When the July sun turns Rocky Point into the summertime sizzle, locals don’t reach for flimsy beach umbrellas – they seek the shade of palapas.

I love palapas, I think they look cool. And, they are built for that exact purpose, cooling off. Palapas have always reminded me of the beach and Mexico, and they have certainly been around for a long time.

These iconic, thatched-roof havens aren’t just a pretty postcard image; they’re a masterpiece of Mexican ingenuity, perfected over centuries. Long before tourists flocked to our sunny shores, the Aztec and Maya people were engineering these ‘cool cabanas,’ using palm leaves to create breathable sanctuaries. In Puerto Peñasco, where summer heat can make sand too hot for flip-flops, palapas reign supreme, turning our July heat into a beachgoer’s paradise.

But what makes a palapa so special?

The story of the palapa begins far from any beach, in the heart of ancient Mexico. The Aztec and Maya civilizations, known for their architectural innovations, designed these structures as dwellings. “Palapa” comes from the Nahuatl word “palap-tla,” meaning “pulpy leaf,” referring to the thatched roofs made from dried palm fronds.

Originally, palapas served as homes, community centers, and marketplaces. Their open-air design kept interiors cool while allowing smoke from cooking fires to escape. As these indigenous techniques spread, coastal communities adapted them. Fishermen used palapas for storing nets and boats, and gradually, they became a fixture on beaches like ours in Rocky Point.

It is nature’s air conditioning. On a scorching July day, the difference between a palapa and a regular umbrella is like comparing a freezer to a fan. The magic lies in the construction. Palm leaves are layered, creating a thick canopy that blocks intense sunlight. But unlike solid roofs or tight umbrellas, there are tiny gaps between the fronds.

This design is smart. Hot air rises through these spaces, creating a natural chimney effect. Meanwhile, sea breezes flow freely through the open sides. The result? Temperatures under a palapa can be up to 15-20 degrees cooler than under a standard umbrella. Scientists might call it “passive cooling”; we in Rocky Point just call it “ahhh.”

Let’s face it, our beloved Sea of Cortez can whip up some serious winds. Many a tourist has watched their rented umbrella become an impromptu kite. Not so with palapas. Their sturdy wooden frames, often made from local timber like mesquite or palm trunks, are deeply anchored. The thatched roofs, tightly woven but flexible, allow gusts to pass through without turning into sails. Unless of course it’s a crazy tropical storm and then all bets are off.

So, my July challenge to anyone that’s reading this article and loves Palapas is to take a Palapa pic with you and your family. Make it funny, make it serious, or find one that’s been in the old photo album. I challenge you to show the community the best Palapas in town.

Palapas have always been a place full of memories, a place to hang out together, stories are told, people are eating and drinking, and people play music, and grill food. I have many friends that have some of the best palapas ever on the cliffs of Cholla Bay. I also enjoy the Palapas in front of the Marina Pinacate, staring at the sea, and there are some great ones in front of the Sonoran properties that you can go down and chill. Palapas are part of our history, maybe years in the future, they’ll invent some kind of solar shield created from some material that does not even exist yet, but in Puerto Peñasco we have third generation Palapa maker families that have been building Palapas for over 50 years. So, take a picture, seek out the cool palapas and send them in. Let’s capture some history of Puerto Peñasco.

Where to Find Rocky Point’s Best Palapas?

Here are some of my faves:

Banditos (restaurant and cantina) is one big palapa of fun.

Tequila bar has a brand new palapa on the second floor facing the Malecon.

Wrecked at the Reef has both little and big Palapas facing the sea.

There are open air taco shops on Calle 13 with palapa roofs.

Manny’s is one big palapa.

Show me your favorite Palapa, send your picture to RockyPointlove@gmail.com and let’s make some Palapa memories.

Under the woven canopy of a palapa, you’re not just escaping the sun; you’re basking in the legacy of Mexico’s past. As any Rocky Point local will tell you: in July, it’s not just a vacation, it’s a palapa party!