instead. 

7. Enjoy Amazing Food

The locals brag that people from Cancún and Playa del Carmen come to Puerto Morelos to eat. I’ll be honest, I was impressed by the range of cuisines and found some amazing food while we were there.  

The highlight for me was La Sirena, a Mediterranean, or as the owner calls it, a Greek-Mexican fusion restaurant down by the waterfront. Honestly, it is the best food I’ve had in years and will go back next chance I get. 

There’s a great ice cream shop in the heart of town right next to the church and of course, being a coastal town there’s fantastic seafood by the ocean. Try restaurants like Pelícanos or La Petita where you can enjoy an amazing meal with a glass of wine and Caribbean sunset. 

There’s even a cochinita stand if you’d like to try the iconic Mexican pork dish.

8. Explore the Yucatán

There is a lot to see in the Yucatán region. The golden city of Izamal is approximately 3 hours away and the state’s capital city, Mérida, is about 3.5 hours away, making Puerto Morelos an ideal base location.

There are iconic Mayan ruins with great pyramids like Chichén Itza (Mexico’s most famous ruins, approximately 2.5 hours away), down to smaller ruins that are just as amazing. Visit Tulum’s clifftop oceanside ruins (approximately one hour away) where you can take stairs right down to the ocean for a swim to cool off after exploring the major Mayan port. 

Exploring closer to Puerto Morelos, it’s around half an hour (depending on traffic) in either direction to Cancún or Playa del Carmen. From there you can also hop on a fast boat ferry to Cozumel, Mexico’s largest island. 

9. ATV, Ride Horseback, or Zipline

If you’re an adventurer at heart, there’s plenty to see and do by land or sea around Puerto Morelos. 

For the water lovers, there’s sailing, scuba diving the Mesoamerican barrier reef, parasailing, snorkeling, or swimming with dolphins. 

For the landlubbers, there’s plenty of adrenaline-packed activities available. Take an ATV tour through the jungle to get all muddy or 4WD tours if you’d prefer to be less muddy. 

You can jungle surf as you whizz through the canopy on a zipline or, for a slower pace, enjoy a horseback ride to see the jungle and its wildlife.

There’s every kind of cultural, historical, and nature tour you could ever want. And for nature lovers, there’s great birdwatching and wildlife tours as well. 

10. Explore Puerto Morelos

Puerto Morelos Sign
© Noreen Kompanik

Like all smaller Mexican towns, Puerto Morelos has a laidback kind of feel to it. Laid out in a grid pattern it’s impossible to get lost as there are only two main streets running the length of the town. Behind that, it’s all mangroves.

Strolling around you’ll find lots of friendly locals wanting to take you to their shop, so souvenir shopping isn’t a problem. You’ll find everything from beachwear and sunhats to high-class jewelry, so it’s up to you what kind of shopping you are after. There’s also a flea market that is fun to get lost in.

There’s plenty of places to duck in to sit down for a cool drink or something to eat. 

Author

  • Belinda Woodhouse

    Belinda Woodhouse (Bel) decided to change her life, left the Royal Australian Navy and let her wanderlust take her roaming the planet in free sandal wearing bliss. Head honcho at The Travel Bag and author of 21 Reasons to Visit … travel book series, her love of writing, photography and videography enable her to live her dream life abroad. Nothing is safe from her curiosity. Loving adventure, exploration and the wild places you will find her climbing all over ruins, tubing down jungle rivers and exploring the depths of the oceans laughing and loving every minute of it.