There’s no getting away from it. Millions of tourists fly into Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula every year, heading for the beaches of Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum to experience the white sand and turquoise waters of these deservedly popular resorts. So how do you get away from them and yet still make the most of this beautiful coastline? Here are three suggestions, all within easy reach of the resorts.
3 Less Crowded Beaches in Mexico
The first in our list of is Puerto Morelos. Located about halfway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen and an easy ride by bus, colectivos (shared minibus), or car from the airport, the town is a viable alternative to its two larger neighbours. Small enough to walk from end to end in fifteen minutes but big enough to contain a smattering of bars, restaurants and small hotels, it’s a good choice for those wanting to avoid the all-inclusive resorts and plump for something more intimate. Everything is low-rise thanks to local planning laws and it’s not surprising that many people choose to live there year-round. Look out for Puerto Morelos’ leaning lighthouse, which adopted its jaunty angle after Hurricane Beulah in 1967 and has now become the unofficial symbol of this fishing town.
If you can drag yourself away from the beach, the town is also home to the Little Mexican Cooking School. Established by Australian ex-pat Catriona Brown a few years back, its cooking classes offer participants the opportunity to learn how to cook a selection of local dishes from one of seven different styles of Mexican cooking. The food is prepared under the watchful eyes of its resident chefs and of course, the class ends with a convivial lunch to sample what’s been created.
Akumal draws tourists for one reason and the clue is in its name: it means “place of the turtles”. Located around a beautiful bay, this small town boasts an impressive beach and calm waters perfect for swimming. Most visitors rent snorkelling equipment and swim just a few hundred metres out into the bay. You’ll spot them, faces down, marvelling at the green turtles which come here in large numbers to lay their eggs between May and October.
Although most snorkelers have paid for a guide, so long as you’re a confident swimmer, there’s no need, as it’s easy to figure out where the turtles are by looking for the groups of people watching them. Just remember to look and not touch – these fascinating creatures are protected by law. Once you’ve had enough of the marine life, there are plenty of palm trees on the beach under which to flop and watch the action, or if you prefer, cafes and beach bars to quench your thirst.
My hotel concierge told me he was letting me into a secret – Paamul, he said, was the prettiest beach on the Riviera Maya. An easy ride in a colectivo from the resorts of Tulum or Playa del Carmen and reached down a sandy side road, at first glance the place wasn’t my idea of holiday heaven, a crescent of sand lined with condos on long lets attracting snowbirds and their RVs from north of the border.
But it wasn’t long before I understood what attracted them: a beach almost deserted save for the few kids kicking about for tiddlers in the rock pools and a boat ramp occupied by a family of sun worshipping lizards standing stock still in the midday sun. On such a popular coastline, finding a beach that you can have pretty much to yourself is priceless. Just don’t tell anyone else…