Akumal is a dreamy horseshoe bay with soft white sand, clear water, and a fringe of palm trees on the eastern coast of Mexico where an abundance of sea grass draws green sea turtles.
A reef just offshore breaks the waves, making for perfectly calm, pool-clear water, and making this an easy and delightful place to go for a swim with turtles with minimal effort. From the beach, swim a bit toward the reef and then swim parallel to the shore over the sea grass. Within moments you should catch a glimpse of a sea turtle gliding past or diving down to the sea grass for a bite to eat.
If you’re lucky you’ll also see an array of underwater critters. We spotted sting rays, a barracuda, tang fish (Dory!), and for me, most amazingly of all, a squid ejecting ink! There is something special and otherworldly about the fluttering iridescent wings of squids. It doesn’t quite seem real.
How to Get There
Akumal is just over an hour’s drive south of Cancun, nestled between Playa Del Carmen & Tulum. You can link up with a tour group that will pick you up from your hotel (and probably take you to a cenote and Tulum as well) if you don’t rent a car or hire a (very expensive) taxi.
If you’re confident with your Spanish skills consider taking a colectivo. These group taxis are cheap and efficient. However, if you don’t speak any Spanish it might be a challenge.
Stunned snorkelers and squid ink! Photo by View from the Top Aerial Pics (Pablo David Narvaez)*
- Be calm and cool when snorkeling. Don’t chase, touch, or harass the sea turtles in any way (including hovering directly above them). Same goes for the rest of the sea life.
- Coral is delicate and potentially painful (read: fire coral). Don’t touch it or stand on it.
- Conventional sunblock destroys coral reefs. Wear a long sleeve swim shirt instead. I am a huge fan of this one.
- Leave all flashy jewelry at home to avoid inadvertently attracting fish who think your flashy jewelry is the sparkling scales of a fish snack.
- This is a very popular attraction. Go early before the crowds arrive.
Barracuda! Photo by View from the Top Aerial Pics (Pablo David Narvaez)
Where to Stay
We stayed in Playa Del Carmen at an AirBnb with a rooftop pool. While the view of the ocean from the pool was incredible, next time I visit I will definitely stay at one of the hotels in Akumal Bay and start every day swimming with sea turtles!
Stingray! Photo by View from the Top Aerial Pics (Pablo David Narvaez)
*Pablo David Narvaez offered to take our photos under water for a nominal fee. Was worth every penny – highly recommend him and View from the Top Aerial Pics.