Visiting Akumal: The 17 best things to do


17 Best Things to Do in Akumal (+ Where to Stay)

Akumal is the best place to swim with turtles in Mexico, where you can enjoy the warm Caribbean waters and the white sandy beaches!

In this ultimate guide, I’ll show you how to swim with turtles responsibly, following the new rules from the government to protect them.

In addition, I will also give you my list of the 17 best things to do in Akumal, including all the best tours, other fun activities, and must-see places. Plus, I’ll share my picks of the best hotels for every budget.

So, what are the best places to visit in Akumal? Where to stay?

Let’s find out!

Must do activities in Akumal

1. Swimming with turtles

Akumal means “land of the turtles” in Mayan! 🐢

Three species of turtles come to feed in the bay: the green turtle, the loggerhead turtle and hawksbill turtles.

Since 2019, the government has implemented stricter rules in the protected area where turtles feed in Akumal Bay:

  • Access is limited to 1440 people per day and you need to join a guided tour (1h, up to 6 people) to swim with the turtles
  • The guide will provide you with snorkeling equipment (snorkel and mask), life jackets and fins.
  • You can’t touch them or get closer than 3m
  • You have to stay within 33 ft of your guide
How to book the tour?
 You have to take a tour and you have two options:

  • Book a tour directly at Akumal beach
  • Book a day tour with pick up from your hotel in the Riviera Maya that includes snorkeling with the turtles in Akumal Bay and access to two cenotes.

Book it here:

Can I see the turtles without a guide?

You can swim on your own in the unprotected waters but you probably won’t see any turtles there because they don’t feed there.

Going with a guide will help you see more turtles and support cooperatives that work to protect the environment.

My tips for seeing turtles in Akumal

  • The best time to see turtles is in the morning (before 11am), when the turtles are hungry and there are fewer people in the water
  • From May to October, turtles lay their eggs in Half Moon Bay. You can watch them lay eggs on the beach at night or eat and swim during the day
  • Be a responsible traveler: it’s very important not to touch the turtles so they don’t get stressed 🙏
  • Avoid using sunscreen or mosquito repellent before entering the water so you don’t harm the marine life
akumal turtle
Swimming with turtles in Akumal

2. Snorkeling

Just off the shore of Akumal is the Mesoamerican Reef, also known as the Great Mayan Reef. It’s the second largsest reef in the world.

It has 65 species of coral and 500 species of fish in clear and calm water, perfect for snorkeling!

Besides turtles, you might also see crabs, eagle rays, groupers, angelfish and bluestriped grunts

You can take a snorkeling tour in Akumal or go by yourself – look for where the groups are swimming in the water to find the best spots.🤓

  • There are many places to snorkel in Akumal, like Akumal Bay, Half Moon Bay, Yal-Kú Lagoon and the many cenotes in the area.

My advice
If you visit Akumal on your own, you can rent snorkeling gear on the beach at one of the dive shops.

But I would suggest buying snorkeling gear at Walmart or Mega Soriana in Playa del Carmen: you can use it for many occasions and save money!

akumal in Riviera Maya

3. Akumal Bay

The main public beach in Akumal is on the big Akumal Bay.

You used to be able to enter for free, but now they charge 120 pesos for access through the local cooperative (cash only). This also gives you access to the bathrooms and showers (+100 pesos deposit for a locker)

  • Another option is to go to Lol-Ha restaurant (but, of course, you’ll have to buy something) for free access to the beach.
acceso playa akumal
access akumal beach

Akumal Bay is famous for being the best place to swim with turtles. There are also some great dive sites near the main entrance.

Like I said before, you can swim freely in its clear water, but to get to the protected area where most of the turtles are, you need a guide.

There are several restaurants, shops and agencies that offer tours and gear rental if you’d rather go by yourself.

My advice
To save money you can bring your own food (drinks, snacks, etc.). I recommend stopping at the Oxxo before entering the beach, it’s cheaper!
akumal méxico
akumal mexico

4. Half Moon Bay

Another must-see in Akumal is Half Moon Bay, north of the main bay.

It’s a peaceful place with a long, clean, fine sandy beach that’s perfect for walking, windsurfing and kayaking.

You can also snorkel in Half Moon Bay and see shallow water full of colorful fish.

You can enter for free through La Buena Vida restaurant, just don’t sit in the hotel area.

My advice
The water bottom is covered with coral, so I suggest wearing water shoes to avoid getting hurt! 
Bahía Media Luna Akumal
Bahía Media Luna Akumal

5. Yal Lagoon

North of Half Moon Bay is another must-see spot in Akumal: Yal Kú Lagoon, also known as Cenote Yal-Ku.

It’s a small paradise of clear water, perfect for swimming and snorkeling in Akumal.

This freshwater lake connects to the salty waters of the Caribbean and has a lot of tropical fish, starfish, corals and sometimes sea turtles.

On land, there are many birds that live in the mangroves, like pelicans, cranes and herons, as well as the sculptures of the famous artist Francisco Zúñiga.

The water is calm and shallow (up to 14 ft), so it’s a great place to go with kids in Akumal.

My advice
 When I arrived at the lagoon from the beach, I was confused by the signs pointing in different directions. That’s because there are several entrances to the lagoon!

But not all of them are the same (e.g. facilities, cleanliness, security, etc.). So, to enjoy the lagoon in the best way, I suggest that you buy your tickets at the Yal-Kú ecopark: 

yal ku akumal
yal ku akumal

6. Akumal Ecological Center

Centro Ecológico Akumal is a non-profit organization that works to protect the ecosystem of the Akumal region.

It focuses on the study and conservation of sea turtles on 4 beaches in Akumal.

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

If you have some time, they also have a volunteer program with sea turtles.

This is a 4-week program that involves helping and learning about female turtles, their nests and hatchlings.

  • Open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 6 pm
  • Website
centro ecológico akumal
centro ecológico akumal

7. Relaxing at the spa

This is a great thing to do in Akumal when it rains!

Just a short walk from Akumal beach and next to the ecological center, you can find the Budha Garden Spa.

It’s a small oasis with a garden, fountain and hammock, where you can enjoy various treatments and massages.

They also offer, on request, spiritual blessings, purification and temazcal  sessions (Mayan sauna).

I tried the Mayan clay treatment that relaxed my whole body, from head to toe, and I loved it!

8. The Monkey Sanctuary

The Monkey Sanctuary is a fun place to visit with kids in Akumal.

There are many monkeys and other rescued animals (goats, lemurs, boas, parrots, turtles, flamingos, etc.) that are looked after, fed and released back to the wild when possible.

You can have a lot of fun and learn a lot on this guided tour, as you can interact with some of the animals and take pictures with them.

There are also ATV tours and the Ma’ax cenote, which is a cave with a natural pool. You can spend the whole day exploring and enjoying these activities!

  • They offer three tours on site: the monkey sanctuary (2h), sanctuary + cenote (3h), sanctuary + ATV (5h)
  • Get your tickets here!
santuario monos akumal
Monkey Sanctuary Akumal

9. Mayamar Eco Ranch

Near the Monkey Sanctuary, you can visit the EcoRancho Mayamar, a jungle where many birds and monkeys live.

It has 4 private cenotes in clear caves that you can only visit with a guide, so they are very well kept. ❤️

This is a hidden attraction in Akumal and it feels like you’re in another world.

ecorancho mayamar akumal
ecorancho mayamar akumal

10. Cenote Santa Cruz

I love underground cenotes because they have a unique and magical atmosphere, much more interesting than open cenotes.

Cenote Santa Cruz is a great cenote to visit in Akumal and one of my favorite cenotes in the area!

Not only for its natural beauty with its rock formations and clear water, but also for its cozy and exclusive feel.

The guided tour is required (2h30) and you need to book in advance, but this makes you feel closer to nature, as there are very few visitors.

My advice
To know which are the best cenotes near Akumal, you can read my article about The 15 Most Beautiful Cenotes in Tulum! 😉
cenote santa cruz akumal
cenote santa cruz akumal

11. Akumal Natura Rescue

It’s a natural reserve that works to protect biodiversity and offers ecotourism activities.

It has about 80 animals of 23 different species (birds, monkeys, reptiles, etc.) that were rescued, cared for and given a safe home.

My guide was Antonio, one of the owners, who is really passionate about this wonderful project. I liked how he introduced his animals with a lot of respect and even awe.

Besides being able to interact with some of the animals, you also get to visit a beautiful private cenote, semi-open in a cave.

  • To make the jungle experience even better, they also have Akumal Natura Glamping with luxury tents. You can enjoy an oasis surrounded by lots of animals, and also have 24-hour access to two cenotes! 😍
akumal natura rescue
akumal natura rescue
akumal natura cenote
akumal natura cenote

12. The community of Uxuxubi

Uxuxubi, which means “the one that whistles” in Mayan, is a community that lives off ecotourism, organic farming of fruits and vegetables and honey production from melipona bees.

It’s located 7 miles from the center of Akumal, in a pristine Mayan jungle, away from the tourist spots of the Riviera Maya.

The community created its ecological park “Uxuxubi Al Natural”, where you can go hiking, bird watching, swimming in the Balam cenote, ziplining (165 yd) and even camping.

Its main attraction is the lagoon, which you can visit by raft with a guide. It’s a natural sanctuary for the Morelet’s crocodile (there are about 100 in the area!).

You can also see toucans, spider monkeys, various birds and felines in the area.

  • Entrance fee 150 pesos (includes visit to the lake and other activities, duration 2h30)
  • Open every day from 9 am to 5 pm
  • Uxuxubi Facebook page

13. Aktun Chen

Aktun Chen is a smaller ecological park than Xplor, Xcaret, Xel-Ha, but it offers an amazing experience in nature.

You can see many animals in the jungle, such as parrots, toucans, kinkajous, coatis, monkeys, peccaries and deers.

You can also enjoy 10 zip lines in the jungle, an underground river for snorkeling, and a cave with stalactites, stalagmites and a cenote.

The cave is the best attraction of Aktun Chen. It was formed 5 million years ago and has the Aktun-Chen cenote inside!

You can take a guided walk of 1100 yards through the cave, which is easy for everyone. The walk is so impressive that it was ranked by National Geographic as one of the TOP 10 best underground walks in the world.😎

Aktun Chen is definitely a must-do activity in Akumal.

aktun chen
aktun chen

14. Chemuyil Beach

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

It’s one of my favorite beaches and a Riviera Maya beach that’s almost empty (hard to believe but true! 😄).

It’s a pristine paradise of white sand surrounded by vegetation and clear water.

My advice
There’s nothing on this beach, so bring your towel, enough water and if you can, an umbrella, as there are not many shady spots.
playa chemuyil
chemuyil beach

15. Kantun Chi

Kantun Chi or Kantunchi is an ecological park that is only 8.5 miles from Akumal.

You can see many animals and plants there, such as spider monkeys, deer, birds and raccoons.

There are 5 cenotes in the natural setting, great for swimming and snorkeling: Kantun Chi, Saskaleen Ha, Uchben Ha, Zacil Ha and Zihil Ha.

The visit lets you see all types of cenotes, as 2 are open, 2 are semi-open and 1 is in a cave.

You can also explore its underground river and admire its amazing rock formations.

You have three options to visit Kantunchi:

  • Self-guided visit to the 4 cenotes $26usd
  • Guided visit to the 5 cenotes with lunch $44usd
  • Guided tour to the underground river and 5 cenotes with lunch $71usd
kantun chi
kantun chi cenote

16. Xpu-Há

Xpu Há Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Riviera Maya, and it’s only 10 miles from Akumal.

It has white sand and calm water, and it’s not very crowded. You can walk along the beach, have a drink, swim, snorkel and even kitesurf.

There are a few bars and beach clubs, but you don’t have to spend much: just bring your towel and your food!

There are 3 entrances to Xpu-Há:

  • At Xpu Ha Beach Club
  • At Xpu-Ha Beach Club
  • A third entrance (the farthest from Playa del Carmen and the closest to Akumal) which is the cheapest at 50 pesos
My advice
I recommend you stop at Xpu Ha on your way back to Playa or Cancun after swimming with the turtles in Akumal.

Also, the Cenote Azul and the Jardin del Eden Cenote are very close, so you can do both visits.

playa xpu ha
playa xpu ha

17. Swimming with the dolphins

There are 19 places in Quintana Roo that keep dolphins captive for shows and swimming with visitors.

The NGO Empty the Tanks tries to educate people about the poor living conditions and abuse of these marine animals. They want people to stop supporting their exploitation by avoiding dolphinariums, like the one in Akumal. But they still have a lot of work to do.

You should know that the dolphinarium in Akumal, like all the others, is not a place where dolphins are cared for and fed well.

It’s a false advertising they use to make visitors think that they are helping a “good cause”.

Don’t be fooled 🙅. Please be responsible: don’t visit the dolphinarium.

Where to stay in Akumal

  • Akumal Natura Glamping: a dreamlike glamping in the jungle with its two private cenotes, spa, pool, an ideal place for a romantic trip to Akumal at an affordable price. Small Mayan style cabins with terrace and wifi. Breakfast included, from 78 usd per night!
  • Beachfront Hammock Heaven: this beachfront apartment offers the best value for money in Akumal. Private terrace with great views, hammock, kitchen, living room. Direct access to the beach and pool. from 195 usd per night!
  • Casa Coral – Luxury Condos: if you are looking for more comfort, this is a luxury apartment with 2 bedrooms facing the sea, in a very quiet and exclusive beach. Private pool, free kayak and snorkeling equipment rental, from 267 usd per night!
akumal glamping
akumal glamping

Tourist map of Akumal

Here are all the best places to see in Akumal:

Where to eat in Akumal

I usually like to avoid touristy restaurants, but I really enjoyed La Buena Vida. It’s a restaurant in Media Luna Bay with a nice terrace, hammocks and a very original decor. They are open from breakfast, with happy hour between 5pm and 6pm.

I also liked La Cueva del Pescador in Akumal Bay: delicious, friendly service and good price. For dessert, you can go to the colorful Turtle Bay Café and Bakery, right next door.

If you want a restaurant on Akumal beach, I suggest Lol-Ha restaurant with its lovely beach terrace and amazing ocean views. It’s also open for breakfast, but I only had the fish tacos (320 pesos) for lunch, which I thought were very good. PS: take advantage of the parking and free access to the beach 😉

restaurante akumal
akumal restaurant

Avoid sargassum in Akumal

Akumal’s beaches sometimes have sargassum seaweed, like the rest of the Riviera Maya and the Caribbean.

This is a natural phenomenon, but it has become more frequent and abundant in recent years. It’s hard to predict where it will show up.

The good news is that there are always clear beaches where you can enjoy the soft sand and water, even if there is sargassum in Akumal.

You can easily find an algae-free beach by going north or south. You can also visit one of the many cenotes where there is never sargassum and the water is always pure.

How to get to Akumal

It is very easy to get to Akumal, as it is located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, on highway 307 that runs along the coast of the Riviera Maya from Cancun.

From Cancun

  • By car: follow the Tulum-Cancun/Mexico Highway 307 (1h30)
  • By public transportation: first go to Playa del Carmen (ADO bus from downtown 70 pesos or from the airport 208 pesos), then take a colectivo Playa del Carmen-Akumal (see below)
  • By private transportation: you can book a private transfer by air-conditioned van from Cancun airport to your hotel in Akumal:

From Tulum

  • By car: take the 307 in the direction of Cancun (25 min)
  • By public transportation: from the main street, take a colectivo towards Playa del Carmen and tell the driver to get off at Akumal (20 min, 35 pesos)

From Playa del Carmen

  • By car: take the 307 to Tulum (20 min)
  • By public transportation: the ADO bus does not stop in Akumal, you have to take a colectivo to Tulum at the intersection of Calle 1 Sur and Avenida 45 Norte (30 min, 40 pesos). The good thing is that it leaves you at a stop with a pedestrian bridge to cross to the beach (500m – 15 min)
paradero akumal colectivo
colectivo stop in akumal, next to the bridge

Rent a car in Mexico

Renting a car is for sure the best way to explore Akumal and make the most of your stay!

To rent a car, personally, I always use, for a few reasons:

  • You can easily compare the rental cars prices between all the agencies: for sure the easiest way to find the best rate!
  • Cancellation is often offered free of charge: no need to worry if you change your mind
  • Rentalcars offers full insurance coverage at a lower price than the rental companies, so it’s an instant saving with no effort

Simply click on the green button to find your rental car at the best price:

Where to find parking in Akumal?
 From Highway 307, turn left on Reforma Agraria to go to the beach.

On the same street, just before the Oxxo, there are 3 parking lots on the right that close at 7pm

The closer you are to the beach, the more expensive: at 200 meters, 50 pesos per day; at 100 meters, 100 pesos per day; at 50 meters, 20 pesos per hour.

Walking a few meters will save you money.

How to get to Akumal by plane

There is no direct flight to Akumal. The nearest airport is Cancun (1h30), which has many flights from major cities in Mexico, Europe and North America.

To find cheap flights to Cancun, I suggest you use our flight comparator, in partnership with Skyscanner: it’s the best way to get the best price!

Book your trip now and save money!

You’re traveling in Mexico? These articles will help you!

Discover all my articles about Mexico: All my articles to help you plan your trip to Mexico are listed there.

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swim turtles akumal mexico


I have created this blog to give you all my best tips to plan your next trip to Mexico, regardless of your budget. I share detailed itineraries, advice about places to visit as well as recommendations for transportation, hotels and restaurants. I hope I will also help you to discover amazing off the beaten path destinations in Mexico!

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