Puerto Morelos, Mexico

by Susan on May 10, 2012

April 26, 2012

We left Roatan at approximately 12:45 in the afternoon for Puerto Morelos, MX.  This 286 nautical mile passage was the longest we’ve made so far and among the most uncomfortable.   We couldn’t wait for it to be over.   It made it to our list of top 5 worst trips to date.  The winds were from the northeast and were supposed to turn easterly but did not do so until about 3:00 a.m.  We had seas up to 8 feet and with the wind, the waves, and the current all seemingly opposing each other, we were jerked all over the place.  To top it off, at about 2:30 the following afternoon, our engine died about 12 miles east of Chinchorro Bank. Chinchorro Bank is  an atoll reef lying off the southeast coast of Mexico, near Belize.  It is home to numerous shipwrecks on the windward side and is considered a shipwreck diving site.  I kept a close eye on our radar/chartplotter which was a constant reminder of the wrecks, hopeful that we would not join them. Fortunately, Michael was able to get the engine working within 40 minutes and with relief we were again under way.  We assumed the cause to be dirty fuel or sediment at the bottom of the tank getting churned up from the rough seas.

We spent the night trying to dodge numerous squalls that were forming, some of which we missed, some of which we didn’t.  One we didn’t miss delivered 30 knot gusts but fortunately it didn’t last long.  And then all of a sudden we hit the strong current and started flying.  By the time daylight arrived the next morning we were traveling at 9.3 knots (motorsailing). Calypso has never come close to 9.3 knots.  It was very exciting.  At 10:30 that morning we arrived at El Cid Marina.   We checked into the marina, hired an agent to handle all the paperwork, and once the officials left our boat, we took a nice long nap.

Water Spout Starting to Form

We chose to stay at El Cid primarily based on our experience with the El Cid in Mazatlan back in 2009, but the two resorts are very different.  The marina in Mazatlan was very much a part of the resort.  You walked off your dock and were steps away from one of the pools.   You were close to the resort itself and it’s restaurant.  You were also close to the street where you could catch a bus into town.  The resort also offered a free shuttle to their affiliate hotel in town from where you could walk or catch a bus depending on how far and where your were going.  It felt more intimate and was much less crowded.   In Puerto Morelos, the marina and the resort each feel like they are on separate properties.  It is a longer walk to the resort, it is packed with vacationers, and the resort no longer offers free shuttles to the main street where you can catch a bus to Cancun, Playa del Carmen or other destinations on the Mayan Riviera.  Now, in order to get to the bus stop, which is about a mile away, you have to pay $10 each way for a cab.

El Cid in Puerto Morelos is located on the Mayan Riviera south of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula.    The Peninsula is home to some of the most impressive Mayan archeological sites and the main purpose of our visit to the mainland.

During our stay, we took a day trip to Playa del Carmen, a day trip to Cancun and 5 tours with a tour company to visit four ruins (Chichen Itza, Coba, Ek ‘Balam and Tulum), a biosphere reserve, and two theme parks (XCaret and XPlor).  In hindsight, if we ever have the opportunity to come this way again, we will rent a car instead to visit the sites ourselves. Too many hours were wasted on the bus.  Our time would have been much better spent, staying overnight in Valladolid or Chichen Itza and even continuing on to add more ruins to the itinerary like Uxmal and Mayapan.  There are too many wonderful places to see here on the Yucatan Peninsula.  Below is a map of the Peninsula and the location of all the ruins.

Map of the Mayan Ruins

Before starting all our tours we took a bus down to Playa del Carmen, a popular beach town to have some lunch, and browse the shops on 5th Avenue.

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen

We Couldn't Wait to Have Some Good Mexican Food Again

Our first tour was to Chichen Itza about a 3-hour bus ride from the marina. Chichen Itza, is one of the most impressive and intact Mayan ruins in Central America and is a testament to the Mayan expertise in astronomy and engineering.  It is not only a UNESCO Heritage site but is also one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Dominating the center of Chichen Itza is the famous El Castillo (the Castle) aka the Pyramid of Kulkulkan.  The pyramid, built upon another pyramid, was constructed to pay homage to the Serpent God Kulkulkan and is also believed to be a solar calendar.  It has 91 steps on each side and one for the altar, for a total of 365 steps, one for each day of the year.  Each day’s shadow, we are told, falls on a different step.  During the spring and fall equinoxes, light and shadow create the effect of a serpent descending down the northern stairs and then disappearing into the sculpture of the serpent’s head at the bottom of the stairs.

El Castillo -- West Side

To the east of the pyramid, is the Warriors’ Temple, named for the marching warriors on its walls.  It is a stepped pyramid dedicated to the God Chac Mool and is flanked by hundreds of columns on two sides.

Temple of Warriors

Columns at the Temple of Warriors

To the west is the Main Ball Court (largest discovered in the ancient Mayan world), where two teams played a ball game similar to soccer using their hips and other parts of their bodies (except their hands) to keep a hard rubber ball in play until they were able to score by getting the ball through raised stone hoops at each end of the court.  The captain of the winning team would then be sacrificed.

Stone Hoop at Ball Court

To the south is El Caracol, a structure with a giant dome which is believed to have been an observatory.

El Caracol

To the north is the Sacred Cenote.  Cenotes are water sinkholes.  The Yucatan is a limestone shelf with no rivers or streams.  The only source of water are the sinkholes created by rain seeping through the porous limestone.  So rain was very important to the Mayans.  In times of drought the Mayans sacrificed humans into this sacred cenote as a form of worship to the rain God Chaac.  Mayans considered cenotes to be sacred, believing they were entrances into the underworld.

Sacred Cenote - Photo Taken by Harry Kikstra

Note:  Chichen Itza allows the vendors inside the site who make it impossible for you to enjoy the ruins in peace.  They are relentless in their effort to sell you a trinket for one dollar, one dollar, only one dollar.

Michael at Cenote Zaci in Valladolid

San Gervasio Church in Valladolid, a Colonial City Near Chichen Itza Where we Had Lunch

San Gervasio Church in Valladolid

Michael and Local Woman in Traditional Dress

Our next day was spent touring Ek ‘Balam and Ria Lagartos.

The recently restored, Ek ‘Balam has some of the most beautiful, well-preserved sculptures.  It is less crowded and they allow you to climb up the pyramid.  Before you get to the top, there is a platform you can step onto to get a closer look at the exquisite sculptures at the temple before continuing your climb to the summit for a great view of the site and the surrounding area.

Ek 'Balam

Ek 'Balam

The Temple at Ek 'Balam

One of the Winged Sculptures

Ek 'Balam

It's a Long Way Up

View From the Top of the Pyramid

And a Long Way Down

At Ek ' Balam

From Ek ‘Balam we headed over to the Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve.

Ria Lagartos

Ria Lagartos

Ria Lagartos

Ria Lagartos

Ria Lagartos Flamingo

Ria Lagartos

We spent the entire next day at XCaret, a huge eco archeological park that you can’t possibly see in one day.  The highlight of our visit was the incredible evening show depicting the history of Mexico from pre-Hispanic times to the present.  A journey from the feathered headdress to the sombrero. It was very well done and entertaining.  My favorite part was the re-enactment from the time of the pre-Hispanic, Mayan civilization.  There’s something about those primal beats of the drum that speak to my soul.





The following day we visited two more ruins.

Tulum, the most scenic of the ruins is set on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea.  It is surrounded by a 20 foot thick wall built to deter invaders coming from land and sea.  The view from these ruins was breathtaking.  It was a nice place to hang out.  It even has a beach where you can swim.  This place no doubt was for the Mayan elite.  It felt like a resort for the rich and famous.

Tulum - Pyramid El Castillo

Michael in Front of El Castillo

Tulum - Temple of the Frescoes

Beach at Tulum

Tulum - God of Winds Temple


Coba, once the heart of a large metropolis, now sits quietly in the jungle.  It is home to the tallest Mayan Pyramid in the Yucatan at over 126 feet, with 120 steps still open to the public to climb.  Another of its notable features are the network of  sacbes (paved roads) connecting other major cities.  It is a mystery as to how they were able to build these straight roads through the jungle with no elevation points to get their bearing.

It Was a Long Walk to the Site, so We Hired a Human Powered Tricycle to Get us There

Rush Hour in the Jungle

Getting Ready to Climb the Grand Pyramid

Stairway to Heaven

These Stairs Are Steep!


Susan Under a Carving of the Diving God

On our last “tour,” we went to the XPlor Adventure Park and acted like a couple of kids, ziplining, rafting, swimming and4-wheeling, as we explored a unique world of caves dripping with stalactites and stalagmites.

We ended our stay in Puerto Morelos with a day-trip to Cancun to get some supplies, then a wonderful well-deserved massage at the resort, and then prepared for our departure to Isla Mujeres.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Darlene Raska April 21, 2013 at 11:47 am

Alev – That was an awesome adventure story. Do you do this for a living? If not, you should definitely consider it. Your stories and pictures could be brought to life and you could become the next Hewell Howser [loved his shows] or Rick Steves on the high seas. LOL All you would need is to hire a videographer and you’re on your way to fame and fortune – you have the beauty and writing skills down pat and between you and Michael you have it all:-) Have a grand time.

mike April 23, 2013 at 10:44 am

Awesome…but these Mayans, killing the captain of the winning team, tossing others into their only fresh water supply? A mixed bag for intelligence.

Nice shot of the alligator and did you guys do all those steps or just posed?

Melva Spagon April 26, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Awesome! I am glad you made the trip to the Yucatan after all. I also climbed the Castillo many years ago and have some of those same scenic pictures. That woman with the traditional dress remined me of my mother back in her hay day. I believe my brother has the photograph of her in that similar traditional dress. Thank you for reviving my ancestery (sp?) through your adventures. I will print these photos so that my mom can enjoy see her native once upon a time home.

Keep safe. Oh, Darlene is right, why not make a living doing what you are doing. Look into it.

Take care!

Pat May 6, 2013 at 9:13 am

I agree with Darlene and Melva. You do a fantastic job. If not TV, maybe a book. I am sure the two of you could collaborate and make something outstanding. Our State Park just put in a zip line. Doesn’t look like the scenery and such are anywhere near what you guys had. Seems to be popular anyway.

Marc Hughston May 6, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Good stuff here! I visited Chichen Itza and Tulum as a teenage kid with my parents. I would love to go back now and have the adventure you have had. You guys look well and happy!

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