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15 Things to Know BEFORE Visiting Akumal Beach, Mexico

15 Things to Know BEFORE Visiting Akumal Beach, Mexico

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I think we can all agree that swimming with sea turtles is an amazing, bucket list-worthy experience, and Akumal Beach in Mexico is one of the best places in the world to splash around with these majestic creatures! 

We often say that there are more things to do in Tulum than just partying, and Akumal Beach totally proves this point. It’s about 30 minutes from town, and it’s one of the best beaches in Mexico to visit even without the turtles, but their presence takes this place from excellent to epic. 

The sea turtles here are wild, so there’s never a guarantee that you’ll see them but it’s super rare to come here and not spot at least one! It’s not uncommon to see over 10 turtles on a single visit. 

We had such a blast when we visited this beautiful beach, so we just had to share all of the important info in a blog, because you really can’t miss this one when you visit the Yucatan Peninsula

Don’t have time to read the full article? If you love sea turtles, then Akumal Beach is the place for you! Make a day of it by taking this Cenote, Snorkel, and Lunch tour where a guide will take you exploring at multiple spots, and you’ll wrap up your adventure with a delectable lunch at a beach club hideaway!

1. About Akumal Beach

A huge turtle swims through the waters of Akumal Beach in Mexico
A sting ray at Akumal Beach while on a snorkeling tour in Mexico

Akumal Beach is a beautiful bay located on the Yucatan Peninsula which is home to an abundance of amazing sea turtles. The turtles come here because lots of sea grass grows on the bottom of the bay, and its protected waters are perfect for young turtles who aren’t yet strong enough to navigate choppy waters. 

In fact, “Akumal” means “place of turtles” in the Maya language!

Of course, tourists got wise to the fact that Akumal Bay is a prime spot to swim with sea turtles, and about 10 years ago it began to suffer from over-tourism. The turtles at Akumal were suffering from water contamination from things like sunscreen and human urine (gross, but true). And perhaps even worse was the fact that they were developing tumors from chronic stress because so many tourists were reaching out and grabbing them. 

Fortunately, the Mexican authorities put rules and regulations in place to protect the turtles. There are specific swimming zones in the bay and there’s a limit to how many people can be inside each zone at any one time so that the turtles don’t get too stressed out. You also have to go in with a certified guide to make sure that you’re respecting the rules. So basically, you can swim with turtles at Akumal Beach with a clear conscience! 

You don’t just see turtles here, either. We didn’t realize that we would see so much other marine life at Akumal Beach, including starfish, stingrays, and lots of colorful tropical fish. It really was incredible!

2. Where is Akumal Beach?

Akumal Beach, Mexico
Akumal Beach, Mexico

Akumal Beach is one of the beaches on the Yucatan Peninsula in the Quintana Roo province. It’s part of the Riviera Maya which means it’s within easy reach of most of the popular tourist towns in the area. 

We visited Akumal Beach on a day trip from Tulum, which is just 27.5 kilometers (17 miles) away, and it took us about half an hour to get there. It’s also close to Playa del Carmen, which is 38.4 kilometers (23.8 miles) away, and Cancun is 104 kilometers (64 miles) away, so you could also easily take a day trip from Cancun

Related Read: While you’re in the area, take a quick ferry ride to check out all the things to do in Cozumel including some of the best scuba diving spots I’ve seen!

3. What is the best time to visit Akumal Beach?

Bailey at Akumal beach, Mexico
Daniel gets his snorkel and life jacket before going on a tour at Akumal Beach

What’s awesome about Akumal Beach is that you can see turtles here all year round! However, we think that the prime time is between June and November. This is turtle nesting season, so you can see baby sea turtles as well as adult ones. 

Meanwhile, the dry season is from November to April, so this is when you’ll enjoy the best weather at Akumal. We went in April and the conditions were glorious! Plus, we saw a ton of turtles.

We also highly recommend going in the morning. The beach gets super busy at lunchtime and in the afternoon, so it’s better to arrive before the crowds roll in. You’ll have a more peaceful experience and you won’t have to wait to get in the water. 

4. Is Akumal Beach safe? 

A snorkel tour group surrounded by fish at Akumal Beach in Mexico

Yes, it’s very safe around here. We didn’t feel worried at all during our visit. 

The only potential problem is petty theft if you leave your stuff unattended while you’re in the water, but there are lockers available so this shouldn’t be an issue – just remember to bring your own padlock. And let’s be honest, “don’t leave your belongings unattended” is good advice wherever you are in the world!

Related Read: Before you book a flight, we have more travel safety tips on Mexico here!

5. How do you get to Akumal Beach?

Bailey takes a break from snorkeling while at Akumal Beach and smiles at the camera while in the water

Car 

We drove our rental car to Akumal Beach and it was a breeze. We rented a car through Discover Cars, which is our go-to wherever we are in the world, and then the drive to Akumal was really easy. 

To get to Akumal from Tulum, take Highway 307 north and follow the road until you enter the town of Akumal and come to an intersection. There, turn right on Reforma Agraria and then head to either the public parking lot or one of the private ones. 

If you’re coming from Cancun or Playa del Carmen, you will also need to drive along Highway 307 to get to Akumal, only you’ll be heading south and will turn left at the intersection instead. 

Bus

If you don’t want to rent a car in Mexico, you can also take a Mayab bus to Akumal Beach. It runs a bit more like a shuttle than a public bus, so you’ll need to tell the driver you want to be dropped off in Akumal when you board. 

You can catch one of these buses from the ADO autobus terminals in Tulum, Cancun, or Playa del Carmen, but they only run about every 4 hours, so if you need to use public transport, we recommend taking a colectivo instead. 

Colectivo 

A colectivo is a shared minivan that carries around 10-15 passengers at a time. They’re a cheap and convenient way to travel, although you can’t book them in advance. Instead, you have to stand by the side of the road and hail one like a cab! 

In Tulum, you can stand on Avenida Tulum and flag a colectivo down. They come every 10-15 minutes, but they will only stop for you if there’s space on board. You can also hail one from the town center in Playa del Carmen, or near the ADO bus station in Cancun

A colectivo journey will only cost around 40-100 pesos ($2-5 USD) each way, so this is a super cost-effective way of getting to Akumal without a car. They run every day from around 7 am – 10 pm, although there’s not an exact schedule you can download.

Taxi

If you can’t be bothered with the fuss of getting public transport to Akumal, you can also take a taxi instead. This is obviously a bit pricier, but it’s also super easy. A taxi will cost you around 540 pesos ($30 USD) from either Tulum or Playa del Carmen, but it will probably be twice as much from Cancun as it’s further away. 

6. Is there parking at Akumal Beach?

Daniel pays for parking in our rental car in Mexico at Akumal Beach
Paying for parking!
A private parking area at Akumal Beach
A private parking area at Akumal Beach

Yes, there is. You can park in the public parking lot right by the beach for 20 pesos per hour (about $1 USD) but this may already be full if you arrive close to midday.

There are also a couple of private parking lots that you can use which charge a flat fee of 100 pesos ($6 USD) per day. So you’ll definitely be able to find parking one way or another! 

7. How much is the entrance fee to Akumal Beach?

People line up to buy tickets to Akumal Beach
People line up to buy tickets to Akumal Beach
A wrist band for Akumal Beach on Daniels wrist
A wristband for Akumal Beach on Daniel’s wrist

You have to go through gates to get to Akumal Beach, and you’ll need to pay an entry fee in cash on your way in. It’s 120 pesos ($7 USD) and you have to pay in cash. I always think that it’s best to make sure you have exact change in these situations, too.

8. What are the hours of Akumal Beach?

Snorkeling with fish at Akumal Beach in Mexico
A Turtle swims in Akumal Beach, Mexico

Officially, Akumal Beach is open from 9 am until 5 pm. In reality, however, people do stay on the beach later than that, and some tours even leave after this time. It’s still best to get there before 5 pm though to be on the safe side. Tours take about 45 minutes, so we say arrive no later than 4 pm to make sure you don’t miss out. 

Technically, the beach is supposed to be closed on Monday but this rule isn’t actually enforced, so you can visit on any day of the week!

9. How do you go snorkeling at Akumal Beach? 

Beautiful shot of a turtle at Akumal Beach in Mexico
Beautiful shot of a turtle at Akumal Beach in Mexico

You have to join a tour to go snorkeling here because of the rules in place to protect the turtles. You can join one on the day at the beach, but we think it’s best to book one online before you go. This is because not all of the tours at Akumal were created equally. Some of the guides are actually pretty bad and will only do the bare minimum in terms of teaching you about the turtles and the local area. 

We chose this private tour because of its fantastic reviews, and we’re SO glad that we did. Our guide taught us loads about the area, its turtles, and the local efforts to protect them. It was one of the best tours around Tulum that we did!

It was great to get so much insight from a local who was clearly passionate about Akumal and its turtles, and it really made the experience special for us. Plus, at $45 USD per person for a private tour, we thought it was really good value for money. You can book the exact same tour we did online here!

Related Read: Take the chance to swim with another amazing creature by booking a whale shark tour in Tulum!

10. Do you need to take a tour to see the turtles at Akumal Beach? 

Two people swim with a turtle at Akumal Beach in Mexico

Yes, you can only snorkel at Akumal Beach with a certified guide. Basically, there are lots of lines in the water to divide up the area into different zones and you can only enter the turtle zone as part of a guided tour. There’s also an area that’s strictly a no-human zone to make sure that the turtles have space to themselves. 

We were really impressed with how well the turtles were protected and it’s easily one of the best tours in the Yucatan Peninsula to take. We try to travel as ethically as possible and respect nature, so we were glad to see that conservation is taken seriously here. Plus, our Akumal Beach tour was amazing and really enriched our experience.

11. What are the facilities at Akumal Beach?

The lockers at Akumal Beach for rent
The lockers at Akumal Beach for rent
A man checks tickets at Akumal Beach in Mexico
A man checks tickets at Akumal Beach in Mexico

Lockers

You can rent lockers on the beach, which is definitely advisable. I mean, if your phone gets stolen while you’re in the water, the price of replacing it is certainly going to be more than a locker rental. Plus, it’s really cheap to rent lockers here at around 20 pesos (about $1 USD, depending on the exchange rate). You will need to pay in cash and bring your own padlock. 

Restaurants 

There are lots of restaurants around Akumal Bay. Lol-Ha is one of the most popular options, thanks in part to its great margaritas, and La Cueva del Pescador is a nice place to enjoy some fresh seafood. Most of the restaurants are pretty expensive, but they all take both cash and card, which is convenient.

Changing rooms and bathrooms

There are changing rooms and bathrooms that you can use for free at the beach – yay! I mean, I guess technically this is part of what you’re paying for when you pay your entrance fee to the beach, but it’s still nice not to have to pay anything more to use the facilities. 

As we mentioned earlier, human urine was found to be part of what was causing so many problems for the turtles ten years ago, so do make use of the bathrooms rather than going in the ocean! 

12. What are the best tours to Akumal Beach?

A fish swims under a turtle at Akumal Beach in Mexico while on a snorkeling tour
A fish swims under a turtle at Akumal Beach in Mexico while on a snorkeling tour

Swim with Turtles in Akumal Bay (no transportation)

If you already have your own wheels to get to Akumal Beach (via rental car or one of the other transport methods we mentioned earlier), remember you still need a tour! You wouldn’t want to travel all this way and not get to swim with the turtles. We took this private tour of Akumal Beach and it was a great way to see the turtles without stressing about the details.

Because we had booked in advance, we knew that all we needed to pack were bathing suits and towels – all the snorkeling equipment and entrance fees are included. Our local guide was so passionate about the turtles and very kind and since it’s a private tour, we could ask questions and didn’t feel rushed at all. It was a great deal for $45 USD and is available to easily book online in advance.

Half-Day Sea Turtle and Cenote Snorkeling Tour from Cancun and Playa del Carmen

What we love about this snorkeling tour is that it combines swimming at Akumal Beach with a visit to a cenote deep in the Yucatan rainforest, so you get two amazing snorkeling experiences in a single day!

You’ll start with a visit to explore the underwater world at Akumal Bay and see how many turtles you can spot! The guides on this tour are so confident you’ll see turtles, it’s actually guaranteed!

After you dry off from that swim, it’s off to a nature park in the Yucatan rainforest that has a huge underground river system. I love that you get to wander through the caves and caverns (don’t worry, it’s an easy walk!) before jumping into a massive cenote to do a bit of snorkeling. Make sure you don’t just look under the water though – the stalagmites and stalactites all around are pretty incredible too!

The guides are super knowledgeable, and you get yummy snacks along the way so you don’t have to spend money at the expensive restaurants around Akumal Bay. Hotel pickup and drop-off are available from Cancun and Playa del Carmen, so there’s no need to worry about transport or parking, either. The tour costs $89 USD per person, but this doesn’t include a $15 USD conservation fee that you’ll have to pay in cash on the day of the tour.

I’ll warn you that this tour is really popular, so make sure you book online here so you’ll have a guaranteed spot!

Tulum Ruins Cenote and Swimming with Turtles from Playa del Carmen and Cancun

If you’re staying in Playa del Carmen or Cancun but want to take a turtle-filled trip to Tulum, then we think that this full-day tour is an excellent choice.

You’ll visit the Tulum Ruins, which are beautiful in their own right, but even more so thanks to their cliff-top location. Then, you’ll head to Akumal Beach to swim with the turtles before going on to explore one of the gorgeous cenotes around Tulum – specifically Cenote Zemway which is an open-air natural pool with towering cliffs you can jump from – although I wasn’t that brave!

For $103 USD per person (including transport and lunch) this tour really does pack a lot into a single day! Make sure to book a spot online here if you want a fun-filled day around Akumal Beach!

Private Tour Turtle Experience and Cenote Swim from Playa del Carmen or Tulum

This private tour basically gives you the ultimate day out in nature along the Riviera Maya! You really get the VIP treatment with this one. We really like that they take you to a local restaurant for a fresh and delicious lunch, and water and soda are included along the way which, trust us, you’ll be very grateful for the Mexican heat! 

The tour lasts for 5-6 hours. You start by snorkeling with the turtles at Akumal Beach and then you visit Parque dos Ojos where you explore a cenote in the middle of the rainforest. Since this is a private tour, you get to choose which cenote you visit, which we think is pretty awesome. 

This tour costs $199 USD per person – although the price drops depending on how many people you’re booking for. It includes lunch, all of your equipment, and hotel pickup and drop-off from Playa del Carmen or Tulum and can be booked through Viator.

Hidden Cenote Swim, Snorkeling with Sea Turtles, and Beachside Lunch

For us, cenotes, snorkeling with turtles, and lounging at beach clubs are three of the best things to do in Mexico, and this small group tour has them all! It’s an absolute blast and we think it’s a great way to get to know some fellow travelers! 

You can take this tour from pretty much anywhere in the Riviera Maya, but the first stop of the day is a cenote in Tulum which you’ll get to explore before heading to Akumal Beach to swim. Then, after you’ve had your fill of turtles, you’ll head to the gorgeous Punta Venado Beach Club in Playa del Carmen for lunch (and cocktails, if you like, but you’ll need to pay extra for them). It’s a very secluded spot with plenty of space to lounge in the sun and chill out after all of your aquatic adventures. 

This tour costs $159 USD per person which we think gives you a decent amount of bang for your buck. We don’t love super crowded group tours, so the size of this one (max 12 people) felt just right for the experience. If this experience is calling your name, book online before it sells out!

Coba Guided Tour Plus Sea Turtle Snorkeling and Beachside Lunch

We think that the Coba Ruins are among the best Mayan ruins in Mexico. They don’t get as many visitors as some of the other archaeological sites around, and they’re also huge, so you feel like you have the place to yourself here – it’s all very Indiana Jones. This half-day tour gets you a front-row seat to the impressive ruins along with a chance to see the turtles and visit an exclusive beach club.

The ruins are really cool, but believe me, the water feels amazing after time in the heat walking around! The stop at Akumal Bay was very welcomed along with the trip to the Punta Venado Beach Club for some rest, relaxation, and frozen cocktails (yes, please!). 

This tour costs $179 USD per person and can be easily booked through Viator so you can take advantage of the book now, pay later option. Make sure you book at least two days in advance so you’ll get transportation included from nearby hotels in the area. It’s a great way to gain more insight into the history and culture of Mexico, while also enjoying its natural beauty. 

13. Can you stay at Akumal Beach? 

Las Villas Akumal view of the ocean from the hotel
Photo credit: Las Villas Akumal

Yes, you can! There are some great hotels around Akumal Beach … although we will say that it’s definitely more of a “splurge” than save kind of place. The hotels around here tend to be on the more luxurious end of the spectrum, so if you’re treating yourself on vacay go for it, but if you’re on a tighter budget it’s probably better to check out the hotels in Tulum, Playa del Carmen, or Cancun.

Las Villas Akumal 

Las Villas Akumal is a resort that’s right on the beachfront, so you’ll have views for days. There’s even a private beach! There’s also a rooftop restaurant and the hotel’s kayaks and snorkeling equipment are free to use, which we think is a great bonus!

Suites start from $113 USD per night, which is actually pretty reasonable for Akumal and the size of the room you’re getting and the whole place is spotless. You can find great deals for rooms at Las Villas Akumal on Booking.com!

Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya

If you’re looking for a luxurious place to stay, Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya is perfect. It’s an adults-only hotel, so it’s perfect for a romantic getaway or even a honeymoon (especially because every room has its own hot tub!). There’s also a gym, a tennis court, and even a nightclub on-site, and there are bicycles that you can use for free to explore the local area. 

Prices here start at $575 USD per night for a junior suite, so it’s not cheap, but if you’re looking for a luxury stay close to Mexico’s best turtle beach, you really can’t go wrong. You can check dates and book a luxury getaway online here!

Hotel Club Akumal Caribe

The 3-star Hotel Club Akumal Caribe has comfortable rooms and bungalows if you want a bit more space. It has direct access to the beach as well as a nice big swimming pool. There’s also a spa on-site if you feel like treating yourself to a facial or a massage, and the staff is super friendly, so you’ll feel right at home.

Prices start at $250 USD per night for a bungalow, and breakfast is included. Check availability for the bungalows and book a stay online.

Akumal Bay Beach & Wellness Resort

This relaxed, 4-star wellness resort is ideal for couples or families. We love that every single room at Akumal Bay Beach & Wellness Resort has an ocean view because there’s nothing quite like waking up to a beautiful vista. Plus, there’s a kids club so parents can go and enjoy the fitness classes or wellness treatments on offer, or families can enjoy beach volleyball and snorkeling all together.

You have to book this resort for at least 3 nights at a time, and prices start at $1,905 USD for a junior suite. Admittedly, this does sound quite pricey, but this resort is all-inclusive, so you won’t have to pay for any food or drinks on top of this. If that’s not a good reason to enjoy some margaritas by the pool, then we don’t know what is! We’ve found great deals for this property on Booking.com, so check before you book!

Related Read: If you are planning to be based out of Cancun, here’s our unbiased review of the best Cancun resorts to choose from!

14. What are the best things to do near Akumal Beach?

A man swims in Cenote Azul, Mexico
Cenote Azul

Visit Cenote Puerta Maya

Cenote Puerta Maya is just 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from Akumal Beach so you can easily stop here for a swim after snorkeling with the turtles. In fact, we think it would be a shame not to! Its bright blue waters are very inviting, and even though it’s close to the beach, this place makes you feel like you’re nestled in the middle of the jungle. 

This cenote is sometimes known as “27 Steps” because there are 27 stone steps that lead to the water, which were carved out by the Mayans thousands of years ago. It’s super atmospheric and we think that this cenote is a really fun little stop to add to your Akumal adventure!

Akumal Art Walk

We absolutely love checking out street art all over the world, and every year, hundreds of pieces of street art are painted all over town for the annual Akumal Arts Festival. During the festival, you can take a guided Akumal Art Walk through town, which is a great chance to check out murals from some super-talented local artists. Even if you aren’t here for the actual festival, we just enjoyed walking around town to see cool murals from previous years.

Yal-Ku Cenote/Lagoon

Okay so technically, Yal-Ku is a cenote but it’s so big and clear that it looks more like a massive lagoon. It’s a gorgeous place to swim and snorkel surrounded by mangroves, and there’s a ton of marine life to explore – so much so, in fact, that we felt like we were in a real-life aquarium! We thought that this place was incredible and we highly recommend visiting while you’re in Akumal Bay! 

We were also surprised to discover that the Yal-Ku cenote is tucked away inside a small residential area. I mean, talk about a hidden gem! 

Yal-Ku is located here, about 2.6 kilometers (1.6 miles) from Akumal Beach. To get into the residential area, you’ll have to pass through a security checkpoint, but if you tell the guard that you want to visit the cenote, he’ll wave you through with a smile. Once you get to the cenote, there’s free parking, as well as lockers, toilets, changing rooms, and showers. 

You can visit the cenote between 9 am and 4 pm each day, and entry costs 265 pesos ($15.50 USD) per person and you can purchase tickets online. Once you’ve paid, you can stay as long as you like (which might be quite a while considering the amazing marine life here!).

Cenote Azul

Not to be confused with the one in Bacalar, the Cenote Azul near Akumal is a massive open cenote surrounded by limestone blocks, which are great for jumping off, just FYI. There’s also a path around the edge that also cuts through the pool, which makes for a very picturesque stroll. 

It’s really beautiful here, and entry is cheap at just 100 pesos ($6 USD) for the whole day. It’s open from 8:30 am until 5 pm each day, but it does get busy on weekends, so try to go on a weekday if you can. 

This cenote is about a 15-minute drive from Akumal Beach, and there’s free parking here, as well as a small restaurant on site where you can grab a drink and a snack. We can’t get enough of cenotes, and we think that this is one of the best ones along the Riviera Maya! 

15. Is visiting Akumal Beach worth it?

A large turtle at Akumal Beach
A large turtle swims to the surface at Akumal Beach, Mexico

Yes, absolutely! We had such an incredible time here.

Swimming with the turtles at Akumal Beach is easily one of the best experiences in Mexico. We really loved the fact that the authorities are committed to protecting the turtles and creating a safe experience for everyone, and the beach is stunning. We really can’t recommend it enough, so what are you waiting for?!

Renting a Car in Mexico

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie while driving around Mexico
A rental car means freedom to go to the beach whenever you want!

Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to get around Mexico is in a rental car. 

I struggled to get around by bus and taxi for the longest time. But after renting a car in Cancun in 2023, I never looked back. It allowed me to explore the country without worrying about tours or taxis. It was why I fell in love with Mexico and eventually decided to live here periodically. 

I refuse to use local services whenever I rent a car in Mexico. The truth is they sometimes can’t be trusted or come with hidden fees (or costly insurance that doesn’t make sense.) There are even rental car scams! So instead, I use Discover Cars, the company most experienced travelers or ex-pats in Mexico recommend. 

The rates on Discover Cars are cheap, too, with the average rental costing around $25 USD per day. Full coverage insurance can be added for an extra $10 USD a day too. 

Driving in Mexico also only requires a driver’s license using the Roman alphabet. If yours uses another like Japan and China, you simply need an international driving permit. 

Insurance is required, but if you book with Discover Cars and get the full coverage, that’s all you need! Oh, and being over 18 is required, and if you’re over 25, your rental will be much cheaper! 

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at Akumal Beach in Mexico
Thanks for reading!

I hope this blog has helped you plan your visit to Akumal Beach, Mexico! We still talk about seeing the turtles here and how amazing it was. If you go, let me know how many turtles you spotted!

For more travel tips and ideas, check out our Mexico page. Or maybe some of these other popular posts will be helpful too as you plan your vacay!

16 BEST Tours in Cancun (that you don’t want to miss!)

22 Things to KNOW Before Visiting Chichén Itzá

12 Things to KNOW Before you go Snorkeling in Cancun

15 BEST Restaurants in Tulum, Mexico that you HAVE to Try

Lynn Land

Monday 19th of February 2024

Great information! Thank you!