Akumal in Mexico: snorkeling among turtles

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Akumal in Mexico is the perfect place for snorkeling while you’re doing a road trip in Mexico (click for my itinerary). I love snorkeling. I really love to admire the seabed in search of colorful fish in an almost unreal silence. When you put your head in the water, all the noises become muffled and a strange peace of mind pervades you. Although I feel calm, I must be honest, without fins I would never move much from the shore and I often have a love/hate relationship with the mask and snorkel. They fog up, but that’s part of the deal too.

Snorkeling in Akumal beach in Mexico was spectacular, not so much because of the amount of fish, but more because you can see the turtles. It’s no surprise that Akumal means “land/place of the turtles” in the Mayan language. It’s absolutely one of top things to do in Mexico.

A few meters from the shore they live their marine life blissfully, although hordes of boats stare at them curiously.

Also in Akumal I preferred to plan my own excursion to see the turtles. Here’s how to do it.

You’re looking for other tips for a trip in Mexico, read this my article: Mexico travel tips: safety and 15 things to remember

How to see the turtles in Akumal

Once you have pulled up and arrived on the main street leading to the white beach of Akumal, you will find several local people who will offer you the excursion in search of turtles in Akumal bay. They tell you that they really know the places where there turtles live and if you don’t see them, they will refund your money for the excursion. Prices are around 500 pesos per person if I remember correctly. That’s a lot for one hour of snorkeling.

My advice is to absolutely forget about them, in a few lines you’ll understand why.

So how do I get to see these beautiful creatures?

Easy! Rent your equipment from the diving centre on the beach. With 170 pesos (about 9 euros) they will give you a life jacket, mask and snorkel. You can keep all the equipment with you until 4.30 pm, the deadline for return.

So the “autonomous rental” is already winning 1 nil against the organized tour.

Complete with snorkeling equipment, you can start your search. You won’t have to wait long before you see a turtle. They live quietly just a few meters from the shore and coexist with tourism which, of course, must respect them.

It is strictly forbidden to touch the turtles for several reasons, first of all they would be frightened.

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Where you can find the turtles?

If you are unlucky and can’t see them in the first few minutes, the “trick” is to lift your head out of the water and take a look around. Where you will see 4/5 people standing still snorkeling in one spot, it means that there will be a turtle there.

Treat the Akumal turtles with respect. Too many people don’t let them surface easily, so try to be as discreet as possible by taking pictures from a distance. In short, try not to bother them and make sure they don’t feel oppressed. If you notice that there are too many people around the turtle, move away.

However, I suggest you to do your first search on your own, it will be more satisfying!

By now you will understand why the organized tour is too expensive, disrespectful to turtles and how useless is the guarantee of “if we don’t see the turtles we will return what we spent”. You will never get your money back because it will be nearly impossible not to see a turtle.

The Akumal bay is special not only because you can see these amazing animals, but also because there is a beautiful coral reef just a few meters from the shore. You can also easily reach it by swimming. Here you will find more colourful species of fish.

akumal tartarughe
Credits: foto Flickr by Sara Cauich Ortegon

Akumal: general information

Where is Akumal?

It is located between Tulum and Playa del Carmen, it is just a 20-minute drive from Tulum.

Where to park in Akumal

It might seem like a stupid question, but it’s not. Apart from in the Mayan ruins where the parking fee is charged, in all the other places of my Mexican road trip I never had to pay the “estacionamento”, not even in Playa Delfines and Playa Paraiso. In Akumal, however, you will have to pay for it.

You have two options:

  • Park on the left in the parking lot you find before arriving at the supermarket El Pablito (fixed fee until 18.00, it is cheap)
  • Get straight almost to the beach (not recommended, you would pay much more)

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