The Quiet Side of the Riviera Maya

Mexico’s Riviera Maya is a much-loved tourist destination. Hotspots like Cancún—with its all-inclusive resorts, shopping, and nightlife—and the chic and sophisticated Playa del Carmen to the south, are popular with visitors from around the world.

But the same factors that make this region the site of so many dream vacations, also make it ideal for long-term living too. You’ll find many retirees and other expats who are enjoying year-round warm weather, white-sand beaches, low cost of living (you can live very well on $2,000 a month, especially with the current exchange rate), and world-class, affordable medical care.

Of course, if you live on the Riviera Maya, you don’t want to feel like a tourist all the time. Luckily, there are communities where you can find more authentic Mexican culture. They’re low key and quiet, away from the souvenir shops. One of these is right on the water, between Cancún and Playa del Carmen. It’s called Puerto Morelos.

Once a simple fishing village, it has become a favorite of expats, including a large number of Canadian snowbirds who escape their country’s harsh winters each year.

Fisherman still head out each day from the short pier in front of the malecón (seaside boardwalk) in the center of town. And you can buy freshly caught seafood at the market just off the sunbaked main square, which is lined with little cafés, shops, and restaurants. A large grocery store in town means you can get everything you need.

It’s worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the resort areas, although you will find some hotels and beach clubs. In the high season, from January to April, the town really comes alive—with plenty of parties and get-togethers at expat homes and in local restaurants and bars, including some with late night live music for dancing the night away. But any time of year, there’s no shortage of things to do: snorkeling and scuba, sport fishing, sunbathing, checking out the Maya ruins scattered around the region, catching a movie (in English) in Cancún or Playa, and much more.

There are also plenty of good-value real estate options, whether you want to make your home here or come just part of the year. And if you’re part time, you have the chance to recoup some of your investment by renting out your place to in-the-know vacationers who’ve discovered Puerto Morelos.

You’ll find plenty of condos right on the beach, although more affordable properties, including homes, are set back from the water. But pretty much no matter where you are in town, you’re within a quick walk or bike ride from the sand, as well as the amenities in the town center.

For example, you can find a fully furnished, one-bedroom condo, just a block from the beach and two blocks from the main square, for $150,000.

Nearby is a walk-to-the-beach, two-bedroom condo, over two levels, for $225,000. This one has a private garage, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a large balcony overlooking the community pool. You only have a sliver of an ocean view, but you definitely get the cooling sea breezes.

You can find a furnished, ocean-view, two-bedroom condo with community pool and garden area for $260,000. Or a two-bedroom, 1,600-square-foot condo located on a beach access road, so you’re steps from the sand, is available for $249,000.

You will pay more for something right on the water. A three-bedroom beachfront condo is available for $345,000. It comes fully furnished and has a private beach area. For $450,000, you can get a panoramic ocean-view penthouse condo, with two bedrooms, a private rooftop deck, and plunge pool.

These are just some examples of the homes on offer here. There are no large developments or tall condo towers here. Most buildings are two, three, or four stories. That gives it a manageable feel.

If you love the beach lifestyle, but don’t want the hustle and bustle of the resort areas of the Riviera Maya, Puerto Morelos could be your spot.

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