Akumal was Quintana Roo’s first tourist destination, started in the 60’s before Cancun even existed. It’s a small beach town, 22 miles (35 km) south of Playa del Carmen (or 66 miles (106 km) from Cancun), on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.
Akumal is a Mayan word that translates to “place of the turtles”.
TRAVELLING TO AKUMAL
Rent a car and drive
Wes, a friend and I drove there on April 15th 2021 from Puerto Morelos, it’s 72 km and took about an hour.
By collectivo ( minivan)
The most inexpensive way to get to Akumal from Playa del Carmen is by collectivo (a shared van/bus). Catch the collectivo in Playa del Carmen on Calle 2 Norte between Av. 10 and 15. The van is air conditioned and hold up to 14 people at a time. The fare is approx 35 pesos (about $1.75 USD) for tourists. Collectivos are small, so if you have a lot of luggage, you may want to take a bus, rent a car or taxi. When you leave Akumal, you can catch a collectivo where the main road and the highway meet. Just flag them down.
The collectivo or bus from Playa del Carmen will usually drop you off by the pedestrian overpass on the highway. You will cross over the overpass and keep following the road for about 1/2 km and you will see an archway. Keep going straight and you’ll be on the beach. If the collectivo drops you off in Akumal town, just follow the road back across the highway.
Take a taxi or
Hire a private shuttle transfer.
Once we arrived, the parking lot we found was 50 pesos for all day. We stopped to have a tasty breakfast at one of the restaurants there called Turtle Bay Bakery and then got ready to snorkel.
Back in the day, the turtles were getting abused. The tourists would feed the turtles, pick them up for pictures and leave trash behind in the water. In 2016, the government intervened and limited the number of general tourists who could enter the bay.
You can rent snorkels, fins and masks right in the bay. The Akumal Dive Center is located next to the beach front Restaurant Lol-ha where we had lunch. A mask and snorkel cost around $6 USD, fins are about $6 USD ( fins has to be short) and a life jacket is $6 USD.
Keep in mind, price do change.
TAKE A TOUR TO SWIM WITH TURTLES
We brought our own snorkel gear. We paid $35 usd per person to snorkel with a tour guide. It includes life jacket, masks, changing room, bathrooms and you can use the lockers with 100 pesos deposit. If you are snorkeling without a tour, you will be entering through a different gate on the left side of dive shop and CEA Center building and paying $5 usd admission charge and the use of bathroom and lockers are $5 usd as well.
Keep in mind that life jacket is mandatory 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 meters and for a period no longer than 5 minutes.
I found out to my surprise, you snorkel off shore. The tour guide lead us to two young turtles feeding on the seagrass about a few minutes as we entered the water. We spend about an hour in total and saw about another 6 or 7 huge turtles. There were probably 8 people hovering above the turtles and they seemed pretty domesticated.
There is a rope a little off the beach, to prevent boats from driving onto the beach outside of their allocated areas, and life jackets are mandatory once you cross this line/rope. I also notice that this area pass the roped off is where the turtles.
There is also white line where you can’t cross, so I suggest the best way to see the turtles is to take the tour.
If you swim independently, you’ll be required to stay within the first 150 feet of shore.
Please respect the turtles by giving them space
Don’t bring any valuables to the beach
The beach is a public beach and you can snorkel there for free
Wear a lifejacket if possible (this will make it easier to just float and watch the turtle while disturbing it as little as possible)
Renting gear will give you free access to toilets and lockers.