Savoring Tradition: The Puerto Morelos Ceviche Festival, in Puerto Morelos

By Michele Samal Kinnon

The 11th Annual Puerto Morelos Ceviche Festival – An Event for Sea-Foodies!

One of our very favorite things is going to food festivals. In my 20 years living in Mexico, I have been to countless food festivals. In fact, I was on the organizing committee for Taste of Playa, the Riviera Maya’s largest food festival, for three years. It is one of the best things I have ever been involved with.

While Taste of Playa no longer exists, I try to attend as many Mexican food festivals as I can. This is the first time we have attended the Puerto Morelos Ceviche Festival, and we were excited to see what the local restaurants and chefs would have to offer.

This year was the 11th edition of this fun and delicious cultural event. The festival was set up in Puerto Morelos’ Ventana del Mar (window to the sea), just next to the town square, with a dozen or so local restaurants on hand offering some of their best ceviche and other signature dishes.

Puerto morelos ceviche festival tents on a damp day.

Some of the ceviches and aguachiles were prepared with local ingredients and fish native to the region such as mahi mahi, marlin and even lionfish. Other vendors offered exotic treats imported from Mexico’s west coast like oysters and chocolate clams.

Fresh mixed ceviche ready to be served at the puerto morelos ceviche festival
Three ceviches on display at the puerto morelos ceviche festival
Shrimp aguachile in puerto morelos

The Tradicional Festival del Ceviche is held every year in February and is scheduled to coincide with the Ruta de Arrecifes Open Water Swim Competition. The tournament draws hundreds of swimmers from all over the country which only adds to the excitement of the festival and creates an atmosphere that is fun for the entire family. The vendors had their tents set up and ready to go to greet curious and hungry crowds starting at about 11:00 AM and we were there right on time!

Sazon jarocha's stand at the puerto morelos cerviche festival

We started with a refreshing shrimp michelada from Puerto Hambriento and moved on to sample as many of the ceviches as we could manage.

Shrimp micheladas being prepared by hambriento puerto
Michele enjoying a michelada with shrimp
Jim drinking michelada in the rain

We enjoyed a delicious ceviche mixto with shrimp and octopus prepared by Sabalo Country Cevicheria, ceviche de caracol (conch), spicy lionfish aguachile and a fresh tuna ceviche with sweet corn and handmade tostadas from MAÍZ MAIX.

Sabalo country's ceviche
Conch ceviche being served at the ceviche festival in puerto morelos
A beautiful tuna cerviche from maiz maix restaurant.

The stand out for me was probably the Almeja Chocolate Preparada from MayDay. This was a freshly shucked chocolate clam flown in from La Paz, sliced up and served in the shell with diced cucumber, red onion and a secret house sauce. Delicious and worth the wait!

Chocolate clams being prepared by staff from mayday puerto morelos

Later in the afternoon, the crowds enjoyed live music from El Sol de Mexico. The festival carried on into the early evening, ending when the sun set.

Puerto Morelos: From Fishing Village to Tourist Haven

Puerto Morelos, tucked away on the serene coast of the Mexican Caribbean, has a history that is forever intertwined with the azure waters of its surroundings. The town’s lifeblood has always been deeply connected to the Caribbean Sea, initially through its fishing industry. The local fishermen, adept at navigating the bountiful waters, have long relied on the sea for sustenance and economic stability. This intimate relationship with the ocean has shaped the town’s identity and culture, fostering a deep respect for the marine environment among its inhabitants.

An areal view of puerto morelos fishing boats

In the latter half of the 20th century, Puerto Morelos began to witness a transformation. The burgeoning tourism industry in the Mexican Caribbean brought a new wave of opportunities and challenges. The town’s strategic location, halfway between the bustling cities of Cancun and Playa del Carmen, made it an attractive destination for those seeking a more serene and authentic travel experience. Its proximity to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest coral reef system in the world, has made it a haven for snorkelers and divers, further cementing the small town’s reliance on the Caribbean for tourism.

Puerto morelos lighthouse taken from the jetty next to it.

What was once a sleepy little town that relied solely on its harvest from the sea has transformed into a popular tourist destination. The town may have grown and changed but the sea remains an important influence in the lives of the residents and in the offerings of local businesses. Most of the tourism here is ocean-based whether it be selling deep-sea fishing trips, SCUBA diving excursions or snorkeling tours on the Mesoamerican reef. 

Despite the massive shift to a tourism-based economy, Puerto Morelos has managed to preserve much of its laid-back atmosphere and natural beauty, partly due to the community’s efforts to balance development with environmental conservation. The establishment of the Puerto Morelos Reef National Park is a testament to this commitment, protecting the reef and its marine life for future generations.

Feasting by the Sea: Discovering Puerto Morelos Through Its Food

The influence of the sea is also evident in the many and varied culinary options you can find in Puerto Morelos today. There are hundreds of cafes and restaurants offering everything from comida corida to alta cocina with fresh, locally sourced seafood being the main focus. Events like this and the upcoming Festival Gastronomico del Caribe Mexicano allow small businesses a great platform from which to showcase the quality of their ingredients, the skill of their chefs and the natural wonders of the Mexican Caribbean.

A beautifully presented paella at the puerto morelos ceviche festival

Some of the restaurants that we love for fantastic seafood are MarBella, El Merkadito, Muelle Once and Boquinete all on the port side. Our favorites in La Colonia (west side of Highway 307) are Mayday, El Picudo, Las Koras, La Chulada and PECAO Fonda de Mar

As you can imagine, the Puerto Morelos Ceviche Festival is kind of a big draw for this small town. The Mexican Caribbean and the natural beauty of the village make a wonderful backdrop for this fun seafood festival which is one of the most anticipated gastronomic and cultural events in the region. If you find yourself traveling in Quintana Roo in the month of February, I recommend you put this festival on your itinerary.

If I have any complaint about this event is that there was little to no promotion done in the weeks leading up to the festival. I was lucky to stumble upon the Facebook page while searching for information about another food festival in the region. I’d also ask the vendors step up their marketing efforts.

Mixed ceviche

Many of the stands had no signs or marketing materials at all to promote their business. Even the vendors with signage missed out on an opportunity to use their Facebook pages to draw existing fans and customers to the event. This seems to be an issue common to most festivals and events on the Riviera Maya, and not specific to this one in particular. 

The GOOD news is that most of the businesses participating in the Puerto Morelos Ceviche Festival came from the other side of the highway in La Colonia giving them a much needed boost of awareness and recognition.

Paella being served at the puerto morelos ceviche festival.
Hambriento puerto's micheladas with shrimp
Maíz maix's stand at the puerto morelos ceviche festival
Fish aguachile
Tuna ceviche being served on homemade corn tostadas at the 'festival tradicional del ceviche'
Fish aguachile in the ceviche festival

To find more information about the Tradicional Festival del Ceviche including announcements of the date for next year’s event, visit the official Puerto Morelos Ceviche Festival Facebook page.

About the author

Michele Samal Kinnon

Despite the strong reservations of family and friends, in 2004 I moved from the United States to Mexico with my young family. Since then, I have made the Riviera Maya my home. I have raised two remarkable children here. I have celebrated amazing successes, made countless mistakes, and in the process, fallen in love with this beautiful country.