With 2-3 months in Merida, I decided to take a quick playa week. I had previously booked two nights in Isla, and two in Puerto Morelos [PM], but then was invited to join a friend for a big birthday and three days of fly fishing in Holbox. So I ended up with only one night in Isla. So this TR isn't based on much time hence experiences at all.
ADO to Chiquila from Merida w/one stop in Vallodolid was smooth. Caught a ferry over and had an eight block walk to my hotel/airbnb next to the square. Unfortunately it had rained that day/day before [cold front] and every street was a huge puddle. Sort of a crap first impression that honestly was never overcome.
Lodging was basic but fine until my young Euroneighbors came home from clubbing at 5:30. I wanted to get up early, fishing at 9am, so wasn't that upset. Karma came to visit the girls at 8am when the local's Monday 8am Zumba class start in the park directly across the street complete with booming speaker, heh...I had a great coffee/yogurt at a fancy coffee place a block off the square, the only one that's open at 7.
Fishing was slow but i caught one tarpon, my first, super fun. That night, as well at the first night, I had dinner at the fishing guide's home- his wife's home cooking. The next two days we hit the water at 6:30, so breakfast and lunch were on the boat. The second afternoon I had two hours of free time to wander the beach. The last night was my bud's birthday, and the guide had someone go to Valladolid for 30kg's of costillas/ribs, cooked over the open fire. So good!
So, unfairly based on only one meal and only two hours of exploring, I'm not impressed. The island was packed with tourists and if the roads are any indication, doesn't have even close to the infrastructure needed to support it. My guide said the roads drained better prior to the explosion of golf carts and now 4-wheeler/side by sides. The tourists seemed very Euro and backpacky, with many many topless sunbathers on the main beach. It felt like people were flooding there to find 'undescovered Mexico'. To my experience it was like a cross between Tulum and Progreso, neither of which I have much affinity for.
If there was any doubt, one night in Isla is not enough, but none is no good either. It was great to be back. I've probably visited at least fifteen times, first trip in '97. I had a couple tacos el pastor at el Natural, and a few drinks at Tiny's. Great to see the boys again. I was beat from the birthday party the night before so called it early. Had the eggs benny at N. Garden for the first time and was very impressed. Walked Playa Norte, and was shocked how little beach was left in front of Tarzan.
Walked around some more until it was time for a sit to drink some water, so found an alley just north of the Pemex with a bunch of logs and a table for cleaning fish. Sat down for a half hour and watched all the waiters from next door sit down there in the shade waiting for their catamaran. Stopped by Hotel Las Palmas to say hi to Kate and Val and then joined a friend for a delicious burger at Food and Art. Took the ferry back and finally took Joan et al's advice on getting a cab, walked three blocks away and hailed a cab coming off a side street. 50p to the ADO, less than half price of the in situ cabs in front.
Sorry Isla, the day trip hoards have pushed me over the edge, you're no longer my number one. As the Playa Norte is kind of the only/best beach in town, when it is superstuffed with day trippers it leaves few chill options, especially with my old standby Capitan Dulce unavailable. Sure, there are other beaches around the island, but not with the sand/swimming of P.Norte. Isla still has a magic of it's own that I can't really put my finger on, may be partly tied to my history there, but I doubt I'll be back much.
Puerto Morelos grew on me this trip much more than back in March. I like that, even in peak season, even the most popular restaurants only fill at peak times, at 5-6pm I could find a table easily. The main beach is quite long, and there are three beach clubs that I enjoy and are priced well, and two others as well. And if you want to plant your own chair you can go a little further south of the lighthouse and find empty beach, with a few palm trees and zero beach vendors.
I also love snorkeling the reef. It's really an amazing resource and super accessible. Much better than snorkeling in Isla or Holbox. PM is easy to get to, next trip I'll take ADO from Cancun and have very minor travel costs. There's not an easy ADO return to Cancun, but a cab from PM is only 500p and there are great cab drivers there.
There are no day trips to PM from Cancun or Playa as it really doesn't offer anything that can't be found there. Which is awesome! It's also very popular on weekends with nationals, which i enjoy. There's also the Colonia 5km away for more tipico experiences and shopping.
So without enough time to get a significant number of data points on Holbox or PM, there's my personal conclusions. I'll be back on Holbox, but only to catch one more tarpon and hopefully a snook. I'll be back on Isla, occasionally but reverantly. I may spend December in Pto. Morelos. Salud!!