Still a Small Beach Town in Riviera Maya

Jeanine Kitchel

Amazing as it may seem, the Riviera Maya, that white sand stretch of endless beaches  in Quintana Roo, still has one beach town that has defied the odds and retained a spectrum of that “je ne sais quois”  factor we all hope for in our search for Margaritaville.  It’s small with great beaches, a little town square or zocalo, walkways in front of the beach with benches and palapas for idling, and a handful of nearby restaurants of almost every persuasion for snacks and dining. Where is this little gem?

Why Puerto Morelos, of course. Just 30 miles south of Cancun and about 20 miles north of ever popular (and overrun) Playa del Carmen. Even Cancun locals have discovered Puerto Morelos in the past couple years, and Sundays are very popular so come early to reserve your spot on the beach, and stay late and enjoy antojitos or dinner in one of the town favorites – Pelicanos, Hola Asia, Posada Amor Restaurant- all on or very near the square.

The town has become a magnet for foreign travelers in large part because it has a town center, grocery store,  a variety of restaurants, ATM machine, and is self contained without the feel of big city Cancun or the glitzy hotel zone.  Many foreigners own beach villas here which are rented out,  some for sale – as is Casa Maya, just north of town and listed on Sotheby’s at (#196) or google Casa Maya Puerto Morelos – and others listed for rent or sale on  informative websites such as and

Small hotels are plentiful, with still reasonable rates, and now there are a handful of all-inclusives, too. But the small town feel is what brings people back year after year. It’s the type of place where you get to know the waiters at the local restaurants.

Located at the edge of the low jungle, on the other side of the highway, there’s a Sunday Mayan Market run by former Floridian Sandra Dayton who initiated this project 15 years ago when she helped Mayan women in Puerto Morelos buy two sewing machines so they could earn money by sewing clothing to sell. The market has blossomed and now includes food, Mayan massage, and a variety of handicrafts.  Dayton is a character andher knowledge of the jungle is incredible. If she still offers a jungle tour, sign up for it, because it is well worth every peso. Contact Dayton at

Puerto Morelos still has the feel. Try it, you may like it.

3 thoughts on “Still a Small Beach Town in Riviera Maya”

  1. I agree, Puerto Morelos is by far the nicest town on the Riviera Maya. Let’s hope that it stays that way and doesn’t succumb to the over-development that has, in my opinion, all but ruined much of Quintana Roo’s gorgeous coastline.

  2. My wife and I spent 3 weeks in Puerto Morelos for our honeymoon over 10 yrs. ago – total bliss.
    Jeanine – I bought your book about building a house in PM and am half way through it – I love your adventure. My mom has a house lot in Puerto Morelos, and I’d love to talk with you about your contractor.
    Can you please email me?

  3. I love Palacar Reef Cozumel Island. In the same vicinity. Practically dedicated to diving and snorkeling. Puerto Morelos in Riviera Maya, there ull find the second larger coral reef in the world juss after the one in Australia

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