After spending a year living in Edinburgh, Scotland during the pandemic, it was quite a change to live in Puerto Morelos, Mexico for a month. The contrast in temperature, food, and general quality of living was massive.
Why Puerto Morelos
The lockdown of 2020 was a blow to many travel plans. Personally, I ended up in Edinburgh, which is my favorite city in the world, but not somewhere I particularly wanted to spend a full year. As 2021 began with Scotland’s second lockdown, we started looking for other countries we could move to. I needed to take care of some possessions in Los Angeles, and my girlfriend Vanesa wanted to visit her parents in Argentina, but it seemed we wouldn’t be able to accompany each other to our respective countries if we were traveling from the UK. We needed to find a neutral country.
The first country we planned to move to was Ukraine, one of my favorite countries in Europe. Ukraine is cheap, beautiful, and at the time was open to passengers from the UK. Then I made a comment about Albania, and after looking at photos and videos of the country, Vanesa was deadset on going there. Unfortunately, we quickly found their borders were closed flights from the UK.
Finally, we thought about Mexico. Almost immediately, we wondered why we hadn’t thought about Mexico before. I had a lot of fellow bloggers living in Tulum, Mexico, or other parts of the Yucatan Peninsula, and it only took a couple YouTube videos for us to make up our minds. Plus, it had been over 5 years since I had been in the Americas and nearly 10 years since my last visit to Mexico.
I asked a few of my friends about Tulum. Sadly, many of them had just moved away. But all of them said one thing in common: don’t go to Tulum. During the pandemic, it had become way overpriced. We were told to choose Cancun or Playa del Carmen instead. In the end, we settled for the small village between the two – Puerto Morelos.
Some Facts About Puerto Morelos
Until very recently, Puerto Morelos was a tiny fishing village. Just a few years ago, the town had less than 1000 people. It was also where you could catch the ferry to the island of Cozumel.
Puerto Morelos is split into two parts – the beachside and the “Colonia” side, called Joaquin Zetina Gasca. If you go back in Google Earth’s timeline of the region, Colonia was barely a dot in the jungle. Now it’s a proper town, or rather a city. In the past couple years, the population passed 15,000, which warranted reclassification. Also, Puerto Morelos is in the state of Quintana Roo, which is the newest state in Mexico – formed in 1974.
Our Airbnb in Alborada
After flying to Mexico from Scotland, we stayed in Cancun for 4 days, and then made our way by colectivo (minivan) 20 miles south to Puerto Morelos. We had a place booked through Airbnb for a month, as you can get some pretty huge discounts when booking for a full month.
Our 2-bedroom Airbnb turned out to be in the newish residential complex of Alborada, only about half a mile away from the “center” of Joaquin Zetina Gasca. It was also only a little over two miles from the beach, but we never ended up walking that, especially when the minivans went from the entrance of Alborada straight to the beach for only 10 pesos ($0.50).
Although Alborada was only a couple years old, it was already showing signs of wear. In the high heat and seasonal storms of Quintana Roo, the paint was half washed away from the buildings. The construction team also seemed to have cut a few corners, and one of the walls in the kitchen was an iron grill, letting out all our precious cold air from the AC.
Dated exteriors aside, the apartment was quite nice. We had a comfortable queen-size bed, a large living room with a big TV, a kitchen, and a large swimming pool nestled in the jungle trees. The pool was a must for Vanesa, who spent two hours there nearly every single day getting back to her correct shade of Argentinian tan. The only real downside to the apartment was the kitchen – there was no oven, little kitchenware, and barely a countertop for us to prepare food on. At least the fridge was large. But we did end up eating nearly every meal during our month in Puerto Morelos.
Wonderful Places to Eat
Some of my fondest memories of Mexico 10 years ago are of the food. Well, I had some bad moments too – a mouthful of habanero peppers and an egg that almost made me retch, but I’ve always said the Mexican cuisine is one of my favorite in the world, and I was so excited to get back to it. You can’t get real Mexican street tacos anywhere else in the world that compare, and horchata is one of my favorite non-alcoholic drinks.
Within an hour of touching down in Cancun, we had our first place of tacos, and Vanesa’s first-ever horchata (she loved it!). The next morning, we had a plate of huevos motuleños – a dish from this region. In fact, we’ve had so much Mexican food in the past month that Vanesa doesn’t want any more tacos!
Even though Puerto Morelos is a very small town, there are plenty of restaurants, street food carts and even home kitchens you can order delivery from. Many opened during the pandemic as a way for the locals to earn some more cash. Laws about not cooking food for public sale and consumption definitely don’t apply in Puerto Morelos.
Just around the corner from us was one of the best taco restaurants in Puerto Morelos – Mariachi Tacos. Although Google Maps put it in the wrong place, it wasn’t hard to find. When they’re open at night, they have a long line of cars waiting to pick up their orders. They also have several tables inside, where their walls are beautifully painted with murals.
Their menu is simple. You can get tacos, tortas or gringas, each with six different types of meat – if they’re available that night. A torta is basically a sandwich, and a gringa is a larger taco made with a flour tortilla. They also have a couple things on the side, like a fresh bowl of guacamole or cheese on your tacos and tortas.
I would usually order four or five tacos with al pastor (pork marinated with dried chilies, spices, and pineapple and cooked on a rod, similar to European donor) or campechanos (mixed meats) with a liter of homemade horchata on the side. With tacos at only 15 to 20 pesos ($0.75 – $1) each, depending on the meat, and the horchata only 25 pesos ($1.25), a full meal there was less than $5.
Amor Y Pes and Blue Morelos
As an old fishing village, Puerto Morelos is known for its amazing seafood. While we didn’t actually try out any of the seafood restaurants in Colonia, there were two places on the beachside that were so good, I can’t write about only one of them and neglect the other.
The first one we tried was Blue Morelos. Labeled as a bar and grill, probably because of their full range of cocktails, they had a much larger menu. The first dish we got was ceviche, as it’s one of my girlfriend’s favorite foods. Ceviche is a seafood dish made from raw fish or shrimp, cucumber, avocado, red onion and lemon juice. Absolutely delicious! After a large bowl of it, I ordered a shrimp ceviche tostada (flat, crispy taco). If you are a drinker, you can also get two cocktails for the price of one.
The other restaurant we loved was the newly-opened Amor y Pes, or “Love and Fish” in English. Their menu was a lot smaller, but the few items they had, including their ceviche tostadas and fish and chips, were fantastic. Their prices were about half of Blue, but the portion sizes were also about half, so the value was the same.
I don’t honestly think I could say which of the two were better. We ended up going to both several times in our month living in Puerto Morelos.
Finally, I have to mention a place that wasn’t strictly Mexican food. Rastafari Burgers and Hot Dogs was actually a street food cart just a couple minutes from Alborada in front of the Oxxo at night.
The menu, as with most street food trucks, is simple. Hamburgers or hotdogs, plus a variety of toppings. All his patties are homemade, and you can get your burger or hotdog topped with bacon, American cheese, Mexican Oaxaca cheese, ham, chorizo and pineapple.
I lost track of how many times I picked up a late-night burger there. Considering a fully-loaded burger and a side of fries or potato wedges only set me back $4, it was sometimes hard to choose a better place for dinner.
Quality of Living in Puerto Morelos
As such a new town, Puerto Morelos is still lacking a bit of infrastructure. Internet speed isn’t the greatest, there are not a lot of big shops with a variety of products, and other travelers recently reported a lot of power outages, although we didn’t experience any of those ourselves.
When we arrived at our Airbnb, we didn’t have hot water for more than a few seconds. But’s that mainly because, as we’ve been told, Mexicans rarely use hot water when they shower, so the problem never came up for them, I was personally fine with taking a shower with cold water. The same problem actually happened in our next Airbnb in Playa del Carmen, although that one actually had the boiler shut off completely.
Overall. life in Puerto Morelos, and Mexico in general, is very simple and relaxing, at least from an exterior viewpoint. Not a day went by that Vanesa wasn’t relaxing at the pool or the beach, or both. I spent most of my time working online, but did make the time for a few trips to the beach, and a single swim in our pool.
Personal Services in Puerto Morelos
One thing I loved about Puerto Morelos was that services were open. After a year in Scotland where most businesses and services were closed off and on, it was great to get back to the gym, see the dentist and get a haircut (although that was in Cancun the day I arrived). Sadly, there were no cinemas in Puerto Morelos – you have to go to Cancun or Playa del Carmen to watch a movie in the theater.
Puerto Morelos Gym
As soon as my brother arrived in Puerto Morelos, we went to get our gym membership for the month. The Puerto Morelos gym was just around the corner from our Airbnb, and for only $17.50 a month, we got a pass for unlimited visits. The gym was open six days s a week, from around 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
It wasn’t a big gym, but they had plenty of different machines, free weights, treadmills, a punching bag, etc. Unfortunately, it wasn’t air-conditioned, but at least no one was wearing masks. I know that’s a point of contention, but trying to breathe through cloth while working out is just masochistic.
I made it to the gym several times during my month in Puerto Morelos and saw a noticeable change after my time in Scotland. Sure, I had a job there where I got some really good exercise, but it’s different when you can focus on different muscle groups.
Far more important than the gym was my trip to the dentist. Horribly enough, it had been well over a decade since my last teeth cleaning. I saw a dentist in 2017 in Bucharest who confirmed that I still didn’t have any cavities (ever), but I had quite a layer of plaque to get rid of.
The Odomed dentist office in Puerto Morelos is super clean, efficient and, best of all, cheap. I remember when I lived in Los Angeles, many of my friends would go to Mexico to get their dental work done. Now I know why. The cleaning was only $35. That’s the same I would have paid in Bucharest, but a lot cheaper than most other countries in the world.
Our Monthly Budget for Puerto Morelos
For me, the best part of living in Puerto Morelos was the budget. Although Cancun is one of the three most expensive parts of Mexico, living in Mexico is certainly a lot cheaper than Scotland. Just last night, Vanesa and I had hamburgers and a side of loaded fries. In Edinburgh, the loaded fries on their own would have been more than our entire meal from the street food cart.
Our Airbnb was about $650 for the month, which was split between my brother and me. He arrived a few days after we did, and later his friend joined him from California, so it was a full house. The aforementioned minivans are currently 10 pesos ($0.50) for a journey, and the colectivo from Cancun to Puerto Morelos was only 30 pesos.
Taxis in Puerto are similarly cheap (cheaper than getting a colectivo for four people), which certainly isn’t the case in Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Tulum. I’ve heard the taxi rides from the town center to the beach in Tulum can be as much as $40 in the evenings.
The Puerto Morelos Beach
Speaking of beaches, the beach in Puerto Morelos is by far the best aspect of the town. Although the water is not quite a vivid as it is in Cancun, it’s the same wonderful turquoise. What’s better about PM’s beach is the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef only 300 feet out to sea. The waves break on the reef, and so you only get small waves on the beach.
When you visit Puerto Morelos, whether you’re going to visit for a day or live there for a month, you absolutely must take a snorkeling trip. For about $20, they will take you in a boat out to the reef and provide the snorkeling mask and fins. You’ll also get a wristband, as it’s a national park and the park rangers are always patrolling. The trip is two hours – ten minutes to the reef and back, and an hour and forty minutes snorkeling with the coral, huge schools of fish, giant lobsters, eels, stingrays, barracudas, and the occasional turtle.
Another excursion you’ll have to take is to the cenotes. Just a couple miles south of Puerto Morelos is what’s called the cenote route, with more than a dozen cenote parks (each with one or more cenotes). We all spent a day exploring three of the cenotes, which came out to about $30 per person, including the car rental, gas, and admission to the cenotes. Then again, if you have a bigger budget, you could easily spend hundreds riding the quads, ziplining, horseback riding, or just going to more cenotes. Stay tuned for my upcoming post and video on the cenotes.
After living in Puerto Morelos for a month, we moved to Playa del Carmen, the next city to the south. While it’s nice to have better infrastructure in Playa (movie theaters, shopping malls, etc), Puerto Morelos really stole my heart. I love the small-town feel, although I don’t know how many more years that will last. The city (as it’s classified now) is expanding blindingly fast, and I heard they’re planning housing for 200,000 more residents in the area. Someday in the not too distant future, it could just be one long city with Cancun at the top and Puerto Morelos at the bottom.
As much as I want to see more cities and countries around the world, Puerto Morelos is the kind of place I’d love to go back to and spend a few more months relaxing and working online. Granted, the internet speed currently sucks and that slowed down my work, but I’m sure even that will improve in the near future.
If you’re planning to live in Puerto Morelos for a month, I would definitely say “go for it!” Maybe I’ll even see you there when I return.
Check Out My Review of Puerto Morelos on YouTube
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My adventures in Mexico are just starting, but here are some other articles I’ve written so far while being here.
Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.
- 5 Steps to Book Cheap Flights
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- Is Workaway Worth it for the Traveler?
- Click here to claim your $25 credit with AirB&B
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