Most travelers planning a trip to the Riviera Maya recognize its big names like Cancun and Tulum. So, when you stumbled upon the name “Akumal Beach,” you might be wondering what it’s all about.
Is Akumal Beach worth visiting?
Does it have hotels?
Can you really see sea turtles?
Here’s the quick answer to those questions: Probably, yes, and yes.
I visited Akumal a couple of times in 2021 and will give you the low-down on the must-knows.
Accessibility Note: If you’re a wheelchair user, scroll to the bottom of this post for details on accessibility.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, we might make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Tip #1: Getting There Is a Breeze
Assuming that you’re already basking in the sun around the Riviera Maya, you’ll have easy access to Akumal Beach.
Akumal sits right off Highway 307, the Yucatan’s most popular road that runs near the coastline. There’s no need to fight your friends for an ocean view seat, though—opportunities for sea sightings are second to none.
You can arrive in Akumal by bus or taxi from several places in the Yucatan.
The information below will give you an estimate of driving times from popular tourist spots.
|Cancun||105 kilometers||1 hour, 40 minutes|
|Tulum||28 kilometers||25 minutes|
|Playa del Carmen||38 kilometers||40 minutes|
|Bacalar||317 kilometers||2 hours, 50 minutes|
Should you take a bus (or a combi, as the small vans in Mexico are called), ask the driver to let you off at the Akumal Beach entrance (la entrada de la playa de Akumal, por favor).
Once there, you’ll need to embark on an approximately 10-minute walk from the highway to the beach. It’s a straight shot, so no need to worry about missing a turn.
You’ll encounter some shops along the way where you can load up on drinks and snacks. There’ll also be vendors happy to sell you a sombrero to keep that beautiful Mexican sun out of your eyes.
Tip #2: There’s an Entrance Fee
One of the biggest advantages of visiting Akumal over other Riviera Maya beaches is its entrance fee.
I know that may sound contradictory, but hear me out—the fee for foreigners is only about $6 USD, and the entrance gates open at 9:00 am.
For that price, you’ll have access to a cleaner, relatively uncrowded beach, few vendors trying to tell you things when you’re mid-nap, and a safer atmosphere for your belongings.
The exception to the entrance fee rule at Akumal Beach is if you’re staying at a hotel on the beach. In that case, you’ll have free beach access.
As a word of caution, people might try to charge you more for the entrance fee before you arrive at the main gate. They do this by telling you that you must book a tour or have a guide to enter.
What a lie!
Here’s another lie they may tell you—if you plan on booking a tour, you have to do so before entering the beach.
Nope. That’s not true either.
Once you’ve settled into your spot on the beach, you can then go seek out tour guides yourself if you want to take a boat ride or sea turtle snorkeling tour. It’s easy to figure out where to book a tour—just head over to where all the boats are parked.
Hold on to your pesos until you arrive at the real entrance gate. It’s impossible to miss, given that it leads directly onto the beach.
Tip #3: Lockers Are Available
Leaving your belongings on your beach towel is relatively safer at Akumal Beach than other destinations in the Riviera Maya.
Nevertheless, you can never be too cautious, especially if you plan on spending a significant amount of time in the water.
So, you can use a locker near the entrance, which is included with your entrance fee, provided that you arrived through the public entrance. If you’re staying at your hotel, you’ll need to use your room.
Since we’re back on the subject of fees, you can also rent snorkel and scuba diving gear.
Oh, and there are public bathrooms and showers that you can use for free, too—just show them the bracelet they’ll give you when you purchase your entrance ticket.
While we’re at it, there are a few beachfront restaurants that you can dine at.
How’s that for getting a lot of bang for your buck within a single topic?
Tip #4: You Can Swim With Sea Turtles
This isn’t another mentira that locals are telling you so you book a tour with them—you really can swim with sea turtles at Akumal Beach.
In fact, the word “Akumal” translates to “The earth of the turtle” in the Mayan language.
More often than not, you’ll need to book a boat tour to see the turtles. But if you get lucky—especially if you swim out far enough—you might be able to see them on your own.
Akumal sits in a bay, so the water is calm and safe for swimming most of the time.
Lots of yummy seaweed beds grow in Akumal. That, coupled with a relatively tranquil environment, makes it an ideal place for young green sea turtles to grow from babies to teenagers.
Before booking a tour to snorkel with sea turtles, ask your prospective guide how they handle the tour and their respect towards the turtles. Not all companies follow the rules as they should, including a lack of enforcement for what should be a no turtle touching policy.
That said, the turtles are used to humans (and food the boats give them) so they might come so close to you that they rub against your skin.
If they do so, consider yourself lucky. However, that’s not an invitation for you to reach out and touch them; sea turtles have a delicate bio-film (which gives their shell a slimy texture) that protects them from infection.
By reaching out and petting a sea turtle, you might inadvertently strip away their bio-film, leaving the turtle susceptible to infections.
Tip #5: Resorts Are Limited But Nice
Akumal may be off many tourists’ radar, but it offers a small selection of impressive hotels and resorts.
Secrets Akumal is the most notable contender, with rooms ranging from the mid $300s to over $1,000 USD per night, depending on the season and whether there’s a holiday.
Needless to say, you can expect to experience all the bells and whistles there.
If you’d rather not spend in one night what some people spend in a month for rent, Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness Resort or Akumal Caribe might be more up your alley.
For even cheaper accommodation options, you’ll need to head inland to downtown Akumal. There, you can find family-run B&Bs and Airbnbs for lower rates.
The town is super tiny, but you’ll have your fair share of shops and local restaurants to choose from.
Tip #6: Plan Your Trip Around the Seaweed
If you’ve already booked your Akumal Beach trip for dates between April – August, I don’t want to burst your bubble. So, close your eyes and scroll along.
But should you be in the research stages for a potential trip, the information here can help elevate your vacation experience.
Sargazo is a word you’ll hear a lot during late spring and summer in Mexico. It translates to “sargasso” in English.
If that still doesn’t ring a bell, this will…
Along with the rest of the Yucatan, Akumal never used to be susceptible to copious amounts of seaweed.
Unfortunately, the rise of fertilizer in agriculture is creating massive blooms of seaweed that plague Mexico’s coastline, keeping its stinky self around until a hurricane takes it all away (hence why sargasso disappears starting around August).
Sargasso makes the water unpleasant for swimming. It consumes a portion of the sand that people normally use for sunbathing. And the smell can be suffocating, especially mid-day when the sun beats down on it.
And that’s not even taking into account the stress that such an unnaturally thick layer of seaweed puts on the marine ecosystem.
The bottom line?
Avoid sargasso season if you can and eat organic produce.
Tip #7: There Are Things to Do Inland, Too
When people think of Akumal, they think of the beach. However, Akumal offers many things to do away from the water.
If you’re an animal lover, paying a visit to the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary is a must. You can sign up for a tour where you’ll learn about the sanctuary’s mission, hear about the animals’ stories (many of whom arrived there from abusive situations), and interact with some of the sanctuary’s four-legged residents.
You can also hop on an ATV and head to under-the-radar cenotes (sinkholes).
These natural formations are millions of years old. Back in the day, Mayans worshiped them and believed that they were a portal to another world.
You can swim in the freshwater that has made its home in these sinkholes. However, only enter the water if your body is sunscreen-free since it’s damaging to fish and the sinkhole itself.
Furthermore, don’t touch the stalactites (which hang from the ceiling). They grow at a mind-boggling slow rate, so if you damage them, it could take thousands of years for them to repair themselves.
Wheelchair Accessibility at Akumal Beach
Parking is limited in Akumal, and accessible parking is even more so. Therefore, I recommend arriving early to try to snag an accessible spot near the beach’s entrance.
The entrance itself has a steep ramp leading from the parking lot, crossing through the open-air pay area, and down into the sand.
At the end of the ramp, the sand is compact. However, they don’t offer a ramp that extends out into the beach, so bringing a beach chair might help you more easily access the shoreline as the sand gets softer.
Are You Ready to Visit Akumal Beach?
Akumal Beach is, quite literally, a breath of fresh air from the crowded beaches in nearby Playa del Carmen and Cancun. Whether you decide to make Akumal your home base during your Yucatan vacation or visit it on a day trip, I encourage you to give this beach a try.
If you have questions about visiting Akumal Beach, leave them in the comments section, and I’ll do my best to help.
P.S.- If you’re on the fence about where in the Yucatan to pitch your beach umbrella, read my guide on the best Yucatan beaches. There’s a bonus in there you won’t expect.
Laura has been wandering the globe for over a decade. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.