Visiting Akumal Beach: Everything You Need to Know

As the popularity of Akumal Beach has grown over the years, the rules have changed greatly for visiting in order to preserve the famous sea turtle’s habitat. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Akumal Beach.

Over the last few years, Akumal Beach has really changed. It’s no longer free, parking prices have gone up, and there are scams to watch out for. Don’t worry, though, because here is everything you need to know about Akumal Beach—rule changes, fees, and all. I update this post regularly for the most recent needs.

Also, you can visit Akumal Beach for pretty cheap. I’ve heard complaints that it used to be free and now there are fees and it’s lost some of its charm. While that may be true, I still really loved it and found it affordable. You don’t need a tour and you’re fine to visit on your own. Here is what you need to know to visit Akumal Beach.

Table of Contents

Why Visit Akumal Beach?

Akumal is located 23 miles (38 km) south of the hotel zones in Playa del Carmen and 65 miles (104 km) south of Cancun. Akumal is about half-way between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. We visited from Tulum on our road trip and the drive took us about 25 minutes.

White sand beaches, palm trees, and awesome snorkeling await! The small bay at Akumal has a sandy bottom comprised very fine sand. It gets stirred up as the day goes on, cutting visibility significantly. When the tour groups start arriving in the mid-morning (often with inexperienced snorkelers), the bottom can get stirred up very, very quickly. All of this means that getting there early is key!

The water around Akumal Bay is relatively unpolluted and features healthy coral reefs. Between the inshore fringing corals right off Akumal Beach and adjacent sites like Half Moon Bay and Yal Ku Lagoon, snorkelers only need to strap on a mask, snorkel, and fins to find plenty of underwater adventure. You can literally snorkel right off the beach without a guide or need to look very far.

All of this makes it a popular spot for marine life and it’s a sea turtle nesting ground. Snorkeling right off the beach and into the ocean to see diverse sea life. If you want to be part of sea turtle rescue efforts, Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific Coast is a great place to visit!

Where to Stay

Many people visit Akumal Beach as a day trip; however, there are some resorts in the area that are well worth the stay! If I were to go back, I’d choose to stay here over somewhere like Tulum. The water is cleaner, and the beaches are quieter.

Here are some resorts to consider:

All Inclusive: Secrets Akumal is an all-inclusive resort located on the beach, with great access to the area.

Sustainable: Akumal Bay Beach & Wellness Resort features 2 beach-side pools and 3 restaurants serving international cuisine.

Affordable: Las Villas Akumal features villas with a spacious lounge and a terrace overlooking the bay and the natural turtle beach.

Getting to Akumal Beach

Akumal is about 20 miles from Playa Del Carmen, one hour from Cancun, and about 20 minutes north of Tulum.

Akumal is pretty easy to get to from Tulum and other nearby towns like Playa Del Carmen. There is a main highway connecting the entire coast called 307. You take the 307 from Tulum or Playa to Akumal Bay. When you get there, you may think you’re in the wrong spot if you’re headed to the national park.

Google was right, though, and you just need to head along the road past the Akumal hotel entrances to reach the national park entrance.

Car Rental – We rented a car for our entire trip. We chose to park at Akumal for 20 pesos an hour (roughly 1.50 USD). The most important thing to know about parking is that it is very limited. Get there early if you want to park.

Take a Taxi – Price to be decided with the driver before you get in to avoid any unexpected surprises. I would expect to pay a pretty high price for this taxi ride of 300+ pesos each way according to other travelers.

Bus from Playa del Carmen or Tulum – The colectivos heading towards Tulum can be found in the middle of Calle 2 between Av 15 and 20 (in Playa del Carmen). You’ll hear the colectivo guys yelling “Tulum!” Hop on this colectivo and you’ll be on your way.nnThe colectivo from Playa del Carmen to Akumal takes approximately 25-30 minutes and costs 35 pesos per person ($2.68 USD) for a one-way journey. It goes all the way into Tulum and back to Akumal along highway 307. If you are in Tulum, just ask where the nearest colectivo stop is where you are staying. They are all along 307 between Tulum and Akumal.

When to Visit Akumal Beach

May to November is the nesting season for sea turtles in Akumal, Mexico, and this is when you are most likely to see them near the beach.

I recommend arriving at Akumal Beach as early in the morning as possible, ideally no later than 9:30 a.m. We arrived right when the national park entrance opened at 9 a.m., and people were already in line.

If you are going with a tour operator and they can’t get you there by 10:30 or 11:00 am, look for someone else. Honestly, you do not really need a tour guide to help you visit, but below are some options.

Guided Tour Options

If you want to visit but aren’t interested in going on your own, there are guided tour options available! I’ve mentioned how I feel like this is an easy day trip to do on your own, but know sometimes the convenience is just better.

Tulum Guided Tour and Akumal Swim with Turtles: Unleash your inner explorer on an expedition into the history and nature of Tulum and Akumal from Riviera Maya. Relish in the beauty of the Caribbean coastline and then dive in among the turtles.

Tulum: Ruins, Cenote and Turtle Snorkel Day Trip with Lunch: Explore the Mayan ruins of Tulum on this guided tour from Cancun or the Riviera Maya. Swim in a cenote, uncover cenote caves, snorkel with sea turtles in Akumal, and savor a delicious lunch.

Private Snorkeling with Sea Turtles in Akumal Beach:The guide is a certified professional in diving and biology. This activity guarantees that you will observe green turtles within their natural habitat.

Turtle Night Watch in the evening. Head to the stunning and untouched beach of Xpu-Ha to partake in a turtle night watch conservation project. Begin the tour by arriving at Xpu-Hay Bay 9:15 p.m. at night. Your guide will fascinate you with their knowledge and expertise in the field of sea turtles. From there you will join the staff on the beach as they patrol the area.

Parking

Parking at Akumal Beach is not easy! My biggest tip? Get there very early. We got there before 9 a.m., before Akumal Bay actually opened, and barely got a parking spot. There are very few free spots and paid spots. We saw a few different parking lots with options.

There’s a day lot for 60 pesos for the day or a lot that is 20 pesos an hour. We parked without any issues in the parking lot directly across from the entrance, and you will pay as you leave at the end.

Fees+scams to avoid when you visit Akumal Beach

There is now an entry fee into Akumal Bay. I’ve heard you can enter the dive shop and go for free but I didn’t mind supporting the national park. We saw this online and were prepared with 100 pesos (about $5 USD) to enter the national park. I feel like it’s fine to pay a little to get to a pristine beach that is a habitat for a very special animal. This was the only fee we paid besides parking.

There are ropes to fence off certain parts of the beach. Then there are more ropes which only people with a guide can go between. Although they will take you further out, we saw turtles, rays, and tons of fish swimming in coral reefs without the use of a guide.

It isn’t necessary and feels a bit like a scam. Even when we were sunbathing on the beach a few people came up to us asking if we needed a tour. Walk further down past the area with the boats and you’ll get to a ton of coral reefs that you barely need to even swim to get to.

Here is where the scams come in… there will be people all around the entrance to the national park who will tell you that a guide is needed. They will also offer to take you snorkeling for $150 – $300 pesos each. This is not required or necessary to see the sea turtles!

We had someone follow us all the way from the entrance through and out to the beach trying to sell us a tour. Just not necessary and people will try to convince you it has to be done. It doesn’t!

    1. No matter what you are told at the beach by those trying to make money, snorkeling on your own in Akumal is still allowed for free—you do not have to be part of a guided tour.
    2. You do not have to wear a snorkeling vest or lifejacket—they are only required for those on a guided tour. However, wearing one may make it easier to snorkel with the turtles and may reduce the potential for getting harassed by “officials.”
    3. Wear short fins or no fins at all. If you have long fins, it is likely easiest to swim down the beach near Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness Resort. However, long fins are really unnecessary.
    4. Do not enter the buoyed and roped off areas.

Where to Snorkel

When we first arrived, there was an area that people were hopping right into directly past the entrance. We decided to hop in there first. There was actually nothing. No coral reef, no fish, no seagrass. We were really disappointed. This was when we were like, hmmm maybe we should get the tour? But we didn’t have enough cash, so instead, we continued to walk down past some boats and try again. We were so glad we did!

We saw multiple turtles, stingrays, manta rays, and tons of fish. It was really awesome and we were almost totally alone (the only other time I’ve seen a sea turtle like this is in Looe Key Reef in Key West). Just keep walking past all the boats and across from the beach chairs. You won’t be disappointed!

Snorkel Gear

If you are doing a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula, I highly recommend just buying your own snorkel gear (an important part of your Mexico packing list). You will get a ton of use out of it I promise! Cenotes are way better with snorkeling gear and you won’t have to repeatedly pay a fee. I got mine from Amazon for just $20 and have used it several times.

If you are only here for a day and don’t want to purchase, the dive shop does have options as well as stands on the beach. You can rent gear for $10 – 15 USD but get there early because they will run out!

Facilities, Eating, and Drinking

The National Park has some new facilities for travelers. There are bathrooms, lockers, and a little shop where you can purchase things you may have forgotten as you enter through the national park entrance. Bathrooms are free and lockers cost a small fee.

There are a few different options for grabbing a bite to eat while in Akumal. Town has a few more options that you can walk to but with our half day’s worth of time, these are the two I experienced and recommend.

Lol Ha (Open from 7am – 10pm) is located right on the beach and a perfect stop for a bite right after snorkeling or if you want to grab a quick drink to relax. The bar and sitting area is huge. It’s also been in Akumal Bay for a long time and they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, so you have the choice to sip coffee while watching the pelicans feast, have a cold corona with your nachos in the afternoon, or try a fried whole fish dish in the evening.

La Cueva del Pescador is on the main road in Akumal Bay (Open from 12-9pm)

This is where you’ll usually find a friendly crowd of expats gathering for cold beer and fresh seafood dishes. I’ve heard the fish tacos are great as is the cured ceviche seasoned with cilantro. The sand floors are a nice touch and add to the relaxed, Mexican-Caribbean atmosphere.

Preservation Efforts

Over-tourism in this part of Mexico is a problem. Tulum is overcrowded, as well as the entire region. Honestly, I understand it because this area of the world is so beautiful and unique. New rules help preserve the area (all the ropes in Akumal), and honestly, it isn’t such a bad thing for them to put in these new rules if people want to continue enjoying these natural wonders.

Mexico has laws and volunteer programs to preserve the amazing nature that people flock to the country for. Protecting wildlife like sea turtles and creating national parks is an important part of those efforts!

You can support these efforts by participating in the Turtle Night Watch in the evening. Head to the stunning and untouched beach of Xpu-Ha to partake in a turtle night watch conservation project.

Begin the tour by arriving at Xpu-Hay Bay 9:15 p.m. at night. Your guide will fascinate you with their knowledge and expertise in the field of sea turtles. From there you will join the staff on the beach as they patrol the area.

Akumal Beach is known for the turtles and beautiful white sand. Here' what you need to know about Akumal Beach.
Akumal Beach is known for the turtles and beautiful white sand. Here’ what you need to know about Akumal Beach.

Overall, I think Akumal was some really fun snorkeling, and I enjoyed the experience. From everything I’ve read, I know that it has changed a lot in recent years. It’s also really easy for tourists to think it is expensive to visit. We saw everything we hoped to see, and it was really a beautiful beach. There was almost no seaweed (unlike all the other beaches we experienced in the area).

Hopefully, this helps you plan for when you visit Akumal Beach on your own! It’s easy to do, and you’ll have a great time seeing all the sea life, amazing beaches, and more. I gave you some things you’ve got to avoid in Akumal Beach, but there are things to avoid in Tulum too. Don’t skip learning about what to avoid there too…

 

Meghan

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