The Grand Mayan Riviera Maya is a great place to stay for a day trip to Puerto Morelos
Do you know that the Meso-American reef, which hugs the coast of the Caribbean side of the Yucatan peninsula, is the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world? It's beaten only by the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Cool, huh? It's closer to the shore of Puerto Morelos than at most other points along the Riviera Maya and a really easy day trip for snorkeling!
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In 2008, when our kids were 8 and 9, we took a short taxi ride to the sleepy fishing village of Puerto Morelos, less than 10 miles north of the Grand Mayan Riviera Maya. (The town is about a mile off the highway.) At the main square (the zocolo), there was a booth for 2-hour snorkel tours to the Palancar Reef for about $25 per adult/$13 per child, which included the fee to the national marine park system of Mexico, since the reef is actually a protected area. Don't consider snorkeling out to the reef on your own--you must be with an accredited guide and have purchased a wristband. Park wardens patrol the area by boat and could potentially fine you.
We had a guide who took the 4 of us out on the boat for a quick ride to the spots he'd consistently seen the most fish. The reef is only a couple hundred yards offshore and only about 6 feet below the surface. Not only did the private tour give us the most bang for our buck, not having to wait for others, but our guide even towed the kids a bit on the life preserver ring when they needed a rest. Be sure to tip your guide well! We asked others who had taken a snorkeling tour booked through the resort and they said they didn't get very much snorkel time or individual attention. Below are some photos from our waterproof camera.
One of the coolest sights in Puerto Morelos is the old tilted lighthouse and fishing pier. The lighthouse was battered in 1967, survived all the hurricanes since, and is still standing albeit at a 45 degree angle. The pier is so tilted, I couldn't believe the fishermen could walk on it without falling!
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