Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Each beach along Riviera Maya has its own character. Paamul maintains the traditional character of a fishing hamlet, something so rare to find along the coast of Riviera Maya today. No hustle, no crowds.
Paamul in the Mayan language means 'hill or debris destroyed', which indicates the existence of an ancient Mayan settlement. In more modern history, a community was founded here over 40 years ago as a coconut plantation. Coconut oil was taken for processing to Mérida partly by boat, which led to building a few boatmen's and fishermen's cottages. Today it is a small beach resort community on the sheltered and crescent-shaped cove. I like coming here with friends because this idyllic beach is still pretty sleepy and laid-back. A gem off the beaten track. And the view is all around you: a turquoise patch of water to both left and right.
It is not one of the mainstream stops for the average tourist. It does not get much promotion, maybe because it is a trailer park. I was introduced to Paamul by a family friend Jim; it is his favourite beach. And I was in for a surprise first time round. We have come here many times since. The description 'RV community' does not do it justice. The trailer owners turned the RV park into a unique residential community. They each built an outdoor living space around their trailer, and added a roof. But because of the local regulations, the roof had to be a palapa (a thatched roof made out of palm leaves), in order to preserve the more natural look of this beach, as it is also a turtle sanctuary. With time the rules have expanded (or 'stretched') so now there are a few luxurious enclosed homes (with the trailer inside). What fun! The private residential community is a desired spot for the American and Canadian expat retirees and snowbirds who live here. Some of the trailers can be rented for a holiday.
The community has a sheltered open-air restaurant, a pool, bathroom facilities, a dive shop and a guardhouse stationed at its entrance (manned 24/7). The residents are welcoming. There is no entrance or parking fee. Come to the restaurant and get a day pass for the beach club facilities (well, if you eat or drink in the restaurant, that is sufficient). Make sure you indicate you are doing so to the entrance guards. The best bet in the restaurant is seafood. My favourites are mahi-mahi, grouper or ceviche. There is a hotel and some cabañas on the beach as well, if you want to stay overnight.
The beach is small and rocky, a mix between limestone and white sand (so it requires shoes). I always tiptoe into the sea. Saying so, just recently, in the summer of 2017, the community took some stones from the sea out, to allow for a sandy access. It makes the whole difference!
There’s also sandy access on the south side of the beach for easier water entry. This stretch is in front of the houses (with trailers inside) but the beach is a federal zone, which means public access. I love sitting here under the coconut palm trees with my own picnic.
There is very good snorkelling here as the reef is close to the shore. It is also fun to explore the pools in the limestone rocks where you can observe snails, hermit crabs, and molluscs called chitons. With a bit of luck, you can find some shells on the shore to take home as a souvenir.
Although this is a turtle sanctuary, don't expect to see them here as this happens at night only (and only between June and November). I certainly did not spot any in 3 years coming here. Instead, the beach is loved by iguanas who sit here in the sun all day long. They love to be out basking in the sun, like all the reptiles. No need to be scared of them. They are not dangerous, as long as you leave them alone.
How to get there:
Paamul is conveniently located 10 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. If you are coming by car, head south on Highway 307 from Playa del Carmen for 10-15 minutes. After you pass Xcaret eco park, look for the sign that says 'Paa Mul Hotel and Cabanas'. It’s a small sign on the left side of the highway and very easy to miss. The local colectivo system (minibuses) will drop you off in front of the highway entrance to Paamul. Then you will need to walk about 700m on a dirt road to get to the beach. The map below of Riviera Maya beaches might help.