If you’re planning on visiting or staying in Akumal on Mexico’s beautiful Riviera Maya coastline, there’s probably one main reason… the sea turtles! Snorkeling in Akumal is a well known activity across Mexico (and the world). It’s famous for being an amazing place to spot giant sea turtles and is home to an abundance of sea life.
After spending 2 weeks in Akumal, snorkeling almost every day, we’ve assembled a complete guide to help you make the most out of your visit. Maximize your chances of seeing turtles, discover some amazing tropical fish and coral reefs, and save money at the same time.
Read on for our complete guide to snorkeling in Akumal.
How to get to Akumal
Akumal is located around a 1hr 15min drive south of Cancun, 30 min drive from Playa del Carmen and only 25 minutes north of Tulum. It’s situated fairly centrally on the Riviera Maya coastline and is easy accessible from most destinations. It’s also located right off the 307 Highway, which runs the entire stretch of coastline, making it easy to get around.
Depending on where you’re staying and your budget, here are a variety of the ways to get to Akumal.
Book a guided tour
If you’re staying in a completely different town to Akumal and are located quite a distance away, one of the most popular transport options is to book a guided tour. Package group or private tours will collect you at your hotel or a meeting point and take you to Akumal. They’ll then coordinate the tour, you’ll get time to see town and relax. They’ll then take you back to your resort at the end of the day. Some tours also include other stops, such as the Tulum Ruins, or a cenote.
Organized tours are a great option for snorkeling in Akumal, taking all worries about transport and snorkeling guides out of the occasion. However, they do come at a price and are generally more expensive that a ‘do it yourself’ visit. They also limit you to a set itinerary and length of time. See our top recommendations for Akumal snorkeling tours further down the page. 😊
Take a taxi
The most convenient way to get to Akumal is to take a taxi. Simply ask your hotel to order an official taxi and they’ll pick you up at your doorstop, dropping you off by Akumal Beach. Taxi’s are quick and comfortable but come at a cost. Expect to pay around 650 – 750 pesos for a taxi ride to Akumal from Playa del Carmen and a similar amount from Tulum.
For the return journey back to the resort, you’ll find several official taxis waiting outside the arches by Akumal Beach.
Rent a car
Driving a car to Akumal is super easy. The town is just off the main highway and you won’t find any traffic when you arrive. You can park at one of the local beach car parks for 50 pesos for the full day. Due to the effort of collection/drop off and high prices for insurance (which is a must), we only recommend using the car rental option if you plan of having the car for a few days or more, using it to visit other attractions too.
Hop into a Colectivo
The cheapest way of getting to Akumal by far is to take the local Colectivo bus. The shared minivan transport option can be waved down from any town or bus stop along the 307 highway route and most journeys cost less than 50 pesos per person. Colectivo’s can sometimes be crowded, but they’re very frequent so it’s easy to wait for a quieter bus.
When boarding the Colectivo, tell the driver that you’d like to be dropped off at Akumal Beach. They’ll stop just off the main road and you can then take a short walk to the beach town.
We recommend saving an offline Google Map on your phone so you don’t get lost. Here’s an excellent guide to using the Colectivo in Mexico.
Should I book a tour or visit Akumal by myself?
It really depends on where you’re staying and how comfortable you are travelling to Akumal yourself. If you’re staying further afield, in Cancun for example, a tour is one of the best ways to visit Akumal, as taxi costs are expensive for the long distance journey.
If you’re staying closer to Akumal (Playa del Carmen, Tulum, etc), we recommend making your own way to Akumal and then booking a ‘snorkeling only’ tour (without transport) on arrival at the beach, or online the day before.
For the best chance to see the sea turtles, we highly recommend booking a snorkeling tour, as it can be quite difficult to see these magnificent creatures yourself.
Welcome to Akumal Beach
When you arrive at Akumal Beach you’ll first need to pass through the Akumal Ecological Centre and pay an entrance fee of 100 pesos per person at the booth. The permits you entry to the beach and includes locker rental, plus changing and shower facilities. Technically, the beach is public and free to enter, so an alternative to this is to visit Akumal Beach via Lol-Ha restaurant and grab a quick snack before entering the beach.
On entering Akumal Beach, you’ll find an exotic view of palm trees, calm turquoise waters and a long white-sand beach that’s typical of the Caribbean. One section of the beach has a lot of tour groups and can be crowded during the day. If you walk a little further along the shore, you’ll find quieter areas for relaxation. Alternatively, you can dive straight into the sea for your snorkeling adventure!
The surrounding beach area has a number of restaurants, gifts stalls, a mini-market and other small businesses that are worth checking out after your snorkeling trip. Simply return through the Ecological Centre barrier and cross the road.
An overview on Akumal Snorkeling
The main reason why snorkeling is so good in Akumal is due to its location on the Meso American Barrier Reef. It’s the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and has an abundance of marine life. It also shelters Akumal Beach from waves, creating a calm ocean that’s perfect for snorkeling.
Rather than being way out at sea like many snorkeling trips you may have been on, all of the action at Akumal is only a couple hundred meters from the shoreline. You can swim out yourself, with a tour group, or on a boat tour to go out a little further.
You’re guaranteed to see plenty of tropical fish, coral, and if you head out to the sea grass on a tour, the amazing sea turtles of Akumal. You may also catch a glimpse of a stingray scouring the ocean floor. Akumal snorkeling is for all levels of skill, from small children to adults of all ages. Life Jackets are mandatory if you’re on a tour and the whole experience is very safe. Read on for more information on what to expect.
How much does it cost to snorkel in Akumal? Can I snorkel for free?
As Akumal Beach is divided into sections, permitting entry to some areas only if you have a guide, it’s difficult to get the best Akumal snorkeling experience without booking onto a tour. The restricted snorkeling areas definitely have the best coral reefs. They also boast plenty of sea grass, which attracts lots of sea turtles.
Most tours cost around 500 pesos per person, which includes equipment hire and a guide. However, they can cost more or less depending on the company you choose and whether transport to and from Akumal is included.
Whilst a tour is advised for the best chance of seeing turtles, you can absolutely snorkel for free if you have your own gear. You’re advised by the locals to not go beyond the line of buoys that are 100m or so from the shore. You can still see some amazing fish and coral reef within this area, especially towards the far end of the beach near the resorts. However, we found it very difficult to spot any turtles here.
If you’re feeling adventurous, arrive at Akumal Beach early in the morning and you can sneak past the buoys to the restricted snorkeling tour areas. Despite what the locals say, access to the entire beach and snorkeling areas is free for all.
Pro-tip: If you want a cheap snorkeling tour, visit the beach area towards the end of the day (4-5pm). You may be able to negotiate a lower cost tour with one of the beach guides, for 200 pesos or so. Be willing to negotiate and ask a few different representatives.
Snorkeling gear – Renting vs bringing your own
All snorkeling tours include gear rental (life vest, snorkel and googles) as part of the tour price. This is what most people choose. If you have your own snorkeling gear with you on your trip, you may wish to bring it along with you and we highly recommend doing so. Instead of joining a tour, you can recruit the services of a private guide at Akumal Dive Centre. They’ll take you out into the restricted snorkeling zone and you won’t need to wait around for the rest of the group. This can also be a cheaper option compared to tour group snorkeling.
The best Akumal snorkeling tours
With so many tour operators on Akumal Beach and countless more tours available to book online, it can be quite overwhelming trying to choose the best Akumal snorkeling tour. We’ve researched and tried some of the top-rated companies and recommend the below tours:
Package tours with transport
Pay on the day or locally run tours
Akumal Dive Center is the go-to option if you plan on making your own way to Akumal or are already staying in an Akumal hotel. They’re the top rated snorkeling tour agency online, boasting some great diving and snorkeling instructors. We were originally recommended them by Tripadvisor and can see why they have such a good reputation.
Book a private or group snorkeling tour on the Akumal Dive Center website, or simply turn up to the center during the day and book onto the next tour. If you choose to snorkel with this company, visit their office from the main road and access the beach via the centre. You’ll skip the general beach entry fee this way.
Important note: Try to avoid the many beach vendors that try to sell you their tour on arrival. Many of them don’t have the same level of service and tour experience that you’d find with the likes of Akumal Dive Center. They’ll simply take you to the snorkeling area without any guidance or background. Go for one of the higher-rated group or private tours for the best Akumal snorkeling experience and to avoid getting ripped off.
Is there anywhere to leave my belongings whilst I snorkel?
The best place to leave your belongings whilst you’re snorkeling is at the Ecological Centre locker area. You’ll pass through this building as you enter the beach and a locker is included with the entry price of 100 pesos. If you’re booking a snorkeling tour with a company such as Akumal Dive Shop, they also have lockers that you can use.
Where can I have lunch in Akumal?
With all the snorkeling action, you’re going to get hungry! Directly opposite the snorkeling area on Akumal Beach you have Lol-Ha restaurant and bar. It’s the perfect place to enjoy lunch, and you’ll definitely want to return for cocktails at sunset! They have a selection of affordable Mexican classics alongside American favourites, and we personally loved the tacos. Prices are very affordable too!
What should I take with me for an Akumal snorkeling trip
- A GoPro or similar underwater camera
- A wet bag so your belongings don’t get wet on the beach
- A waterproof phone pouch – we personally use this one
- Your swimsuit
- A change of clothes
- Snacks and water (you can get these at the Oxxo supermarket when entering Akumal)
- Biodegradable sun cream
What type of sea life will I see?
We were amazed at the variety of sea life we discovered at Akumal Beach. It doesn’t have its great reputation of snorkeling for no reason! You’re guaranteed to find all of the following if you search for long enough.
- Green and Loggerhead Sea Turtles
- Angel Fish
- Sea horses (if you’re very lucky)
- Parrot Fish
There are over 500 species of fish in the area, so you’ll have a wide variety of sea life to discover!
Pro-tip: Snorkel near the green sea grass and remain still for a chance to see the sea turtles. Sting rays swim close to the ocean floor.
Our top tips for Snorkeling in Akumal
- Wear biodegradable sun screen, as chemical-based sun screen can damage the local ecosphere.
- Arrive early in the morning or later in the afternoon to beat the group tour crowds.
- Book your tour online in advance to guarantee a space. They can fill up fast!
- Whilst snorkeling in Akumal is the main attraction, be sure to explore the nearby area. The cafes, shops and restaurants of Akumal town and beach are excellent.
- If you want to snorkel yourself without a tour, consider heading to Half Moon Bay, which is just around the cove from Akumal Bay. There aren’t any restrictions here. However, there’s also less chance of seeing turtles.
- Stay near the green sea grass for the best chance to see sea turtles. You’ll find tropical fish near patches of coral. The best way to spot sea grass is by locating darker areas of the ocean as you stand on the shoreline, then swimming towards them.
- Stay overnight, or a few nights in Akumal for the best snorkeling experience. With the beach hotels, you can snorkel all day to your desire and many offer free equipment rental.
- Short fins may come in handy whilst snorkeling but aren’t 100% needed. You won’t need to do a lot of swimming to see the marine life.
- Respect the marine life whilst snorkeling and don’t try to touch the turtles. This should go without saying, but it’s super important. 😊
That wraps up our guide on snorkeling in Akumal! Follow our tips, plan out your day and enjoy discovering the amazing sea life. We’ve been snorkeling across the globe and Akumal ranks near the top of our list. If you have any questions about any of the items we’ve covered, be sure to leave a comment below. A send us your snorkeling pictures too – we’d love to see them. 😊
Staying in Akumal? Check out our other guides below:
By RickyAuthor bio:
An adventurer at heart that loves anything outdoors. Beaches, mountains and amazing scenery is everything I love about travel! I also enjoy home comforts and need a nice place to relax and re-charge after every trip.