Best Things to Do in Akumal

YAL KU LAGOON

If you pass the main bay and continue on the principal road through the archway in Akumal (east side of the highway,) it will veer to the left (North.) At the end of this road is the stunning Yal Ku Lagoon, a popular spot known for its calm waters and snorkeling.

The water is about 10 feet deep and beneath the surface, experienced and novice snorkelers will love observing the pink and purple coral formations and abundance of tropical fish. There are palapa huts near the water’s entrance. No coolers are allowed inside the natural park, but there is a restaurant if you desire food and drink. The cost is about $15-$20USD to enter and you can rent snorkel equipment on-site or bring your own.

Tip:  There is less of a current in the water to the left side of the lagoon. It is shallower and more fish tend to congregate in this area. (Note: This is from our own personal experience the last two times we visited there.)

SNORKELING WITH SEA TURTLES

Snorkeling Akumal

There is a professional company that offers life jacket rentals and guides just beyond the dive shops on the beach. We have used both this company and other family-owned local guide companies for a reef tour. In our experience, the more professional company was the one under the palapa. We covered a larger portion of the reef with the guide from this company and he seemed much more experienced with the children.

The cost for the guide and the equipment rentals is about $15USD per person. The snorkeling tour lasts about one hour and is recommended for children aged 7 and up. You are welcome to go at your leisure for free if you have your own gear and do not require a guide.

Tip: It is illegal to touch the turtles. The founders of Akumal, marine life preservation agencies, and residents have worked tirelessly to protect these graceful sea creatures. Be courteous guests when visiting them in their home and for their sake, please give them their space as you watch them go about their business.

DEEP SEA AND REEF DIVING

There are 3 dive centers in the Akumal area, 2 on the beaches of the main Akumal Bay and one on the main road heading towards the North in Half Moon Bay.

The longstanding Akumal Dive Shop has over 35 years of experience and is located in Akumal Bay. Along with deep sea diving excursions, the company offers nearby cavern and night dives as well.

Akumal Dive Center is closer to the entrance of Akumal, on the South side of Lol Ha Restaurant and Bar. Equipment rentals and classes are available, as are sea kayak rentals. Both shops are open from 8:00am on.

Akumal Dive Adventures is next to La Buena Vida and opens at 8:30am. Here you can learn about coral formations and the different varieties of tropical fish, as well as explore the coastal waters through deep sea diving or cave diving.

Tip: It is recommended that you reserve your dive excursion at least 1 day in advance.

SAILING

To sail across the crystalline waters surrounding Akumal on a catamaran with friends and family is an experience you’ll never forget. Swim, snorkel and fish in the turquoise, Caribbean Sea, while the crew prepares a batch of fresh ceviche (fish cured with lime juice!)

For lovebirds, a 2-hour sunset cruise takes romance to a new level! Sip on refreshments while watching the vivid pink and orange sun as it descends over the vast jungle.

SWIM IN CENOTES

Cenotes near Akumal

Within 5 minutes of Akumal are several picturesque, limestone sinkholes. Visitors can jump from cliffs, snorkel, explore underwater cave systems and enjoy fish pedicures in the crystal clear waters of these cenotes.

The average entrance fee is about $90 pesos per person ($6USD). There are life jackets available for rent and most have snack shops. You can pack your own lunch and drinks, but alcohol is prohibited. Popular nearby cenotes are Eden, Cristalino, Azul and Dos Ojos.

Tip: For all water activities, please use biodegradable sunscreen so as not to pollute the environment nor harm the majestic marine life in the region.

DEEP SEA FISHING

Head out to sea for your chance to catch Barracuda, Tuna, Mahi Mahi, Sailfish or maybe even the elusive Marlin! A tour lasts approximately 3 hours with a 4-person maximum for each trip.

BIKE AND GOLF CART RENTALS

Since Akumal remains a charming, little town, a fun way to experience it is by renting a golf cart or bikes for the day. Make a pit stop at the bay for snorkeling, enjoy an order of shrimp cocktail and a cold beer at one of the beachside eateries, then walk around or take a dip in the Yal Ku Lagoon.

Best Things to Do in Playa del Carmen

Ah Playa…what a great little beach city. In so many ways, it’s the perfect fun-in-the-sun vacation destination. On a gorgeous stretch of Caribbean coastline, Playa is smack dab in the middle of the paradisaic Mayan Riviera.

The city itself offers many attractions, plus you don’t have to go far to enjoy the raw beauty of the surrounding area.

Playa del Carmen has its own charming character that’s youthful, free-spirited and yet ambitious. This once sleepy little fishing village has developed rapidly. It’s definitely more grown up than Tulum, but far more bohemian and quaint than Cancun. Just walk 5th Ave [affectionately known as La Quinta], and you’ll see this beach city’s fun personality all around you!


5th Avenue Shopping & Sightseeing

5th Ave Playa del Carmen

This pedestrian thoroughfare stretches over 25 blocks running parallel with the beach. It’s like an outdoor mall or market but with a tropical carnival flavor! This is truly the heart of Playa. Chances are, you’ll stroll this little avenue a few times during your vacation. It’s too fun to resist!

Lining both sides of 5th there are hundreds of stores, restaurants and bars. If you came to shop, you’ll have your hands full! In one block, you’ll see high-end stores sandwiched between local merchant shops. Colorful souvenirs are stacked high, silver jewelry sparkles in the sunshine and leather purses, hammocks and panchos swing in the breeze.

You don’t even have to buy anything or stop anywhere for a bite…it’s an experience just to walk La Quinta and see all there is to be seen! Visit the extremely cool outdoor art gallery that sets up along the ave every Thursday night, called CaminArte. Watch artists at work and buy a unique memento of your trip!

TIP: Merchants and staff can sometimes be aggressive. Just stay cool and say “No Gracias” if you’re not interested and they’ll turn to bothering someone else! If you do want to browse a bit, be friendly and try out your Spanish (they’ll appreciate it even if it’s meager)! These guys don’t make much money and competition is stiff. Your good manners are appreciated and bartering is expected.

USEFUL SPANISH PHRASES:

Spanish Pronunciation English
Como te llamas? [Como tay YAM-mass] What’s your name?
Me llamo ….. [May YAM-moh] My name is …..
Mucho gusto. [MOO-choh GOOSE-toh] Nice to meet you.
Cuanto es? [KWAN-toh ess] How much is it?
Que precio tiene? [Kay PRAY-seeoh TEA-ennay] What’s the price?
Hay un descuento? [I oon dess-KWEN-toh] Is there a discount?
Gracias por todo. [GRASS-ee-ass pour TOH-doh] Thanks for everything.
Necesito una bolsa. [Ness-ess-EAT-toh oona BOWL-sah] I need a bag.
Aceptas tarjetas de credito? [Ass-SAYp-tass tar-HEY-tass day CRAY-dee-toh] Do you accept credit cards?
Aceptas dolares Americanos? [Ass-SAYp-tass DOH-lar-ess Amer-ee-CAN-nos] Do you accept American dollars?

Beach It Up!

Playa del Carmen Beaches

Like most of us, you came to visit the beach, right? Relaxing, playing, eating and drinking on the beach…that’s pretty much what Playa is all about. Around here, they know how to do it right!

One of the best things about Playa del Carmen is that you can stroll the beach for hours and find your perfect slice of paradise. Even if you’re staying in a beachfront hotel, don’t stay stuck in one area of the beach! It’s all public access and there are a lot of beautiful spots.

Lots of guests [especially the ones who’ve been here before] love to pack up a little cooler of drinks, a Mexican blanket, perhaps a book or frisbee, and hit the sand. Some expat residents here tote everything down to the beach on their bicycle, even beach chairs and umbrellas at times!

You can hit a beach club for the day and get pampered, if this is something your hotel doesn’t offer. Who doesn’t dream of being brought an chilled tropical cocktail while lounging on a sun bed as the waves lap the shore a few feet away? Playa has a great variety of beach clubs, each with their own charm.

TIP: There isn’t a lot of good snorkeling to be had in Playa, unfortunately. Construction and development have obliterated most of the mangroves, and this has affected the health of the coral reefs. If snorkeling is something your heart is set on, it’s best to visit a dive shop and go on a tour. Or visit nearby Akumal or Puerto Morelos.

You can swim virtually anywhere along Playa’s coastline. The currents are gentle, although you’ll notice they do gradually pull you northwards. [Lifeguards and colored flags will let you know the status of the water and how safe it is that day.] This is great news for families with small children. Unlike Cancun or even other destinations on the other side of Mexico, Playa’s shoreline has shallow, clear water and minimal waves.

There are two wheelchair accessible beaches in Playa del Carmen, with free amenities for disabled persons. The most convenient one is located right off the main square, nestled beside the ferry dock in downtown Playa. The other is at the north end of town at Playa Esmerelda [a gorgeous non-touristy beach in the local district].


Party All Night

Coco Bongo

A few of Playa’s beach clubs transform into nightclubs. Some have fire-dance shows, live bands and other nightly entertainment. And for the all-night, party-til-you-drop crew, the clubs on calle 12 are where to be. Be prepared to be amazed at COCO BONGO, with a phenomenal floor show and dance party that lasts until the wee hours of the morning.

Several times during the year there are DJ and dance festivals, held at different locations in and around PDC. Partyers can dance all day and all night, if they can handle it!

About 30km south of Playa, at the CATALONIA TULUM RESORT, a new theater has caused quite a stir. The no-inhibitions production entitled RAUXA is a burlesque-style show that performs several times a week.


Water Sports and More

Have you tried fly-boarding yet? It’s one of the latest sensations rippling across the beach scene and Playa has taken it up in a big way. Strapped to a type of wakeboard with powerful water propulsion jets, you’ll have the feeling of flying, and you can tumble and spin in and out of the water. Or you can try the same concept but on a bike; it’s even easier to use.

There are also several places along the beach where you can rent jet-skis and rip around. There are also kayaks and little catamarans to take your crew out on the water. Paddle-boarding is fantastic here most of the year, since the sea is usually fairly calm. It’s fun to get out on the crystal-clear water, plus this is a decent work-out for your core!

Not exactly a water sport but amazingly scenic because it happens over the ocean–can you guess what it is? Skydiving! Every day skydivers get the thrill of a lifetime and land on Playacar beach, south of the ferry dock. Imagine jumping out of a plane at 12,000 feet over the stunningly blue Caribbean Sea!

Right in Playacar there is the beautiful Hard Rock 18-hole golf club that’s worth playing! There are also several other excellent golf courses in the area [Mayakoba, Puerto Aventuras, etc.] And, of course, there’s always beach volleyball–have some fun while you work on that tan! Nets are set up for public use at Senor Frog’s [by the ferry dock] and near Mamita’s Beach. Several resorts have their own nets as well.

RECENT GUIDES