Akumal is a small and charming coastal town located in the Riviera Maya, in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Known as“the place of the turtles” in Mayan, it lies in a bay protected by two beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise waters, where sea turtles come to lay their eggs and feed.
This earthly paradise offers visitors the opportunity to swim with these majestic animals in their natural habitat, making it a must-see destination for lovers of marine life and nature in general.
What to do in Akumal
Snorkeling with sea turtles
Akumal is famous for its sea turtles, and swimming with them is a must-do experience. You can rent snorkeling equipment on the beach and dive into the warm waters to observe these majestic animals in their natural habitat. The best time to see turtles is from May to October during the nesting season.
This beautiful white sand beach and turquoise waters is the heart of Akumal. Relax in the sun, enjoy a delicious lunch at one of the beach restaurants or simply admire the beautiful scenery.
Akumal Ecological Center (CEA)
Learn about marine life and conservation efforts at Centro Ecológico Akumal. Participate in interactive activities, such as workshops and guided tours, to learn more about the importance of protecting the environment and local biodiversity.
Official site: ceakumal.org
Explore the cenotes near Akumal, such as Cenote Cristal, Cenote Escondido and Cenote Santa Cruz. These freshwater sinkholes offer unique opportunities to swim, snorkel and marvel at the rock formations and plant life underwater.
Cenotes Tour: Xenotes.
Although not located directly in Akumal, Xcaret Park is only a 20-minute drive away and offers a wide variety of attractions and activities for all tastes. Enjoy cultural shows, swimming in subway rivers, snorkeling with tropical fish, bird watching and much more.
Official Site: Xcaret
Half Moon Bay
Half Moon bay (Half Moon bay) is a beautiful crescent-shaped white sand beach located at the southern end of Akumal bay. It offers calm, shallow waters, perfect for swimming, snorkeling and just relaxing in the sun. You will also find several restaurants and bars on the beach to enjoy food and drinks.
Yal-Kú Lagoon is a semi-open cenote with calm and crystalline waters, full of marine life and coral formations. You can swim, snorkel and admire colorful fish, lobsters, rays and, with luck, sea turtles. The entrance fee is moderate and includes the use of life jackets, lockers and showers.
Akumal Monkey Sanctuary
This sanctuary offers visitors the opportunity to interact with a variety of monkeys and other exotic animal species in a natural and protected environment. Visitors can walk through the sanctuary’s trails, observe the monkeys in their natural habitat and learn about their behavior and care.
Official Site: akumalmonkeysanctuary.com
Akumal is known for being home to several species of sea turtles, including the green turtle and hawksbill turtle. During nesting season, which generally occurs between May and October, visitors can participate in turtle releases, in which newly hatched turtle eggs are taken to the sea by volunteers from the local conservation center.
Located just a few minutes from Akumal, Xel-Há is an eco-archaeological park that offers a wide variety of water and land activities. You can swim in cenotes, snorkel in the lagoon, slide down zip lines, hike through nature trails and much more. The park also has several restaurants and bars.
Official site: Xel-há
How to get there Akumal
Akumal is located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, approximately 40 km south of Playa del Carmen and 28 km north of Tulum. To get to Akumal there are several transportation options from Playa, from Tulum or from Cancun which are usually the most popular destinations in the Riviera Maya and the Mexican Caribbean.
How to get to Akumal from Playa del Carmen.
By public transportation.
The colectivos in Playa del Carmen to Tulum are the fastest and cheapest way to get there. The base of these colectivos is located on Calle 2 Norte and Avenida 20 in downtown Playa del Carmen, very close to the famous 5th Avenue. It is advisable to ask a local about the current fare before boarding and tell the driver that you want to get off in Akumal. From the Akumal bus stop you will need to walk for a few minutes to get to Akumal Bay.
ADO buses to Akumal do not make intermediate stops, so this is not an option for this route.
From Playa del Carmen take federal highway 307 southbound, at the bridge with signs to Akumal turn left.
How to get to Akumal from Tulum.
By public transportation.
The colectivos from Tulum to Playa del Carmen are also the best public transportation option to get to Akumal, these are taken from the center of Tulum town and get off at the bus stop “Akumal”. From the bus stop it is necessary to walk for a few minutes to get to the public access beach.
ADO buses are not an option for this route since they do not make stops in Akumal.
By own car.
From Tulum take federal highway 307 northbound, at the bridge with signs to Akumal turn right.
How to get to Akumal from Cancun.
By public transportation.
To get to Akumal from Cancun it is necessary to divide the trip in two ways: From Cancun to Playa del Carmen. And then from Playa del Carmen to Akumal as explained above.
In your own car.
From Cancun take federal highway 307 southbound, at the bridge with signs to Akumal turn left.
Popular tours in Akumal
- Tulum and Akumal Tour: This tour combines a visit to the Mayan ruins of Tulum with snorkeling time in the crystal clear waters of Akumal. Visitors can explore the ancient ruins and enjoy the marine life in Akumal, including turtles, tropical fish and coral reefs.
- Cenotes and Akumal Tour: On this tour, visitors can visit some of the region’s most impressive cenotes, such as Cenote Dos Ojos and Cenote Cristal, before heading to Akumal to swim with sea turtles.
- Playa del Carmen and Akumal Tour: Playa del Carmen is a popular coastal town in the Riviera Maya, known for its white sandy beaches and lively nightlife. On this tour, visitors can spend the morning exploring Playa del Carmen before heading to Akumal to swim with sea turtles in the afternoon.
- Akumal and Xel-Ha Tour: Combine a visit to Akumal Bay with a day at Xel-Há eco-archaeological park, where you can swim, snorkel and enjoy a variety of outdoor activities.
- Sian Ka’an and Akumal Tour: Sian Ka’an is a national park and biosphere reserve on the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. On this tour, visitors can explore the mangroves, coral reefs and lagoons of Sian Ka’an before heading to Akumal to swim with sea turtles in the afternoon.
The schedule for visiting Akumal will depend on your preferences and plans, but I will provide you with useful information to make the most of your visit.
Generally, Akumal’s beaches are open to the public from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Within these hours, you can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, relaxing on the beach and exploring the surroundings. Some restaurants and stores may have slightly different hours, but in general, most establishments are open during the day.
If you wish to do organized activities, such as snorkeling tours or visits to cenotes, schedules will vary depending on the tour operator. Most of these activities usually start in the morning, around 8:00 a.m. or 9:00 a.m., and end at midday or early afternoon.
To get the most out of your visit to Akumal, I recommend arriving early in the morning, especially if you want to swim with turtles. During the early hours of the day, there are fewer people in the water, which makes it easier to observe these marine animals. In addition, the sun is not yet at its highest point, so the lighting conditions are ideal for snorkeling.
Remember that Akumal is a popular tourist destination, so on weekends and during the high season (December to April) it can be more crowded. Plan your visit accordingly and consider arriving early or visiting on weekdays for a quieter and more relaxed experience.
Tips for getting the most out of your visit
What to bring to Akumal
- Sunscreen: The sun can be very strong in Akumal, so it is important to protect your skin with sunscreen. Be sure to choose a reef-safe sunscreen to help protect the marine environment.
- Swimwear: Akumal has many beautiful beaches and bodies of water, so be sure to pack your swimsuit and any other equipment you may need, such as a snorkel, mask and fins.
- Insect repellent: Mosquitoes and other insects can be a nuisance in Akumal, so it’s a good idea to bring insect repellent to help keep them at bay.
- Comfortable footwear: Akumal has many dirt roads and trails, so be sure to pack comfortable shoes that are suitable for walking or hiking.
- Hat and sunglasses: These can help protect you from the sun and make it more comfortable to spend time outdoors.
- A reusable water bottle: Staying hydrated is important, especially in the heat, so be sure to bring a reusable water bottle that you can refill at your accommodation or at a water fountain. This will save money and reduce plastic waste.
- A beach towel or blanket: You may want to bring a beach towel or blanket to use on the sand or at the pool.
- A first aid kit: It is always a good idea to have a basic first aid kit with you when you travel, in case of minor injuries or emergencies.
- Cash: Although many places in Akumal accept credit cards, it is always a good idea to have some cash on hand, as some smaller businesses or street vendors may not accept cards.
- Take your time: Akumal is a small and relaxed place, so there is no need to rush. Take your time to explore and soak up the atmosphere.
- Get in the water: Akumal is known for its beautiful bays and bodies of water, so be sure to spend some time swimming, snorkeling or kayaking.
- Try the local food: Akumal has many delicious local dishes, such as ceviche, tacos and cochinita pibil. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
- Respect the environment: Akumal is home to a variety of marine life, including sea turtles. Be sure to follow all rules and guidelines to help protect the environment and the animals that live there.
- Take a break from technology: Akumal is an ideal place to unplug and relax. Consider putting down your phone or laptop and enjoy the moment.
Cover photo: Nosha.