Akumal Turtle Beach is one of the most popular among all the beaches you can visit along the Riviera Maya, mainly because from there you can swim with turtles that are enjoying freely their natural habitat!
It is indeed a beautiful bay complete with soft sand and palm trees, supplying relieving natural shade; pristine water that apparently not even the daily crowd are able to spoil; and delicious local restaurants where you can taste typical food.
However, what makes this place so alluring, and therefore so populated, is the fact that only a few arm strokes away from the shore, you can see an abundance of turtles swimming, having their lunch, or just hanging out pacifically, with no fear at all of the human presence.
They seem to be used to we humans, and are unscathed by the hundreds of visitors who stare at them every day; they simply mind their own business. They are beautiful and funny, a marvelous work of nature. I love to watch them floating with such elegance and lightness, donning an angry-looking face; they are also huge, and some of them have a few beautiful yellowish-green remoras on their backs.
I could stay in the water and watch them all day.
I also spotted a yellowish-green stingray close to them and my friends saw a huge barracuda. Even though I didn’t, I was still happy with my turtle does.
The only thing I don’t like about this beach is the multitude of people, there are just too many. I always search for deserted beaches, which are abundant in this region.
However, I believe the crowd is a very small price to pay for such a beautiful experience. I would never actually go to a place where turtles or any other species are kept and raised in captivity; in this case, they are just free and available for you to enjoy… from a distance, I might add. We just need to respect them and refrain from touching them or giving them food. They have enough in the water and don’t need our unnatural stuff.
I have been there a few times since I have been living here, and this particular weekend I made the most of the occasion of friends visiting from Italy to show them some of our wonders. We got there late in the afternoon, which turned out to be just perfect.
The water at dusk was warm and inviting and the sky was dark blue, getting ready for sunset. When the sun went down behind the jungle, it turned into a rainbow of colors, from pink, to orange and yellow.
We gazed at it, from both inside and outside the water, taking turns to keep an eye on the stuff that we had left on the beach, but without losing sight of the show nature provided for us. After my last swim, which was actually the most amazing, I took my face out of the water, pulled off my mask and looked up. The sky was at its best, like a beautiful colorful painting, priceless.
It made me forget about the crowd on the beach, which by that time had started to ease off, and it also made me forget about the annoying local vendors at the entrance, who tried to force us to rent lifejackets, claiming that it was a rule of the beach and was thus compulsory to wear one. In a way they are right unfortunately but hear me now:
New rules in Akumal Turtle Beach
As you can see there is an area that’s limited by buoys. In this area is where the turtles hang out most of the time. In order to get there, they have a is a new law in place, which is you need to go with an instructor authorized by the SEMARNAT ( an institutional body that regulates any touristic areas in Mexico).
You also need to wear fins, mask life jacket and the group needs to be less than 6 people and stay in the water no longer than 1 hour approximately.
Also when you spot the turtles you need to keep a distance of 3 mt and for a period no longer than 5 minutes
The cost is 300 pesos per person.
However, if you wish to swim on your own, you still can. Nobody can’t tell you that you cannot swim, stay away from the limited area, and you will probably be able to see turtles anyway. I am sure the rules they implemented are more of a business than a preservation issue, but it serves both purposes, I guess.
In any case remember that if you want to swim on your own you can do it, just do it with respect to rules, both made by human and by mother nature.
Anyway, as I mentioned, the beautiful, friendly turtles made me forget about the unpleasant encounter, and the already beautiful day spent with my friends turned out to be amazing, ending up with a lovely dinner under the stars, in one of the restaurants on the beach. That was luxury indeed!
What do you need when you go to Akumal beach
- A mask and snorkel in order to see the turtles, because they stay in the water. They only come up every now and then to breathe and put their cute little heads outside the water, but only for a matter of seconds. The water is not deep, and if you like to dive in you can do so easily. It is probably about 3m/9ft deep. You can wear flippers if you are more comfortable, but they are not necessary since you don’t need to go out that far. You can rent the snorkeling equipment on the beach, but I would suggest you bring your own. They sell very cheap equipment in the grocery stores or supermarkets.
- Sun protection, as you can get burnt while hanging out on the beach, even under the shade of a palm tree
- Mosquito repellent if you wish to stay till dusk and after, otherwise, mosquitoes will have you for dinner, and it won’t be pleasant. This is less of a problem during the winter season, from December to April/May, which is normally drier, but I would always bring repellent, just in case.
- DO NOT LEAVE your important belongings unattended (as applies to anywhere else in the world!)
- DO NOT LISTEN to anybody who tells you there are certain rules (see above in bold). The beach is free and you are free to swim as you wish. It is not compulsory to wear anything but a swimsuit except if you swim within the limits marked by the buoys. ( see above paragraph on the new rules)
Where to stay in Akumal Beach
There are a few lovely hotels in Akumal Beach where you can enjoy waking up with your toes in the sand. Here they are:
Akumal Caribe – mid-range property right on turtle beach
Akumal bay Beach and Wellness Resort – on Turtle beach but far from the most crowded part – luxury property
Secret Akumal Riviera Maya – All-inclusive Adult only luxury property, has a private entry- the hotel is not on Turtle beach.
How to get to Akumal beach
Getting to Akumal Beach by car
Along Carretera 307 Cancun-Tulum, Akumal is located 40 km from Playa del Carmen, on the way to Tulum.
If you are coming from Playa del Carmen, you will need to pass under the bridge with the sign for Akumal and do a U-turn back towards Playa, turning right into Akumal just before you dip under the same bridge. If you are coming from Tulum, just turn right before the bridge.
Once you are on the road towards the beach there is a car park on the right before the famous arch that leads to the beach. Otherwise, if you pass the arch and go on a bit further there is another car park on the left, which costs 20 pesos an hour.
Getting to Akumal beach by colectivo
The ‘’colectivo’’ (little bus) will take you either from Playa del Carmen or from Tulum for a few pesos, and will drop you off at the bridge. From there it’s just a couple of hundred meters down to the beach.
When you get to the beach area, after the arch, there is a cute souvenirs shop on the right-hand side, along with the entrance to a hotel. You cannot go through there anymore, but you can walk on another few meters, and there is beach access next to a dive shop. Pass through and here you are!
What I would do then, is to walk further south ( your right) a little further from the restaurants’ area where it seems to be a little quieter.
You really need to include this experience in your plans, even if you are just staying for a week. This is something that will make your trip memorable. Have fun and let me know just how right I was!
For further reading
- How to get from Cancun to Isla Mujeres, Mexico – the ferry and other options
- Isla Mujeres Golf Cart Rental: where to find it, costs, and practical tips
- 15 gorgeous VRBO vacation rentals and Airbnb in Isla Mujeres Mexico
- Top 7 Aldea Zama Tulum rentals and practical tips
- Bacalar Restaurants – The top 7 places where to eat in Bacalar