Set equidistant between Playa del Carmen and glitzy, busy Cancun, Puerto Morelos is a laidback beach town on Mexico’s Riviera Maya. While some visitors come for the sunshine, sand, serenity, and cenotes, many come here to dive or snorkel the Puerto Morelos Reef Park. As part of the world’s second largest coral reef system, Puerto Morelos became protected in 1998, and today is tightly administered and monitored to ensure the health of the reef. Unlike other sections of the reef—which runs for 600 miles—the corals found off Puerto Morelos are relatively close to the shore. When scouring the 80° water for marine life, watch as schools of colorful fish all flit and swim in unison, and keep an eye out for barracuda, lobster, star fish, or conch shells. In total, over 500 different species of marine life inhabit this vast stretch of reef—a whole new world that’s waiting underwater just 500 yards from the shore.
Swimming from shore is not allowed inside the National Reef Park, and all visitors must wear eco-friendly sunscreen and life jackets while snorkeling are mandatory.