Situated about one hour south of the Cancun International Airport, between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, is Akumal. The name is derived from the Mayan language meaning ‘Place of the Turtle.’ There are several protected bays enclosed by the Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest barrier reef system in the world. The turtles use this pristine location as nesting grounds and spend their days munching on the sea grass just a hundred meters or so from the shores.
The calm, turquoise waters of the bays are perfect for snorkeling, kayaking and families with younger children. Along the palm-fringed beaches, there is plenty of white sand to park a beach blanket and cooler for an afternoon of Caribbean bliss by the sea!
There are a few hotels, condominiums and villas lining this part of the Mexican Caribbean coastline. But for the most part, it is a sleepy fishing village with a couple of dive shops offering diving and deep sea fishing excursions, as well as a few family-owned businesses with local guides providing snorkeling tours.
On the east side of the Federal 307 Highway is the tourist center where the bays sit and the tours are offered. On the west side is the local residential area with grocery stores and little, authentic restaurants serving up casual eats like tacos and whole rotisserie chickens roasted over and open coal grill. Both areas are worth checking out and present a glimpse of what day-to-day life looks like in the Yucatan Peninsula!
Although it is a small town, there are a variety of accommodations to choose from. Visitors will find some of Riviera Maya’s finest vacation rentals and beach front hotels. We encourage those looking for accommodations to check out our Akumal hotels and resorts page. Travel Yucatan has partnerships with the largest hotel providers and offers the largest selection at the best prices available.
Visitors will have no problem finding fun things to do in Akumal. It is the most popular destination for snorkeling and swimming with sea-turtles. A few other popular activities include deep sea/reef diving, sailing, deep sea fishing, visiting cenotes and renting both bikes or golf carts.
Discover four different types of cenotes in a natural setting, an oasis in the middle of the jungle where you can enjoy nature at its best with a different activity on each Xenote; Kayaking, Rappelling, Snorkel, Zip-lines and Inner Tubes.
Yal Ku Lagoon is a great snorkeling location in Akumal. It is so attractive because it is protected from rough sea-days and is beautiful. Rental equipment is available at the entrance and makes a great day trip throughout the Riviera Maya.
Embark on an aquatic adventure. Explore creeks, mangroves, lagoons, natural wells and ancient caves fed by subterranean rivers flowing to Mexico’s beautiful Caribbean Sea. Learn, rest and participate in the world’s most beautiful natural aquarium, Xel-Ha.
Travel back in time at the Maya Village and enjoy the five wading pools straight from the Caribbean. Unique rivers wind through Xcaret’s naturally occurring system of underground rivers. Must visit attraction.
A perfect day trip from all location throughout the Riviera Maya and Yucatan Peninsula. Chichen Itza is the most popular Mayan Ruin destination and provides phenomenal photo opportunities and interesting insights to the Mayan culture.
Since it sits along the main highway (307) in the Riviera Maya, the directions are pretty simple. You can rent a car from the Cancun International Airport or Playa del Carmen and head South on the federal highway. Akumal is just over an hour from the airport and half an hour from Playa del Carmen. Good signage marks the spot where you will have to take a u-turn and pass through the Akumal arch on the east side of the highway.
If you want to do a day trip from any of the resorts or towns along the Riviera Maya, a colectivo (van taxi) is a convenient and reliable method of transportation. For about $2USD, you can get picked up at any point along the highway and dropped off a few steps from the entrance of Akumal. Just be sure to notify the driver of your destination at the time you board.
A regular taxi is efficient, but will cost you much more from Canucun or Playa del Carmen. If you prefer a direct ride, this would be an option.
A private van transfer is another alternative if you have a larger group and would prefer to customize your own itinerary. Say for example you would like to snorkel with the sea turtles, visit the ruins in Tulum and explore a cenote. A van service allows you to design your own adventure, or can make suggestions based on your preferences. The drivers are also very knowledgeable and can offer information and history as you go along your way. If you want to beat the crowds and customize your trip, this would be the way to go.
Some parts of the beach are private. The private spots are clearly marked. There are lots of room there and lots of palm trees for cover. We have found the beaches here safe to leave things while we snorkel and have never been ripped off. Exercise caution here and do not leave any “valuables” on the beach while you are way out snorkeling.
If you continue on the road into Akumal, the road winds north to Yal Ku Lagoon which is an excellent place to snorkel. You could call it a poor-mans-Xel-Ha. On the way you pass Half Moon Bay which is a good place to see Sea Turtles.
You can walk from the highway to Half Moon Bay, but it is a long walk and walking all the way to Ya Kul is a real long walk. You can get a taxi at the front gate near the highway or at the arches near the main Akumal beach when going to Ya Kul.
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT AKUMAL
For a town with a population of under 2000, Akumal offers plenty of activities to keep nature-loving adventurists happy and enough delectable restaurants to satisfy any hunger pang.
Its sparse development is why it still remains an alluring destination after all these years. However, this also means certain grocery store items and other services are not as conveniently accessible as they might be in a larger nearby city.
For groceries and an ATM, Super Chomak, located near the entrance of Akumal is your best option for groceries. This mini superstore sells some imported products, kitchen staples, beach attire, and alcohol. It is open form 7am-9pm daily.
In this same area is an OXXO convenience store, open 24 hours.
Tip: When visiting Akumal, bring cash as some establishments, parking lots and the nearby cenotes do not accept credit cards.
VISITOR INFORMATION & TIPS
Akumal is a major nesting site for sea turtles May through November. As more and more tourists pop up to witness the turtles more and more harm is done. Conservation efforts have been implemented but resources, especially financial ones, are minimal.
Please help protect these ancient magnificent creatures by going into the nesting areas only with a qualified guide.
The Centro Ecological Akumal [CEA] offers nightly turtle walks during nesting season. Please sign up in the morning at the CEA center. Only ten people can go at one time. You will be provided with red film to cover your light and the guide will inform you when it is safe to take pictures.
This is the best beach on the Mayan Riviera coast for snorkeling
The atmosphere and vibe is completely different compared to Playa del Carmen and Cancun! This was our first time swimming with turtles. This is the best beach on the Mayan Riviera coast for snorkeling. If you're up for just snorkeling and seeing pretty fish and turtles this is your place!