Natural Mexico

Beyond the beach at Puerto Morelos, Yucatan
Puerto Morelos
Wetland after being damaged by bulldozer.

Mexico recently declared the coral reefs that fringe the coast near the small fishing village Puerto Morelos as a national marine park as part of the Great Maya Reef. The area has long been frequented by snorkelers and divers and while the rest of the coast is suffering from over-development, Puerto Morelos remains one of the most tranquil small towns in the country.

Unfortunately, some of the boats from Canczn are heading to this area, though locals are trying to protect the reefs for more sustainable tourism operations so as to avoid the destruction of the reefs that plague Cancun. There are also signs of development from the megaresort El Cid. The town is the base of operations for the Lu'um K'aa Nab environmental group, which works with Maya communities and keeps a watchful eye on the tourism industry.

Be sure to visit the Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marmn Botanical Garden, at the turnoff for Puerto Morelos on Highway 307 at Kilometer 38. The gardens, occupying 65 hectares, represent the only land that has been set aside for conservation on the corridor between Canczn and Tulum. The habitats range from mangrove swamps to semi-evergreen tropical forest. In the tropical heat, the garden is a cool and well-shaded oasis.

Native plants are fostered in the nursery, which has an important mission given the daily deforestation of the surrounding region. There are 3 kilometers (2 miles) of marked trails. Want to see a chicle tree? It's there in the garden, along with a re-creation of a chiclero camp. The gardens contain a Mayan ruin named The Altar that dates to the post-classic period (A.D. 1400). You'll find local medicinal and culinary herbs identified by their Mayan, Spanish, and Latin names. The park attracts wild creatures. If you're lucky, you might even spot an agouti, a large rodent that grazes like a rabbit.

Getting There

There is frequent and inexpensive bus service between Puerto Morelos and Canczn, Playa del Carmen or Chetumal.

Travel Providers

Maya Echo , Av. Rojo Gomez. Phone: (987) 10-136; email: Headquartered in the Amar Inn Bread & Breakfast, this group works as a bridge among international visitors and community tourism. It takes visitors on day trips to the botanical garden, the town of Central Vallarta and the nearby chiclero communities. Here women produce hand embroidery and give visitors tours of medicinal plants. The tour ends with a swim in a cenote. Highly recommended.

Where to Stay and Eat in Puerto Morelos

Amar Inn , Av. Rojo Gomez, a few blocks north of the Plaza. Phone: (987) 100-26. Run by Ana Luisa Aguilar, president of the Lum Kanab environmental group. This is an eclectic and spiritual spot, not to mention a well-run hotel. Rooms cost around $50/night.

El Cafi de la Plaza , Central Plaza. Phone: (98) 45-15-97; Email: A terrific cafi with Mexican artesania, organic cosmetics and healthy food. The publishers of Mother Earth (Madre Tierra) magazine run this place.

Information Please

Alma Libre Libros Bookstore , Plaza Morelos #3 on the Central Plaza. Phone: (987) 10-264; Email: Run by Jeanine Kitchel And Paul Zappella, this store stocks an incredible number of English-language books and provides a terrific collection of pamphlets, maps and postcards from the area. Open Tuesdays through Saturdays from mid-October through mid-April. Like almost everyone else in Puerto Morelos, the owners close the store for a siesta midday.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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