Palapas add a tropical touch to the landscape and provide a shady location that blends into the greenery in the garden. Palapas are just thatched huts or umbrellas that provide overhead shelter. They can be as complex or simple as you want. The most difficult part of building a palapa may be getting the thatching material. Palm leaves are the traditional material and are not common in most parts of the U.S. The rest of the construction may be done on a concrete base or sunk into concrete pads buried in soil. The simplest palapa is a single pole umbrella, but you can also do a two-pole stand or four-pole hut.
Measure the length of the bamboo poles and mark them with a pencil. You can make them any height you want but they should be tall enough to stand under. Wear eye and ear protection and cut them with a table saw.
Measure a fifth bamboo pole and cut it at least 12 inches longer to form the pitch of the roof. Dig a post hole in the center of where the palapa will be.
Dig four post holes the distance apart that you want the palapa around the center hole. A maximum distance of 6 to 8 feet apart will keep the structure stable. Mix cement with water until it is thick and the consistency of thin pudding. Use a shovel to scoop 3 to 5 inches into the five holes.
Set the bamboo poles into the post holes. Fill the rest of the way with cement. Measure the height of each exterior pole and sink them so they match. Lay a level on top of each pole and make sure it is straight. Then nail a support piece of scrap wood to each one at an angle into the soil to hold it in place while the cement cures.
Wait 24 hours and then remove the scrap wood. Measure the distance between each pole and cut support pieces from the two-by-four boards. Cut four boards and screw them into place to create a basic frame for the palapa.
Take measurements of the distance from each exterior pole to the center pole. Cut four boards to this specification and mount them with screws to the outer poles, stretching in to link with the center pole. You now have the basic frame for the palapa.
Cover the outside of the frame with pieces of plywood. This gives the palm fronds a base to hold onto. Start at the bottom of the palapa and begin stapling the fronds across the plywood. Move upward as each level of fronds is completely attached.
Cross each layer of fronds as the dimensions get smaller and smaller. The top pieces will need to be cut with pruners and should overlap on all corners.