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
Did you know that the second largest botanical garden in Mexico is right here on your doorstep in Puerto Morelos? Located beside Highway 307, just south of town the Yaaxche-Alfredo Barrera Marin Botanical Garden is a nature reserve protecting 65 hectares of jungle and marshland rich in wildlife. It is home to trees and plants native to the Yucatan Peninsula and the tropical forests of the Americas.
A visit to this beautiful spot is a must for nature lovers and you’ll soon leave the noise of the highway behind as you walk along the trails through the forest. You’ll hear a variety of bird calls and may spot hummingbirds, orange orioles, great kiskadees, woodpeckers and parrots among others. Flocks of Yucatan jays with their bright blue plumage, and the green jays that sport green, yellow and blue feathers, are also common. A flash of turquoise and a soft whooping call means that the turquoise-browed motmot or toh bird is near. Keel-billed toucans can sometimes be seen on dead branches and in the early morning, the forest echoes with a sunrise serenade that reaches a crescendo with the cackles and rattle-like sounds of the chachalaca, a gregarious bird the size of a large hen.
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. Used by the Maya for thousands of years, chicle is still harvested to this day. Bands of chicle harvesters or chicleros venture into the forest for months in search of chicozapote trees ripe for tapping. They extract the resin by making cuts in the bark with machetes and collect it as it trickles down the tree trunk. Collected in sacks, it is subsequently heated and molded into balls for commercial use. In the early 20th century, chicle was transported to Puerto Morelos and Cozumel and sold to foreign companies such as Chicle Adams.
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 thrilling zip line circuits and then swim and snorkel in a cenote. Walk or ride along winding forest trails and you can even drive your own ATV.
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 and the distinctive call of the pygmy owl and the chachalacas.
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.