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5 BEST Tours to Swim with Sea Turtles in Playa del Carmen

5 BEST Tours to Swim with Sea Turtles in Playa del Carmen

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The coastal resort town of Playa del Carmen is one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations for SO many reasons. It’s known for its beautiful beaches, turquoise Caribbean waters, vibrant nightlife, and diverse coral reefs. With tons of fun things to do in Playa del Carmen, swimming with sea turtles has to be one of our favorites!

Having traveled extensively through Mexico’s Riviera Maya, we’ve been lucky enough to swim with turtles many times. Based on our own experience, we’ll go through all of the highly-rated tours to see turtles at the famous Akumal Beach – which is where you need to go and it’s only 30 minutes from Playa del Carmen!

Plus, swimming with turtles at Akumal Beach is ONLY allowed with a tour, so it’s best to have one booked before you arrive. This not only increases your chances of seeing turtles but also helps to keep the turtles safe.

We want you to have a great time snorkeling with sea turtles, so we’ve done our research and rounded up the 5 best tours from Playa del Carmen! Keep on reading to see which experience is the one for you.

Don’t have time to read the full article? Playa del Carmen is one of the best places to swim with sea turtles in the Riviera Maya. We love this half-day tour that visits both Akumal Beach to swim alongside sea turtles, and a stunning natural cenote to swim in the fresh crystal-clear water. It even guarantees you’ll see at least one turtle!

Best Tours to Swim with Sea Turtles in Playa del Carmen

1. Half-day Hidden Cenote Swim, Snorkeling with Sea Turtles, and Beachside Lunch

Cenote el sueño in Mexico
Cenote El Sueño in Mexico
A huge turtle swims through the waters of Akumal Beach in Mexico on a tour from Tulum
Turtle in the wild!

This awesome half-day cenote and snorkeling tour is best for people who want to experience some of the Riviera Maya’s highlights but are running a bit short on time. In only 4.5 hours, you’ll get to visit an underground cenote, swim with sea turtles at Akumal Beach, and have lunch at a beach club!

The tour starts at 9 am with a visit to one of the stunning cenotes around Tulum. Cenotes are natural sinkholes that expose the crystal-clear groundwater below. This, paired with amazing stalagmites and stalactites makes for an otherworldly experience!

You can go for a dip here, but brace yourself for the cold! Also, they do not allow cameras in the cenote, but you can pay for professional photos of your experience instead. The photos were quite pricey – around $50 USD – but they do accept credit cards.

After that exhilarating dip, it’s time to head to Akumal Beach – one of Playa del Carmen’s best snorkeling spots. Put on your provided snorkeling equipment and follow your guide to swim alongside sea turtles and a variety of other tropical fish! Some people even spot stingrays here!

When you’ve worked up an appetite, you get to enjoy a delicious lunch at Punta Venado Beach Club. Located directly on a private beach, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a margarita (or three!). Oh, and make sure to try the tacos – you can thank me later.

Although lunch is included, drinks and tips are not. So be sure to bring some extra cash along with you on the tour. Speaking of things to bring, make sure to bring a towel along on this tour as it is NOT provided. We were also glad we brought our water shoes and our waterproof camera to snap some turtle pictures too!

This 4.5-hour small-group tour is $169 USD per person. You get bottled water, snacks, lunch, snorkeling equipment, and air-conditioned transport for that price. Plus booking with Viator includes pick-up and drop-off from select hotels in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. You must book at least 48 hours in advance to secure round-trip transfers.

This tour conveniently runs every day except for Sundays. So, if you’re ready for an epic half-day adventure, book this excursion here!

Related Read: There are so many epic cenotes around here, that seeing one just isn’t enough! Check out the top cenote tours in Tulum to visit more of the best ones!

2. Half-Day Sea Turtle and Cenote Snorkeling Tour 

A turtle swims past people at Akumal Beach in Mexico
You can get up close to sea turtles at Akumal!

This 5-hour half-day cenote and snorkeling tour is essentially the above tour without lunch at the beach club. Instead of lunch, you get to spend more time swimming at a cenote and snorkeling with the sea turtles. Plus they even GUARANTEE that you will see a turtle! This tour is the best option for people who want to maximize their time in the water, but don’t want to be out all day.

The tour starts at 9 am with a 1.5-hour visit to Akumal Beach. You’ll get there nice and early to beat the crowds. The unparalleled visibility of the water is why this is one of the best snorkeling spots around. If you’re still not convinced that swimming with turtles at Akumal Beach is worth it, make sure to read our full review here!

As you swim along with your mandatory guide, keep your eyes peeled for 3 of the world’s 7 sea turtle species swimming along the coral reef. Green turtles, loggerhead turtles, and hawksbill turtles frequent this area, as well as many colorful fish and stingrays – so you better have your underwater camera ready!

Afterward, you visit Parque De Cenotes Yax-Muul. Hidden in a subtropical rainforest, this exclusive nature park has an extensive underground river system. Your guide will take you through the caves, where you can marvel at thousands of stalagmites and stalactites as you swim or snorkel in the freshwater cenote.

This half-day tour costs between $99-$109 USD per person, depending on where you’re being picked up. It’s cheapest from Playa, so it’s definitely a Playa del Carmen tour worth taking! You must also pay a $15 USD cash conservation fee per person the day of the tour. This tour includes a bilingual guide, air-conditioned round-trip transport, snorkeling equipment, snacks, and bottled water.

Even though lunch isn’t included, they do include light snacks/pastries. My sister came with us and loved that they had gluten-free and vegetarian snack options available upon request. Plus, you can always have lunch afterwards at one of the amazing restaurants in Playa del Carmen!

Make sure to bring a towel, sunglasses, hat, camera, cash (for conservation fees, gratuities, and souvenirs), and biodegradable sunscreen (keep those reefs and turtles safe!).

With hundreds of 5-star reviews, this tour is very popular and sells out quickly, so be sure to book in advance here.

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

3. Full-Day Tulum Ruins, Turtles in Akumal, and Cenote Tour

Tulum Ruins, Mexico
Exploring the Tulum Ruins, Mexico
A turtle and a fish swim together at Akumal Beach
A turtle and a fish swim together at Akumal Beach

If you want to see turtles but also want to explore more of Tulum then this full-day Tulum Ruins, Akumal Beach, and Cenote tour is for you!

Your day begins by exploring the Tulum Archaeological Site (also known as the Tulum Ruins). This is one thing you shouldn’t miss while visiting the Riviera Maya! The ancient Mayan ruins are incredible, sitting on a clifftop overlooking the beautiful Caribbean Sea. You have 1.5 hours here to explore and soak up the site’s rich history.

There are many great tours to Tulum from Playa del Carmen, but this one is special in that you get to visit the one and only Akumal Beach. Pop on the provided snorkeling equipment and see how many tropical fish, turtles, rays, and starfish you can spot.

The final destination is Parque De Cenotes Yax-Muul where you’ll head underground to swim through a cave! Have a refreshing dip in the beautiful water while staring up at the incredible rock formations. Here, you’ll have time to float, swim, snorkel, and explore.

But wait, there’s an extra little treat! A traditional Mexican buffet lunch is included (with vegetarian and gluten-free options available upon request). This tour is a full day of fun, adventure, history, and excitement.

This 8-hour tour only costs $139 USD per person from Playa del Carmen. You must also pay a $20 USD conservation fee in cash on the day of the tour. The cost includes a bilingual guide, air-conditioned transfer with hotel pickup, snorkeling equipment, lunch, and drinks. When you compare it to the other options available, it’s a bargain!

For a memorable experience on this 5-star tour, secure your spot here!

Related Read: If you are looking to do some more off-road exploring during your trip, make sure to check out the best ATV tours in Playa del Carmen so that you don’t miss out!

4. VIP Tulum and Turtles Private Tour

Bailey poses for a photo while enjoying the views of the Tulum Ruins and ocean in Tulum, Mexico
The famous viewpoint of the Tulum Ruins!
A large turtle at Akumal Beach
So cute!

This half-day Tulum and Turtles Private Tour is one of the most affordable private tours available. You’ll head to the natural turtle habitat of Akumal Beach bright and early so that you can swim with the turtles before more tourists join in.

You’ll have one hour to snorkel with the provided equipment and guide. I have to admit, it’s a much better experience snorkeling without the crowds so that’s a huge perk of this tour!

Then it’s off to the Tulum Archaeological Site. You get a private guided tour with a local archaeological expert who tells you everything you need to know about these amazing Mayan ruins. The private experience allows for flexibility and you can ask as many questions as you like!

This 4-hour tour is $190 USD per person for two people, but the price drops the more people you book for. The cost includes pickup/drop off from your hotel in an air-conditioned vehicle, use of snorkeling equipment, and bottled water. In our opinion, the best thing about a private tour is that you don’t have to wait on a bus while picking up and dropping off other guests!

This is the BEST turtle tour for people who want the logistics taken care of but also want to avoid crowds and have more flexibility with their time. So if you’re ready for the experience of a lifetime, make your booking now!

5. Self-Drive and Swim with Sea Turtles

Daniel gets his snorkel and life jacket before going on a tour at Akumal Beach
Meeting our guide and getting our gear!
A large turtle swims to the surface at Akumal Beach, Mexico
There were so many turtles!

As mentioned previously, you can only swim with sea turtles at Akumal Beach with a guide. So, if you only want to go snorkeling and don’t need a ride there, this private snorkeling tour was designed for you!

Since transportation isn’t included, this tour is perfect if you are renting a car in Playa del Carmen or if you are ok with arranging your own transport.

Your private guide will meet you at the entrance to Akumal Beach for your designated time slot. You can choose any hour between 9 am and 3 pm. We recommend getting there as early as possible to avoid the crowds. Too many people around can stir up the sand causing poor visibility and making it harder to see the turtles.

You can place your belongings in the provided locker before putting on the included snorkeling equipment and letting your guide lead the way. Get ready to spot sea turtles, stingrays, starfish, and several other tropical fish species. Your guide will take you on a tour to a depth of approximately 2 meters/6.5 feet.

Afterward, we recommend sticking around and enjoying Akumal Beach. You’ve already paid the entrance fee so why not right? Many restaurants are available for you to enjoy a well-deserved lunch after your swim. Or you can lay out on the golden sand to relax and take in the gorgeous views of the Caribbean!

If you’re not sure how to get to Akumal Beach on your own, we wrote another post about all of the things you should know before visiting Akmual Beach, including a detailed section on how to get there!

This private snorkeling tour costs $45 USD per person. This gives you over an hour of snorkeling with your knowledgeable local guide – making it much more likely to see multiple turtles. We saw five turtles during our time in the water!

This tour also includes snorkeling equipment, entrance fees to the beach, a locker, and insurance for snorkeling. All you have to bring is a bathing suit, sunscreen, a towel, and some cash for a cold cerveza afterward!

This private tour is perfect for independent travelers who want some freedom and flexibility. This is also why we love booking with Viator because if something comes up, you can always change your tour to a different day up to 24 hours in advance for no fee! That being said, it is a very popular experience, so make sure to secure your spot by booking in advance.

Related Read: If you are flying into Cancun, make sure to look at all the different ways you can get from the Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen.

Why book a tour to swim with turtles in Playa del Carmen?

Two people swim with a turtle at Akumal Beach in Mexico
They get so close!

Swimming with sea turtles is such a majestic experience that never gets old – we love it and you will too! While you can visit Akumal Beach independently, we highly recommend joining one of the popular tours from Playa del Carmen we’ve talked about instead. You must have a guide to swim in the areas where the turtles are, so we think it’s worth it to just book a tour from the start.

All of the tours we’ve mentioned run year-round and bring you to Akumal Beach, which is only about a half hour from Playa del Carmen. Not only is it one of the best beaches in the Yucatan, but it’s also one of the top places to spot sea turtles in the wild! Fun Fact: “Akumal” actually means “Place of Turtles” in the Maya language!

Swimming with turtles at Akumal Beach is definitely a bucket list experience in Mexico. As a bonus, many of the tours combine snorkeling with other unforgettable adventures like seeing the famous Tulum Ruins, swimming in magical cenotes, and visiting beach clubs. Trust us, you don’t want to miss out!

Other Activities to do While You’re in Playa del Carmen

Bailey swims past some corals while scuba Diving in Playa del carmen
Scuba diving here is unreal!
Bailey poses for a photo at Chichen Itza with the main temple in the background
Chichen Itza!

Swimming with sea turtles in Playa del Carmen is only one of the amazing things you can do while in this vibrant town. In fact, there are so many fun activities in Playa del Carmen, that it can be a little overwhelming! Here are a few more of my favorite things to do here which I think you’ll love:

  • Go on a food tour – If you’re a foodie at heart, this walking street food tour is a must! It’s a great way to learn about different Mexican cuisines, from tacos and tamales to elote. Plus, I love that it visits more the locals’ favorite eateries rather than the touristy spots – you really get a window into the culture!
  • Swim alongside whale sharks – Did you know that whale sharks aren’t actually sharks? In fact, they’re the largest fish in the world, and you can even swim with whale sharks in Playa del Carmen! You will need to head a little way offshore before you can though, which is why I recommend this full-day whale shark tour, which includes all transportation and lunch!
  • Go shopping – Fifth Avenue is a super popular pedestrian street full of shops, boutiques, and markets. If you’re looking for souvenirs or fancy treating yourself to a new holiday get-up, this is the place to be. The Playa del Carmen Flea Market is my top pick for budget gifts and handicrafts, and Quinta Alegría Shopping Mall is your one-stop shop for international brands.

Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen

Bailey relaxes at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico near Playa del Carmen
Me relaxing at just one of the resorts I have stayed in Playa del Carmen!

Choosing a place to stay in Playa del Carmen can often be overwhelming – trust me, I’ve been there. The selection of hotels is huge and caters to all sorts of trips, budgets, and ages. I won’t be able to mention every place I love, but I do have some favorites, depending on what you’re looking for.

El Taj Oceanfront and Beachside Condo Hotel – $$$

For luxury travelers, The El Taj Oceanfront and Beachside Condo Hotel offer a great central location that’s still secluded. As the name suggests, this hotel is right on the ocean, plus it also has a pool, is located in the heart of town, and offers a huge variety of rooms, including one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments!

Rooms here at El Tag start at around $200 USD, which is pretty good considering how fantastic the rooms are. You can check out available dates and book your stay online here.

Soho Playa Hotel – $$

When I’m traveling on a moderate budget and want a nice place, not in a resort, I love Soho Playa Hotel. The hotel has a fantastic location, a pool, free breakfast, an on-site restaurant, and a really clean and modern design. Plus, if you feel like stretching out and relaxing, you can even make the most of their free yoga classes!

A one-night stay here at the Soho Playa Hotel starts at around $135 USD per person. This is quite a popular hotel though, so make sure to reserve your room online in advance!

Che Playa Hostel and Bar – $

For budget travelers, Che Playa Hostel and Bar is one of the best hostels in Playa del Carmen. The hostel is located in the heart of town and comes with a small rooftop pool and bar, a social atmosphere, clean facilities, and helpful staff.

The rooms are pretty affordable as you might expect! A bed in a dorm here for one night costs less than $25 USD per person, and you can book on Hostelworld or Booking.com.

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. Read my honest review of Discover Cars here for more details!

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!

Swimming with sea turtles is a must-do activity while in Playa del Carmen. There is no better way to increase your chances of seeing amazing wildlife – plus you can even adventure further and explore cenotes or historical ruins! So if you’re ready to swim with the turtles, sign up for one of the recommended tours above for an experience you won’t forget!

To read more, check out our other articles about Mexico. This country has so much to offer, and we love sharing what we’ve learned. So below, I’ve linked to some articles that might be useful!

12 Things to KNOW Before Booking a Catamaran Cruise in Playa del Carmen

Everything you NEED to Know about the Cancun Hotel Zone

21 BEST Day Trips from Playa del Carmen