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 www.sirrivieramaya.com (#196) or google Casa Maya Puerto Morelos – and others listed for rent or sale on informative websites such as MayanRivieraProperties.com and MexicanVacationVillas.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Puerto Morelos still has the feel. Try it, you may like it.