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 species.

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 per trip and per person from Playa del Carmen, and 35 pesos from Cancun. Regular buses stop at the same places and are a little cheaper, but are less frequent.

Puerto Morelos coral reef - Mexico snorkeling

It is not allowed to snorkel Puerto Morelos reef freely from the shore anymore. There are only two options to explore this spot:

  1. By taking a one- or two-hour snorkeling tour with a guide. You can book the tour on the sea front at Puerto Morelos. The price is $25 per person, including equipment. A life jacket must be worn.
  2. By taking a full-day tour, including 2 or 3 snorkeling stops on the reef, a lunch break on the beach, with sometimes other activities. Prices starts from $80, all inclusive. A life jacket must be worn.

Puerto Morelos snorkeling map, Mexico

Water entrance

If you are taking part to a snorkeling tour, follow your guide. You enter the water from the guide’s boat.

Exploration

The Puerto Morelos reef can be divided into two areas. The barrier reef, about 400 meters 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. You will be dropped off at both areas in succession (follow the guide).

Yellow stingray at Puerto Morelos, Mexico

The coastal bench is 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).

When you move to the barrier reef, the sea bed is more and more covered in coral. Some areas have been colonized 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.

Snorkeling with baracuda at Puerto Morelos, Mexico

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.

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  
Yellowtail blue snapper Paracaesio xanthura  
Scrawled filefish Aluterus scriptus  
Bermuda chub Kyphosus sectatrix  
Banded butterflyfish Chaetodon striatus  
Sergeant major Abudefduf saxatilis  
Smallmouth grunt Haemulon chrysargyreum  
Schoolmaster snapper Lutjanus apodus  
Lobster  
Permit Trachinotus falcatus  
Elkhorn coral Acropora palmata  
Venus sea fan Gorgonia flabellum  
Purple sea fan Gorgonia ventalina  
Calamar de récif des Caraïbes Sepioteuthis sepioidea  

 

  • Level required Intermediary
  • Protected areaParque Nacional Arrecife Puerto Morelos
  • Maximum depth20ft/6m
  • Water entranceEasy, from a boat
  • Potential DangersStingrays, boats
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium
  • Access costsSnorkeling tour price (from 25$ pp.)
  • Restaurants nearbyYes
  • Public toilets & showersNo

MAP Spot

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.