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Fishin’ around in Mexico

Midway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is the tiny fishing village of Puerto Morelos. Travelers heading along highway 307, which connects these two party centres, might almost miss the turn off that heads to this quaint little oasis in the land of mega resorts, and that’s just the way the residents here seem to like it.

That’s not to imply that tourists or strangers in general are not welcome here. In fact it is just the opposite. However if you’re looking for that all night disco party and/or the challenge of the all-inclusive bar, then you’re better off heading on down 307 to either Playa or Cancun. An evening’s entertainment here in Puerto Morelos is a little more sedate, more laid back than in either of its not two distant neighbours.

It is a still a simple little town in many ways. The centre is the traditional tree-lined plaza or square with the obligatory statute of Benito Juarez. Most of the stores and other business are on the streets that surround this square on three sides as is the simple but beautiful little church. The fourth side is the beach where fishing boats still bob at anchor in the evening after a long days work. Standing guard over them and the whole waterfront is the “new” light house, and unbelievably a small “fort” garrisoned by a hand full of Mexican soldiers right on the main street.

Just how sedate and laid back this place is can be found in their reaction to a plan to build a massive resort just to the south of the town in a mangrove swamp. Rather than welcome the project and the possible economic spin offs, they fought the developers off. Now there are no jet skis and noisy vacationers there, just the peace and tranquillity of the original swamp. A few years a storm tilted the original lighthouse on its side. The town did allow the Government to build a replacement, but balked at having the original torn down. It still stands or leans on the beach as a sort of town symbol.

Until a few years ago the only reason someone even came to Puerto Morelos aside from the residents, was to catch the car ferry to Cozumel. You can still catch the ferry here if you’re driving but be prepared for a wait. You’re better off leaving your car and taking the passenger ferry from Playa del Carmen. You won’t really need a car on Cozumel anyway. The ancient car ferry isn’t the first vessel to ply the waters between Cozumel and the mainland. The ancient Mayans used the island to conduct ceremonies on the island to honour Ix Chel the Goddess of childbirth and medicine. While they would set sail in their canoes farther south on the coast, the prevailing current ensured that they’d usually land where Puerto Morelos now stands on their return trip.

The town now boasts all the amenities that the tourist needs, while still maintaining that feeling of being in the real Mexico, not the manufactured tourist world. This makes it an ideal spot to use as a base while exploring the region including the Mayan ruins at Tulum, Coba and Chichen Itza. If your interests are offshore, either fishing or diving, don’t worry there are facilities and people to assist you here too. There are a couple of travel agencies and tourist information booths in town, mostly around the main square who can help you with any of this.

Alternatively you can go talk to Goyo Morgan an American expatriate who has lived in Mexico for more than twenty-five years, mostly in the region. He runs special tours into the nearby surrounding jungle and is an excellent source of local information and recommendations. Visit his Palapa office on Avenue Javier Rojo Gomez. Trust me you won’t be able to miss it.

There are four Casas de Cambios (money exchanges) and the rates are actually better than in Play del Carmen. There is also an ATM near the supermarket on the north side of the main square. Opposite this is the taxi stand. It’s easy to spot just look for the group of men in the park standing or sitting around gossiping and passing the time of day.

Need a special souvenir of your visit? Again there is no shortage of places to check out around the town. Of special mention is Arte Maya on the south east corner of the plaza. Here reproductions of Mayan jewelry and other artifacts are made on the site. The stuff made here is in high demand in the better boutiques in Cancun. Naturally the prices are more favourable here than there.

There are no large resorts in the town, though a couple of medium to small beach front ones can be found a few miles to the north. There is no shortage of accommodation in town, usually of the smaller bed and breakfast variety. There is also no shortage of good and inexpensive places to eat around town. Again check Goyo, he’ll give you a list of his recommended favourites. Several also serve as bars where one can enjoy a pleasurable if sedate evening’s entertainment.

Puerto Morelos is the kind of place where you can sit back and let life pass by you for a little while at least. If that’s not a vacation then I don’t know what is.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: – based Toronto Ontario

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