One of our favorite things to do in Quintana Roo, Mexico is to fly into Cancun with our camping gear, rent a car, and start driving south. Two our most beloved areas, situated south of Tulum, are Punta Allen and Xcalak.
About 30 miles south of Tulum, at the end of a bouncy, deeply-rutted dirt road, sits a small fishing village whose white sand streets house about 500 residents. We first came here for the rumored bonefishing, and kept coming back for the small-village atmosphere, and the opportunity to camp, star gaze, and pack-raft in cerulean waters.
We stay with the wonderful Niki at Serenidad Sharon. She has three beach houses for rent, but we have always camped. For a smallish fee you can pitch your tent on the beach with an ocean view, or back in the garden area. (We prefer the shelter of the garden plants as our tent on the beach once filled with fine Caribbean sand after a particularly windy day.) There is a basic bathroom/shower room for campers to use.
The beach in Punta Allen is usually empty. The water changes with the weather; sometimes it is calm, clear and placid; other times storms bring in an abundance of seaweed and plant matter. The main beach in town is kept very clean, but, as in most rural Caribbean towns, refuse will find its way onto shore. This is a fact of life in our plastic-loving society. Regardless, the charm of Punta Allen is undeniable.
If camping or renting a house, it is wise to buy the bulk of your groceries before hitting the road to Punta Allen. There are a few tiny mercados in town, and occasionally a fruit and veggie truck shows up, but supplies are limited. On our last visit we were shocked to see an industrious young fellow with a coffee stand.
Other things to know:
- Just south of Tulum you will have to stop at a rock arch and pay a minimal fee to enter the Sian Ka'an reserve. This is also where the pavement ends and the bouncy ride begins. You will often find your speed limited to 10mph.
- Many websites say you need a jeep for the road to Punta Allen, but we've always taken a small rental car.
- There can be a lot of bugs, especially if you hit the chiquiste (what the locals call a particularly nasty brand of mosquitoes) hatch. Pack mosquito spray, long sleeve shirts, and pants for the evenings.
- Bring pesos. There are a handful of places to eat, but none will take credit card and there is not an ATM in Punta Allen. Our favorite restaurant is Corazon, but most of the beachfront palapas serve similar fare.
We bring camping cook gear to fix breakfast and lunch, and then splurge at the Leaky Palapa (image from their website). For a village of under 500 inhabitants, this restaurant is a treasure.
Other things to know:
- Once again, bring pesos and groceries. There is a produce truck that travels up and down the coastal dirt road, but stores have minimal supplies.
- Activities in Xcalak include snorkeling, diving, kayaking, fishing, bird watching, and relaxing.
- You will encounter military checkpoints on your way to Xcalak. Sometimes you will simply be waved through, other times you may be asked to exit your vehicle for a precursory search.
Question: Where do you splurge while on vacation? Lodging? Dining out? Excursions? Shopping?