When was the last time you visited Puerto Morelos? Perhaps you went for a casual seafood lunch at one of the waterfront palapa restaurants and walked along the wooden dock afterwards to watch the fishermen unloading their catch surrounded by expectant gulls and pelicans. From a walk on the beach to snorkeling the Mesoamerican Reef and exciting jungle adventures, here are some Puerto Morelos trip ideas for you.

Puerto Morelos Reef

Dive right in and marvel at the reef that you can see just offshore. Part of the Mesoamerican Reef, the world’s second longest, Puerto Morelos Reef is famous for its spectacular coral formations and is rich in marine life. Indeed, it is considered one of the most pristine areas of the huge reef system that stretches along the Mexican Caribbean coast south to Belize and there are two marine biology research stations here.

Local dive masters know all the best places in this protected National Marine Park for snorkeling and scuba adventures.

You’ll see queen angelfish swimming by, shoals of blue tangs, blue-striped grunts and porkfish and lone parrotfish feeding on the coral. Larger fish such as jacks, snappers, hogfish, grouper and barracuda gather above the corals, and keep a look out for sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, nurse sharks and octopus.

Look closer and you’ll see smaller fish such as squirrel fish, butterfly fish and damsel fish guarding their territory among the corals, hiding in crevices or in the sea grass.

Beach life

A wide swathe of white sand and gentle waves make Puerto Morelos a popular beach spot for families. There are several waterfront clubs with sun loungers and palapas for rent, restaurants and bars where you can spend the day.

Walk along the beach and take in Puerto Morelos life. The iconic tilting lighthouse is a good spot to stop and enjoy the view. Around sunset, you can sometimes watch swallows spiral around the tower before dipping and entering to roost for the night.

Puerto Morelos Botanical Garden

There’s more to Puerto Morelos than coral reefs and beautiful beaches, unforgettable adventures await you in the jungle too. First stop is the Yaaxche-Alfredo Barrera Marin Botanical Garden, the second largest botanical garden in Mexico. In addition to showcasing the trees and plants native to the Yucatán Peninsula, it is a nature reserve protecting 65 hectares of jungle and marshland rich in wildlife.

The Botanical Garden is located just south of Puerto Morelos on Highway 307 but you’ll soon leave the noise of traffic behind as you walk along the trails through the forest. You’ll hear a variety of birdcalls and may spot orange orioles, great kiskadees, green jays, woodpeckers and parrots, among other species.

The park is home to a troop of approximately 50 spider monkeys who forage for fruit in the treetops. You might be lucky enough to see coatimundis or tejon, peccary, deer, fox, squirrels and the shy agouti or tepescuintle, a rodent the size of a small dog that feeds in the undergrowth. Other mammals are nocturnal and seldom spotted although wardens have seen puma tracks in the more remote areas of the park.

Follow the trail to the herb garden you’ll see familiar plants such as basil, rue, chamomile and spearmint growing with native species traditionally used by the Maya as remedies for ailments including fever, colds, migraines, stomach bugs and arthritis.

In a jungle clearing there is a rustic exhibition about chicle, the original natural ingredient for chewing gum that is actually the resin from the chicozapote, a native forest tree found throughout southeast Mexico.

Be sure to walk to the wooden observation towers for spectacular panoramic views of the forest and the wetlands stretching to the Caribbean.

The Botanical Garden is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Exploring the Ruta de Los Cenotes

An alternative is to hop into a rental car and drive along the Ruta de los Cenotes, the road to the west of Highway 307 that goes through the jungle to the small town of Leona Vicario. Along the route you’ll see many wooden signs marking the turn off for cenotes deep in the forest. These natural limestone wells or sinkholes have crystal-clear waters that look turquoise or emerald, depending on the light. Some are open and others are hidden in caves. They include Cenote Las Mojarras, Siete Bocas, Boca de Puma and Verde Lucero and several of them have rustic zip lines and nature trails in the vicinity of the cenote.

The Xenotes Oasis Maya trip offered by Experiencias Xcaret gives you the chance to explore four very different cenotes in one day and includes swimming, snorkeling, zip lining and time for kayakng.

Zip lining at Selvatica

For a day of jungle adventures, Selvatica Park fits the bill. Fly through the jungle canopy on a series of thrilling zip line circuits, then swim in a cenote. ATV jungle tours are also available.

Bird watching

If you are interested in wildlife, how about an early morning Puerto Morelos birding trip. Accompanied by a knowledgeable local guide you’ll explore a jungle reserve on the Ruta de los Cenotes to hear the dawn chorus. This clamor of birdsong includes the squawks of parrots, the distinctive call of the pygmy owl and the raucous rattle-like sound of the chachalaca, a bird the size of a large hen.

Look out for flocks of parrots, Yucatan jays, trogons, tanagers, solitary keel-billed toucans, and the Yucatán’s own bird of paradise, the turquoise-browed motmot that makes its nest in the limestone walls of cenotes.

Departure is at 5 a.m. from your resort and you’ll be back at around 12 noon; snacks are included.

Spending the day in Puerto Morelos

Thomas More Travel can help you book all these Puerto Morelos adventures or you can catch a bus, there’s one every half hour from the ADO bus station downtown and get a taxi to the main square. If you are planning a trip into the forest, we recommend that you take your camera, binoculars and use eco-friendly insect repellent to ward off biting insects. You should never stray off the path, even in the Botanical Garden.