Most visitors to the Riviera Maya stick to the confines of the larger towns like Playa del Carmen, where there is no shortage of restaurants, shops, and nightlife. For expats who settle in this area, popular areas like Playa are also a focal point and site of constant development and hustle and bustle.
There are alternatives for those seeking a sleepier, more off-the-beaten-path environment. Roughly midway between Cancun and Playa is the seaside town of Puerto Morelos. Once a simple fishing village (and fisherman still head out each day and sell the daily catch at the fishing cooperative on the main town square), it’s become a favorite of in-the-know expats.
There is a tidy central square, as well as a short malecon (seaside promenade) with a pier where the fishing boats still tie up with seagulls hovering to steal a bite if they can. Cafes, restaurants (many specializing in seafood, of course), and small shops line the square and front the boardwalk area, offering a meal with a view. There is often live music and plenty of local parades and festivals throughout the year that give the town an authentic Mexican flair.
There are a few hotels, a resort or two. But no large-scale development or gated communities. Just a compact town that’s easy to get around. Certainly, no tall condo towers to spoil the view. It’s off the tourist trail for the most part. It does get a bit busy in winter, when the expat population swells but is never uncomfortably crowded. Canadians, in particular, have staked a claim here as snowbirds.
Life in Puerto Morelos is quiet and slow paced, where the name of the game for fun is low-key beach clubs and palapa beach bars where you can enjoy an ice cold cerveza for a couple bucks, as well as freshly made ceviche. Most folks live in villas or condos within walking distance of the beach, often with a sea view. Many locals and expats get around town exclusively by bike. It’s small enough that it’s easy.
Shopping options are limited to one large supermarket and small neighborhood shops. You can certainly get most items you need. But with Cancun or Playa del Carmen, with large shopping malls, big box stores like Walmart, Home Depot, and Costco, et al close by, you can easily get anything you need.
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