Mayan Riviera's Best Kept Secret
Poised with little fanfare between flashy Cancun
and trendy Playa del Carmen is the quiet pueblo of Puerto Morelos.
This village is a throwback to Mexican towns of old. In fact, it
has been a working fishing village for probably
a millennium - first with native Mayans and later with the invading
Spaniards. Today's locals are a mix of the two, and fishing, for
the time being, still feeds a number of families here.
With a fast growing tourist culture on all other
fronts, many wonder at the tranquility and essence of time standing
still that is the trademark of Puerto Morelos. During the dog days
of summer, locals refer to it as Muerto Morelos.
With natural beaches and a fair share of turtle grass
at certain times of the year, it is clear why Playa del Carmen "won
out" for the tourist dollar. But Playa's lack of mangroves
like those surrounding Puerto Morelos, has also made it the poster
child for uncontrolled growth. In Puerto Morelos, the mangroves
form the barrier of the town's limits as they are protected by national
law and cannot be filled. In Playa del Carmen, with
no mangroves and flat, open terrain, the sprawl continues to the
North, South and West. Tourists who had fallen in love with romantic
Playa del Carmen ten years ago are slowing moving on and discovering
the one town on the Maya Riviera that has not sold out to development
and irresponsible growth.
Strolling on the uncrowded beaches of white sand,
you’ll notice pelicans gliding gracefully in formation over
the surf. It is possible to walk for miles and only encounter a
few others going about their way. This is also a great area for
swimming since the reef shelters the shore from large waves. To
the south of town is "Magic Beach," where a break in the
reef allows the waves to come directly upon the shore bringing with
them many varieties of seashells and driftwood.
One of the most fascinating operations in Puerto
Morelos is the tortilla factory. Still the staple of the
Mexican diet, tortillas are made fresh daily. Edelberto, the baker,
will hand you tortillas hot off the fire, along with a smile. Another
local favorite is Niko’s BBQ chicken. A friendly outgoing
Mayan, Niko will take your order in the morning, barbeque it slowly
over charcoal while he bastes it with his special “secret
Mayan sauce” and have it ready for you at the time you choose.
Absolutely mouthwatering, it is something you must treat yourself
to. One large chicken is 50 pesos and worth every centavo! Both
of these essentials are only steps from the back door of Casa Merlot.
It may seem mere providence that has kept this pueblo
intact while the rest of the Yucatan's beaches experience exponential
growth. It is hardly that. The peacefulness of Puerto Morelos has
been preserved solely through the directed and hard-earned efforts
of a serious group of Puerto Morelos citizens and environmentalists
have been actively campaigning against the powers that be to turn
this town into yet another emerging market for tourism.
Puerto Morelos was declared a national reef park by presidential
decree to preserve the beauty of the Palancar Reef which lies less
than one-half mile off the coast. The irony of this move is that
now many more tourist snorkeling boats from Cancun come down to
this beautiful reef to enjoy the clear blue waters.
Puerto Morelos dive masters tend to be sensitive
to this natural wonder and have a more environmental style with
their clients explaining how fragile the reef is and that even a
mere touch can destroy what took thousands of years to create. A
local agency is now in place that monitors activity within the confines
of the reef park, which will help to better preserve it.
Puerto Morelos has everything you need to live comfortably
and simply. It has all amenities: restaurants, ATM's, gift shops,
grocery stores, fruit market, book store, church, drugstore,
travel agency, car rentals, water sports concessions, money exchange,
Internet cafe, a medical clinic, and a wonderful town square where
people of all ages come to gather.
The ambiance of Puerto Morelos is very different
from its larger and more developed neighbor, Cancun and Playa del
Carmen. "Tranquil", "friendly", "artistic",
"inclusive", "peaceful", "ecologically-minded',
"restorative", "quaint", "relaxing",
"unique", "quiet", -- these are words that locals
and sojourners alike use to describe the town.
We can not forget our exotic flora and fauna all
around us. Breathtaking sunsets and sunrises, accompanied by the
sights and sounds of birds in their natural habitat, are commonplace.
In Puerto Morelos, you are surrounded by the simple beauty of nature
and realize very quickly that humans are but one small part of a
very vast and complex universe.
Those who choose to stay in Puerto Morelos
come to adopt its unhurried pace and lifestyle, enjoying the unique
opportunities for both community and privacy that this tropical
paradise offers. Visitors repeatedly return to experience the renewal
that being in this environment brings to their lives.