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However, there are lots of lesser-known, more affordable, and just as beautiful areas to explore in the Yucatán which I don’t think get anywhere near the love that they deserve. Case in point? Let’s take a look at Puerto Morelos, one of the most underrated vacation spots in Mexico!
Once a small fishing village, you don’t have to look hard to see traces of Puerto Morelos’ culture and history. Situated on the Riviera Maya between Cancún and Playa del Carmen, it’s such a beautiful place to explore, with pristine beaches and tons of authentic Mexican charm.
The only downside of a less touristy location is that there tends to be less of a choice when it comes to accommodation. On the flip side, this means that the town isn’t crowded with resorts and hotels, so you get a much more authentic experience!
If you’re looking for things to do in Puerto Morelos but don’t know where to start, you’re in the right place! Dan and I have visited this cute fishing town a few different times now, and still manage to find something new every time we do. Read on to learn about all the fun activities you can get stuck into!
- Getting to Puerto Morelos
- Things to do in Puerto Morelos, Mexico
- 1. Go on a catamaran tour
- 2. Relax at Playa Publica
- 3. Spend the day at My Paradise Beach Club
- 4. Enjoy the beautiful coastline and a walk around town
- 5. Go snorkeling
- 6. Swim in cenotes
- 7. Go scuba diving
- 8. Drink craft beer at Cerveza Artesanal Pescadores
- 9. Take a photo with the Puerto Morelos Sign
- 10. Go shopping in town
- 11. Get lost on a full-day adventure tour
- 12. Reptiles Toolok Kaa'n
- 13. ATV tour
- 14. Visit the Leaning Lighthouse
- 15. Go fishing
- 16. Try amazing food and drinks
- 17. Explore the ancient ruins of Chichén Itzá
- 18. Day trip to Isla Mujeres
- 19. Visit a local market
- 20. Day trip to Cancun
- 21. Jardín Botanico Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marín
- 22. Swim with Whale Sharks
- 23. Day trip to Playa del Carmen
- 24. Visit Croco Cun Zoo
- Where to Stay in Puerto Morelos
- Thanks for reading!
- Why We Book Tours with Viator
- Renting a Car in Mexico
- Don't get Caught without Travel Insurance!
Getting to Puerto Morelos
Puerto Morelos might be one of the more underrated spots here in the Yucatán, but it’s actually not far from Cancun at all! In fact, Puerto Morelos is about 25 kilometers (16 miles) from Cancun airport, around a 25-minute drive one-way.
Taking a private shuttle is the easiest way to get from the Cancun airport to Puerto Morelos, and it will also directly take you to your accommodation. We’ve used this private transportation service before and were super impressed by the level of service. They met us in the arrival hall and escorted us outside to the vehicle, which was very comfortable, had Wi-Fi, as well as our best friend… AC!
I also know just how tricky it can be to organize transport when you’re traveling in a larger group, which is why I’d suggest this round-trip private transfer if you’re bringing friends, family, or the whole gang! These larger (but still private) shuttles also work out to be much more cost-effective than booking multiple taxis, which means more change for cocktails by the pool – woohoo!
Of course, if you’re planning to be a little bit more adventurous during your stay, then I’d highly recommend renting a car. Having your own means of transport can be sooo liberating, plus the cost of taxis to other popular spots like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum can quickly add up over time. The main highway connecting all these hotspots is also a pretty easy drive!
Related Read: Considering renting a car in Mexico – read all of our tips before you book!
Things to do in Puerto Morelos, Mexico
1. Go on a catamaran tour
If you’re looking for an adventure in the water, a trip to a secret sandbar, or a snorkel with marine life, then a catamaran tour may just be the thing that you’re looking for during your time in Puerto Morelos!
Not only is this a great way to spend the day, but it combines a range of activities which is perfect for those who want to enjoy the warm waters of the Caribbean. Personally, this was my favorite way to get out there and do something relaxing that also allowed me to see a beautiful area that I might not have otherwise had access to.
The catamaran tour I went on cost $85 USD and lasted 4 hours. I was visiting in the peak season (January), so the tour was full, and we actually got the last two spots! However, the tour included everything we needed, from drinks to lunch, and the boat didn’t feel crowded. If you’d like transportation, you can get this included in your ticket, which will then be $115 USD per person.
You bring yourself and the excitement, and the tour company handles all the rest! You can book this catamaran cruise online here!
2. Relax at Playa Publica
Trying to find the best beach to soak up the sun, eat lunch, or take an afternoon walk? Playa Publica, or the ‘public beach of Puerto Morelos,’ is one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico and another one of the best things to do in Puerto Morelos. You can bank on finding space for any beach activities you’re hoping for, and the water is calm – perfect for swimming!
If you’re like me and enjoy getting to see the more authentic side of a place you’re exploring, maybe you’ll choose to walk to the beach and stop at some local food stands along the way.
Then, when you arrive at the unbelievably blue water and white sand beach of Playa Publica, you’ll be ready to enjoy your day at the beach. Bring some sunscreen, a towel, and bottled water to stay hydrated.
This is one option where hours and costs don’t apply- the beach is open to everyone for free unless you decide to opt for a beach club or restaurant, which brings us to our next activity in Puerto Morelos…
Related Read: Because of its close proximity to Cancun, Playa Publica is often considered one of the best beaches near Cancun!
3. Spend the day at My Paradise Beach Club
If you’ve decided to visit the beach in Puerto Morelos, you may be looking to elevate your experience even more and lean into the finer side of this beautiful location.
Combining the beach with A-class service, My Paradise Beach Club is also located on Playa Publica. Don’t let the ‘club’ name fool you – this beachside amenity is a relaxing, laid-back area that focuses on the experience more than the drinks. It’s all about comfort here!
While there, we rented two large beach chairs with an umbrella and also got access to the other amenities. This cost us 500 pesos or around $25 USD. However, we got to use most of the fee (400 pesos) for our drinks. Which were fantastic, by the way!
My Paradise Beach Club is open from 10 am until 6 pm every day (hours can change) except Wednesday.
4. Enjoy the beautiful coastline and a walk around town
Puerto Morelos is a low-key destination, a quiet, quaint, and eccentric little town of about 9,000 residents. It has that ‘small fishing village’ vibe I love to explore!
Puerto Morelos is a place where you can get a breath of fresh air and escape the swarms of people you find in so many other Mexicao destinations, such as the Cancun Hotel Zone! The Caribbean Sea is the perfect calming companion, and the friendly locals will make you smile.
A day I often enjoy the most while traveling to tropical destinations is going to the beach and taking a nice walk around town to meet the locals and find some great food. There is simply something special about how the old Mexican ambiance in small towns, such as Puerto Morelos, makes you feel just as if you stepped back into simpler times.
And it’s true. Life down here in Puerto Morelos is simple in the best way possible.
I found the people of Puerto Morelos to be friendly, and I felt welcomed. You will have no problem finding friendly faces and cute streets. Be sure to pop into the smaller establishments; it’s where you find the biggest smiles and great deals!
5. Go snorkeling
There are so many things to do in Puerto Morelos, but the most popular activity is the famous snorkeling. Puerto Morelos is home to a world-class barrier reef, which is only about 400 meters (1,300 feet) from shore.
Close to shore, you will find seagrass beds. These are the best places to view green sea turtles and several species of rays. Out further in the middle of the reef, you can spot eels, large fish, and colorful coral. It’s really one of the best snorkeling experiences in Mexico, and I was very surprised at how much marine life I saw!
Due to the reef’s protected status, snorkelers must be accompanied by an accredited guide, and although this may be inconvenient, it is a strong factor in protecting the reef from tourism. I’d rather the small inconvenience than see the reef destroyed.
The tour we did was fantastic value at only $45 USD. They took us out on a boat and we had the opportunity to snorkel at two different spots on the reef. The gear was included and in great shape. They even offered us wet suits to use for free if we wanted. Water was also included. The guides were super knowledgeable and knew where to take us to see the best marine life and coral.
If you want to book the same snorkel tour as us in Puerto Morelos, you can book it online here. You should book in advance as the group is limited to a maximum of 10 people, and as such, often is fully booked.
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Related Read: My favorite spot for snorkeling with turtles is Akumal Beach, which is about an hour’s drive from Puerto Morelos!
6. Swim in cenotes
One of the most popular attractions in Puerto Morelos is the cenotes. These are natural deep-water wells fed by the filtration of rain and the currents of underground rivers. So think of sinkholes, but bigger and full of beautiful, clean water!
Whether you are feeling energetic or a little tired from a late night, a swim in any of Puerto Morelos’s cenotes will have you feeling refreshed in no time. Some cenotes are simply just swimming holes, but certain ones have structures built-in for a more exciting experience, such as zip lines and jumping platforms for those who want to test their luck a bit.
To get to La Ruta de Las Cenote, you would need to rent a car or book a tour – there is no public transportation available. Luckily a lot of Cancun ATV tours include a cenote swim on this route! Depending on the season, there is a small fee to visit each cenote of around 150 to 400 Mexican pesos ($10-20 USD), and they are all open from 11 am to 4 pm.
This Expeditions of Cenotes Tour will visit two cenotes in a jungle environment where you will make your way by kayak, walking, and bike. The trails are filled will different types of flora, and you are likely to spot some howler monkeys. It is very well-maintained and easy enough for kids to join too.
If you want to visit cenotes on your own, a few you can consider visiting are:
- Cenote La Noria is partially open, so you would be swimming inside a cavern. You can see some small birds and bats flying around you while you enjoy its beautiful water. This is a hidden spot inside the jungle with no crowds. It is a relaxing place with very few people. This cenote costs 250 pesos ($15 USD).
- Verde Lucero is a medium size open cenote. It is a beautiful place with hammocks, rope swings, and some small zip lines. It’s often pretty busy, and here you’ll even have a chance to enjoy a Temazcal – a traditional Mexican sauna. For a surcharge, you can experience the pre-Hispanic way of the sauna. It costs 200 pesos ($12 USD) to visit.
- Cenote Mojarras is a big open cenote with a long zipline over it. In my opinion, it’s the least beautiful but can be the most fun – especially for kids who love ziplining. They have hammocks and a picnic area, but the water can become murky because the cenote is so big. Entry costs 150 pesos ($9 USD).
- Cenote Sol y Luna (pictured above) is another built-up establishment where you can swim in a cenote. Here, you’ll find a small hotel as well as a restaurant. Swim in the open cenote and enjoy a meal or drink at the same time. Cenote Sol y Luna is also known to be one of the least crowded in the area. It is a bit more expensive at 490 pesos ($29 USD).
- Selvatica is a big eco-park located inside La Ruta de Las Cenote. So, if you are up for a jungle adventure, this is your spot! There are many options to choose from, but all of them are centered around ecotourism. Cenote swimming isn’t the only activity on offer, you can enjoy camping, horse riding, zipline canopy, 4×4 ATV riding, and bungee swing too! You can check out their website for a breakdown of prices.
7. Go scuba diving
But that doesn’t mean you have to head to the ocean. I myself am PADI certified and wanted to try something new. So, we decided to go scuba diving in Puerto Morelos with a tour from Scuba Puerto Morelos in a cenote. We dove into two cenotes and felt like we were exploring underwater caves. Seriously, one was pitch black, and we needed flashlights to see anything!
Although a tad scary at first, I loved the experience, and it was a great way to expand my diving skills.
If you’re more into ocean dives, you can do that too in Puerto Morelos. This particular experience is for certified divers and includes two dives on the reef for only $120 USD! It’s really a good deal and the perfect dive for those who want to explore the amazing underwater life just off the coast of Puerto Morelos.
If you’ve never dived before, you aren’t out of luck either. In Puerto Morelos, you can also work to get your scuba diving certification. With this particular private diving course, you will get your dive certification after completing the theory, pool dives, and then four ocean dives all with your private instructor. Afterwards, you’ll be certified to dive to up 18 meters! The certification is recognized worldwide.
8. Drink craft beer at Cerveza Artesanal Pescadores
What’s better than drinking local craft beer on a hot day in Mexico? Oh wait, that’s right… nothing!
As long as you love beer as much as I do, you’ll love Cerveza Artesanal Pescadores. Head over to their tasting room located a short drive south of Puerto Morelos to see the brewery and how beer is made.
The beer selection is a little limited, however, they have a fantastic IPA and Habanero Ale. There were three other choices while I was there too. Although they were not serving food while I was there, you can often find a food truck out the front!
The brewery is open from 11:30 am to 6 pm every day of the week. This hangout is free to enter but offers tours and, of course, beer for purchase. They have two daily tours, one at 12 pm and the other at 3 pm. We skipped the tours and just drank the beer instead!
This is a great way to dip inside during the heat of the day or cool off after a tour (maybe a scuba tour, for example) and kick back with a local brew.
9. Take a photo with the Puerto Morelos Sign
Even though I’m all about taking a step off the beaten path, you always need a good photo to send home during trips, and this is it!
Check out the Puerto Morelos sign while you’re in town for a fun, free photo op that you’ll be able to look back on while reminiscing about your trip. The best part is that this sign is out in the open, so it’s available for photos any time of day or night that you happen to be close by.
You can find it in front of the beach, just behind a place called Pangea Cafe. The background is the ocean, which makes for the perfect photo-op!
10. Go shopping in town
Puerto Morelos might not have giant shopping malls like Cancun and Playa del Carmen, but this totally adds to its charm! Instead, there are lots of local boutique and craft stores dotted around town, which are tons of fun to explore. You won’t find a bunch of designer clothes here, but you will come away with unique souvenirs and gifts for friends and family back home.
If you’re looking to grab something to read (or just fancy taking a look at their small but unique selection of gifts), then I’d suggest stopping by Alma Libre Books & Gifts, which is less than a minute from the beach. Don’t let the small size of the shop deceive you… They actually have one of the largest selections of English language books in the Riviera Maya! They’re open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.
Just a couple of minutes down the street from Alma Libre, you’ll find Artesanías Alicia, which is a super cute handicraft store that offers everything from bracelets to rings, dresses, magnets, and more! I bought a few small carved figures for my family back home, and they loved them. You’ll find this store open daily from 11 am to 8:30 pm.
11. Get lost on a full-day adventure tour
When you’ve had enough of the beach, why not head to the jungle instead for a full-day adventure tour? During our stay in Puerto Morelos, we opted for an all-inclusive tour package that included so many activities – it’s perfect for those short on time!
The tour we did has it all, and you’ll want to check it out if you enjoy adrenaline in any way, shape, or form. From start to finish, we had fun! It was $167 USD for a solo ATV ride, and the tour also included horseback riding, ziplining, lunch, and a refreshing swim in a cenote! We hit so many bucket list experiences in Mexico all in one tour.
The best part is the staff are super friendly, and even though during some activities I was a little scared, they made me feel safe, and in the end, I had a blast.
There’s no doubt this is one of the best tours in Puerto Morelos! You can book the same tour as me online here.
12. Reptiles Toolok Kaa’n
Reptiles Toolok Kaa’n is a wildlife sanctuary that is located in the jungle (about a 10-minute drive from Puerto Morelos) and offers a great, family-friendly experience. This is a fun opportunity for those hoping to learn more about wildlife rescue and connect with the animals from the region.
Tours of the center cost 200 pesos (around $10 USD) for adults and 100 pesos ($5 USD) for children. During the tour, you’ll learn so much about the animals and even get to hold them. During our tour, we held multiple animals, including a turtle, a crocodile, and my favorite, a snake!
People of all ages can enjoy this opportunity to be immersed in an authentic side of life in the Yucatán.
Open from 10 am to 5 pm every day of the week, you can go early morning to beat the heat or later in the afternoon to cap off a morning at the beach.
13. ATV tour
Looking for an adventurous day of exploring? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, ATV tours are such a blast, especially when they’re on official pathways that don’t do damage to the local wildlife. That’s why I love this ATV Adventure in Puerto Morelos – the organizers do such a great job, teaching you all about the local ecosystem while you explore the Mexican jungle!
This tour also focuses less on packing in as much as possible and more on allowing you to experience the jungle at your own pace. You’ll also have an opportunity to take a dip in an open-air cenote and enjoy some Mexican snacks before the 3-hour experience ends.
Safety equipment, snacks, bottled water, air-conditioned transportation, and enthusiastic guides are all a part of the fees for this tour. It’s pretty similar to the full-day adventure tour I did but focuses more on the ATV side of adventure, which I think many would prefer (Daniel loves a good ATV adventure!).
With a departure time of 9 am, you’ll be back in time for lunch and can rest assured that you’ll have so much more of the day left to explore, relax on the beach, or do some shopping in Puerto Morelos. Tickets for this tour cost $109 USD per person and can be booked online here.
14. Visit the Leaning Lighthouse
When you think of leaning buildings, I can bet which one you’re picturing! The Leaning Tower of Pisa is tons of fun to take photos just like the Faro Inclinado here in Puerto Morelos, or the “Leaning Lighthouse” in English.
As you can probably guess (or see from the image above), the leaning lighthouse is exactly that, a leaning lighthouse! It’s a really cool place to stop by for a photo or two, and it’s also just slightly north of the Puerto Morelos sign, so you can check both off your list in one go.
There’s also a rustic-style pier which leads pretty far out into the water – you can walk this! It’s pretty common to see colorful fish and even rays from the edge of the pier, so why not have a look for yourself? Of course, if you fancy some well-earned relaxation, there are also plenty of spots along the beach where you can kick back and relax.
This part of Puerto Morelos may be relatively touristy, but it also has some great sights to see and things to do that you shouldn’t overlook.
15. Go fishing
The Caribbean offers some of the best fishing in the world – no doubt about that! Blue Marlin, Wahoo, Yellowfin Tuna, and Barracuda are just some of the huge fish that make for an awesome challenge to catch. Which makes that final photo that much more worth it!
Another positive about fishing here in Puerto Morelos it tends to be much more affordable than in some of the more popular resort towns and cities, even though the quality of the fishing is the same! It’s no surprise then that there are a few super popular fishing charters here, such as “Big Boss” from Seablue Water Adventures.
With space for up to 10 anglers on board, the Captain, Jesus Espinosa, is full to the brim with passion for fishing – it’s honestly kind of infectious (even for non-anglers like me)! This is an awesome experience for families with kids learning to fish, as well as larger groups too.
For a bonus, if you book a trip that’s longer than 4 hours, they’ll also clean and prepare the fish you catch, and you can have it prepared with rice at a local restaurant! It doesn’t get fresher than that.
The Big Boss experience costs $150 USD per hour, so if you split that between a few friends it works out pretty cheap! They also offer trips on smaller boats like the “Cayo”, which takes 1–4 people and costs just $63 USD per hour. You can check what’s on offer over on their website.
16. Try amazing food and drinks
It doesn’t matter where you go in Mexico… You’re bound to find good food, no matter where you go! That said, some spots do shine out above the rest, and it’s no different here in Puerto Morelos.
While there are quite a few restaurants and bars in town, Cantina Habenero is our favorite spot for Mexican food and delicious drinks, no question about it! We had some of the most delicious el pastor tacos here as well as some big margaritas, but they also serve a huge breakfast menu plate for under $8 USD. Now that’s some seriously tasty value. They’re open daily from 8 am to 1 am, so head on by!
Of course, if you’re looking for a complete Mexican food experience, then you can’t go wrong with a bespoke foodie tour. This small-group food tour lasts between two and three hours and visits a great selection of family-owned restaurants, local taco stands, fruit stores, and more.
With tickets costing just $80 USD for adults (12+) and $50 USD for kids (5-11), this is such a fun way to get to know the local food scene and try out some dishes you may never have had before. I’d recommend going earlier on in your holiday, so you’ll have time to return to these food stores outside the tour! You can book your spot on this food tour here.
17. Explore the ancient ruins of Chichén Itzá
This may be one of the least surprising activities on the list. After all, how can you visit the Yucatán without going to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World?
I know there are many different lists nowadays, like the Seven Wonders of Nature, Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Seven Wonders of the Modern World, and more, but Chichén Itzá falls under the ‘main’ Seven Wonders list and is a place that is so worth visiting.
Learn about the history of the region, the truth behind the Mayan calendar design, the class and religious structures of Mayan civilization, and see an ancient pyramid, El Castillo, that is sure to be an amazing part of your trip.
The biggest issue with visiting Chichen Itza from Puerto Morelos is the long drive to and from the ruins. From Puerto Morelos, the ancient city is 3 hours away. For that reason, if you want to visit in one day, you’ll either need to rent a car or take a tour. Luckily, there are some great tours to Chichen Itza that depart from Puerto Morelos!
If you do rent a car in Mexico, be sure to leave as early as possible, so you can get to Chichen Itza before the busloads of tourists arrive.
If you’d prefer a tour, this Chichén Itzá private tour offers round-trip pick-up from Puerto Morelos and takes you to the sacred cenote, the town of Valladolid, and gives you guidance as well as free time to explore on your own.
Thankfully, the tour also covers your local taxes and national park fees so that you don’t have to pay more out of pocket than expected.
You’ll also have bottled water, alcoholic beverages during the transportation, snacks, free time, and a guide who is an archaeological professional. If you can’t tell, this trip is all about mixing fun and vacation with real experiences and amazing history.
Another option is to take the bus. However, you’ll need to make this an overnight trip to make it worth it. To do so, book yourself a hotel near Chichen Itza around the town of Piste.
Related Read: For a unique experience, visit Chichen Itza at night when it is dark!
18. Day trip to Isla Mujeres
Puerto Morelos may be a pretty quiet port town, but its proximity to Cancun makes it an awesome launchpad for Cancun day trips (more on these later) and visits to Isla Mujeres! If the big city of Cancun isn’t quite your thing, Isla Mujeres is definitely worth a visit, with plenty of history and beautiful beaches. It’s pretty much everything you could want from a paradise island.
The best part? You can see pretty much all the best parts of Isla Mujeres in just one day. This does require a bit of planning if you want to arrange this trip by yourself, as you’ll need to arrange transport to Puerto Juarez (the port in Cancun), where you can buy a return ferry ticket to Isla Mujeres. On the other hand, there are lots of well-reviewed day tours that take this hassle away from you, leaving you free to enjoy the sights.
Dan and I recently went on this luxury catamaran tour to Isla Mujeres and loved it! Lasting between 5 and 6 hours (can vary depending on where your accommodation is), you’ll set sail on a luxury boat that comes complete with an open bar, a gourmet lunch, and plenty of time to stop and take in the sights as you sail by.
I loved that we got the chance to go snorkeling (the water was so, so clear!) and we even explored on our own for a little while.
Tickets for this cruise cost $139 USD per person, and it’s also suitable for kids older than eight years old. Hotel pick-up and drop-off is also included, including hotels within Puerto Morelos, making the whole experience feel completely seamless! You can check your dates and reserve your spot on the tour here.
19. Visit a local market
Another wonderful way to experience Puerto Morelos is to shop at one of the local markets.
Similar to the difference between a big expensive restaurant and a local taco stand, the local markets offer a more immersive experience than heading directly to the bigger shops that are geared toward tourists.
Head over to the Puerto Morelos Flea Market not only for souvenirs but for artisan clothing, jewelry, pottery, and more.
This is one of my favorite things to do on trips because so often there are incredible finds that are affordable and also give me a chance to connect with the people I’m surrounded by. In recent times, the market has gotten a reputation for being a little pushy. However, many of the market stall operators are coming off a few bad years without tourists, so this will likely calm down soon!
The Puerto Morelos Flea Market is on between the months of November and April at the My Paradise Beach Club. The market is on two Saturdays every month from 11 am to 5 pm. The best way to find out if the market is on during your stay is to head over and ask. They often have random dates and don’t always follow their own schedule (it is Mexico, after all!)
20. Day trip to Cancun
We’ve mentioned Cancun quite a few times now, and a visit may be something you’re wondering about. If you’ve been to the markets and walked along the beach, perhaps visited Isla Mujeres, or road-tripped inland a bit, spending some time in this popular location may be next on your list.
There are SO many things to do in Cancun, and this could be a super exciting addition to your stay in Mexico! Plus, with a drive time of only 35 – 40 minutes, this popular vacation destination is just north of Puerto Morelos and can add a fun twist to a more laid-back beach trip.
While you can do many of the same things in both locations, you’ll find that the nightlife in Cancun is a bit livelier and that there are different places to see when it comes to natural beauty, like cenotes and other island spots such as Isla Contoy or Isla Holbox. I also love the food – Cancun is filled with fantastic restaurants, including some great Mexican restaurants.
You may even decide to trade a beachside Airbnb or hotel in Puerto Morelos for a 5-star treat in the Cancun Hotel Zone – it’s a luxury beachfront area of Cancun made for tourists. With that said, don’t shy away from downtown Cancun. It’s where you’ll find the friendly locals and a more authentic side of the city!
One of my favorite things to do is take a trip to Cancun Scenic Tower regardless of where you are staying, because those views aren’t something you want to miss, trust me. It’s one of the best places to take in the Caribbean from this part of Mexico and soo worth the trip. Aside from that, join a tour, ride a jet ski, or party at Coco Bongo!
21. Jardín Botanico Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marín
Did someone say botanical gardens? Yes, please!
Head over to Jardín Botanico Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marín for an hour or two of walking among beautiful nature and wildlife.
The gardens are open from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, Monday to Friday, and offer a great place to get into nature and take a calm walk. The gardens are more of a jungle than manicured gardens, but that makes the wildlife and plants you see that much more authentic. There are spider monkeys, viewpoints, hanging bridges, waterfalls, mangroves, and more.
Conveniently enough, these botanical gardens are situated not far from the Toolok Kaa’n Wildlife Sanctuary. So, you could make a day out of those two more nature-based experiences (like I did).
If someway somehow, you are tired of walking by the beach, this is a great way to get outdoors and see another part of the Puerto Morelos area. The entrance to the garden is 125 MXN ($6.40 USD) per person.
22. Swim with Whale Sharks
Ever had the desire to swim with sharks? Well, here’s your chance! The Yucatan is one of the best places in the world to swim with whale sharks. These huge animals are actually not sharks at all and are the largest fish in the world. They also eat plankton, so don’t worry, this tour is safe!
This tour allows you to swim with whale sharks in the warm Caribbean waters of Puerto Morelos and get an up-close encounter with one of the coolest animals of the sea. The best time to go is from May to September, and during this time, your chances of swimming with a whale shark are fantastic.
You can opt-in to pick up in the area to one of the locations, or you can drive yourself if you’ve got a rental car and would prefer to make your way independently.
Not only is the trip designed for small groups to give you the best time, but it is also eco-friendly, includes lunch off the coast of Isla Mujeres, and has comprehensive narration so that you can make the most of the experience.
You can swim, snorkel, and get close to whale sharks, turtles, manta rays, and dolphins in an environment that allows you to soak in the beauty of the ocean and its creatures. Tickets for this experience cost $154 USD per person, which includes lunch and all snorkeling equipment!
Related Read: Did you know that you can also go swimming with whale sharks in Exmouth, Australia?!
23. Day trip to Playa del Carmen
This one is just over half an hour’s drive (with no traffic from Puerto Morelos). It’s about the same distance as a drive to Cancun but in the other direction since Playa del Carmen is south of Puerto Morelos.
From crystal-clear water and white sand beaches with beautiful hotels and restaurants lining the shores to the dancing and music throughout the streets, there are so many things to do in Playa del Carmen that won’t disappoint. From scuba diving in Playa del Carmen to visiting the local markets, it really is enough to fill up a few days!
Some of my favorite more unique activities are the Cirque du Soleil JOYÀ show, dining at Alux Cave Restaurant, and enjoying some shade and lush trees at Founding Fathers Park. You can also go swimming with whale sharks in Playa del Carmen as another option to see these gentle giants.
24. Visit Croco Cun Zoo
Last but not least, why not take a trip to the Croco Cun Zoo if you’re looking for an interactive way to see some cute animals and learn more about local conservation efforts?
This unique zoo hosts a variety of animals, most of which are reptiles, such as snakes and crocodiles. Entrance costs 620 pesos ($36 USD) for adults and 442 pesos ($26 USD) for children (6-12). Your ticket also includes a 60 to 75-minute guided tour where you can touch, hold, and walk among crocodiles and snakes! If you like, you can also add things such as a feeding bag, so you can feed the animals yourself.
You can visit any day of the week from 9:30 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon. Kids 5 and under can also get in for free, which is a plus when you’re looking for the perfect family-friendly activity!
Whether you decide to get an early start or head over at midday, I recommend leaving yourself plenty of time to experience the guided interactive experiences and just simply enjoy the nature and animals in this incredible spot.
Where to Stay in Puerto Morelos
Puerto Morelos certainly isn’t the resort town Cancun is. However, you can still find some fantastic places to lay your head during your stay.
Cuca Macuca – $
For budget travelers, Cuca Macuca is a top choice and a great place for backpackers or solo travelers on a budget. The location is also really convenient and only two blocks from the beach! The facilities are typical of a hostel with a communal kitchen and even a common area on the roof, complete with day beds.
As well as simple but private rooms, this hostel also has 4-bed and 6-bed dorm rooms available, with a bed in a dorm costing around $20-25 USD per night. You can book your spot online on Booking.com or Hostelworld.
Arrecifes Suites – $$
For medium-budget travelers, I really like Arrecifes Suites. I love the beachfront location, and although this hotel is nothing fancy, it has everything you need, such as a small pool, clean and comfortable rooms, and helpful staff. You also get a coffee machine in your room, as well as air conditioning – now that’s a power duo!
The rooms here start at around $100 USD per night, with junior studios, one-bedroom apartments, two-bedroom apartments, and more on offer. It’s a great option whether you’re traveling as a family or as a couple! You can check availability and book your room here.
The Fives Oceanfront – $$$
For luxury travelers, check out The Fives Oceanfront. This gorgeous oceanfront hotel is one of the best in Puerto Morelos and offers suits all the way up to 3-bedroom apartments. Everything about his hotel is luxurious, and they even have two pools, with one on the rooftop! They also have an onsite restaurant, room service, and fitness center and offer all-inclusive packages.
This is a super popular hotel, which is often booked out months in advance, so don’t forget to make your reservation ahead of time if you’d like to stay here! Nightly rates for a junior suite begin at around $400 USD, and you can check available dates online here.
Renting a Car in Mexico
Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to get around Mexico is in a rental car.
I struggled to get around by bus and taxi for the longest time. But after renting a car in Cancun in 2023, I never looked back. It allowed me to explore the country without worrying about tours or taxis. It was why I fell in love with Mexico and eventually decided to live here periodically.
I refuse to use local services whenever I rent a car in Mexico. The truth is they sometimes can’t be trusted or come with hidden fees (or costly insurance that doesn’t make sense.) There are even rental car scams! So instead, I use Discover Cars, the company most experienced travelers or ex-pats in Mexico recommend.
The rates on Discover Cars are cheap, too, with the average rental costing around $25 USD per day. Full coverage insurance can be added for an extra $10 USD a day too.
Driving in Mexico also only requires a driver’s license using the Roman alphabet. If yours uses another like Japan and China, you simply need an international driving permit.
Insurance is required, but if you book with Discover Cars and get the full coverage, that’s all you need! Oh, and being over 18 is required, and if you’re over 25, your rental will be much cheaper!
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Thanks for reading!
Puerto Morelos is such a unique gem, it has yet to become a resort town full of the traditional tourist traps you can expect. So I really recommend visiting here when you can, it’s easily one of the best things to do in the Yucatan!
I mean, who wouldn’t want to relax in paradise while intertwining with the culture that made me fall in love with this country?
Thanks so much for reading! I hope this guide to Puerto Morelos has helped plan your upcoming visit. If it has, make sure to take a peek at a few more of our Mexico-related blogs. We have so much to share with you, such as: