Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya
A long quiet stretch of beach just north of Puerto Morelos with a beach club, which I consider a hidden gem.
Historically a fishing village, this area has recently been overtaken by the growth of Puerto Morelos. It is still pretty tranquil, despite the number of hotels along the beach. The beach is also known by its old Mayan name Punta Tanchacté (I could not find the meaning of the name anywhere, which I always like to know) but you will not see this name on the road signs anymore.
I came here with friends in July 2017 and will certainly go back. The sea is calm, because it is protected by the coral reef, and the ambience is laid back. Petempich Bay is a National Park surrounded by lagoons and mangrove forests. You will see the lagoon amongst the mangroves along the road, if you decide to go to the south part of the beach. The lagoon is not for swimming (in this part of Riviera Maya the mangrove lagoons tend to have crocodiles). From the beach itself you can't see either the jungle or the mangroves, as the beach is now lined with hotels. They say that Riviera Maya begins at this point (and it continues for 40km all the way to Tulum in the south).
Scuba diving and snorkelling are great here because the place is less visited, and therefore the reefs are healthier than the reefs for diving in Cancún or snorkelling in Playa del Carmen. The Mesoamerican Reef is the second longest in the world (it stretches 1,100km or 700 miles) The reef in Puerto Morelos is protected by the government and Petempich Bay is part of that protected marina park.
The north end of the beach is public. There is a row of private villas on this beach but there are no people on the beach. So if you want a quite isolated beach, this one is for you. Bear in mind that it is a bit wild (meaning nobody cleans it of the seaweed).
I prefer the beach club Ammaris at the south beach. The spot is perfect. You can park your car just outside the restaurant. It is a small club. There are a few wooden loungers right under the palm trees and you get a tranquil view of the turquoise sea from there.
We used hammocks under the palms and we were not charged for the loungers either as we were consuming at the restaurant. The service was great, the food standard local (ceviche and burritos) and the prices very reasonable. The club offers massages and has truly nice washrooms (with a shower), which is rather rare on the beaches of Riviera Maya as they are often rustic. We came here on a Saturday and there was only one family alongside us, so it felt like having a private beach to ourselves. There was only one other more local family who joined our little group in the afternoon.
The sea access is sandy but in most places you can walk only until you're up to your waist and then the bottom is rocky. It is ideal for families with children who like to play in shallow waters. It suited us fine. I went for a walk with my friend Amanda, to explore both the south and north ends of the beach, while my husband Rhod and friend Jim were reading. There is another beach club, just 50m further south, called Snorkelling Adventure. They offer snorkelling trips and they charge 50US for your stay there, which includes your meal and drinks. Otherwise the beach is lined with hotels to both north and south, such as Azul and Breathless, to name two. Hotel Desire is an 'adults only' hotel, with a nude beach but we walked along it. Generally, all the beaches are federal property in Mexico so they are accessible to the public. All the hotels in Petempich Bay have loungers with palapa roofs, which gives the beach a romantic feel.
I like walking on the beach so we walked about 2km. There are quite a few piers along the beach but all are closed to the public as they are the private property of hotels for events and weddings. But it does make the beach scenic (well, I find wooden piers charming). It is also a good opportunity for photography. I only use my mobile for photos but I found them attractive.
A few boats for the fishing trips just made the scene perfect. No hassle from them or any other vendors either. We were also bird-spotting on our walk, and saw some pelicans.
The southern beach also has a turtle sanctuary and the nests are covered for protection. The sea turtle nesting season begins in May. Female green, loggerhead and hawksbill turtles, and the occasional giant leatherback turtle, come ashore to lay their eggs in the sand. Forty-five to 60 days later, their eggs hatch and the baby turtles struggle out of their shells and begin their perilous dash towards the waves and a new life at sea. The birth of the sea turtle is one of nature’s greatest wonders. However, don't expect to see it on this beach, as it only happens at night (unless you are a hotel guest and they may invite you for the night watch). Night after night, the conservation guardians and volunteers patrol the beaches of Akumal and Xcacel along the Riviera Maya to protect the nesting turtles.
How to get there:
Bahía Petempich is 32km north of Playa del Carmen and 10km north of Puerto Morelos. There is no public transport to the beach. When you drive along Highway 307 turn off at 27.5km. You will see a sign to a cluster of hotels. There is a guarded entry gate (but nobody stopped us).
Drive for about 3 minutes on the side road and you will come to a fork.If you continue driving straight, you will come to the north beach (with the villas, hotels and the public beach).
If you turn right, you will come to the south beach with two beach clubs and hotels (Breathless and Azul Sensatori). The Ammaris beach club is marked on the road sign under its old name as Arenika Club. Along the way you will cross a lagoon surrounded by mangroves. Keep going for one more minute and you will reach Ammaris beach club where you can park.