Top 17 Things to Do in Akumal, Mexico

What to do and see in Akumal?

To visit Akumal is to discover the best place to swim with turtles in Mexico while enjoying the warm waters of the Caribbean and its white sand beaches!

This village between Playa del Carmen and Tulum is indeed inseparable from its marine fauna because its name means “land of turtles” in Maya. 

Here is my guide to Akumal where I explain how to swim with turtles responsibly.

I present the new restrictions put in place to protect them, the best excursions and all my advice to be able to make the most of them .

I’ve also included the other must-see activities and places of interest as well as my pick of the best accommodations to suit your budget.

So what to do and see in Akumal? 

Akumal’s must-do activities

1. Swim with turtles

Swimming with turtles in Akumal is a must-do activity in Yucatan!

There are three species of turtles, the green turtle, the loggerhead and the hawksbill turtle that come to feed in the bay.

As of 2019, stricter rules have been put in place in the protected area where the Akumal Bay turtles feed :

  • Access is limited to 1440 people per day and it is mandatory to go there with a guide by taking a 1 hour group tour (max 6 people).
  • The guide will provide you with all the snorkeling equipment (snorkel and mask), life jacket and flippers.
  • It is forbidden to touch the turtles or approach them more than 3m
  • Do not stray more than 10m from the guide

Book the tour
The guided tour is therefore mandatory and you will have two choices:

  • Book the activity directly on the beach in Akumal
  • Book a day trip with round-trip transportation from your Riviera Maya hotel. The 2nd option is of course much practical and complete as it includes pick- up from your hotel in an air-conditioned vehicle, a visit to a cenote and a cave.

Can you see turtles without a guide?

It is possible to swim freely, without a guide , in waters that are not protected.

But it is very rare to see turtles there  because it is not a feeding area!

Taking an excursion  to swim with the turtles ensures that you see more of them and supports the cooperatives that work to preserve the environment.

My tips for seeing turtles

  • The best time to see the turtles is in the morning (before 11am) when the turtles are feeding and there aren’t many other swimmers.
  • From May to October , turtles lay their eggs around Half Moon Bay. We can then see them laying eggs in the evening on the beach or see them eating and swimming during the day.
  • Be a responsible traveler: it is very important not to touch the turtles so as not to stress them.
  • Avoid putting on sunscreen or mosquito repellent before entering the water to avoid damaging marine life.

top thing to do in Akumal

2. Go Snorkeling

Off Akumal lies the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, sometimes called the Great Mayan Reef, which is the 2nd largest reef in the world. It is home to 65 species of coral and 500 species of fish!

In addition, the water is crystal clear and very calm, ideal for snorkeling !

You can of course see turtles there, but also crabs, rays , groupers , Pterophyllum , blue grunt.

It is possible to take a snorkeling tour in Akumal or go solo by spotting the groups in the water to know where the best spots are.

There are plenty of places to snorkel in Akumal such as Akumal BayHalf Moon BayYal-Ku or the multitude of cenotes in the region.

Tips for your Akumal itinerary:
If you go alone, it is possible to rent the equipment on the beach, in one of the dive shops.

I rather recommend buying a mask and a snorkel at Walmart or at Mega Soriana in Playa del Carmen because it will be useful for several occasions and will quickly pay for itself!

top thing to do in Akumal

3. Akumal Bay

Akumal’s main public beach is located in the large Bay of Akumal.

The beach was free, but now you have to pay 120 pesos entry to the local cooperative (cash only) which also gives access to toilets and showers (+100 pesos deposit for a locker)

  • The other option is to go through the Lol-Ha restaurant (but of course you will have to consume) to have free access to the beach.
top thing to do in Akumal
Access to Akumal beach is through this entrance where you have to show your bracelet

Akumal Bay is best known for being the best place to swim with turtles.

There are also very good snorkeling spots very close to the main entrance.

Indeed, as I mentioned above, you can swim freely in its transparent waters, but to access the protected waters where the majority of turtles are found, you must take a guided tour.

There are several restaurants, shops and agencies where you can rent snorkeling equipment to go solo or take a tour.

Tips for your Akumal itinerary:
To save money it is quite possible to bring your own food (drinks, snacks, etc.). I recommend going to the Oxxo before entering the beach, it’s cheaper than on site!

top thing to do in Akumal

4. Half Moon Bay

To the north of the main bay is Media Luna Bay or Half Moon Bay  which is also a must visit in Akumal!

This “  half-moon bay  ” hosts beaches between fine sand and rocks, a quieter refuge than Akumal Bay.

It’s a long, clean sandy beach with a quieter vibe than the main bay.

It is the ideal place for walking, but also for windsurfing or kayaking.

It is also a good snorkeling spot in Akumal as the water is shallow and full of colorful fish!

Access is free (via  La Buena Vida restaurant ), just make sure you don’t sit on the portions that belong to the hotels.

Tips for your Akumal itinerary:
The bottom of the water is covered by a coral bank so to get into the water I recommend using aquashoes (water shoes), it’s practical!

top thing to do in Akumal
Half Moon Bay Beach

5. Laguna Yal Ku

North of Media Luna Bay is another must-see place in Akumal: Caleta Yal Ku, also called Cenote Yal-Ku or Laguna Yal-Ku, 

It is a small paradise with crystal clear water, ideal for swimming and snorkeling in Akumal.

Indeed this freshwater lake communicates with the salt waters of the Caribbean, and there is therefore a wide variety of tropical fish!

In addition to fish, you can see starfish, corals, sometimes a few sea turtles.

Out of the water there are also many birds that have taken refuge in the mangroves such as pelicans, cranes and herons, in addition to sculptures by the renowned artist Francisco Zúñiga. 

The water is calm and shallow (max 4m), and therefore offers an ideal relaxation area for the whole family.

Tips for your Akumal itinerary:
Arriving there from the beach, I didn’t understand why there were several signs pointing in different directions. It is that in reality there are several accesses!

Please note that not all are created equal (e.g. facilities, cleanliness, surveillance, etc.). This is why, in order to enjoy the lagoon in the best conditions, I recommend that you book your tickets to the Yal-Kú eco-park instead. 

You can book them directly here if you wish.

top thing to do in Akumal
Two different accesses to Yal-Ku
top thing to do in Akumal

6. The Ccological Center 

The Akumal Ecological Center is a non-governmental organization dedicated to preserving the ecosystem of the Akumal region.

Among other things, they work on the study and preservation of sea turtles on 4 beaches in Akumal.

You can visit their small museum dedicated to the reef and turtles of Akumal.

If you have the time, they also offer a turtle volunteer program .

It is a 4 week program that focuses on the protection and research of female turtles, their nests and their babies.

top thing to do in Akumal
A baby turtle on Akumal beach

7. Relax at the Spa

Here is an ideal activity to do in Akumal when it rains !

A stone’s throw from Akumal beach and right next to the Ecological Center is the Budha Garden Spa.

It is a small oasis with garden, fountain and hammock, which offers several treatments and massages.

They also have – upon prior request – sessions of spiritual blessings, purification and temazcal (Mayan sauna).

For my part, I tried the Mayan clay treatment which relaxes the whole body, from head to toe, I absolutely loved it!

8. The Monkey Sanctuary

The Akumal Monkey Sactuary and Rescued Animals is a place to see with kids in Akumal!

There are many monkeys and other species (goats, lemurs, boas, parrots, turtles, flamingos etc.)

They are rescued animals (often from circuses and other attractions) that are cared for, fed, and then released into the wild when possible.

It is a guided tour that is both very instructive and entertaining since you can interact with certain animals and take pictures with them.

On site there are also trails for quad biking and the Ma’ax cenote in a cave. What to spend there all day!

  • There are three tours offered on site: the monkey sanctuary (2h), sanctuary + cenote (3h), sanctuary + quad (5h)
  • Better to book in advance on the website to get a discount
  • Page Facebook
top thing to do in Akumal
The monkey sanctuary

8. Ecorancho Mayamar

Very close to the monkey sanctuary is Ecorancho Mayamar, in a jungle where a multitude of birds and monkeys hide.

It contains private cenotes in caves with crystal clear water that can only be visited with a guide and are therefore very well preserved!

It is not a touristic attraction to see in Akumal because it really feels like being in another world.

top thing to do in Akumal
One of the cenotes of Ecorancho Mayamar

10. Cenote Santa Cruz

I have a great preference for cenotes located in a cave because I find that they offer a unique, almost mystical atmosphere, and much more interesting than open cenotes.

Exactly, the cenote Santa Cruz is a superb cenote to see in Akumal and even one of my favorites in the region!

Not only for its natural beauty preserved between its rock formations and crystal clear water, but also for its intimate and exclusive side.

Indeed, as the guided tour is mandatory (2h30) and by reservation only, you really feel close to nature because the number of visitors is very limited.

top thing to do in Akumal
Cenote Santa Cruz

11. Akumal Natura Rescue

It is a nature reserve that works to preserve biodiversity while offering ecotourism activities .

It is home to around 80 animals of 23 different species (birds, monkeys, reptiles, etc.) rescued, cared for and housed in a safe environment.

I was treated to the guided tour by Antonio, one of the owners, who is really passionate about this beautiful project!

Personally, I really liked that he presented his proteges with a lot of respect and even fascination.

In addition to being able to interact with a few species, you even have access to a magnificent private cenote, semi-enclosed in a cave.

To take the jungle immersion experience even further, they have also created Akumal Natura Glamping with luxury tents.

In addition to enjoying an oasis surrounded by a multitude of animals, you then have access to two cenotes 24 hours a day!

top thing to do in Akumal
Some of the friendly locals at Akumal Natura Rescue
top thing to do in Akumal
Akumal Natura Rescue Cenote

12. The Community of Uxuxubi

Uxuxubi “the one who whistles” in Maya, is a community that lives from ecotourism , the organic harvesting of fruits and vegetables, and the production of honey bees.

We are here 11km from Akumal, inland, in a preserved Mayan jungle, far from the tourist attractions of the Riviera Maya.

The community has founded its ecological park “  Uxuxubi Al Natural  ” where it is possible to go hiking , bird watching, swimming in the Balam cenote, zip line (150m) and even camping.

Its biggest attraction is the lagoon which can be visited by raft with a guide and which is a natural sanctuary for the Morelet crocodile, of which there are around a hundred members in the area!

In the surroundings there are also toucans, spider monkeys, several birds and felines.

  • Entrance 150$mxn (includes the visit of the lake and other activities, duration of 2h30)
  • Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Facebook Page of Uxuxubi
top thing to do in Akumal
A crocodile in Uxuxubi Lagoon

13. Aktun Chen

There are many ecological parks in the Riviera Maya like XplorXcaretXel-Ha.

Among them is Aktun Chen in Akumal. It is smaller, but offers an unforgettable immersion in nature.

It is a jungle that is home to many animals such as parrot, toucan, kinkajou, coati, several species of monkeys, peccary and white-tailed deer.

In addition to its 10 zip lines of 1500m in the jungle, and its underground river ideal for snorkeling, its cave is in my opinion its best attraction.

Formed 5 million years ago, it is home to many stalactites, stalagmites and cenotes including the Aktun-Chen cenote.

It is a 600 m guided route, accessible to all, which even ended up in the TOP 10 of the best underground walks in the world by National Geographic!

It goes without saying that this is a must-do activity in Akumal!

top thing to do in Akumal
Aktun Chen Cenote

14. Playa Chemuyil

10 minutes from Akumal, near Aktun Chen, is Chemuyil beach.

It’s one of my favorite beaches and a beach in the Riviera Maya where (unbelievable but true!) there’s hardly anyone.

It is a kind of virgin paradise of white sand surrounded by vegetation and transparent water.

Tips for your Akumal itinerary:
There is nothing on site so bring your towelwater and if possible an umbrella because there are few shaded areas.

top thing to do in Akumal
Chemuyil beach

15. Kantun Chi

Just 14km from Akumal is the Kantun Chi or Kantunchi Ecological Park.

There is also a rich fauna and flora including spider monkeys, deer, many species of birds and raccoons.

It contains 5 cenotes in the middle of nature, perfect for swimming and snorkeling: Kantun ChiSaskaleen HaUchben HaZacil Ha and Zihil Ha.

The visit allows you to discover all types of cenotes because 2 are open, 2 are semi-open and 1 is in a cave.

You can also visit its underground river and observe its impressive rock formations.

There are three options for visiting Kantunchi :

  • Free visit of the 4 cenotes 26 $usd
  • Guided tour of the 5 cenotes with lunch 44 $usd
  • Underground River and 5 Cenotes Guided Tour with Lunch US$71
top thing to do in Akumal
Kantun Chi

16. Xpu-Ha

17km from Akumal is Xpu Ha Beach.

With its white sand and calm water, it is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Riviera Maya and yet it is not very touristy!

You can walk on the beach, have a drink, swim, snorkel and even kitesurf.

There are a few bars and beach clubs but it is quite possible to save money: bring your towel and your food!

There are 3 entrances to Xpu-Ha:

  • Xpu-Ha Beach Club
  • La Playa Xpu-Ha Beach Club
  • 3rd entrance (furthest from Playa del Carmen and closest to Akumal ) which is the cheapest at MXN$50

Tips for your Akumal itinerary:
I recommend taking a break here on the way back to Playa or Cancun after swimming with the turtles in Akumal. The cenote azul is very close, so it’s a good idea to combine the two visits!

top thing to do in Akumal
Xpu-Ha Beach

17. Dolphins

In the state of Quintana Roo, there are 19 structures that keep dolphins in captivity to put on shows and allow visitors to swim with them.

The NGO Empty the Tanks tries to raise awareness of the living conditions and mistreatment of these marine animals so as not to encourage their exploitation by visiting dolphinariums, such as Akumal. But they still have a long way to go!

It should be understood that the Akumal Dolphinarium, like all the others, are not places for the protection of dolphins where they are cared for and fed.

This is fake marketing that is used to convince visitors that they are almost helping “a good cause”.

Don’t be fooled, be responsible: don’t visit the dolphinarium under any circumstances.

Accommodation in Akumal

  • Akumal Natura Glamping : a dream glamping in the jungle with its two private cenotes, spa, swimming pool ideal for a cheap romantic getaway in Akumal! Small Mayan style cabins, with terrace and wifi. Breakfast included, from 70 euros per night!
  • Beachfront Hammock Heaven : This beachfront apartment offers the best value for money in Akumal. Private terrace with a magnificent view, hammock, kitchen, living room. Direct access to the beach and the swimming pool. From 175 euros per night!
  • Casa Coral – Luxury Condos : for even more comfort, here is a luxury apartment (2 bedrooms) facing the sea, on a very quiet and exclusive beach. Private swimming pool, free rental of kayaks and snorkeling equipment. From 240 euros per night!
  • Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya All Inclusive – Adults Only : this is the essential hotel for a luxury stay in Akumal. The rooms are spacious, with balcony and jacuzzi. Outdoor pool, spa, gym, tennis court, nightclub. The must: the private beach which is privileged to see the turtles! All-inclusive formula, from 625 euros per night
top thing to do in Akumal
Akumal Natura Glamping

Tourist Map of Akumal

Where to eat in Akumal

Normally I avoid touristy restaurants, but La Buena Vida is really nice! It’s a restaurant in Media Luna Bay with a beautiful terrace, hammocks and a very original decor. They are open from breakfast, with happy hour between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.

I really liked La Cueva del Pescador , in Akumal Bay: tasty, very good service and accessible. For dessert, head to the colorful Turtle Bay Café and Bakery next door.

If you are looking for a restaurant on the beach in Akumal instead , I recommend the Lol-Ha restaurant with its terrace on the beach and its magnificent view of the sea.

PS: take advantage of free parking and free access to the beach 😉

top thing to do in Akumal
Restaurant Lol-Ha in Akumal

Akumal without Sargassum

Like everywhere on the coast of the Riviera Maya and the Caribbean, the beaches are sometimes invaded by brown algae called sargassum.

It is a natural phenomenon, but one that has grown in recent years to become more and more recurrent and abundant.

The problem is that it is impossible to predict where they will settle!

The good news is that seaweed never invades the whole coast and there are always several spare beaches where it is quite possible to enjoy the fine sand and water.

If there’s seaweed in Akumal, head a bit north or south and you’ll easily find a clean beach nearby. 

Otherwise, you can also head directly to one of the many cenotes where there is never any sargassum and the water is always pure!

How to get to Akumal

Akumal is very easy to get to as it sits between Playa del Carmen and Tulum , on Highway 307 which runs along the Riviera Maya coast from Cancun.

From Cancún

  • By car : follow the Carretera Tulum- Cancun /México 307 (1h30)
  • By public transport : you must first go to Playa del Carmen ( ADO bus from the center $70mxn or from the airport $208mxn), then take a colectivo Playa del Carmen-Akumal (see below)
  • By private transport : it is possible to pre-book a private transfer by air-conditioned van from Cancun airport to your hotel in Akumal.

This is the fastest and most comfortable way, to book directly here.

From Tulum

  • By car:  take the 307 towards Cancun (25 min)
  • By public transport : from the main street, take a colectivo towards Playa del Carmen and tell the driver that you are getting off at Akumal (20 min, $35mxn)

After Playa del Carmen

  • By car: take the 307 towards Tulum (20 min)
  • By public transport : the ADO bus does not stop in Akumal, you have to take a colectivo towards Tulum at the corner of Calle 1 Sur and Avenida 45 norte (30 min, 40 pesos) – luckily it stops at the bridge pedestrian to cross the road safely then go to the beach (500m-15 min)
top thing to do in Akumal
Akumal stop, coming from Playa del Carmen/Cancun

Return to Akumal by Plane

It is not possible to fly directly to Akumal.

The nearest airport is Cancun ( 1h30) which receives many flights from major cities in Mexico, Europe and North America.

Are you going to Mexico? Read also

All our articles on Mexico are here:  Find all our guides on Mexico!

Camille L.

Passionate about foreign languages, cooking and writing. I wish to share with you the places, the meetings and the gastronomic discoveries which gave relief to my travels.

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