Puerto Morelos: An Idyllic Seaside Village

By Don Murray

Puerto Morelos is an idyllic seaside village that begs you to walk slowly, preferably hand-in-hand, as you explore the small shops in the central area and wander aimlessly down the sugar-sand beach. As you feel the sand between your toes, whatever problems you imagine become seemingly non-existent. Plop down on the sand, sipping the nectar from a chilled coconut, and watch local children jump from docks into the aquamarine Caribbean Sea. You won’t care what time it is. It’s that kind of place.

People of all nationalities meander along the small malecón taking photos. Restaurants are plentiful and the freshest seafood offerings are numerous. But there are usually a few food carts present, allowing you to sample some local street food. The old, leaning lighthouse provides the perfect backdrop for photos. And although it has clearly been discovered, Puerto Morelos remains the place you imagined it would be.

Dozens of small fishing boats bob at anchor, just offshore, as sea birds perch on the gunwales. The peaceful vibe almost demands that you awaken early to see the sunrise while walking barefoot on the beach, sipping champagne. The seafood is as good as it gets and the guacamole and margaritas are always perfect.

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The small malecon, or boardwalk, is a place to sit and watch the water. You can meet friends for a day at the beach or lunch at the restaurants that line the waterfront.

You’ll find Puerto Morelos centered between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, along Mexico’s famed Riviera Maya. It’s a 30-minute drive south from Cancun or north from Playa del Carmen. You must take the exit from the main coastal highway. Puerto Morelos has two main sections, separated by about two miles of mangroves.

As you exit the highway, you will encounter a couple of small strip malls, two super markets, a pizza parlor, and other stores just off the roadway. Behind all of that, you will find a rather substantial neighborhood. This is the west side of Puerto Morelos and the area where most locals reside, along with a double handful of expats. This is the part away from the beach.

Cross the highway and continue east, through a marshy mangrove area and you will dead-end into the Caribbean Sea and the other half of town. This enchanting village-like community comes complete with an old leaning lighthouse.

This eastern half of the town is filled with charming restaurants, memorable watering holes (many along the beach), along with a few small bed & breakfasts, some low-rise condos, plenty of touristy shops, and even a well-stocked English bookstore. When folks talk about Puerto Morelos, this is the area they are talking about.

The climate along the Riviera Maya is tropical Caribbean with most days seeing temps in the 80s F, sometimes in the 90s F. Plenty of sun is the norm. That said, the east coast of Mexico, along the Riviera Maya, is subject to hurricane threats.

Retire In Puerto Morelos

Retire In Puerto Morelos

Mexico offers an easily obtainable retirement visa, providing for quick, permanent residency for those meeting the simple qualifications. Check the criteria as a temporary residency visa is also easily attainable and the differences between permanent residency and temporary residency are noteworthy.

The straight-forward process begins at the Mexican consulate in your home state. There, the consulate officer will verify your income based on the documents you provide, review a nominal number of other documents, and your completed application. After a short interview, if approved, you could depart with your residency visa affixed to the inside of your passport.

Once on the ground in Mexico, you have only 30 days to finish the process by obtaining your residency card. This is a separate process from obtaining your visa but is integral with becoming a resident and, while not difficult, the process must be followed, precisely.

Those over the age of 60 qualify for a discount card from INAPAM (Instituto Nacional para las Personas Adultas Mayores) facilitating discounts on a wide variety of goods and services.

Medical care in Puerto Morelos is provided by a number of local physicians, a couple of clinics, and the new Costa Med Hospital that provides a full range of services including surgery and emergency medical care. They offer an ambulance service to transfer patients requiring elevated care. If needed, larger hospitals with all specialty areas covered, can be found in Playa del Carmen, an hour south. Nearly all medications can be purchased directly from the pharmacy without a prescription (narcotics and strong antibiotics are obvious exceptions) and cost only a fraction of prices north of the border.

Expat residents can qualify for Mexico’s health insurance plan called Seguro Popular or the IMSS program.

Note: Both programs are currently under revision at the time of this writing.

Lifestyle in Puerto Morelos

Lifestyle in Puerto Morelos

As you might expect, Puerto Morelos attracts those with a close connection to the sea, as well as those who prefer a smaller village-type lifestyle. And because Puerto Morelos is close to both Playa del Carmen and Cancun, residents can have the benefits of a nearby larger city without the traffic hassles of actually living there.

The barrier reef is very much alive and teeming with life and is only about 400 yards offshore. Dive and snorkel tours are readily available at the marina through many operators. Offshore fishing is also quite popular with several gamefish tournaments held each year. Local restaurants will happily prepare your fresh catch for a small fee.

No need to hurry with anything here. Those who want to become involved can join several efforts directed toward the local ecology and reef health. There are always campaigns to clean the beach and/or the reef. Stray animals are also in need of assistance and a couple of rescue operations regularly address that issue, as well as protecting the fragile sea turtle population. Yoga classes can be found most mornings on the beach and a walking group was recently started. Along with a good number of permanent expats who live here, a large number of snow birds fly down during the cold months up north, swelling the normal population and providing a welcome boost to the local economy.

Cost of Living in Puerto Morelos

Cost of Living in Puerto Morelos

In a word, living in Mexico is extremely inexpensive. The reduced cost of living (compared to a similar lifestyle north of the border) is across the board. Housing costs, food, entertainment, public transportation, medical care, and the purchase of all goods and services are normally only a fraction of costs up north. Exceptions are those goods imported from the U.S. But why pay those elevated prices when local goods can be equally good/reliable?

Generally, costs can be estimated at only 25% to 30% of what you might expect to pay in the U.S.

Sample Monthly Budget for Puerto Morelos:

Expense  U.S. $
Housing Rental (two-bedroom, one-bathroom) $500-$700
Water $40-$60
Internet $35-$65
*Electricity (depending upon AC Usage) $75-$300
LP Gas $20-$30
Bottled Drinking Water $20
Food (Groceries and Dining out) $425
Transportation (Public) $75-$100
Monthly total $1,190-$1,700   

* Personal Budgets Can Vary Greatly Depending on Your Choices