side by side photos comparing Puerto Morelos vs Playa del Carmen

Puerto Morelos vs Playa Del Carmen: Which is Visit?

Are you debating between visiting Puerto Morelos vs Playa del Carmen? Well, you’ve come to the right place!

In this comparison guide comparing Playa del Carmen vs Puerto Morelos, I’ll cover the main differences between the two beach towns, including the main attractions, the restaurant/food scene, the nightlife, and more!

Both Playa del Carmen and Puerto Morelos are very similar beach towns, sharing many of the same attributes.

But regardless of this, Puerto Morelos and Playa del Carmen are also very different; Playa del Camren is a far larger beach town compared to Puerto Morelos.

several palpas stationed at an empty beach in Puerto Morelos, Mexico

How to Get to Puerto Morelos or Playa Del Carmen

To reach either destination, you’re first flying into Cancun International Airport. Once you’ve arrived at the airport, there are a few different ways to get to both places.

From Cancun Airport to Puerto Morelos, it’s 25 Minutes.

From Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen, it’s 1 Hour.

Getting from Cancun Airport to Puerto Morelos

Getting from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen

Playa Del Carmen famous waterfront area features the well-known mermaid statue

Puerto Morelos vs Playa Del Carmen: Main Differences

Let’s discuss the main differences between the two Mexican beach towns that separate the two!

Puerto Morelos and Playa Del Carmen are close neighbors, and it’s a 30 Minute drive between the two beach towns.

Puerto Morelos: Only 20 minutes from Cancun, Puerto Morelos is a small beach town with many things to do. It’s most well known for its laidback atmosphere and many large resorts along its shores. Some choose to describe it as “a more local Cancun.”

For those looking to get some shopping done for clothes or souvenirs, it’s very limited in Puerto Morelos. You will end up having to visit Cancun or Playa del Carmen.

Nearby places to visit from Puerto Morelos are Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, and Isla Mujeres.

Playa del Carmen: Located 1 hour from Cancun Airport, Playa del Carmen is a larger beach town compared to Puerto Morelos, with a wide variety of things to do, many restaurants/hotels, and a lively nightlife scene.

One significant advantage of Playa del Carmen is how walkable the beach town is! Also, if you’re looking to shop in Playa del Carmen, there are plenty of big-named brand stores and local shops!

Nearby places to visit from Playa are Cozumel, Akumal, Tulum, and Puerto Morelos.

Things to ConsiderPuerto MorelosPlaya Del Carmen
Main AttractionsGoodGreat
a wooden sculpture among several palm trees and the ocean in the distance in Puerto Morelos, Mexico

Puerto Morelos vs Playa Del Carmen: Things To Do

These popular beach towns along Mexico’s stunning Riviera Maya coastline are full of things to do.

From catamaran cruises on the water to snorkeling trips, laidback beach days, ATV adventures, and much more!

Below, I’ve highlighted the best things to do in each beach town and some tips on the nightlife in each place!

WINNER: Playa del Carmen offers a more extensive selection of things to do, better nightlife, and more places to discover and visit nearby

Things to Do in Puerto Morelos

Beach Day — The main attraction in Puerto Morelos is its stunning extensive beach shoreline, so come spend the day relaxing along the shoreline and follow it up with a bite to eat nearby

Coral Reef Snorkeling — Many visit Puerto Morelos from neighboring places to swim in its coral-rich reef shoreline 400 meters of shore. The marine life here is abundant, and the area is considered a national park, so gov/locals have put in effort to make sure the coral reefs stay healthy here

Visit the Cenotes — There are a few cenotes in Puerto Morelos to visit and take a refreshing swim in; Cenote Sol y Luna is the best one there. Cenotes are fresh spring water holes and must be visited when in this region of Mexico.

Catamaran Tour — A relaxing day along the water, catching sunrays, snorkeling, and enjoying an afternoon lunch as you sail the Riviera Maya coastline. Catamaran tours are always a great idea

crystal clear turquoise waters at Riviera Nayarit beach in San Pancho, Mexico

ATV & Zipling — For those looking to dive into some adventure, the Riviera Maya is known for its rich, dense jungles, making it an ideal place to go off-road ATVing and swinging from tree-tops ziplining

Taco Tour — Foodies, this one for you; no matter how much research you do, it won’t compare to being guided by a local as they take you around town to the best taco spots and tell you what to order!

Regarding the nightlife in Puerto Morelos, there isn’t one for the most part; there are a few bars in town, and some resorts host things to do in the evening. If you want a lively night, take a taxi to Cancun Hotel Zone or Playa del Carmen!

Things to Do in Playa Del Carmen

Beach Day — Besides Playa’s many attractions, the beaches complete this lively beach town.

Walking on the famous 5th Avenue, you’ll constantly be met with paths toward the main beach. Besides the main beach here, you must visit these two other beaches: Playa Punta Esmeralda & Playa Xcalacoco

Explore the Cenotes — There are many cenotes around Playa del Carmen to explore; some of the best ones are Cenote Chaak Tun and Cenote Xca-ha. But if you’re looking to visit the best cenotes in the region, they’re in Tulum, an hour away

Day Trip to Cozumel — Located only 40 minutes across the water by ferry is Cozumel, a beautiful island best known for its laidback atmosphere and being home to one of the best barrier reefs in the world. Visiting Cozumel is a must-do when in Playa del Carmen; there are many fun things to do there

flat white sandy beach shoreline with several palm trees and palapas

Chichen Itza Tour — Many say a trip to the Riviera Maya isn’t complete without a trip to the world-famous Chichen Itza. A trip from Playa to Chichen Itza is just over 2 hours, and many tours are departing daily from here

Explore Parque Xcaret — Famous for being the best ecological and archeology park in the Riviera Maya. Xcaret Park has activities for all ages; there are ruins here, lagoons to swim in, restaurants, live performances, abundant wildlife, and so on!

Regarding the nightlife in Playa del Carmen, the beach town is known for its nightlife; there are countless bars, nightclubs, CoCo Bongo, and many other things to do at night in Playa Del Carmen!

Puerto Morelos vs Playa Del Carmen: Beaches

While both beach towns are known for their shorelines, Puerto Morelos has a broader shoreline with an overall more laidback feel compared to Playa del Carmen.

The most significant difference is that Playa del Carmen’s beaches are more lively and have nearby accommodations, restaurants, bars, etc. So, getting to the beach is relatively easy, even if you aren’t staying at a beachfront hotel.

Another factor to consider is the seaweed during the off-season in Mexico; the off-season is from May – October.

The seaweed in the off-season gets bad some days in the Riviera Maya, and the beaches in Playa del Carmen tend to be cleaner versus Puerto Morelos during this time.

WINNER: Playa Del Carmen has the better beaches because of its wider selection and conveniences

Beaches in Puerto Morelos:

  • Puerto Morelos Main Beach

Beaches in Playa Del Carmen

  • Playa del Carmen Main Beach
  • Playa Punta Esmeralda
  • Playa Xcalacoco
  • Playa Maroma
stunning shades of turquoise waters at the main beach in Playa Del Carmen; is Playa Del Carmen expensive to visit

Puerto Morelos vs Playa Del Carmen: Hotels & Resorts

Let’s discuss hotels, a critical factor when choosing where to visit. Being popular beach towns, the accommodation selection in Playa Del Carmen or Puerto Morelos is extensive!

While both places have many accommodations, there are many differences between the two beach towns regarding hotels.

Puerto Morelos is known for its large beachfront resorts. Besides that, you will find boutique hotels and hostels in town, away from the beach.

Playa del Carmen is known for all accommodation types, and there are many beachfront resorts here, boutique hotels, high-rise hotels, and hotels to choose from.

The selection is far more extensive compared to Puerto Morelos. The beach is close by no matter the hotel you choose to stay at in Playa del Carmen, which is a big positive!

Also, Playa Del Carmen has a better selection for those considering short-term rentals for a month or longer.

WINNER: Playa Del Carmen is the winner; it’s not even close unless you’re looking for a beachfront resort close to Cancun

restaurant and pool area at the Thompson in Playa Del Carmen at night

Where to Stay in Puerto Morelos

Dreams Riviera: One of the largest resorts in the Riviera Maya, this 5 Star resort is known for its many amenities, gourmet dining, elegant rooms, and consistent tropical atmosphere

Fives Oceanfront: A modern, stylish hotel full of exceptional oceanviews, known for its upscale amenities and picturesque rooftop pool bar

Hotel Amar Inn: Located along the main beach shoreline, Hotel Amar provides an affordable beachfront stay equipped with everything you need

Las Palmas Hotel: Ideal for solo travelers, this top-rated hostel is located in the town center, with several shops/restaurants nearby

Where to Stay in Playa Del Carmen

Hilton Playa: The best All-Inclusive beachfront resort in Playa, conveniently located just a minute’s walk away from the popular 5th Avenue Street

Thompson Playa Del Carmen: Excellent location, steps from the beach in the center of town, and home to CATCH Restaurant, the best rooftop restaurant/bar in Playa!

The Reef 28 (Adults Only): In the center of town, Reef 28 is an excellent adults-only hotel, steps away from the beach and the best beach clubs in town. Staying here gives you access to their popular rooftop bar.

Che Playa Hostel & Bar: Those looking for a hostel in Playa, look no further; Che offers private rooms and dorm stays. They’ve got a great rooftop bar perfect for meeting other travelers.

a busy street in Playa Del Carmen named 5th avenue, most popular street in the city

Puerto Morelos vs Playa Del Carmen: Restaurants/Food

This region of Mexico isn’t only famous for tacos, tortas, and other local Mexican food but for its seafood!

In the Riviera Maya, you’ll find several exceptional seafood restaurants serving various local seafood dishes, including Mexican ceviche, fish tacos, grilled octopus, shrimp, and more!

Puerto Morelos has a great representation of the local cuisine here, and you’ll find many seafood restaurants and local taquerias. Besides that, many large resorts here also have a variety of cuisine-type restaurants on-site.

Playa del Carmen may be the best food town along the Riviera Maya coast; not only will you find exceptional taquerias in Playa del Carmen and seafood restaurants.

But the cuisine here is also vast in international variety, from Thai to Brazilian, Italian and more!

WINNER: Playa del Carmen has better restaurants with a broader selection of cuisine types; being the larger beach town makes sense

two large spits of meat being cooked at El Fogon known as one of the best tacos in Playa Del Carmen

Where to Eat in Puerto Morelos

Quesadillas de la Colonia: This shake-like, non-prestigious restaurant in town is the best spot for all your authentic taco cravings, tacos/quesadillas and more

Boquinete Seafood & Grill: Located right along the beach, Boquinete specializes in many local seafood cuisines; I highly recommend their grilled fish and ceviche

Blue Morelos: Roadside restaurant is known for its selection of beers/tacos and tostadas. An excellent place to have a quick lunch break before going back to the beach

Pecao Fonda de Mar: Serving a wide variety of seafood, Pecao Fonda also offers a few western-style dishes as well

Pelicanos: Beach-side restaurant known for its wide variety of beer and local seafood; I highly recommend coming here for an early breakfast

Where to Eat in Playa Del Carmen

El Fogon: Known as the king of tacos in Playa by locals/tourists, El Fogon has 3 locations in town and is a staple in town for tacos/tortas/quesadillas/nachos, all the Mexican food favorites

Primo: A modern Mexican restaurant with an open layout serving an exceptional seasonal menu; last time there, we experienced the flamed octopus, braised duck, and suckling pig.

Alux Restaurant/Bar: Known as the most fancy restaurant in town, Alux provides a unique dining experience inside a cave/cenote, serving many modern Mexican dishes with a twist

La Cueva del Chango: Legendary breakfast/brunch restaurant in Playa that’s been open for many years with a tropical junglelike setting; make sure you order the Chilaquiles here

El Oasis Seafood: An absolute seafood paradise, from fried fish to crab tacos, oysters, Mexican seafood soups and much more; seafood lovers must-visit

table full of various mexican meat dishes including duck and lamb

Puerto Morelos vs Playa Del Carmen: Nightlife

Now that we’ve covered the important aspects of a destination, hotels, attractions, and food, let’s discuss the nightlife in Playa del Carmen and Puerto Morelos.

Some don’t consider nightlife when deciding on a destination, and that’s precisely why I’ve chosen to discuss this last.

The nightlife in Puerto Morelos is limited, consisting primarily of bars, most of which close at midnight. Check out Full 80s Bar, a retro-themed bar open until 2:00 AM. Otherwise, you can always take a taxi from Puerto Morelos to the Cancun Hotel Zone.

Many resorts in Puerto Morelos offer late-evening dinners, sometimes performances, so there’s always that if you’re looking for a laidback evening.

The nightlife in Playa Del Carmen is the opposite compared to Puerto Morelos; it’s very lively in Playa del Carmen once the sun sets. Many nightclubs/bars in Playa are everywhere and open until the early morning hours.

Several restaurants in Playa host lively evening dinner parties as well. Also, there’s a selection of rooftop parties happening as well.

WINNER: Playa del Carmen is far better than Puerto Morelos for nightlife. If going out at night is a factor for you, there’s no reason to consider Puerto Morelos.

popular area for nightclubs, several tourist coming in and out of nightclubs in Playa del carmen

Best Time to Visit Puerto Morelos or Playa Del Carmen

The best time to visit Playa Del Carmen or Puerto Morelos is between November and April, during the dry season.

During this time when the weather is most optimal in the Riviera Maya, It’s hot enough to go to the beach, while at the same time, humidity levels aren’t as high, and you’re less likely to experience rainy days.

Dry Season: November to April 

Rainy Season: May to October 

Should you decide to visit Puerto Morelos or Playa del Carmen during the off-season months, it’s okay. But you can expect much higher humidity levels, especially during the Summer months from June to August.

Rainfall that does occur should be brief. It’s tropical rainfall, meaning it tends to rain fast and go by quickly.

walkway full of palm trees towards Playa Del Carmen main beach, a must visit on your Riviera Maya itinerary

Puerto Morelos vs Playa Del Carmen — Final Thoughts

So, Puerto Morelos vs Playa del Carmen, have you made up your mind? It shouldn’t be too difficult.

While both destinations are similar and neighbors, the atmosphere of each beach town is pretty different.

Having gone to both a few times, I prefer Playa because walking around to other shops/restaurants and the beach is quickly accessible.

Puerto Morelos is a smaller, more laidback beach town best known for its large resorts and proximity to Cancun. The airport is only 20 minutes away, quite convenient when you’re coming and leaving.

Playa del Carmen is a much larger beach town catering to all but still far less touristy than Cancun. There are plenty of things to do here, and the beach town offers a more lively atmosphere throughout the day/night. However, you can find quieter beaches slightly north.

If you’re wondering which is cheaper, it’s Playa Del Carmen. Despite being the larger beach town, because there are more accommodations and a large restaurant selection, it’s easier to budget visiting Playa del Carmen vs Puerto Morelos!

brown lounge beach chairs inside of a cenote with crystal clear water and trees surrounding casa tortuga cenote in tulum

Which is better Playa del Carmen or Puerto Morelos?

Most travelers prefer Playa del Carmen for its excellent walkability score, a more extensive selection of hotels/restaurants, and nightlife.

Puerto Morelos is ideal for those looking to have a calmer vacation on a large resort, and it’s only 20 minutes from Cancun Airport.

Is Puerto Morelos closer to Cancun or Playa del Carmen?

Puerto Morelos is closer to Cancun because it’s only 20 minutes away from Cancun, compared to Playa del Carmen, which is 1 hour away from Cancun.

What is the difference between Puerto Morelos and Playa del Carmen?

Playa del Carmen is a much larger beach town than Puerto Morelos, so you’ve got a more extensive selection of everything in Playa Del Carmen and shopping, which isn’t offered in Puerto Morelos.

Does Puerto Morelos have nice beaches?

The beaches in Puerto Morelos are excellent and far less busy than the shorelines of Cancun and Playa del Carmen because Puerto Morelos sees far fewer tourists.

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