Akumal is a small beach town on Mexico’s Maya Riviera. Its name means “Place of the Turtle” in the Mayan language. If you go to the Akumal Beach, or Playa Akumal, you’ll see where it gets the name. This beach welcomes thousands of visitors every year and is famous for swimming with the turtles in Mexico but also for its white sands, warm waters, and rich marine life.
Akumal Beach is extremely beautiful and definitely worth visiting. Today, I’ll take you on a trip to the beach and its surrounding area and show you what to do in Playa Akumal besides swimming with the turtle, including some of the best Mexico snorkeling spots, after Baja California of course!
What’s special about Playa Akumal?
Playa Akumal offers tourists the unique experience of swimming with turtles in Mexico (please don’t touch them though). You also get to see underwater coral reefs and other marine life. The turquoise waters are very clear and swimming in them is a very enjoyable experience.
If that sounds like your gem, you’ll have to get here very early during the day. Only 200 people are allowed to swim in the protected turtle zone each day. If you want to be one of those people, get here as early as possible and hire a guide to show you the best spots where you can swim with the turtles.
Although until a couple of years ago you could swim with the turtle on your own, now it’s not possible anymore and you need to hire a guide to get to the spot where you are sure to see them. However if you want to take your chance and avoid the guided tour, you can swim a little further east out of the marked area and you may be able to see them anyway. It’s less certain but possible as the turtles are free to swim wherever they want.
The turtles themselves are very used to swimming with human beings, since they see thousands of us every year. It’s quite a unique experience. Just make sure not to go too close to them and please don’t touch them. While they’re not dangerous, you can easily cause harm to them. There’s also an abundance of other types of marine life that you can enjoy fishing with, such as barracudas, stingrays, and manta rays.
While the beach itself is easily one of the best parts of Akumal, the area around it is extremely beautiful as well. After all, you don’t want to take a long trip just to visit a beach and then take a trip back to your hotel.
To the north, you have Playa Blanca, Laguna Yal-Ku (which closes at 5 PM), and the famous Half-moon Bay. To the south, you’ll find Jade Bay, which has residential communities, tourist resorts, and other tourist attractions. The town and the whole area, in general, are surrounded by lush greenery and have all sorts of wildlife.
How to get there
Now that you know why you should visit the area, let me tell you some of the ways you can use to get here.
Rent a car
If you’re currently in Playa Del Carmen, I recommend renting a car and taking the 307 highway south. The drive should take you about 30-40 minutes maximum. If you’re in Tulum and have a car, you’ll have to drive north on the 307 highway. It’ll take you about 30 minutes this way too.
You may be interested in my detailed post about renting a car in Mexico, in case you are concerned or want to get some tips from a local.
Also if you rent a car, you are free to explore the surrounding area and check out the nearby attraction, such as the best cenotes on the Riviera Maya (Azul and Taak-bi-ha) or the nearby Xpu-ha beach, one of my favorite beaches in Mexico!
If you don’t have a car, you can take a taxi from Tulum or Playa Del Carmen directly to Akumal. Make sure to agree on the fare with the drive beforehand to avoid any unpleasantness for when you arrive at the destination.
If you have luggage and are planning to stay in the area, I don’t recommend this option because the colectivos are often small and don’t have enough room for your luggage. Colectivos are the best option for you if you’re just going to the area on a day trip and are on a budget. A “collective” (small bus) costs about 35-45 pesos per person.
Hotels near Akumal Beach
In case you decide to stay in the area (which you absolutely should), here are a few hotels you can choose from.
Las Villas Akumal
If you’re looking for somewhere with a quiet atmosphere and great views of the Mediterranean Sea, then this beachfront hotel is the place to stay. It’s a great hotel for families and friends to stay in, as it focuses on giving you a feeling of home away from home. You can book villas, apartments, or rooms, according to your requirements.
Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya
Secrets Akumal is a 5-star all-inclusive, adults-only resort with multiple spas, pools, and different types of restaurants and bars. It’s perfect for couples who are here on a honeymoon. You’ll be living in luxury, and the food is absolutely delicious.
It’s the perfect hotel for you if you’re on a budget. It’s situated within walking distance of the highway, so you can easily get colectivos, and the beach is only 10-15 minutes’ walk away. The staff and service are excellent and you’ll get the best bang for your buck here.
When to visit Akumal Beach
You’ll want to visit Akumal Beach between June and November, as this is the turtle nesting season and you’ll maximize your chances of swimming with the turtles. More specifically, September is when you’re most likely to see the turtles. Make sure to have plenty of sunscreen as you can easily get sunburnt, even when it’s cloudy and even when you’re under the shade. If you’re planning on staying until sundown and even later, keep a mosquito repellant with you.
As I mentioned earlier, only 200 people can swim with the turtles per day because it’s a protected zone. So make sure to get here as early in the day as possible and reserve your spot. You’ll also want to hire a guide to show you the best spots where you can swim with the turtles.
If you’re planning to stay in the area, September to November is also the best season because there aren’t a lot of tourists in the area and you’ll get the best prices for your rooms. Not to mention it’ll be much more peaceful at the beach.