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Akumal: Snorkeling with beautiful turtles in the Riviera Maya

by Elisa Flitter Fever
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Snorkeling with turtles, is that something you would like? That is possible in the village of Akumal on the Mexican Riviera Maya. Sea turtles swim here close to the tropical beach. During about 45 minutes of snorkeling, we saw about six sea turtles. Akumal is located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, about 1.5 hours south of Cancun International Airport. In this article I will tell you how to go about snorkeling with turtles in Akumal.

Even without a clown fish a Finding Nemo feeling
Even without a clown fish a Finding Nemo feeling

Snorkeling with sea turtles

Snorkeling with sea turtles was a long-cherished dream for me. Finding Nemo does something to a person haha ​​During our trip to Curaçao two months ago, I saw one small sea turtle on a day trip by boat to Klein Curaçao. That tasted like more!

So when I heard that snorkeling with turtles is also possible in Mexico, I knew what would be our first stop on our 18-day round trip through Mexico: Akumal!

Akumal is a perfect place to snorkel with turtles. Akumal beach is beautiful. Swaying palm trees and beautiful light beige, white sand. If you want, you can stay longer after snorkeling and enjoy the sun, sea and sand.

What beautiful turtles you see while snorkeling at Akumal
What beautiful turtles you see while snorkeling at Akumal

Turtle watching in Akumal

So snorkeling with turtles is also on your bucket list? In Akumal you can approach this in several ways, for example:

  1. Join an organized day tour from Tulum, Playa del Carmen or Cancun
  2. Drive yourself, park your car near the Oxxo Mar Azul (at the Reforma Agraria in Akumal), walk to the beach and go snorkeling with your own snorkeling gear (you can rent it on site)
  3. By bike from your accommodation (if you stay near the beach)
  4. Have breakfast or lunch at Lol-Ha and then snorkel with a guide

We chose option #4. We spoke to a couple who had done this the day before, and they liked it. This way you pay no parking fees and no entrance fee for the beach (USD 13 p.p. I believe), only the guide. With options 1, 2 and 3 you will be confronted with this. With option #1 check what is included and exclusive with the tour.

The beach of Akumal seen from the terrace of Lol-Ha
The beach of Akumal seen from the terrace of Lol-Ha

Snorkeling with a guide

The guide knows this place like the back of his hand and knows how to find and point out the turtles. This made snorkeling with turtles in Akumal very efficient and successful for us. You get exactly what you come for, value for money in my opinion.

Snorkeling with turtles in Akumal might be a little cheaper without a guide. But then you have to make your way between the many “men” who ask for money for everything. I know that from a friend who has also been here. And have your own snorkel gear with you and be lucky enough to find them yourself.

Wouldn’t it be a shame if you go into the water here and don’t see a turtle? I know those people too. Although with a guide, there is of course still no 100% guarantee that you will see them. In total we saw about six turtles in about 45 minutes. I was very satisfied!

Close-up of a turtle seen while snorkeling
Close-up of a turtle seen while snorkeling

How we arranged it

We arranged our “bman” through our accommodation in Akumal, B&B Maya Eco Village. From my understanding, this man belongs to the restaurant. The B&B owner Amaya knows him and called him to inquire about availability. Luckily he had time, so put on a bikini and go!

From the highway between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, take the Akumal exit, at the bridge with beautiful street art. Drive 100m into the village, turn left 2x and cross the bridge towards the beach (playa). Ignore the vendors along this road.

After the Oxxo (Mexican convenience store) turn right. Make sure you have a mouth mask on. At the entrance chain you say that you are coming for breakfast (desayuno), brunch or lunch at Lol-Ha. And away goes the chain, without paying! They take your temperature and you get some antibacterial gel sprayed on your hands.

Swimming Turtle at Akumal Riviera Maya Mexico
And another turtle swims by…

Now you can drive to the end of the road and park near Lol-Ha. That is at most 600 meters or so. We parked next to Budha Gardens Spa. Lol-Ha is a beachfront restaurant. Order something to drink and/or eat and enjoy the view. The toast with poached eggs and avocado is a must! Nice and funny service, speak only Spanish. Pay everything in cash.

After we had eaten, we met our “man” at the palm tree on the left corner of the terrace of Lol-Ha. Amaya had sent him a picture of us, he was already waiting for us. Our original idea (snorkeling in turn) went in the trash, because the snorkeling tour only takes place with a minimum of two people. Well fine, let’s do that.

Snorkeling with turtles in Akumal is so cool
Snorkeling with turtles in Akumal is so cool

There are lockers…!

Contrary to previous posts I had read about this beforehand: yes, there are lockers available at Akumal beach. You can rent these at the cash register behind the Lol-Ha, next to the souvenir shop. There you can also change clothes, toilet and shower, of course not for free. You could also change clothes and do your things on the beach, but I wouldn’t recommend that. Don’t leave anything in your car either; after all, there are a lot of car break-ins in Mexico.

With the safe key on our wrists, we went into the water with peace of mind. We only had one snorkel set with us. The other we got from our guide, plus each wearing a life jacket. I swim almost daily, but there can be strong currents, hence. You don’t really need flippers with a life jacket on. Put on a life jacket that fits well and is not too big, otherwise it will get in the way.

A grazing sea turtle at Akumal Riviera Maya Mexico
A sea turtle grazing right in front of you

Our snorkel guide spoke almost no English, but gestures go a long way. He also took a life preserver with him. You can hang on to it, if you like it, because you are tired or can’t swim very well, for example. But a handy landmark anyway, to see who your guide is. The buoys differ in color.

Before entering the water, apply a good amount of spit to the inside of your snorkel goggles and rinse. This ensures that it does not fog up as quickly while snorkeling. Is the mask tight enough? Check!

The lockers, toilets and showers of Lol-Ha Akumal beach
The lockers, toilets and showers are behind this

Looking for sea turtles

We’re going into the water. It’s fresh but doable. After fifteen minutes or so we encountered our first turtle. Great! I was able to take some nice pictures with my underwater camera.

We always found the turtles on their own, sometimes accompanied by a few colorful fish under the belly. Swimming and/or grazing. Very nice to see. We also encountered a stingray.

Turtle seen from behind while snorkeling in Akumal
Turtle seen from behind while snorkeling

There are clear rules for snorkeling here in Akumal, see a few paragraphs below. Our guide did not point this out to us beforehand. But a lot of things are just common sense, like keeping your distance. And no, not because of COVID-19.

Do not touch the turtles and keep a reasonable distance. Give the animal enough space to continue swimming.

After snorkeling with the guide you can stay on the beach as long as you want. I’m guessing it closes at night though. You can shower and change at the lockers. You pay extra for a sun bed.

And another one swims by - super cool
And there’s another one swimming by! Super cool, right?

When can you snorkel with turtles in Akumal

From my understanding, snorkeling with turtles in Akumal is possible all year round. They like to graze the sea grass that grows here on the seabed on the coast.

Go snorkeling with turtles in Akumal in the morning. Then there is the best chance to see them, according to the locals. Please arrive before 10:00 am. It gets busier after 11:00, especially during the Christmas holidays. Preferably go on a sunny day with little wind. Ideal conditions for snorkeling with turtles in Akumal.

Akumal beach in the morning
The beach of Akumal in the morning around 10 o’clock
There are worse places to spend Christmas morning
There are worse places to spend Christmas morning

Official rules snorkeling with turtles at Akumal

  • Do not use sunscreen (before entering the water)
  • Wear a life jacket
  • Hire a certified guide (duration: 55 min)
  • Do not step on the sea grass (underwater)
  • Don’t swim towards the bottom of the sea
  • Swim horizontally, slowly and without splashing
  • Keep 3m away from the turtles, don’t get too close
  • Observe in semicircle up to 6 people for up to 3 minutes
  • Don’t make a sound or move when the turtle comes up to breathe
  • Don’t chase the turtles
  • Don’t touch the coral, keep 2 meters away

Formally, they now also want you to wear a mask when you walk around on the beach. But in practice, at least as far as we have noticed, this is not enforced. We had a mouth cap on when we entered the restaurant Lol-Ha.

Warning sign to wear a face mask on Akumal beach
Warning sign to wear a face mask on Akumal beach
Rules for swimming and snorkeling with turtles at Akumal beach
Rules for swimming and snorkeling with turtles at Akumal beach

How much does snorkeling with turtles cost in Akumal

Snorkeling with turtles in Akumal doesn’t have to be expensive. Provided you have your own rental car, come by public transport, or have accommodation near the beach with bicycles. What did we spend this day?

  • Brunch at Lol-Ha incl. tip MEX 600
  • Snorkeling with a local guide MEX 450 per person (app. USD 22 p.p.)
  • Safe MEX 100 + deposit safe key MEX 100

The hire of the locker includes use of the changing room, toilets and shower. There is even shampoo in the showers! The changing rooms are very tight. Restaurant staff also enters the locker room, so wear a face mask. Parking is free.

How old will this turtle be I was thinking
How old will this turtle be? I wondered while snorkeling…

If you do not do this via Lol-Ha (option #4 as described above), then you (possibly) also pay for parking on the main road of Akumal, entrance to the beach and possibly the sea, depending on how many males you encounter who ask for money. That costs USD 13 p.p. or more.

Costs with an organized day tour are of course higher, because it includes transport, etc. A visit to Akumal is often combined with, for example, visiting so-called cenotes in the area. Check in advance what is and is not included in the excursion price. Booking sites such as Viator and GetYourGuide clearly state this on most tours.

Turtle with fish underneath by the dark sea grass
Turtle with fish underneath by the dark sea grass

What to bring along

Do not take too much stuff with you when you go snorkeling with turtles in Akumal. But the following things are useful to have with you:

  • Swim wear
  • Quick-drying towels
  • Hair stuff for after swimming
  • Hair tie (if you have long hair)
  • Own snorkel set (if you have one)
  • Water shoes (or put on flippers)
  • Sunscreen (waterproof) and sunglasses
  • Underwater camera or underwater case for your mobile with neck cord
  • Sufficient cash
  • Water
It's nice if the zoom of your underwater camera works with snorkeling
Nice if the zoom of your underwater camera works
Everything fine here, just snorkeling with turtles in Akumal
Very well here the snorkeling

Where to stay in Akumal

As mentioned before, we stayed at Maya Eco Village. Akumal is divided by the highway between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. One half of the village is across the bridge on the beach, the other half on the other side of the highway. Maya Eco Village is about a 7-minute drive from the village center and the beach of Akumal.

A lovely place, about 75 minutes drive from Cancun International Airport. The location on Google Maps is correct. As soon as you turn off the highway, you drive straight onto a gravel road, in a jungle-like environment. After about 5 minutes you will arrive at the gate of the B&B. A tropical garden with swimming pool, restaurant and about 8 bungalows. The bungalows are spacious and comfortable.

Hear the exotic birds chirping. What a paradise here, as if you are in the middle of the jungle.

The owner, the cheerful Frenchwoman Amaya, has worked for Air France for years and speaks good English. She and her husband took over this B&B about a year ago. They obviously love people and put a lot of love into it. What I forgot is taking a picture with this lovely woman. I hope to see her again someday!

There is also a Monkey Sanctuary in Akumal, but I haven’t been there myself, so it’s hard to say whether it’s worth a visit or not.

Akumal street art

Now Tulum is mainly known for its many beautiful murals, but Akumal also has great street art! You will find this mainly at the bridge between the village and the beach, on the village side, close to the highway. Below a small impression.

How do you get to Akumal by public transport?

If you don’t have a rental car, public transport offers a solution. Akumal does not have an ADO bus station, but the so-called collectivo does stop along the highway (307) at Akumal. You can take the collectivo from Tulum or Playa del Carmen. Akumal is located north of Tulum. In Tulum you take the collectivo on the main road 307 (Av. Tulum 3) at the bus shelter Colectivos Tulum (see Colectivos Tulum – Playa in Google Maps).

In Playa del Carmen go to the Colectivo station – Playa Del Carmen to Tulum (see Google Maps) at the intersection Av. 45 Nte. and Av Benito Juarez. Akumal is located south of Playa del Carmen.

Get in, pay cash MEX 50 to the driver and say “Akumal, por favor”. In Akumal the collectivo bus stops at the street art viaduct. Make sure that when you go back, you get on the other side of the road (cross over via bridge above you). From the highway it is about a 5-10 minute walk to the beach of Akumal (Playa Akumal).

Map Akumal

This map includes places and spots mentioned in this article (and more). This one is ‘smartphone friendly’; you can easily use it via the Google Maps app. Click the icon at the top left to open the menu and see the categories. To adapt the map to your own preferences and interests, (de)select a category. Via Google Drive you can copy the map to your own My Google Maps account.

Is snorkeling with turtles in Akumal also on your wish list? Or have you already been and do you have additional tips? Feel free to leave a comment below this article. If you’re still going I hope you found this article helpful. Feel free to share on social media. And above all: have fun!

Soon I will publish more Mexico articles on this website. Do not miss out on those via my newsletter and/or by following the Flitter Fever Facebook page.

Lol-Ha and Akumal beach seen from the water
Lol-Ha and Akumal beach seen from the water

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Last Updated on 05/18/2022 by Elisa Flitter Fever

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