Puerto Morelos

Puerto Morelos, a charming and still typically Mexican fishing village, stands out from its more sumptuous neighbors, Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Its coral reef, listed as a Marine Park and stretching for miles in parallel with the coast, is probably the most beautiful and best preserved in the Riviera Maya. On the nearby reef and seagrass, you will see rays, turtles, barracudas and dozens of other fish.
How to get there?

Puerto Morelos is at the heart of Riviera Maya, half way between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. By car, it takes about 35 minutes from either town. After leaving federal route 307, drive the 1.5 remaining miles to reach the village and park near the centre. Many collective taxis (known here as "vans" or "collectivos"), constantly travelling along the federal route 307, stop at Puerto Morelos. There is one every five minutes or so and the price is 25 pesos ($1.5) per trip and per person from Playa del Carmen, and 35 pesos ($2) from Cancun. Regular buses stop at the same places and are a little cheaper, but are less frequent.

There are three options for exploring the spot:

- On your own, by swimming from the shore. This option is reserved for strong swimmers, since the beach and the reef are about 400 yards apart. There is an entrance fee for the Marine Park ($3 per person). Use a buoy to signal your presence. Update: please note that this option is no longer recommended, and seems to be not allowed anymore by the National Park

- By taking a one- or two-hour snorkeling excursion with a guide. You can reserve the excursion on the sea front at Puerto Morelos. The price is $25 per person, including equipment. A life jacket must be worn.

- By taking a full-day excursion, including 3 or 4 snorkeling stops on the reef, a lunch break on the beach, with other activities possible. The price is $80, all inclusive. A life jacket must be worn.

Water entrance

If you are taking part in an excursion, follow the guide. You enter the water from the guide's boat. If you are on your own, walk up the beach to the north (left as you are facing the sea) for about 500 yards from the town centre, shown by the main landing stage. Don't forget that this option is reserved for strong swimmers in good physical condition. Swimfins and signaling buoys are required.

Aerial view


The Puerto Morelos reef can be divided into two areas. The barrier reef, about 400 yards from the shore, which you can identify from the beach because of the waves breaking there (a white line), and the area between the beach and the reef, made up of sea grass of varying depths. If you are part of an excursion, you will be dropped off at both areas in succession (follow the guide).

Snorkeling Report Puerto Morelos Mexico
Coral reef at Puerto Morelos

If you are on your own, get into the water at the beach. As you make your way towards the open sea, the water level rises quickly to reach a dozen yards or so. As you continue, the seabed rises little by little to form a coastal bench covered with sea grass (↕6-12ft/2-4m). The sea grass is the best place to see green turtles (they are much more timid here than in Akumal, and it is hard to get near them) and several species of ray (southern stingrays, yellow stingrays or spotted eagle rays).

Continue on towards the barrier reef. The sea bed is more and more covered in coral. Some areas have been colonised by purple sea fans swaying in the current. Look for flamingo tongue snails, particularly elegant little gastropods. Nearer the reef, the coral is denser. You will soon spot superb elkhorn coral beds touching the surface of the water. This reef-building coral is vital to life in the Caribbean reefs. It is fragile and strictly protected, so you must not touch it. The coral area is the richest in fish with groups of dozens of sergeant major fish, shoals of grunts, butterflyfish and parrotfish. As you make your way along the coral beds, you are likely to spot an ocean triggerfish or an impressive great barracuda lurking beneath the water surface.

Always watch out for divers' boats sailing in the area, and don't try to go to the other side of the reef.

Restaurants & accommodation

There is a wide choice of supermarkets, snack bars and restaurants at Puerto Morelos (near the beach and in the village streets). Many fish specialities are served in the restaurants. A wide range of accommodation is also available in the area, near the sea front.

Snorkeling Report gives the most precise tips possible about the snorkeling spots and potential dangers, but each one of us is responsible for our own safety in the water. For more information, take a look at the snorkeling safety page. If you want to add extra information or make any corrections to the spot descriptions, please contact us.

Spot’s weather forecasts (°C)

Spot tips

  • Type of spot
  • Level of difficulty
    Intermediary level
  • Maximum depth
    20ft (6m)
  • Water entrance
    Easy, from a sandy beach (or from a boat)
  • Potential Dangers
    Stingrays, boats
  • Lifeguard
  • Visitor numbers
  • Access costs
    Free or excursion price (approx. 25$ pp.)
  • Restaurants nearby
    Yes, inexpensive
  • Public toilets & showers

Spot map

Spot photos

Underwater spot photos

Species you may spot while snorkeling Puerto Morelos

Common name Scientific name Abundance Fishbase Wikipedia
Green sea turtle
Chelonia mydas
Southern stingray
Dasyatis americana
Yellow stingray
Urobatis jamaicensis
Spotted eagle ray
Aetobatus narinari
Great barracuda
Sphyraena barracuda
French angelfish
Pomacanthus paru
Ocean Triggerfish
Canthidermis sufflamen
Atlantic blue tang
Acanthurus coeruleus
Stoplight parrotfish
Sparisoma viride
Smooth trunkfish
Lactophrys triqueter
French grunt
Haemulon flavolineatum
Bluestriped grunt
Haemulon sciurus
Yellowtail blue snapper
Paracaesio xanthura
Bermuda chub
Kyphosus sectatrix
Banded butterflyfish
Chaetodon striatus
Sergeant major
Abudefduf saxatilis
Smallmouth grunt
Haemulon chrysargyreum
Schoolmaster snapper
Lutjanus apodus
Trachinotus falcatus
Elkhorn coral
Acropora palmata
Venus sea fan
Gorgonia flabellum
Purple sea fan
Gorgonia ventalina
Calamar de récif des Caraïbes
Sepioteuthis sepioidea
Show all species
You encountered a specie at this spot that is not listed here?
  • nmchick52

    Will the snorkel conditions here typically be different last 2 weeks of July vs mid-to late
    August? Also would you recommend this over Akumal for snorkeling? Thanks!

  • Brian Shock

    Please ignore the first option for snorkeling on this reef — you will not be allowed simply to swim to the reef and explore on your own.

    This morning (November 20,2017), my girlfriend and I tried to do just that. Swimming 400 yards in snorkel gear doesn’t seem like all that much to us. However, once we reached the reef, we were stopped by an unpleasant young man in a kayak who insisted (in very colloquial Spanish) that we were only allowed to snorkel the reef with a tour company. We ignored him; everyone lies constantly in this place. However, after a few more minutes, we were approached by an official-looking boat that claimed to represent the “park.” We were told in no uncertain terms (but more grammatical Spanish) that, again, we were not allowed to trespass on the reef without a tour guide. We refused their ride and forced them to waste half an hour following us as we swam back to shore.

    Granted, a more sociopathic person probably would’ve thought to bribe these pirates in order to be left alone. I was just annoyed that they dared sanctimoniously lecture me about damaging the reef with my fins when they were riding back and forth across it constantly with motor boats.

    Obviously this was a local scam. Tour companies were no doubt working in concert with local officials to gin up bogus rules for preventing interference with their business model. Mexico is desperately poor. I can’t blame its people for lying, cheating, and stealing to make a living. But I don’t have to like it and I don’t have to put up with it.

    So if you want to snorkel the pitiful remains of the reef here (did I forget to mention how bad it’s looking?), go ahead and pay these thieves for a tour. Enjoy the life vest they make you wear, grandma.

    • wifeofbiggfeller

      We truly understand your frustration. It is Mexico. My husband was harassed by jet skiers swimming. And yes, the tour companies don’t want us to go out and snorkel on our own. We witnessed how sad the coral look when we were in Akumal. They were dumping 500 “snorkelers” per day. thank you for the post. We will not bring our snorkeling gears because we don’t want to disappoint ourselves again.

    • Miguel Del Valle P

      Maybe there is some union and business model here. mexico should be what it is, but there are a lot of places in the US and Europe that have RULES as well. sorry to say it.

      • maria

        hello thanks very much for the answer, we are planning to go snorkeling to puerto morelos, can you please recomend us, some that can drive us to the reef , then drop us there so we can snorkel by our onw. thanks kind regards.

        • Miguel Del Valle P

          JOSE MARTIN CHAN 044 99 81 55 01 08 044 99 81 47 71 65 Great guy.

          • maria

            hola tienes algún email para poder contactar con el e ir planificando el viaje, muchas gracias
            Un saludo

          • Miguel Del Valle P

            no, just another phone number alex chan 9988955330

    • Guillaume

      Hi Brian, and thanks for the info. We just updated our page. Best.

  • Josh Silver

    Wait, is it actually true that you can’t snorkel the reef from shore anymore? I was planning a week in PM in July but this would change my plan. Where is this info coming from?

  • lpeters82

    My family snorkeled yesterday. I’m my no means an expert, but I thought it was great. We saw dozens of different fish, including by moray eel, yellow stingray, barracuda, parrot fish, and lobster. Our trip was sold as a 2-hour, 2-stop but was actually much closer to an hour. From shore to shore it was about 90 minutes, so perhaps 20-30 minutes at each location. That was probably okay as we had our seven year old twins with us and they were struggling with the equipment at times.