There’s much more to Puerto Morelos than beautiful beaches and the Mesoamerican Reef. Why not try a change of scenery one day and explore the forest? Here are four trip ideas for you and they are all on your doorstep.
Puerto Morelos Botanical Garden
First stop is the Yaaxche-Alfredo Barrera Marin Botanical Garden, the second largest botanical garden in Mexico. In addition to showcasing the trees and plants native to the Yucatán Peninsula, it is a nature reserve protecting 65 hectares of jungle and marshland rich in wildlife.
The Botanical Garden is located just south of Puerto Morelos on Highway 307 but you’ll soon leave the noise of traffic behind as you walk along the trails through the forest. You’ll hear a variety of birdcalls and may spot orange orioles, great kiskadees, green jays, woodpeckers and parrots, among other species.
The park is home to a troop of approximately 50 spider monkeys who forage for fruit in the treetops. You might be lucky enough to see coatimundis or tejon, peccary, deer, fox, squirrels and the shy agouti or tepescuintle, a rodent the size of a small dog that feeds in the undergrowth. Other mammals are nocturnal and seldom spotted although wardens have seen puma tracks in the more remote areas of the park.
Follow the trail to the herb garden where you’ll see familiar plants such as basil, rue, chamomile and spearmint growing with native species traditionally used by the Maya as remedies for ailments including fever, colds, migraines, stomach bugs and arthritis.
In a jungle clearing there is a rustic exhibition about chicle, the original natural ingredient for chewing gum that is actually the resin from the chicozapote, a native forest tree found throughout southeast Mexico.
Be sure to walk to the wooden observation towers for spectacular panoramic views of the forest and the wetlands stretching to the Caribbean. You’ll soon spot Grand Residences in the distance.
The Botanical Garden is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Exploring the Ruta de Los Cenotes
An alternative is to hop into a rental car and drive along the Ruta de los Cenotes, the road to the west of Highway 307 that goes through the forest to Leona Vicario. Along the route you’ll see many wooden signs marking the turn off for cenotes deep in the forest. These natural limestone wells or sinkholes have crystal-clear waters that look turquoise or emerald, depending on the light. Some are open and others are hidden in caves. The list includes Cenote Las Mojarras, Siete Bocas, Boca de Puma and Verde Lucero and several of them have rustic zip lines and nature trails in the vicinity of the cenote.
The Xenotes Oasis Maya trip offered by Experiencias Xcaret gives you the chance to explore four very different cenotes in one day and includes swimming, snorkeling, zip lining and kayak.
Zip lining at Selvatica
For a day of jungle adventures, Selvatica Park fits the bill. Fly through the jungle canopy on a thrilling zip line circuit and then swim in a cenote. ATV jungle tours are also available.
The fourth option is an early morning Puerto Morelos birding trip available from Cancun-based travel agency Eco Colors. Accompanied by a knowledgeable local guide you’ll explore a jungle reserve to hear the dawn chorus. This clamor of birdsong includes the squawks of parrots, the distinctive call of the pygmy owl and the raucous rattle-like sound of the chachalaca, a bird the size of a large hen.
Look out for flocks of parrots, Yucatan jays, trogons, tanagers, solitary keel-billed toucans, and the Yucatán’s own bird of paradise, the turquoise-browed motmot that makes its nest in the limestone walls of cenotes.
Departure is at 5 a.m. from your resort and you’ll be back at around 12 noon; snacks are included.
Organizing your trip
Ask the Concierge for information about these jungle adventures. If you are planning a trip into the forest, we recommend that you take your camera, binoculars and use eco-friendly insect repellent to ward off biting insects. You should never stray off the path, even in the Botanical Garden.