In the ancient language of the Mayas there was a magical place called Akumal “Place of Turtles.” Situated in the heart of the Riviera Maya on the Caribbean coast
Akumal is part of the Riviera Maya on the Caribbean coast and is approximately 100 km south of Cancun and 37 km from Playa del Carmen with over a mile of white sandy beach, world-class snorkeling with sea turtles and top diving with a great diversity of life that thrives within the coral reef. A few years ago Akumal was a fairy remote destination but has blossomed into a vacation getaway with some wonderful hotel, the perfect destination for swimming, snorkeling, sailing, and relaxing on the beach without the crowds you might expect to find on the beaches of Cancun.
The name Akumal translates to ‘a place of turtles’ and you will see them here, though numbers are declining with resort developments. The Centro Ecological Akumal[CEA] is a non- profit organisation devoted to marine research, preservation and the protection of sea turtles.
If you are interested in learning more about these amazing creatures and you can tear yourself away from the amazing beaches and water activities then a visit to their centre is well worth the time out. Check out their website for more information.
The coral reef gardens, referred to as the ‘Jewel of the Caribbean’ are another stunning Akumal attraction that seduces divers from all over the world. The reef forms part of the Mesoamerican Reef and covers a 450 miles stretch along the Yucatan Peninsula all the way down to the Honduras. The reefs are home to a huge diversity of marine life including fish, reptiles, and mammals, all of which you will be sure to see.
There are 6 crystal clear bays. From north to south, they are Yal Ku Lagoon, a protected snorkeling lagoon (National Geographic’s 50 best secrets of Mexico) then Half Moon Bay, Akumal Bay, South Akumal, Aventuras Akumal and Jade Bay.
Akumal Bay is the best option for accommodation with a good selection of hotels and restaurants plus it’s the best beach for swimming and snorkelling. Half Moon Bay has decent snorkelling and condos for rent, but the beach is rocky. Unless you plan on just staying in Akumal, you will want to rent a car to get around. The closest sights are at least a 20 min drive. However, if you prefer there are plenty of taxis to take you wherever you need to go.
Aktun Chen kilometres from Akumal you will find Aktun Chen, which in Mayan translates to “cave with an underground river inside”. You will be amazed by the three caves with cenotes and its remarkable rock formations of of stalactites, stalagmites and natural sculptures, all of them formed by water and calcium carbonate over millions of years.
Yal-Ku At this striking natural lagoon near Akumal you can swim all the way out to the sea; you can snorkel and see the diverse species of marine life in their natural environment. One of the features that make this place unique is the magnificent statues situated throughout the grounds.
Cenote Santa Cruz This unique cenote located in Akumal, is not open to the public in the traditional way. To visit cenote Santa Cruz, you have to book in advance. This procedure was chosen by the owners in order to preserve its’ environment as much as possible. Santa Cruz is a system of caves, caverns and an open air cenote, 460 meters in length. Located within a private rancho (also called Santa Cruz), it’s a 10 minute drive from the entrance of Akumal.
If you have limited time for your visit, the following highlights are some of the things you won’t want to miss out on. If you are not in a rush, you may still find the following list very useful!
- Akumal Beach – Akumal has a gorgeous bay with a wide white sandy beach and stunning warm blue-green water.
- Visit a Cenote –Santa Cruz and Aktun Chen are two great cenotes near by.
- Scuba & Snorkeling – A snorkeling trip is a great adventure day out.
- Fishing Charters & Tours –
- Ecological Center – Visit the Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA) at the end of Akumal bay to learn more about the area’s ecosystems, species and local environmental events.
- Dolphin Discovery Akumal – Wonderful experience for the whole family.
- Yal-ku Lagoon –
Getting to Akumal
The nearest Airport to Akumal is the Cancun International Airport.
Fly into Cancun and rent a car for the drive to Akumal. It is approximately a one hour drive from Cancun.
You can also pre-book a private transfer from the airport to your destination.
There are also buses and shuttles with some hotels or dive shops offering free shuttles. Ask your hotel or attraction provider if available.
Unless you plan on just staying in Akumal, you will need a rental car to get around. The closest sights are at least a 20 min drive. However, if you’re not comfortable driving in a foreign country, there are plenty of taxis to take you wherever you need to go.
There are also colectivos, a local 15-passenger van service that runs between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. They’re cheap (35 pesos per person), and usually full, but run very frequently. You can catch the colectivos off the main highway. If you are standing on the side of the highway the driver will flash his lights at you if he has room in his van. This is the preferred local way of getting around.