Idyllic Paamul Beach and RV Community on the Mexican Riviera
PAAMUL BEACH AND VILLAGE
When you deconstruct a Mexi-Caribbean vacation, it’s about sand, sea, sun and chilling in the warmth. This is exactly what you’ll find at laid-back Paamul (pronounced pah-mool) Beach on the Riviera Maya. Paamul is definitely a far cry from other busy beaches down the road. Beachcombers, campers, and snorkeling snowbirds love Paamul, a crescent-shaped lagoon 13 miles south of Playa del Carmen (north of Puerto Aventuras) with clear, calm waters sheltered by a coral reef. Paamul beach features white sands with some exposed limestone and lots of palm trees for natural shade. You’ll have a great beach day here snorkeling, swimming, diving or kayaking. Unlike other local spots, there is no charge for parking or using the beach. Virtually deserted, bring a beach blanket or lounge chair and prepare to relax the day away. It is great fun to meet and chat with locals as well as other visitors here.
A TROPICAL PARADISE
FOR LOCALS AND SNOWBIRDS
Paamul Beach is a secret gem off the beaten track. If you want to avoid the seasonal and mid-day crowds of Akumal Beach and have a Zen experience, come here. Stuck in time, this hidden treasure has remained a pristine tropical paradise. No hustle, no crowds – just a peaceful beach hippie lifestyle commune. Go for the day and bring snorkel and beach gear. The village supports a Scuba Mex Dive Shop and a small convenience store.
Restaurant Paamul is right on the sand and provides a lovely beachfront swimming pool with chaise lounges. Service and prices are excellent and drinks are ice cold. It’s an open air restaurant, with a perfect view of the ocean, serving good seafood and Mexican specialties. It’s less expensive and better than most of the restaurants in nearby Puerto Aventuras. They offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner and will give you margaritas-to-go for the beach. Many of the mostly American and Canadian RV residents gather there in the evening for dinner and entertainment. In addition to typically beautiful sunsets, entertainment can range from a local DJ spinning popular tunes to the weekly hermit crab races.
WHERE’S THE BATHROOM?
Restaurant Paamul has bathrooms. So does the Restaurant’s swimming pool, conveniently located right next door. Wouldn’t want to have to carry those delicious margaritas too far in the hot sun.
THE HISTORY AND MAGIC OF PAAMUL
For thousands of years, local tribes have been drawn to this region, shaping history by using this bay as a gateway for trade with other Caribbean civilizations. Here, you can escape the rat-race of modern life and find harmony in the natural landscape – an exquisite impressionist painting like the South Sea Islands that inspired Paul Gauguin. Scenery here boasts the whitest of beaches caressed by a turquoise sea alive with coral reefs and tropical fish. The settlement of Paamul originated over 40 years ago as a coconut plantation for the production of copra, the dried kernel from which coconut oil is extracted. The copra was then sent by boat to the city of Merida. Accordingly, the beachfront village of Paamul is a throwback to the Mayan Riviera decades ago. Back then, it was an era of ramshackle fishing hamlets run off of generator power. Although that’s no longer the case, with electricity, water and Wi-Fi available, this pueblo has otherwise maintained its traditional character.
The community at Paamul is very quirky, in a good sort of way. Many residences consist of walled in motor homes. There’s a makeshift campground with tents, colorful dwellings, and murals decorating the walls. Some tourists have said that it looks like a bunch of 1960’s hippies from Berkeley migrated there and just stayed. Guess that’s why we love it!
BABY-BOOMER RV HEAVEN
Strolling through this quaint little community, you’ll see palapa homes of all different configurations. Every one is as unique as its owners. For the uninitiated, a “palapa” is a thatched-roof, open-sided structure. The material to cover over the palapa consists of dried and woven palm fronds. Beneath the palapas are basic living structures that may consist of a mobile home on one half of the lot, with an open air kitchen, dining and living room complete with TV on the other half. A few more formal homes may be concrete structures with extras such as imported Italian marble floors, artsy custom designed lighting and waterfall walls. Diversity and individuality rules. And did I mention that they rent RV sites on a daily or monthly basis as well?
REEF AND ROCKY TIDEPOOLS
The offshore coral reef is the most breathtaking and well-preserved attraction on Paamul Beach. Snaking through the crystalline blue waters of the Caribbean close to the shore, the reef is easily accessible. Visitors and locals spend hours snorkeling, diving and kayaking, admiring the schools of tropical fish in the coral gardens. It is also fun to explore the tide pools in the limestone rock projections into the sea, many of which support interesting marine life like tidepool gobies, snails, hermit crabs, and chitons (flat intertidal molluscs with 8 overlapping shell plates). Shells, sand dollars, and even glass beads—some from the sunken, 18th-century Spanish galleon Mantanceros, which lies off nearby Akumal—wash up onto the sandy parts of the beach. Plus sea turtles nest and hatch here in the sandy areas from June to November.
SWIMMING CONDITIONS AT PAAMUL
This is a sandy beach with some exposed limestone, so sturdy beach footwear is required in most water entry areas. There’s more sand on the south side of the beach for easier water entry. As is usually the case, snorkeling, swimming and kayaking are best when the seas are relatively calm.
The owners of Scuba Mex Dive Shop arrived in Mexico before the latest boom of tourism in the Yucatan. They scouted up and down the coast for the best dive locations, and found them right off the coast of Paamul. Their safety record is flawless, and all reef dive sites are a mere 3-15 minutes out from Paamul. It’s a great place to complete your PADI open water certification.
Paamul has a small, rocky and quiet beach. The sheltered cove has a reef close to shore so you don’t have to swim far to snorkel. If the waves are high, be careful not to crash into the coral. It’s bad for the coral, but will be way worse for you. We bring our own snorkeling gear, but if you don’t, the Scuba Mex Dive Shop rents it.
GETTING TO PAAMUL BEACH
Probably the only thing that’s difficult about going to Paamul is finding it. Use your rental car, take a taxi, or be adventurous and take a Collectivo, the local public van system that will drop you off in front of the highway entrance to Paamul, followed by a hot 2 mile walk to get to the beach (just saying…). Head south on Highway 307 from Playa Del Carmen for 10-15 minutes, after you pass Xcaret, start looking 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 if you’re not looking, or if you sneeze. Should you get to Puerto Aventuras, you have gone about 5 minutes too far south. Put on those driving distance glasses, turn around, and look again for the really small sign. Then take the partially paved road about 2 miles east to Paamul beach. The end of the road brings you to a small check point with travel trailers all around. Don’t be intimidated by the guards at the gate. They are there for homeowners’ security. Just let them know you are going to the restaurant and beach, and you’ll be welcomed with open arms.